“Increasingly, the Democratic Party feels the need to match the Republican right in stridency and hardball tactics. I am convinced that whenever we exaggerate or demonize, oversimplify or overstate our case, we lose.” – Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope.
“Elections have consequences. And at the end of the day, I won.” – Barack Obama (discussing economic policy with Eric Cantor), January 23, 2009.
One of the things my liberal friends have trouble digesting is Barack Obama’s inability to sustain the “Hope and Change” ideology of the 2008 campaign during his Presidency. I would invite them to ponder those two quotes above the next time they try to figure it out.
Obama campaigned, beginning with his convention speech in 2004, as being a new, “post-partisan” politician. A politician who would put his party aside for the sake of compromise, a man whose principle ambition was “to get things done.” He won, by and large, because he convinced large numbers of people who had no prior electoral experience of that narrative. This was despite the fact that in his brief time as a sitting representative, he didn’t have one example of a compromise solution he had worked on. He did have one bipartisan bill he worked on with Sen. Tom Coburn – S. 2590, the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006. But that particular piece of legislation passed the Senate 98-2, and Obama was one of 47 co-sponsors. It wasn’t a compromise, none was needed to pass. Coburn noted during the 2008 election, in discussing this one example of post-partisanship, that “It’s easy to work across the aisle on consensus items. It’s when you demonstrate that you’ll stand in between — in no man’s land between the two trenches of the Democratic and Republican base, and you’ll take the heat. We haven’t seen that from Barack. As much as I like him, he’s not ever rejected anything of his party to be able to stand in the middle.”
More than anything else, this is the reason Obama cannot mobilize the people who propelled him to victory in 2008. The carefully crafted image of a post-partisan politician was with one move after assuming office, destroyed forever. Obama, the man who convinced millions who distrusted politicians and the political system that he was somehow different, revealed himself to be as partisan as anyone who’s ever held elective office. He tried to recapture that theme after the 2010 midterms, but quickly reverted to being a partisan hack. The evolution has left those millions who were cynical about the political process before his candidacy even more cynical in the aftermath.
The genie is out of the bottle and it won’t go back in, just as those millions won’t be coming back to support the President this time around. This realization that Obama can’t reclaim the throne of preeminent post-partisan is well understood by Campaign Obama and they’ve gone to the only option the President’s words and actions have left them: divide and conquer. They’re praying they can mobilize enough of the left wing to win reelection. But to do that, they need to abandon all pretense of being anything other than the highly partisan; they need to attack and denigrate any position not in line with leftist theology.
That this type of campaign will accentuate the differences in the nation, polarizing us more than any time since the Civil War, is of little consequence. The only thing that matters is that Barack Obama wins – even if the nation loses.