Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Wright Reason

If tonight's Indiana and North Carolina results keep Hillary Clinton's hopes alive, as they may well do, much of the blame will be heaped on Jeremiah Wright's outrageous performance of a week ago.

But Obama's inability to win over blue-collar white voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania predated that, and the nagging question is how much the Wright blight is an excuse rather than a reason for rejecting him. With all the hope Obama has aroused in younger and better-educated voters, how much counterbalancing fear has he been unable to quell in less secure segments of the electorate?

No amount of shirt-sleeved stumping in coffee shops, at gas stations and in union halls may be enough to dispel the sense of his "otherness" to voters who feel their security threatened by foreign competition and other outside forces. Will they trust their familiarity with the Clintons over the promises of an African-American not as well-known to them and with shady associations to boot.

If Obama falls short tonight, it may signify more than the embarrassment brought on by his former pastor and his tenuous ties to a former Weatherman.

As David Brook points out, the "contrast between combat and composure defines the Democratic race. The implicit Clinton argument is that politics is an inherently nasty business...You’d better elect a leader who can intimidate...

"Obama’s campaign grows out of the longstanding reform tradition. His implicit argument is that politics doesn’t have to be this way. Dishonesty and brutality aren’t inevitable; they’re what gets in the way."

The underlying irony is that voters' fears may be drawing them to Clinton's combativeness rather than Obama's promises of peaceful progress. If that turns out to be the case, it will be a sad reflection of what we failed to learn from the Bush years.


Larry Jones said...

No shit. In just the past 24 hours, the only two political discussions I have had were with a guy who thought Reverend Wright deserved to be killed for "what he said," and another guy who thinks that "Obama f*cked up" in not disowning Wright years ago.

Back when the Republicans had a bunch of clowns running for the nomination, while the Democrats had arguably the finest field of candidates ever, and considering the unmitigated disaster of the Bush years, I thought this was our one real chance to elect a president without the need to play dirty. Now we exhort our candidates to sling more mud.

If you resort to the dirty politics-as-usual tactics of the past in order to get elected, can you really be a different kind of president once you get in office?

Anonymous said...

The Rev. Wright's view of history is not Obama's fault.

To be fair, John McCain should be called to apologize for and disown George W. Bush.

When President Obama begins drawing down the troops in 2009 and starts the country back on the road to economic recovery, this current political controversy will fade away.

Anonymous said...

Obama's on track for the nomination and nothing happening today is likely to change that.
If Zogby has it right, Obama's doing better with blue collar voters and older voters in Indiana compared to Pennsylvania. Also, how big a factor is the Rush Limbaugh edict, "Operation Chaos?"

If Rasmussen has it right, Obama enjoys higher favoarability ratings.

I think the "damage" done by Wright has been overstated.

The scene changes dramatically when it becomes McCain vs Obama. McCain's Faustian bargain for the nomination will cost him.

Anonymous said...

"If that turns out to be the case, it will be a sad reflection of what we failed to learn from the Bush years.

Ha! Once again you have it precisely backward. It's because of the lessons learned that it becomes more and more obvious how Obama is, like Bush was, exactly the wrong person for the job.

One more throw and you can collect your Unity Pony.