This will not be a detailed post even though I’ll be making it one of my Political Blogger Alliance ones; however, it is something I think addresses a point of core importance for the next few months.
I freely admit to sometimes doing little more than linking over to Balloon Juice and having done with it, partially because John and Tim and company do a good stuff of more thoroughly tracking and discussing the political sphere (online and off) than I have the ability or patience to do, even when I don’t always agree with them (though this is growing to be much less the case with time). In this case I’m doing similar, but that’s because of a post from John today cutting straight to the chase regarding an issue that’s come up before among many friends — namely, the Democrats’ apparent inability to get through a fog of noise on the right, being reactive rather than proactive.
In discussing Barack Obama’s remarks on economic policy and McCain yesterday, John sums up what seems to be happening quite well, touching on these very issues:
Even as someone who does not agree with every Obama campaign economic policy (windfall taxes, for example), this is a new kind of politics, at least for Democrats. A Democrat forcefully engaging the Republican party, rather than mincing words, cowering in the corner and allowing the fringe to define him, is a new kind of politics.
And it is one you should embrace. Forcefully and confidently defining yourself and what you believe in, while defining your opponent and his ideas is not “dirty politics,” it is politics. Obama did not launch into numerous attacks on John McCain the person, he didn’t raise questions as to whether McCain is in league with the terrorists, he attacked McCain on the issues, over his ideas and his policies. Again, that is not dirty politics, although it is a “new kind” of politics for a party that too often has let the opponent frame the debate with the esoteric hope that “the people are smarter than that” and “will see through the Republican attacks.” Rather than worrying about the Obama campaign, Democrats should be cheering what happened yesterday. It was the first time I remember a Democrat forcefully engaging Republican ideas, explaining why they are wrong, and providing an alternate vision.
All of which is true. It has to be said that the vast majority of responses to Obama on this front from the right have been terribly, obviously boring, reflecting a combination of their disenchantment with McCain in general and their slighted feeling over not having Hillary Clinton to kick around anymore. This lack of fire combined with Obama and others taking the arguments back to them puts them in a position now where they will be increasingly acting much like the pattern John identified for the Democrats previously — thinking that “the people are smarter than that” and “will see through the Democratic attacks.” There’s a cosseting, comforting feeling on this front that could eventually lead to that legendary anecdote about Pauline Kael supposedly wondering how Nixon could have won when she knew nobody who voted for him, only in this case it’ll be Michelle Malkin wondering about Obama.
Could lead, of course, not must. My mantra of Iraq/economy remains paramount but it is very interesting how these waters are getting muddier but not clearer. Relative (and it is just that) calm in Iraq benefits McCain since he can claim credit for it, but the potential backfiring lies there too, since it’ll be just as easy for a mass conclusion to run like so: “Hey, thanks for that and all, but you’re not helping on anything else.” And the economy? Anyone who knows exactly where things’ll stand six months from now is lying to you. NOBODY knows.
Strip aside the projections of cloying messianism that Obama must be shaking his head at more thoroughly by now (one of the stranger moves on the right has been the assumption that he has no sense of humor about it — this deservedly famous photo says it all, in comparison), let him work further on clarifying proposals, ideas, suggestions, encourage contributions on same, and the rest could easily take care of itself. Again, could, not must.
And so we wait.