The thing that's been kind of eating at me is that there's this perception that the Clintons "know how to win". Point of fact, Bill Clinton in 1992 won a lower percentage of the popular vote than Michael Dukakis did in 1988. They always neglect to mention the Perot factor, which arguably threw the election to Clinton in both 1992 and 1996. I crunched the numbers; there were enough states where the Perot votes more than covered Clinton's margin of victory in 1996, and it is plausible that had Perot not run, Dole may have won. It seems almost certain that Bush would have won a second term if not for Perot in 1992. So wherefore all this talk of the Clintons' incredible political acumen?
The difference between Clinton's third-way politics and Obama's brand of reaching out to the other side is that Clinton seeks to make herself appealing to conservatives by co-opting their agenda (something Bill Clinton was accused of in 1996 by Republicans and Democrats alike), while Obama seeks to make his *ideas* appealing to Republicans by using language they can relate to. Clinton's way might win short term battles, but it loses the larger war. Obama is trying to do what Reagan did for Republicans: build a consensus around his ideas. That is how we build the "permanent majority" that Rove was seeking. Rove was a hack though, and burned so many bridges that what he ended up building was a permanent 60+% disapproval rating for his boss. He won the short term battles, but he's on the verge of losing the broader war, and the Clintons are in real danger of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory by adopting his tactics. Thankfully, the Republicans have shot themselves in the foot so badly that they never established an heir to Bush's legacy, and now they're fighting over which faction of the party (Romney: business, McCain: militant, Huckabee: religious right) will have dominance.
The Democratic party will be united coming into the general election, and we will likely win over a fractured GOP (especially if Bloomberg decides to be a sport and play Perot in this election). Obama will be President; the only question is whether it will be this year or four to eight years from now. I say now, because I don't want to have to refight these battles in four to eight years after Clinton fails (once again) to build a broad consensus around our ideas, and throws them under the bus in the interest of avoiding electoral defeat.
Poll after poll has shown that the vast majority of Americans support a progressive agenda; we just need a President who can convince Americans to trust themselves enough to cast off the yoke of Reagan-era rhetoric and move forward to a better future.
Sunday, February 03, 2008
Letter to Pandora
Sometimes I write private correspondence that allows me to collect ideas that blogging doesn't. It's a question of context, and the context of an e-mail I wrote to Command Post contributor Pandora allowed me to collect some thoughts I'd been kicking around for a while. Here's the letter: