The race has changed, now what? All reports indicate that the Obama camp is rife with confusion about where they stand in the face of the meteoric rise of Sarah Palin and John McCain’s ability to bring the Republican Party together. Neither one was remotely anticipated. This is more than a bump. I think Obama needs to recognize that the tide has decisively turned in McCain’s favor. Palin is shooting down the turnpike, and unless Obama puts up a big hand to stop her, McCain is going to ride her coattails to the White House. The tire is deflating on the Democrats, and once enthusiastic supporters are becoming disheartened.
Right now, complacency is the enemy. The Democratic leadership in the House and Senate have been quiescent for more than a year, on the assumption that letting George Bush hang himself would be enough. It wasn’t, and as a result public disapproval of Congress is as high or higher, than disapproval of the President. Obama can’t afford to rest on his past message. Right-thinking Democrats view Palin as absurd and obnoxious, but she isn’t going to hang herself, anymore than Bush did. Kerry showed himself to be sorely lacking at just this juncture in the 2004 campaign. He had every reason to win, but he didn’t find the means to turn those reasons into a win. He wasn’t alert and flexible in the face of change, and he acted like Gentleman Jim in the face of Swift-boating instead of fighting back with honest outrage.
McCain made two brilliant changes at the convention. He energized the radical right, knowing that he couldn’t win without them. Palin isn’t a joke to a sizable swath of the electorate; she’s a champ. Second, he pretended to repudiate Republican corruption, in essence slapping the party in the face. Everyone with an ounce of sense knows that they deserved it, so in one stroke McCain appeared more honest; he signalled that integrity trumped party loyalty. Independents liked that, and now they are trending toward him.
From the beginning, Obama has had two prongs to his campaign strategy. The first was change, the second was throwing out the scoundrels. McCain has undercut both quite effectively. Therefore, Obama is unlikely to win by repeating the same message, that McCain is basically a third term for Bush, since Independents don’t yet trust Obama to be their alternative to Bush. Obama has to be as flexible in his message as McCain has been.
He needs to show genuine outrage at the Republican smear campaign and call McCain to task personally for allowing it.
He has to unleash a woman like Hillary Clinton to attack Palin as a huge step backward for women. The Hillary camp needs a strong motivation to back Obama, not a grudging one.
He or Joe Biden must forcefully make Palin look extremist.
He needs to run on more than vague optimism. I don’t think that means handing out policy statements, which are as bloodless as planks in the party platform. It means more emotion and visceral opposition to everything Bush stands for.
The bottom line is that for America to turn the page, Obama has to turn the page on his campaign first. As a general call to the troops, asking for change worked in the primaries; it woke people up. But Hillary Clinton’s momentum in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia showed that a more visceral appeal was needed, and will work. At this moment McCain looks plausibly like a change candidate, and so Obama must fight against him and look like he’s fighting. The essential problem which runs deep, is that Republicans operate on the assumption that Democrats will lose, while Democrats operate on the fear that Republicans can’t be beaten. That has to turn around or we will be handed a self-fulfilling prophecy in November.
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An article in the Washington Post On Faith section in response to their question:
Republican VP nominee Sarah Palin recently suggested that a gas pipeline is “God’s will” and the Iraq war is “a task that is from God.” Are you concerned about these or any other candidate’s religious views?
Fifty years ago the president of General Motors declared that what’s good for GM is good for America. That became the guiding light, if not the Holy Scripture, of modern Republicans, so it’s not surprising that Sarah Palin has carried it to Biblical lengths. Leaving aside how her remarks play to the religious far right, who think that McDonald’s must be God’s will if it makes enough money, the larger question isn’t religious. The sudden excitement generated by Gov. Palin brought John McCain’s biggest day of contributions, but it also generated a surge of money for Barack Obama. Religion-as-politics has infused the American system, for better or worse, as a familiar way to polarize people.
The split between religious and secular voters hasn’t changed since Christian fundamentalists gained power beyond their numbers in the Eighties. The simple fact is that secular voters greatly outnumber religious ones — by secular, I don’t mean people who aren’t believers but people who don’t base their vote on a candidate’s faith. The religious right is a splinter group, and they have been allowed to leverage themselves into power by the apathy of the majority. If Obama can’t reverse this apathy, it won’t be caused by a dire plot by the right-wing smear machine but lazy inattention from all the rest of us.
At present, John McCain enjoys a 54% lead over Obama among churchgoers — it would be hard to miss the irony that McCain’s devotion to church is notably lax — which equals George Bush’s lead in the past two elections. If nothing else changes, a heavy turnout of the religious right will sweep him into the Presidency. But a lot has changed, of course, and Obama’s call that this is a page-turning election may be prophetic. The last page-turner was either Reagan or Nixon, depending on how you chronicle the rise of the reactionary right. Does it date from Nixon’s wooing of Southern racists in 1968 or Reagan’s wooing of them along with anti-progressives in general in 1980? I doubt that the distinction is worth pursuing.
What’s most important if you want to turn the page is confidence and forward vision. Obama knows himself and the times he lives in. His supporters should take their guidance from that. In response to Sarah Palin, the Democrats have exhibited an outpouring of nervousness and panic. They are anxious that the American public might be swayed by a naked appeal to their worst instincts, ignoring Bush’s disastrous failures because a spunky Jesse Ventura in a dress proclaims that “I’m just like you.” But when Obama declares “This election is about you,” he’s saying the same thing on a higher plane. The 2008 election has turned into an open referendum, I believe, in which the choice between inertia and progress is clear cut. Religion, for once, isn’t the decisive thing. Voter turnout and wanting to make progress are.
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Should Oprah have Sarah Palin on her show?
Oprah Winfrey this year did something she has never done before. She used her celebrity status to promote Obama as a presidential candidate. Oprah’s support undoubtedly brought him incredible exposure.
Todays controversy surrounds whether or not Oprah should have Sarah Palin on her syndicated show. She’s had Obama on it, hasn’t she?
Obviously, Oprah doesn’t support McCain/Palin. But as the person with the strongest reach to women in America, is it her responsibility to her audience to give Palin the platform?
Is Obama on The O’Reilly Factor a parallel example?
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