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The Palineolithic Age or are we to see some real leadership?

by Frank Schnittger Thu Sep 18th, 2008 at 11:29:28 AM EST

The USA has always traded heavily on its founding myths - the hard-bitten, self-reliant frontiersman in the log cabin who overcomes all odds and establishes himself in hostile territory supported by God and Guns and with little help from a distant Government. Governor Palin fits that mystique very well.  Not only is she a moose hunting, salmon fishing, self-made women, she is also a soccer Mom and fire-brand evangelical who opposes the decadence of cosmopolitan America.  And her husband is a Hunk.

Palin turned a near disastrous GOP convention into a triumph for McCain which eclipsed the almost perfectly choreographed professional love-fest that the Obama team managed to mount in Denver.  The result was a near 10% swing post convention bounce for McPain.  But now that mythology is beginning to unravel in the face of reality.  Firstly the Hurricane season is providing unhelpful reminders of Katrina and the pathetic Bush administration's response to that tragedy. Then Wall street blew up an even bigger storm which reminds people of how much the McBush regime is in league with big money.  

There is seemingly no end to the amount of taxpayer's money that can be made available to big league bankers and brokers, but not a penny to help out those who are losing their jobs and homes through redundancy and foreclosure.  For McPain the "fundamentals of the economy are strong" - when it is those very fundamentals - a sound banking and regulatory system - which are being destroyed in an almost perfect storm brought on by the overheating of the Global financial system.

Now the polls have turned and Obama is once again in the lead.  So long as the focus is on the economy and jobs and the profligacy of the Bush era, Obama will do well.  Only a major war can save McPain now - and the South Ossetia crisis came a little early to survive in the news cycles until November.  Even the Election of a relatively dovish Tzipi Livni as leader of the Kadima Party in Israel is unhelpful as it reduces the possibility of an Israeli pre-emptive airstrike on Iran - something the neo-cons have been keeping in their back pocket in case of emergency come the November election.

So what can McPain do for his next trick?

His age, weariness on the campaign, the hollowness of his "message", and the sense of his representing a bygone era and old fashioned way of doing things is growing all the time.  His attempts to move beyond the white establishment by fostering a maverick image is cutting little ice by those disenfranchised by the near financial collapse of middle America.  Even the down turn in the Oil price is undermining the attractiveness of his "let's drill everywhere" panic response to consumer alarm.

But has Obama succeeded in building on his positives by way of contrast?  There seemed to be some panic and confusion in his campaign as to how to respond to the Palin phenomenon.  Originally idealistic and non-partisan, his campaign has become increasingly negative of late focusing on Palin and McCain's inadequacies rather than responding positively to the challenges now facing the USA.  Does anyone know how Obama would manage the financial crises differently?  There is little point in arguing that a Democratic administration wouldn't have gotten the USA into this mess because the Clinton regime continued the deregulation process, and, in any case, the crucial issue now is not who got us into the mess, but ho can get us out.

McPain's lack of expertise on economic issues is plain for all to see, but has Obama made a convincing case that he knows the way out of this crisis?  The time has come for Obama to stop responding to the McPain agenda and start creating his own, and that has to be a lot more specific and inspirational that the simple mantra of Change for its own sake.  The electorate are ready for change but now need to know more precisely what changes an Obama Administration would initiate.

Are we going to have a new FDR style New Deal?  A Kennedy style passing of the baton to a new multi-cultural generation not concerned with race, gender and religious bigotry?  A Carter style refusal to be goaded into war, or a Clinton style determination to negotiate with everyone rather than seek to impose unilateral US rule?

I have a suspicion that an Obama Administration might try to do a little of all of this, but how much we simply don't know.  How radical or timid or cautious is he going to be?  If he wants to build a consensus for a new Reagan style revolution in US attitudes and policies, he has to start building that consensus now.  Otherwise his Administration risks being bogged down by the incremental centralism that has characterised the Democratic Congress up until now.  And before you know it new elections will be upon us, and little will have been achieved.  Where is the brashness and confidence which charaterised the "100 days" of the Republican "Contract with America"?

My point is this.  Obama (and the Democrats) should be 20 points ahead at this stage given the disasters which have characterised the Bush era.  That they are struggling to gain any worthwhile lead at all is because they have failed to present a radical new blueprint for the USA.  Excelling at the specifics of the "ground game" is fine, but it is not the leadership the USA needs and is pining for.  So long as Obama mixes it with McPain, he is being dragged down to their level and is not giving the American people the Change he promised and they long for.

The race will continue to be close for so long as that is the level of leadership that is on show - and the Republicans are better at playing dirty and pulling some rabbit out of the hat. McCain sought to change the game by selecting Palin and failed. He doesn't have many shots left in his locker. But does Obama? Will the real Obama please stand up? America needs leadership and is crying out for someone who will actually take the lead.

The political pros, media gurus and campaign managers have done their job and made a black candidate electable. Now the real leader needs to take over and make that choice seem inevitable. Otherwise the dark arts of the black operations people could yet steal this election.

I'm off to the The European Tribune Paris meet-up late tonight, so apologies if I'm not around much to respond to comments.

Vote McCain for war without gain
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Sep 18th, 2008 at 11:38:50 AM EST
nice essay, frank, your writing's getting more punch per pixel.
i disagree with your points on two counts, first i don't think you're giving obama enough credit for his push for a new green deal economy, (which i think he should emphasise much, much more, indeed make it the linchpin of his campaign), and secondly, i believe if he were white, he would be ahead 20 points by now, and mcpalin would be staring at certain, humiliating defeat.

obama was not as tough against bill o'reilly as i would have liked, though in the main he did well.

billo used every bullying trick in his arse-nal, and quite frankly made barack codependent for a few horrible seconds, talking about war, pressing him crassly till barack had to praise the surge, and appear to admit his decision not to support it was misguided.
it was infantile bill's gotcha point, and he would have pounded the walls in pain if he hadn't made obama concede, but i think barack could have held faster, pity.

he's walking an incredible tightrope, and doing so with consummate grace, imo. he can't be too mean, or too above-it-all, baying critics begging for him to falter and fall. he has a great sense of humour, which is his greatest asset.

events are accelerating faster than the CERN beams, and he's not elected yet, maybe he knows he needs to wait till realities have disintegrated further, before enough americans are discombobulated enough to really tune and listen to this once-a-century politician, and then vote him in to become the statesman i believe he has the potential to become, if given the chance.

 it's for the whole world's sake, not just the usa...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Thu Sep 18th, 2008 at 02:55:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks.  Admittedly Obama didn't cave into the "drill everywhere" mantra, but neither has he endorsed Gore or said he would give him a job in his administration.

On your second point, realclearpolitics has Obama ahead by 2%, and Democrats ahead by 6% in the congressional polls - not much of a difference given that McCain still benefits from some independent support because of his "maverick" image and war record.  Given how damaged the Republican brand is, that's an extraordinarily bad performance by the Dems and shows that race isn't maybe as  big a factor as we might think.  In fact the congressional job approval (21% approve, 71%disapprove) is even worse than President Bush's (32% approve, 65% disapprove).

People don't see the Dem Congress majority as having made a difference or have to have given effective leadership.  People think the country is moving in the wrong direction by 75% to 20% and that has gotten steadily worse despite the Dems getting a majority in 2006.

The DEMs are still just opposing the extremes of neo-conservatism without projecting a radically different ideology of their own.

Vote McCain for war without gain

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Sep 18th, 2008 at 03:15:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In fact the congressional job approval (21% approve, 71%disapprove) is even worse than President Bush's (32% approve, 65% disapprove).

the retaking of congress was symbolic more than effective. it is still hamstrung, no matter which side of the coin is showing.
americans are right to be critical of congress dems for being spineless, but the numbers being lower than bush's is a red herring, imo.

they both suck, and the public know it, they're tired of right-centre-right, and are being offered extreme right or centrist, hope-for-change.

obama's done fantastically, given the givens, yet he hasn't convinced the white poor south that letting the country go even further right will possibly lead to species survival at stake, because he doesn't want to be seen as scary, or carter-malaise-y. sadly they see an elitist, uppity liberal intellectual who doesn't get that life without god'n'guns is for commie pussie fags.

his persona of stern-earnest alternating with breezy banter is is welcome, he has some amazing cards in his hand, and i think speaks to the young voters, still innocent of how politics is executed, like no-one since kennedy.

i'm praying hard that they a: vote him in, b: that he can run a presidency as well or better than his campaign.

this election matters for world race relations, but even more, for raising the thoughtfulness of international dialogue in these rocky times.

have fun at the meetup!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri Sep 19th, 2008 at 06:55:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Palin's convention speech, first draft:

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Thu Sep 18th, 2008 at 12:44:54 PM EST
The spelling seems quite good, and she can spin a yarn.  She doesn't seem to be saying much about how she is God's pick for the job though.  BTW did you get any of her leaked e-mails?

Vote McCain for war without gain
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Sep 18th, 2008 at 02:08:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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