December 17, 2007

Krugman takes Obama down a notch


At one extreme, Barack Obama insists that the problem with America is that our politics are so “bitter and partisan,” and insists that he can get things done by ushering in a “different kind of politics.”

At the opposite extreme, John Edwards blames the power of the wealthy and corporate interests for our problems, and says, in effect, that America needs another F.D.R. — a polarizing figure, the object of much hatred from the right, who nonetheless succeeded in making big changes.

Over the last few days Mr. Obama and Mr. Edwards have been conducting a long-range argument over health care that gets right to this issue. And I have to say that Mr. Obama comes off looking, well, naïve.

We've said it before, we'll say it again. Obama is not a fighter and the only problem is that a fighter is what the country is looking for right now. The low approval ratings for Congress AND the President are related mostly to the Republicans but increasingly it's because of the business as usual attitude that seems to have pervaded even the Democrats in Washington. The American people don't want to run out the clock... they've been fucked over pretty well over the last few years and they WANT SOME RED MEAT.

Of course, as someone pointed out to me long ago, Democratic primary voters are not exactly representative of the voting majority in this country. Which may help explain why Clinton and Obama are doing so well. The point here is that D primary voters have been beaten down so much over the last almost 28 years that they are seeking a kinder. gentler candidate who they hope will 'win over' the nation. Ain't gonna happen...

As health care goes, so goes the rest of the progressive agenda. Anyone who thinks that the next president can achieve real change without bitter confrontation is living in a fantasy world.

Which brings me to a big worry about Mr. Obama: in an important sense, he has in effect become the anti-change candidate.

There’s a strong populist tide running in America right now. For example, a recent Democracy Corps survey of voter discontent found that the most commonly chosen phrase explaining what’s wrong with the country was “Big businesses get whatever they want in Washington.”

And there’s every reason to believe that the Democrats can win big next year if they run with that populist tide. The latest evidence came from focus groups run by both Fox News and CNN during last week’s Democratic debate: both declared Mr. Edwards the clear winner.

But the news media recoil from populist appeals. The Des Moines Register, which endorsed Mr. Edwards in 2004, rejected him this time on the grounds that his “harsh anti-corporate rhetoric would make it difficult to work with the business community to forge change.”

And while The Register endorsed Hillary Clinton, the prime beneficiary of media distaste for populism has clearly been Mr. Obama, with his message of reconciliation. According to a recent survey by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, Mr. Obama’s coverage has been far more favorable than that of any other candidate.

So what happens if Mr. Obama is the nominee?

He will probably win — but not as big as a candidate who ran on a more populist platform. Let’s be blunt: pundits who say that what voters really want is a candidate who makes them feel good, that they want an end to harsh partisanship, are projecting their own desires onto the public.

And nothing Mr. Obama has said suggests that he appreciates the bitterness of the battles he will have to fight if he does become president, and tries to get anything done.

We need a fighter, not someone who thinks that a 'new kind of politics' will magically make everything right. This country is ready for a shift comparable to the New Deal. And I think Edwards is the one to usher it in.

One last point, regarding Edwards and how harsh he is toward corporate America, The Des Moines paper seems to think that he'll be unable to work with corporate America. The reality is, it'll be corporate America that has to work with an enormously popular President with a mandate for change. Of course, there will be compromise, but not of the sort that Clinton and Obama seem willing to make on a consistent basis.

Posted by mcblogger at December 17, 2007 11:11 AM

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