Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Hotline's "The Blogometer" Puts A Fork In Obama

10/30: Friends No More:

On 12/5/06 DailyKos' founder Markos Moulitsas surveyed what was then the Dem WH '08 primary calendar and proclaimed: "If Obama runs, he wins." Ten months later, on the tail of problems surrounding Social Security and a gospel controversy, Markos blogs: "Unfortunately, the more he stumbles, the bigger the Clinton blowout could be. Her juggernaut advances steadily while her opponents flail. We truly are losing a real choice this primary season, and that's not a good thing."
We do not think that Markos' prognostication skills should be derided here. Kos believed that Obama would run a very different kind of campaign than he actually wound up running. So did we. We thought Obama would embrace the netroots as allies and use their help to defeat Clinton. Instead, Obama has rejected their combative style of politics and has prioritized other constituencies at almost every turn. Now, if Obama is going to win the nomination, it is going to be without their help. And frankly we do not see how that is possible. It is not that the netroots are kingmakers for Dem primaries, but if you are going to run against an establishment candidate, we can't imagine anyone succeeding without their help.

OBAMA: Other Than That Barack, How Did You Enjoy The Show?

All might have been forgotten or forgiven between Barack Obama and the netroots over gospel singer/'gay-basher' Donnie McClurkin's appearance at an Obama Columbia, SC, gospel concert 10/28, but the fact that McClurkin emceed the event and reportedly "turned the final half hour of the three-hour concert into a revival meeting" became the last straw for many in the community. Reactions include:

  • AMERICAblog's John Aravosis: "Obama's anti-gay religious right activist used the opportunity Obama gave him last night to preach his hate to thousands of African-Americans. That's just great. And the white preacher who Obama picked to help explain to the audience that gays aren't minions of Satan? CNN reports that he said nothing at all -- just a short little prayer, then he left. ... So, in the end, Obama let his "best" and "favorite" artist slam gays to thousands of African-Americans, in his name, and neither he nor his hand-chosen white gay preacher said anything in response. Class act, that Obama campaign."
  • DailyKos' founder Markos Moulitsas: "It's an all-out implosion by the Obama campaign. This truly is indefensible."
  • Open Left's Matt Stoller: "Obama's not a homophobe, he is probably more comfortable around gay people than any presidential candidate and he has a great record on LGBT rights. It is a significant incident though, because it's about priorities. ... This looks like Obama is giving a wink and a nod to bigots. ... It's not about positions and it never has been about positions, it's about constituencies and identity, and prioritizing your values. And it's not an accident, it's a choice."
  • Atrios: "A fascinating thing about Democratic politics is that progressive activists, especially those in marginalized groups, are expected sit down and shut up and take it because they're supposed to be smart enough to know that nods and winks to bigots are just crass political maneuvers that candidates make to court votes."
  • Fire Dog Lake's Jane Hamsher: "Obama's message of hope and bipartisanship stays positive by letting proxies do his dirty work for him. Sorry, no sale here."
  • Pastor Dan at Daily Kos: "I tried to defend -- or at least recontextualize -- Barack Obama's association with Donnie McClurkin the other day, but the latest revelations are just too much. Clearly, Obama has thrown his lot in with defending a bigoted fathead. I kept hoping that he would take the appropriate steps to distance himself from said bigoted fathead, without much luck. If anything, he's even more tightly wrapped up in McClurkin now."

Obama's campaign did not help their cause by giving MSMers a three-page memo which included the following in all caps: "MCCLURKIN DOES NOT WANT TO CHANGE GAYS AND LESBIANS WHO ARE HAPPY WITH THEIR LIVES AND HAS CRITICIZED CHURCH LEADERS WHO DEMONIZE HOMOSEXUALS." AMERICAblog's John Aravosis responds: "So David Duke's only problem, per the Obama campaign, is that he vilifies the happy Jews and the happy blacks? Keep digging, guys. Obama keeps making clear that he hasn't learned his lesson, he doesn't understand what he did wrong, and he will continue to coddle those who attack our community so long as it wins him votes and money."

The memo even led Open Left's Chris Bowers to stop defending Obama: "This isn't simply a mistake, despite what I first wrote. If the Obama campaign is not only keeping McClurkin as the headliner of the concert, but also issuing memos defending his views, producing videos endorsing McClurkin before the event, and then allowing McClurkin to emcee the event, it is pre-meditated, not a mistake."

OBAMA II: Kicking A Campaign When They're Down

The netroots do not have a problem with Barack Obama's social security policy prescription (restructuring the cap on payroll taxes), but his rhetoric acknowledging there is a social security problem that needs to be 'fixed' is antithetical to netroots thinking on the issue. Atrios explains:

I imagine some readers who haven't been hanging around these parts for all that long might have justifiably been puzzled at the reaction to Obama's decision to try to make dealing with Social Security his signature attack on Clinton. It's true that Obama didn't assert that there was some huge crisis. But the fact remains that he put the idea out there that Social Security had a "problem" which needs to be fixed and that any serious presidential candidate needs to address the issue in clear detail. So what's the big deal?

Beating back George Bush's plan to kill social security was probably the first major victory for the broadly defined netroots movement. ... Beating back the steady stream of misinformation about the nonexistent crisis was done throughout the blogs, on Media Matters, etc. ... So, anyway, having someone suggest that Social Security is a problem which needs to be dealt with by any serious candidate is like the bat signal for people like me. There is no problem with Social Security. None at all. Whatever broader fiscal time bombs exist have absolutely nothing to do with Social Security.

Those with similar reactions include:

  • Talking Points Memo's Josh Marshall: "If Obama is hoping for an issue to gain traction with vis a vis Hillary, he's really muffed it picking Social Security. In itself the idea of removing or significantly restructuring the 'cap' on payroll taxes is a good one, at least one with a lot to recommend it. ... But what Obama is doing is buying into the false idea that Social Security is in some sort of crisis."

  • DailyKos' founder Markos Moulitsas: "We spent most of 2005 fighting the Bush administration and its minions in Congress on this very issue, and battled the media and the politicians on this very frame. There is no social security crisis that must be "fixed". Sure, the system could be improved to be less regressive, but what the hell is Obama doing using scare-mongering language on social security?"

  • Open Left's Matt Stoller: "That Obama is using the need to shore up Social Security as an attack on Clinton, well, this makes me want to say that I'm disappointed that Obama is abandoning the politics of hope. ... On another level, I just feel bad for progressive Obama supporters. It's simply awful to watch a person that you thought was great and progressive betray and embarrass you for political gain, and move into a more authoritarian direction.

  • The Huffington Post's Dave Johnson: "Obama is running ads reinforcing the right's bamboozlement that Social Security is running out of money! ... I know that Senator Obama's heart is in the right place and he has no intention of harming Social Security. But this ad is a mistake that could backfire. Please stop running this ad and please change the language."

OBAMA III: What Was Your Favorite Moment Of The Obama Era?

The combination of the McClurkin/social security issues has inspired some in the netroots to write post-mortems for his campaign already. DailyKos' founder Markos Moulitsas blogs: "I once wrote a post titled something like "if Obama runs, he wins". The fat lady hasn't sung yet, so I might still prove prescient. But I'd be shocked if I was."

Later Kos adds: "This is truly an epic flameout by the Obama campaign, engaged in actions that are completely indefensible. ... Obama isn't the be-all savior for what ails our country. No one is. If there's a message I thought we were successfully delivering in the netroots is that it was up to US to move this country in the right direction since we couldn't depend on our so-called "leaders". This sort of hero worship of several of our candidates (Edwards, Obama, and even Hillary) is somewhat creepy to begin with, but serves little more than to set up the inevitable disappointment."

Open Left's Matt Stoller congratulates the netroots for avoiding the Obama swoon: "I'm really proud of how we stood up for our values and ourselves, and didn't rationalize away Obama's pandering. It's how a healthy movement should act. ... It's an important precedent to set, that values are the driving force behind what we do, not incoherent notions of strategy. That is what divides us from DC insiders, that we react badly to acts of betrayal, that we don't let our leaders throw us or our gay brothers and sisters under the bus. That is what brings us strength and credibility, that we stand for something and lead."

Finally, Open Left's Chris Bowers explains why he should have seen Obama's "eventual downward slide" coming:

  • Barack Obama was never going to run as a partisan progressive or Democrat, and was always going to chastise progressives in right-wing frames whenever he was challenged by the left. His past statements showed a pattern of this behavior that should have been obvious.
  • Given his relatively high support compared to his name ID, and his natural base among both working class African-Americans and the under-50, progressive "creative class" of the Democratic Party, he clearly had the best chance to defeat Clinton from the start of the campaign. In fact, he might have had the only realistic chance.
  • Unless the underwent a dramatic transformation, bullet point #1 was always going to destroy Obama's chances with the under-50, progressive "creative class" in #2, which would in turn destroy his ability to defeat Clinton. The only candidate with a clear shot to defeat Clinton was always going to repeatedly undercut and otherwise press the "self-destruct" button on his own coalition. In the end, the result would be Clinton domination as the Obama coalition scattered among the rest of the field.

CLINTON: It Takes A Woman

Garance Franke-Ruta links to analysis showing Hillary Clinton's campaign has more women in 'senior positions' than most other Dem campaigns and comments: "[I]t's not like there was some huge population of female strategists out there the various campaigns were competing for and Clinton just happened to snap them all up. Clinton created, on her own, a cadre of female strategists to serve her political needs, by spotting talent in the women around her and promoting them up the political food chain. No other candidate can say, for example, that their campaign is being managed by their female former scheduler."

Matthew Yglesias links and adds: "It also might be worth noting in this regard that I think almost everyone would agree that Clinton's had the best-run campaign -- free of mistakes, and seemingly drawing blood on those occasions when they've felt the need to attack."

EDWARDS: Trading Up?

John Edwards continued opposition to the Peru Trade Agreement is popular among the netroots. Jonathan Tasini blogs at The Huffington Post: "Aside from the ethical and moral opposition to so-called "free trade," Edwards is making a very smart political choice for the Democratic Party. I recently pointed out a nationwide poll that showed that a majority of REPUBLICAN voters oppose so-called "free trade." Do we need to put flashing lights on that fact for those Democratic Party leaders who would still prefer to side with the corporate insiders, as opposed to the voters?"

David Sirota adds at Working Assets: "The move, consistent with Edwards' economic populist campaign, drives a wedge right through the heart of the Democratic presidential primary. ... You can be sure we'll be hearing a lot of noise about how this deal is supposedly great for average Americans and Peruvians alike. But remember, no major labor, human rights, anti-poverty, environmental, consumer protection or religious group in either the United States or Peru have endorsed the deal."

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