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Obama's Present Weakness: Some Thoughts

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There are signs aplenty that Obama has arrived at this day in a weakened condition. Most recently, the polls indicate that the primaries in South Dakota and Montana --which until recently had looked like upcoming Obama victories-- will go for Clinton (SD) or will be close (MT).

This seems clearly, to me, to be the result of how Obama has coped with the Hillary onslaught. On the one hand, he's had the nomination pretty well sewn up. On the other hand, Hillary has been banging away at him. And on the third hand, Obama has felt that he should stay above the fray and not risk alienating Hillary's supporters by fighting back. This rope-a-dope strategy has taken a toll.

I don't know if Obama had any better options than the one he took.  Perhaps he could have found ways of fighting back more effectively that wouldn't have cost him with important segments of the electorate. Perhaps he could have found ways of continuing to inspire new people, while ignoring Hillary. 

 But also, perhaps he has been wise to hold off on launching his campaign to the nation until the story was no longer dominated by Hillary Clinton's refusal to concede defeat, and until Obama was clearly down to the two-way race with John McCain.   Perhpas it would have squandered the coming opportunity to frame the coming drama if he'd given the presumably coming new speeches in this endless first act.

I'm just not sure. 

 But what does seem clear is that the option he took --which has been, essentially, to put his campaign on hold and coast into the nomination-- has entailed serious costs of its own. Quite likely these costs can be temporary, which antagonizing Hillary's supporters might not have been. But it is sad to see him limping across the finish line in an inglorious, unimpressive fashion.

It is to be hoped that once the Democratic contest is behind him --today, perhaps, or at least by later this week-- he can throttle up his campaign for the fall in a way that drives this limping finish quickly into the mists of ancient history.

But for now, I'm aware that the picture we see tonight will likely not have the aura of glory and victory and gathering power that I'd hoped it would.

One additional thought: some of the blame for all this rests on the shoulders of the Democratic voters.

If the Democratic rank-and-file were rational and strategic and understood the importance of victory, they'd never have behaved as they have.

Hillary's supposed "virtues" as a fighter would have been seen by more voters for what they were, which as I've said for months, is something much darker. Obama should not have had to fight back to win against this campaign that Hillary has waged.

And just as important as the issue of how Hillary should have been perceived as a result of her campaign of damaging the all-but-presumptive nominee, a wiser Democratic electorate would have simply recognized, months ago, that their interest called for them to begin strengthening Obama, almost certain to be the party's standard bearer, whether he was their first choice or not.

Instead, they've done what Democrats have done all too often. They've voted without much apparent rational thought as to actual real-world consequences, and have been complicit in the systematic damage to the candidacy on which their actual hopes for power will ultimately rest.

I can't tell which is more dismaying: the lock-step discipline of the Republicans, who understand that winning power is what the game is about, but can be manipulated through their loyalty into the service of evil forces; or the Democrats' sense that it's a virtue to assume postures of protest and make sacrifices on the altar of the sacredness of expressing their conscience and their highest hopes, indifferent to whether the consequences of their lack of party discipline surrenders control of their world to those evil forces on the other side.

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Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia's 6th District. His new book -- written to have an impact on the central political battle of our time -- is (more...)
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