By Dave Lindorff
Well, it’s happened, and it’s no surprise.
Barack Obama, the prospective Democratic presidential candidate, has
managed to turn a 5-8 point lead over prospective Republican opponent
John McCain into a 7-point deficit—a double-digit slide—in just two and
a half months following a campaign that had voters really excited over
How did he manage this feat (which is documented in the latest latest Reuters/Zogby poll)?
Simple: he followed the tried-and-true strategy of Democratic centrist
advisers who have increasingly dominated his campaign since the end of
the primaries, and who have a proven track record of producing
Democratic electoral disasters now for several decades.
Like John Kerry and Al Gore before him, Obama, who ran his primary
campaign as a liberal, staking out an anti-war position, has morphed
over recent weeks into a Republican-lite candidate, calling for a hard
line against Palestinian rights, threatening to attack Iran, calling
for an expansion of the disastrous war in Afghanistan, and backing away
from genuine health care reform and other important progressive goals
here at home.
One might think that after watching Democratic candidates lose the
last two presidential elections by following exactly this kind of
“strategy,” if it can be called that, Obama and his campaign managers
would have decided to try something different, but it appears that the
Democratic Party at the top is hopelessly in the grip of corporate
interests that favor war, free-market nostrums and corporate welfare.
(Okay, I know Gore really won the 2000 election, but he should have won
it so convincingly—for example taking New Hampshire and his home state
of Tennessee—that the election couldn’t have been stolen. And Kerry,
similarly, should not have had his race determined by a close vote in
economically distressed Ohio, which should have been his by a blowout.)
Obama got where he is—the first African-American major party nominee
and the first black candidate with a real shot at winning the White
House—by appealing to the Democratic Party’s liberal base. Now Zogby
reports that Obama’s support among liberals has plunged 12 percent.
That’s liberals folks!
I count myself among those on the left who have turned away from this fast-talking eel of a candidate.
It’s not a matter of turning to McCain, who is if anything more
dangerous than President Bush because of his fondness for war and his
evident lack of any kind of principles, not to mention his personal
But how can I or any progressive vote for a presidential candidate
who goes from opposing a war to saying he not only supports the idea of
keeping troops in Iraq for another five years—the length of the entire
WWII!—but who further says he won’t rule out attacking Iran, even if
that country poses no imminent threat to the US, simply because it
develops nuclear weapons—the same weapons that our putative friends,
Pakistan and India, have? How can I vote for a candidate who wants to
expand the military (by 65,000 troops) instead of shrinking this huge,
bloodsucking parasite of an organization which is costing as much as
the rest of the world spends on its armies?
How can I or any progressive vote for a presidential candidate who
cannot state categorically that he will defend the Constitution by
reversing all of President Bush’s abuses of power and who will not
promise to prosecute the president and members of his administration
for any crimes committed while in office?
If you look at Obama's vaunted website,
and check out his positions on the big issues of healthcare, education,
the economy, labor, social security, etc., you can see he’s pretty good
on most things (okay, his health care “reform” is a loser and will
never fly. He should be calling for a nationally-run insurance system
modeled on Medicare and paid for by the government). The problem is
that there has been a deliberate effort to soft-pedal all of it, while
backpedaling on his position on the Iraq War. (And if he can go from
anti-war to pro-war, what's to say he won't backpedal in office on the
rest of his positions, especially if he won't highlight and defend them
vigorously on the campaign trail?)
There has clearly been a decision made in the Obama campaign to
soft-pedal liberal positions and to make Obama appear “safe” and
The result has been his precipitous slide in the polls.
That’s not the worst of it, either. Obama is not just losing
liberals in droves. Many liberals, after all, will in the end return
and vote for grudgingly for Obama, though they probably won’t volunteer
to do any of the critical campaign work registering voters, promoting
his candidacy or getting people to the polls. The worst part is that by
becoming just another middle-of-the-road, namby-pamby, Republican-lite
clone of Kerry circa 2004 and Gore circa 2000, Obama is losing the
young and also the disaffected, unaffiliated voters who were flocking
to his campaign during the primaries. This group of erstwhile
enthusiasts is down 12 percent, too. And it’s those people—particularly
the unaffiliated voters--who are raising McCain’s numbers. The Zogby
poll reports that McCain’s support among younger voters has reached 40
percent—not that much below Obama’s 52 percent.
There is probably still time to turn this electoral debacle in the
making around. Obama needs to come out unambiguously for a quick end to
the war in Iraq. He needs to do an about face on his call for an
expansion of the war in Afghanistan. He needs to flatly rule out
preemptive war as a policy for the United States of America, unless the
country is in danger of imminent attack. He needs to scotch plans for
expanding the military, and instead to start talking about how to
reduce military spending, so that those funds can be shifted to
domestic priorities like improving education and dramatically
increasing research into carbon-free energy production. He needs to
call for a national healthcare system that will provide quality,
affordable medical care for all, and he needs to call for an aggressive
campaign to combat joblessness and to reduce income disparity within