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    September 10, 2008

    Party on the verge of a nervous breakdown

    Posted by: Kevin

    Women_on_the_verge_of_a_nervous_breThere is no question that Barack Obama and his senior aides ran an astounding primary campaign, right through to the nomination acceptance speech at the end of their triumphant convention in Denver.  Obama broke out of the pack early on, raised a gigantic amount of money, and took on the Clinton machine head-to-head.  He fought off endless efforts to smear him, both on the internet and in the media, and didn't relent.  Even in his announcement speech, he upstaged the establishment and dominated the scene whether he'd won or lost that day.  Against the odds, he made history on several fronts, not the least of which being the first African American nominated for President of the United States.

    I celebrated his victory over Hillary Clinton, and all that her cynical, soulless borg came to represent.  To me, a Hillary victory would mean the Democratic Party would be "assimilated" into a cynical enterprise meant to serve the Clintons and their Ideology of Me, weakening the party at a time when gays are dangerously - perhaps fatally - dependent on its flagging interest in delivering on our issues.  I agreed fully with the heart and the spirit of the very first notable YouTube fan video for Obama, which portrayed his primary challenge as nothing less than a one-person revolution against a cowed and brainless mass, sitting agape upon having the thin TV screen of their droning and predictable psychodrama (starring Herself) shattered and destroyed.  Hope was alive.

    Obama's Denver acceptance speech was hands down the most electric and ballsy feat of political drama since the day in 1912 in Milwaukee when Theodore Roosevelt was shot in the chest in on the campaign stump and went on to give a thundering 90 minute speech anyway.  Obama will be remembered for the 80,000 cheering fans, the fireworks shooting into the sky, the stagecraft, the music and the iron confidence he showed in himself, despite being the insurgent.  And every African American alive today and for the next hundred years will be able to say that the glorious history of that moment was fully honored and fully inhaled by the nation for time and memorial.  It was, in all sincerity, spectacular.

    But I sat down and read Obama's speech without the fanfare, putting aside the history around his race and the stirring artistry of the scenery.  It was, as the Associated Press rightly pointed out, very light on specifics, despite promises that it would have many.  Most people I know who watched the speech can't remember a single line from it today.  Obama needed to unite his party, yes.  That was definitely achieved.  But he also had to make his case to the vast number of undecided or skeptical voters who, like me, would put aside the historic and visual implications and pay attention to what he actually said and stood for.  Was he really so different?  Was he really bringing "change" that was more than skin deep?

    He didn't break out for me in Denver.  On foreign policy, it was all meringue and no candor or recognizable philosophy.  On education, it was essentially no-child-left-behind-plus-Americorps.  On energy, it was embarrassingly light on comprehension and almost identical to the current policies of George W. Bush (who is pouring money into R&D on biofuels, campaigned on clean coal technology as early as 2000, and is protecting the corn ethanol industry like Obama wants to do).  On taxes, it was about raising them.  And on the issue of gay equality, there were a couple of placating words but, in terms of policy, only a vague reference to hospital visitation rights.  (Noted lesbian reporter Karen Ocamb noticed, and raised an alarm on this.)  Ironically, McCain campaign strategist Steve Schmidt said about as much to a placated room full of Log Cabin activists in Minneapolis as Obama said in that stadium to the nation.

    To me, this points to a larger weakness in the campaign's central strategy.  Obama is still campaigning as the insurgent despite being the nominee and the presumed President-to-be, given the horrendous approval ratings of the Republican lame-duck.  This is a mistake.  He hasn't yet made the vitally important leap to statesman and "presidential", not in my mind and not in the mind of many undecided Americans. 

    He seems to have thought he'd just shift his insurgent campaign against Hillary to an insurgent campaign against George W. Bush, and simply win the election.  It was exciting in the primaries, at least for us non-Democrats or for new voters, and not for any cynical reason.  I truly like Barack Obama.  I admire his communication skills and his flair for the emotional, the dramatic, the inspirational -- all of which is sorely lacking in honorable U.S. politicians.  I envy his charisma.  To be honest, there were moments a few months ago when I really wanted to be in his corner all the way.  But I was waiting for him to close the deal.  It didn't happen.  And with the ever growing scale of his production values, I grow more doubtful that a deal-closer is there behind the curtain.  (Still time to prove me wrong.)

    Then I looked at the Denver performance again on my DVR and realized I was seeing something interesting.  The agape faces of the Democrats.  The happy, satiated activists.  They had a new psychodrama to latch onto, a new giant jumboscreen to watch.  So what that it was now starring the man who demolished their last one?  They were in their seats again.  Mouths open.  That's what they always wanted.  They didn't need to hear specifics.  They just needed the right lyrics to go with the music.

    I need more than that if you're going to ask me to toss aside nearly everything I believe on every issue besides gay rights and vote the way you say I must.  In the words of Madonna, I've heard it all before.

    And then, the unexpected game-changer.  Sarah Palin happened to Barack Obama and the Democrats.  Aside from what it actually meant in reality, in terms of the Democratic psychodrama it was a sudden, horrifying, Hurricane Katrina of a different sort.  Something suddenly went awry inside their heads.  (Indeed, speaking of hurricanes and kookiness, several noted Democrats publicly likened the arrival of Hurricane Gustav to God's punishment of the GOP that weekend.  Jerry Falwell would be proud of them for that - and it was surreal to hear it coming from their lips.)  And rather than spend the next week sitting back, confident that their man was more than up to this pitiful challenge to him, it seems that much of the party's activist wing began to quickly descend towards a nervous breakdown as independents began to break hard for the McCain-Palin ticket in most polls.

    Obama's faulty strategy hasn't helped him.  He had to leave the stadium and lightshows behind and close the deal, but he's flailing now.  The ridiculous boomlet over his "lipstick" remark was notable not for whether he intended to liken Palin to a pig (I say he didn't), but for the speed in which so many fell for the agile McCain reaction and recoiled.  That was a red warning light that needs to be heeded.  It was one of those bizarre moments where Obama pulled a Bill Clinton -- he said something really stupid (perhaps too candid about his true feelings of contempt?  I hope not) and seemed to almost know it a moment later.  Then he added a metaphor about a stinking fish, and maybe compounded the error.  That this was the only line of his stump speech that got attention that day is a glaring reflection of his failure to move with the shifting direction of this campaign (and he blamed the media for it), and how there is much more going on in the body politic for which repetitive doses of "hope" and "change" rhetoric aren't enough.  If Obama doesn't change strategic direction soon, a whiff of Dukakis will be in the air.

    And the crack-ups going on among the activist base, on glaring display across the internet in the last two weeks, is a troubling sign of the Democratic Party's deeper institutional hollowness that Obama's victory has not addressed.  This party is not ready for prime time if this is all they've got coming out of Denver.  And intelligent people of high note on the blogosphere seemed to go loco and wallow in the lowest depths of conspiracy theories and smears.  The alarm among cooler heads was such that Andrew Sullivan, for instance, had to post a note to readers acknowledging their "concern" and to say that he is "absolutely fine".  It was only days after seeming to demand that Palin submit to a maternity test to prove that her youngest child was her own (he has since backed off such crazy talk).

    Camile Paglia, a partisan Democrat herself, said it best:

    The witch-trial hysteria of the past two incendiary weeks unfortunately reveals a disturbing trend in the Democratic Party, which has worsened over the past decade. Democrats are quick to attack the religiosity of Republicans, but Democratic ideology itself seems to have become a secular substitute religion. Since when did Democrats become so judgmental and intolerant? Conservatives are demonized, with the universe polarized into a Manichaean battle of us versus them, good versus evil. Democrats are clinging to pat group opinions as if they were inflexible moral absolutes. The party is in peril if it cannot observe and listen and adapt to changing social circumstances.

    Some of the charges, exaggerations and pure inventions about Sarah Palin were so loud, numerous and deafening that they seem to have backfired egregiously.  The waters are so muddy and polluted now that undecideds are refusing to believe almost anything being said about her, and any rightful critiques or discrepencies in her record or statements are being painted with the same broad brush of mistrust as the crazy talk.  For a party that has long -- and rightly -- denounced such campaigning to turn so ferociously, chaotically and ineptly to the same tactics was a jolt in the face of Obama's sunny and uplifting style.  And it leaves the undecided voter cold and cynical about whether there is anything about them that has "changed."

    And the fact that simply by writing all this, I will probably be subject to a volley of truly hateful comments says even more about what is going wrong with Obama's quest.  There is still far too much window-dressing and preaching to the choir, mixed with a really shocking level of sleaze from the activists that must be driving Obama crazy.  Perhaps it's because he knows that so long as it continues, voters like me (the ones who will decide this election) will see no difference between him and the Republicans, and when the artistry and emotion is wiped away, he is dead even with John McCain -- and maybe won't hold up.



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    1. ksu499 on Sep 10, 2008 12:52:05 PM:

      Interesting. I heard many of your points mentioned on CNN last evening. The panel was surprised at how much time the Obama campaign has spent reacting to Palin. When was the last time a Presidential campaign was shaken by the other campaign's choice of Veep?

    1. Allan on Sep 10, 2008 1:22:11 PM:

      Interesting observations from someone WAY outside the party.

      That look you are deriding on Obama supporters' faces? It's the look that McCain will never inspire.

      Anyway, I would love to chat with you more but I'm too busy working beneath the radar of the pundits and MSM implementing the strategies that will win the election for Obama.

      The Chicken Littles squawking on the internet are panicked because they aren't actually involved in the campaign. Those of us who are have never been more calm and focused on what we need to do in the next critical days.

      After we win, I'll come back and tell you how we did it. But there are too many Republican eyes here for me to share that kind of intelligence now.

    1. North Dallas Thirty on Sep 10, 2008 1:50:45 PM:

      LOL....don't worry, Allan, no one would ever guess what you're doing.

    1. Chester on Sep 10, 2008 2:14:40 PM:

      Hmm, where did the Obama campaign slime Palin? Oh, I forgot, on obscure blogs and in anonymous comments.

    1. Randy on Sep 10, 2008 2:15:52 PM:

      I was once, quite a while ago, very liberal and it was a different ball game back then. Back then we understood tolerance to not mean blanket acceptance and while rowdy ... not hateful. At least the crew I ran around with weren't hateful.

      I watched Obama and while I didn't agree with him and won't vote for him no matter what ... my hope, many months ago, is that he would be a true visionary statesman. I hoped he would try to be a leader to all people if he did win. A true leader doesn't ostracize and only lead half the people.

      But, through the primaries my distrust for him began to grow. I don't believe for a moment that he said the pig lipstick thing thinking about Palin at all. That said though ... almost all politicians are SO carefully contrived ... and the doubt about why he said it comes unbidden from time to time.

      Some of his flippant reactions to not being the one driving the conversation is very unprofessional and questionable as well. While I don't think the portrayal of him as a highly arrogant elitist is completely true ... he seems more and more arrogant to me.

      Now having been on both sides of the "divide" the anger and intolerance I now see in the eyes of "The Left" is no different than the anger and intolerance of what was suffered from "The Right" all those years ago. The words and beliefs are different but the method of operation is almost the exact same.

      And believe it or not, this Christian conservative Republican finds that disappointing.

    1. Allan on Sep 10, 2008 2:40:27 PM:

      Thanks for the shoutout for Fieldhands, WD40! In honor of your mastery of the Google, I have begun to take the time to follow your lead and use html to hotlink external sites. I wish CC made it less cumbersome (and I wish this site loaded faster) but I guess you make do with what you have.

      Those of you who want to have a better understanding of the election than you get from the MSM (or from the uninformed comments of bloggers like Kevin) should acquaint yourself with the work of Al Giordano at The Field.

      Fieldhands is the social network for Field readers, and if you like what you read at Al's site, join us and affiliate yourself with the group in your geographical area.

      Obama is busy organizing a community called the United States of America and you will see the results on November 4th.

    1. Charlie on Sep 10, 2008 2:40:38 PM:

      Now having been on both sides of the "divide" the anger and intolerance I now see in the eyes of "The Left" is no different than the anger and intolerance of what was suffered from "The Right" all those years ago. The words and beliefs are different but the method of operation is almost the exact same.

      This is what I'm starting to see, too. It's depressing. I don't have the distaste or distrust for Obama that you do, but I also, cynically, never quite believed he was going to be that special, either. I honestly do think he'll be better for the country than the tired presence of McCain, and while Palin has a similar potential for energizing the country that Obama has, she isn't running for president, and since I don't identify as Christian or conservative, I have a bit of a harder time with her values than I do wth Obama (although Obama also identifies as Christian, of course.).

      I also think Obama has done a better job keeping things above board. Maybe his people, or his supporters, or getting ugly on the blogs, but at least he's made an effort to put the face of dignity on his campaign. McCain's latest attack, this whole lipstick thing, has me absolutely disgusted.

    1. Gee on Sep 10, 2008 3:12:13 PM:

      I think the idea that Palin could be a heart beat away is extremely scary.

      She wants to teach creationism in schools. We are already too far behind in science and math.

      She wants to outlaw abortion - even in cases of incest and rape. She will ban books from the library. Her church has a reparative program for people born with an homosexual sexual orientation. Would her foreign policy be based on the old testament? I am afraid it could be. She is also very vindictive.

      She is not qualified to be President of any 1st world country - let alone the most powerful. The entire idea is ludicrous. It was a cynical and reckless political move on McCain's part. Unfortunately, it just might work.

    1. Allan on Sep 10, 2008 7:31:11 PM:

      Oh, and Kevin, I appreciate, as do other readers, the unintended irony of your headline and the associated picture.

      For clearly, whether you can admit it or not, the party that is on the verge of a nervous breakdown is the one with a pistol-packin' mama on the ticket. Paging Dr. Freud...

    1. Chester on Sep 10, 2008 9:39:16 PM:

      Lol: FactCheck.org has concluded that McCain-Palin is lying about FactCheck.org:

      McCain-Palin Distorts Our Finding
      September 10, 2008
      Those attacks on Palin that we debunked didn't come from Obama.
      A McCain-Palin ad has FactCheck.org calling Obama's attacks on Palin "absolutely false" and "misleading." That's what we said, but it wasn't about Obama.
      Our article criticized anonymous e-mail falsehoods and bogus claims about Palin posted around the Internet. We have no evidence that any of the claims we found to be false came from the Obama campaign.

    1. gkruz on Sep 10, 2008 11:08:08 PM:

      "Obama's Denver acceptance speech was hands down the most electric and ballsy feat of political drama since the day in 1912 in Milwaukee when Theodore Roosevelt was shot in the chest in on the campaign stump and went on to give a thundering 90 minute speech anyway."
      Oh, come off it! How can you compare a speech given by a man who survived an assassination attempt with Obama's prepackaged fluff piece? And you call the Clinton's cynical?
      That said, I am glad to read that the Obama spell eventually wore off and you came to your senses. Unlike you, from the start I never trusted or liked Obama, but now I have no choice (Palin's nomination clinched it for me) but to enter the voting booth this November and pull the lever for the lesser evil, yet again, and hope that a majority of my fellow citizens are frightened enough by the prospect of another Republican regime to vote in a man unqualified for the Oval Office, and also hope he just might remember his promises to us LGBT folks if he makes it there.

    1. Geena on Sep 11, 2008 12:58:55 AM:

      Before anyone gets to excited, complacent, discouraged or hopeless, here's some polling data from Gallup back in 2004.

      September 24th - 26th:
      Bush 52, Kerry 44

      Presidential Debate One, September 30th :
      October 1st - 3rd, Bush 49, Kerry 49

      Presidential Debate Two, October 8th
      October 9th - 10th, Bush 48, Kerry 49

      Presidential Debate Three, October 13th
      October 14th - 16th, Bush 52, Kerry 44

      Final poll, Bush 49, Kerry 47

      It all came down to a 120,000 in Ohio.
      There's a lot of football left to play.

    1. Allan on Sep 11, 2008 2:11:38 AM:

      Gee, Kevin, I hope you aren't too disappointed that you haven't been subjected to "a volley of truly hateful comments."

    1. Kris on Sep 11, 2008 10:19:36 AM:

      OBAMA IS SOOOOOO 2007!

      OBAMA/BI-n-la-DEN 08

    1. Kary on Sep 11, 2008 10:35:14 AM:

      Chris: It appears that being a Republican is like being a Catholic......you never really get over it. The current Republican party is like a religion...and the intellectual Republicans that I know left it years ago. They didn't necessarily become Democrats, but they certainly did not vote for that ignorant fraud in the White House. Barack Obama is an intellect. The nation has had quite enough of anti-intellects. McCain and Palin are absolutely anti-intellects. They are embarassing internationally. Stop drinking the Kool-Aid and get a grip. Obama will win the election, because the alternative is perpetuating ignorance and war....and everyone but the very rich, the coporate interests and the whacko Christians understands this in the gut.

    1. rjp3 on Sep 11, 2008 10:51:44 AM:

      Once a Gay Republican ... always a Gay Republican.
      See that was not too hateful.

      Well except for Andrew Sullivan who has had the DECENCY
      to move forward and step away from the new Redneck Republican Fascist Party.

      Yes Citizen Chris --- you have long been part of the propoganda machine keeping it in power.

      No surprises here in your commentary.

    1. Michigan-Matt on Sep 11, 2008 11:55:14 AM:

      Chris, you're not alone in your thoughts... USA did a poll and asked Democrats voters if they knew then what they know about BarryO, would they vote for the O? Nope. Hillary won it hands down... even if you think ill of her.

      Politico is reporting that major Democrat strategists are deeply concerned that BarryO'Biden is, indeed, flailing, faltering, heading for a freefall. Can they pull it out and seal the deal? Well, given that they are not hitting internal fundraising goals, it suggests the answer is no. The money goes first... then the crowds... then the votes.

      You have good reason to be ringing the alarm bells. Those inside and near the campaign who argue "everything's ok" weren't standing with me in Flint on Monday at an invite-only event watching their candidate struggle with trying to tie McCain-Palin to some abstract reference to Kerry's flipflop record. It was painful.

      You could smell fear in the sweat of those assembled. You could hear self-doubt in the voice of BarryO. And the applause seemed more intended as therapy than affirmation. Not good signs at all.

    1. Another Charlie on Sep 11, 2008 12:03:07 PM:

      Gail Collins in today's New York Times answers most of your points:


    1. North Dallas Thirty on Sep 11, 2008 12:36:25 PM:

      Barack Obama is an intellect. The nation has had quite enough of anti-intellects.

      Here's an excellent example of one of Barack Obama's supporters and a fellow "intellect".

    1. lisa on Sep 11, 2008 12:40:05 PM:

      All the queers need therapy. My twin brother is gay and the most unhappy person I know. You are all promiscuios, drug abusers and liars. I don't hate you..I feel immense PITY for all of you. Obama should be charged with treason..

    1. North Dallas Thirty on Sep 11, 2008 1:03:40 PM:

      Sorry, Lisa, but if you check, I'm quite happy, well-adjusted, drug-free, and non-promiscuous. You're probably telling the truth about your brother, but if he's using his sexual orientation as an excuse for being unhappy, he's not being truthful with you and himself.

      As for your pity, I'm certain there are far more people in your neighborhood that could use it than me. Why not go talk to your neighbors today and find out who needs help? It's very therapeutic and will make you feel a lot better.

      Treason is willful betrayal of the country and/or state secrets. Obama associates with people who are guilty of treason (William Ayers, to name one) and is supportive of them, but it's a bit much to call that treason.

    1. The Gay Species on Sep 11, 2008 1:26:57 PM:

      The lack of specifics was necessary: The List is so large, that to touch on even the largest would give the appearance of a laundry list -- and yet, despite Obama's restraint and generalizations, many right wingers considered it more "laundry list liberalism."

      Any student of rhetoric knows that a speech is meant to serve the moment, not tomorrow, not yesterday, not posterity. What made Obama's acceptance speech moving for most of us is its improbability, coupled with its optimistic aspirations, its restraint of criticism, and its segue from Clintonistas to national referenda.

      No one, I dare say, can yet fathom the McCain tactics. I think Andrew Sullivan -- always a little slow on these things -- at least realizes what many people have long known. Ronald Reagan was a "romantic liberal," who stuck to his principles, but yielded to necessity. He is the last U. S. President to do so, and the paucity of his successors, clearly lacking the skills, was in evidence during his funeral. Nearly twenty years outside the public limelight, his memory still lighted a torch in dark times. He too was accuse of heavy on rhetoric, light on substance.

      That happens when recipients are light. Those who know the needs, hear the solutions in aspirations, not in policy wonkism. Jimmy Carter, and to a lesser extent, Bill Clinton, are policy wonks, on top of which their policies brought misery or laid foundations for it. With so much to do, rather than invoke despair, Obama chose optimism and aspiration. THAT is the mark of a leader. It launched Reagan in 1964, it launches Obama in 2008. The parallels are not only striking, the opportunities even greater.

    1. maderk on Sep 11, 2008 1:31:07 PM:

      I did my best to read through the post (and I do suggest editing at least half of it out – you’re a good enough writer to make your points more succinctly). I was struck early on by the gratuitous contempt for Clinton, and I just want to point out a couple of things. (I think Obama is likely to win and I do not buy into your premise (or Paglia’s god forbid) that the Obama campaign is floundering.) It was Hillary Clinton who tried to tell Obama and the rest of us what was coming in terms of the Rovian attacks from the Republicans, so if there is any pain for Obama supporters of which I m now one, I neither feel it nor have sympathy for it. She was dismissed, of course, but she was right. I was also struck yesterday at Obama’s pointing out that the McCain camp was putting out fake outrage over the lipstick comment, when I remembered similar tactics by the Obama campaign (never Obama himself) when Clinton said it took a legislator like LBJ to get the Civil Rights Act passed. Within hours the whispering campaign began: she’d dissed MLK! She’s a racist! And where do we think these things were coming from? Obama operatives, of course. They effectively ruined the Clinton’s well-earned standing in the Black community. So I wasn’t quite buying it when Barack was outraged at the Republican’s outrage at his little lipstick faux pas. It made me think that what goes around does indeed come around. But I certainly hope he wins . . .

    1. Chester on Sep 11, 2008 2:00:07 PM:

      Michigan Matt, for a good view of "flop sweat" did you see the clips of McCain in Philadelphia without Palin?
      Cut and run, according to Reuters.

    1. Jack Jett on Sep 11, 2008 4:59:16 PM:

      The anti-Clinton liberal media lost this election for the Democrats. Obama isn't tough enough to pick up the mud and throw it back in the republican's face. Hillary would have kicked her evangelical ass in a New York minute.
      Palin is nothing more than a distraction. Tonight we will see how she has the MSM wrapped around her little gun toting finger.

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