Monday, November 10, 2008


Sir Saunders and I rode 17 miles today and it was plenty of time to talk the post election issues. He’s been on Facebook a lot lately catching up with old friends. Too many are Obama supporters. He asked a number of them to give him 5 reasons to vote for Obama without using Bush in the negative. The one guy who answered referenced Bush in 2 of the 5 points anyway.

My own experience at work is as follows:

One person likes Obama because he’s biracial and thus understands both cultures without inhabiting either one, therefore he is peacemaker. Another person thinks that Obama's biography and manner will repair our unilaterlist image in the world. The third person decided to vote against every incumbent. All three voters are voting based on perception. A change that they personally want wrapped up in this nebulous change candidate.

Barrak Obama won the election mostly because he wasn’t Bush. McCain gained 47% of the vote because he wasn’t Obama. Voters know what they don’t want. Somebody has to win the thing, but the catch to winning a negative election is that you have to somehow govern with a positive.

Remember when Bush had approval numbers near 90%? He was against the terrorists. Once he was for something, namely beating the tar out of terrorists, his numbers fell. Clinton too became even more popular with Democrats after Lewinsky because impeachment put him against the Republicans. When he earlier tried a positive like national health care his numbers went in the opposite direction.

Obama is unusual because he’s more of a blank slate than any candidate we’ve elected in the big media age. His supporters all have dreams and hopes of change but those hopes vary. And as he makes decisions, some of those supporters are going to see the opposite of what they want. Any tax plan that he supports will have trouble finding a happy majority if he really plans on spending the money he promised to spend.

But probably the most dangerous pitfall for Obama is foreign policy. Obama ran as the guy who thought the war was a mistake, but not someone who promised to end it immediately, at least in the general election. He even admitted on O’Reilly that the surge was successful beyond anyone’s dreams. He has supporters who think that he will win the war and supporters who are warming up the transport planes to get the troops back home on January 21.

And while his supporters will give him some slack early on, he is sure to face a crisis of some sort and his reaction can easily fracture his base. For instance, if we have another terrorist attack on our soil the country will want action. But regardless of the attack, 25% of Democrats (12% or so of the overall populace) hardly ever support action where America’s interests are at stake. Free Haiti, yes. Free Bosnia, yes. Free Iran, No! It’s little forgotten now because Afghanistan has become a reason to leave Iraq, but there were many on the Left who objected to invading Afghanistan and were calling it a quagmire 30 days in. Remember how instead of fighting them we were supposed to look inward to discover why they would do such a thing?

Obama cannot win re-election without mollifying that 25%. How can he do that without backing down in the face of a challenge? Clinton’s trick was to give a very serious speech where he waved his finger and said he would never rest until they were brought to justice and then he’d go to eat a big lunch and play golf. I don’t know if that works anymore since 9-11, especially if the attack is domestic.

You have to be right on the big question of the day to be successful and the big question is Islamic terrorism, because as much as our safety is at stake so is our economy. It’s not enough to fund wind and solar research that might be ready in a generation. You have to fight bad guys and too much of his base will abandon him if he does so.

It seems like the key for Republicans is to give Obama his due when he is right for the betterment of the country and oppose his ideas when he is wrong and articulate why he is wrong. Doing so effectively can get the public behind conservative ideas and force Obama to act outside of his best political interests. But Republicans should never never never attack the man personally, because doing so will only hide his shortcomings behind a wall of support based on opposition to Republicans. By not attacking Obama, Democrats will have a hard time finding enemies and will no doubt turn on their own people who aren’t delivering fast enough on whatever they want.

Let’s face it, they’re an anti-Bush coalition so unless we give them something to unite behind, one faction or another is likely to erupt and the whole thing could disintegrate mostly on its own.

I hated the Bush Education plan, the Medicare plan, and the Department of Homeland Security idea, but as his critics on the Left got louder I tended to defend Bush as a decent man who was trying his best in tough circumstances. But if the Left had spent more time applauding Bush and his added spending, I would have been more likely to jump ship sooner. I realize looking back that besides the war, I was defending Bush simply because we were theoretically on the same team.

A good tactic going forward is to point out how Pelosi/Reid are manipulating Obama because the poor guy is surrounded by radicals. By pointing out how the agenda is coming from Congress and it isn’t the agenda he ran on, conservatives can make the 2010 case that Obama is either over matched even among friends or he is becoming the spender he promised not to be.

By always focusing it back on the action points and not personalities, Obama for the first time in his life will have to stand up for something and he won't be able to fudge or to hide from it. When he is no longer the mirror of our dreams whatever he has left will be less than what he started with. Our opportunity is before us.


Anonymous said...

Insightful. I will try to practice focusing on the actions of Obama/Pelosi/Reid, regardless of my negative feelings about Obama's missing honorable traits. The trick will be not letting my feelings show through.

E said...

I got the same thing from Obama voters, nebulous change orders and not-Bush. I could not get them to speak in paragraphs, only talking points and cliches. There was nothing behind his appeal except his appeal. We shall see. I wouldn't want to be him, many tough decisions ahead and difficult politics as well. The expectations and the factions seem to have him set up to fail. When you are President, can you still use affirmative action to your advantage or will he finally have to earn points on merit? We'll see.

Some good news today, Newt says he will serve as RNC Chair if asked. That would be a step in the right direction for the party if you ask me.

Sir Saunders said...

Wow, Newt could do for the Republicians what Howard Dean did for the Dems. Great post Tom, it's just what need. Marching orders! Now get going men!

Tom said...

Choosing Newt would be a sign that the party wants to compete again on ideas. I tend to think too many people are intimidated by him and would rather lose than watch Newt be right again and again.

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