Friday, June 15, 2007


I'm glad Jerome Armstrong wrote "Hillary's Race to Lose" (also available here) because it's high time Democrats realized that we really are on the verge of nominating our most beatable top-tier candidate, and she really does seem unstoppable. Any Democrat who runs is going to have trouble getting past the man-crushes most Beltway journalists have on Fred and Mitt and Rudy and John, but Hillary is hobbled beyond that by a level of voter skepticism she doesn't know how to reverse. Short version: We're in trouble. If Jerome's post helps people come to terms with that reality, hallelujah.

But the headline misrepresents the post, which is less about Hillary and more about the shortcomings of the Obama and Edwards campaigns. I think Jerome is off base regarding Obama -- Obama may not be building a genuine netroots-based movement, but that's not why he's mired in second place. He's mired because he seems to be running as a taller, less pale Dukakis. (Obama: "When you focus on solving problems instead of scoring political points, and emphasize common sense over ideology, you'd be surprised what can be accomplished"; Dukakis: "This election is not about ideology, it's about competence.") Obama doesn't seem to want to rouse voters, doesn't seem to want to lose his white-collar Ivy League cool, doesn't seem to want to say anything bold or say anything boldly.

I wonder if he fears he'll be put in the angry-black pigeonhole if he ever raises his voice or lets the passion show. I understand that; but as an Italian -- as a member, in other words, of a white ethnic group that's also sometimes stereotyped as favoring emotion over thought -- I see that it's a problem that can be overcome. Giuliani doesn't talk like Joe Pesci, yet the emotion shows through. Mario Cuomo, in his prime, put emotion into great oratory. You have to find a middle ground where voters see thought and passion. Obama relies almost exclusively on the former, and it's killing him at the polls.

I think Jerome is on firmer ground regarding Edwards -- he doesn't seem to know how to avoid bad press. He doesn't seem to grasp that the GOP attack machine is a violent, abusive dad, and you have to walk into the house every day knowing it might take a swing at you. You have to have an intuitive sense of what sets it off, and you have to know how to avoid getting seriously hurt when it is set off. I guess it's no surprise that the one Democratic president we've elected in the past thirty years was the stepson of just such an abuser -- and maybe Hillary's survived this far in combat with the GOP because (if Carl Bernstein's book is correct) her father was rather nasty as well. Nevertheless, Edwards has to learn how to deal with that challenge, or he's toast.

And yet Edwards and Obama are still doing better in head-to-head matchups with Republicans than Hillary is. I guess my pessimism derives from that: We have three front-runners -- two apparently unable to win the nomination and the other apparently unable to win the election.

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