Monday, March 03, 2008


I understand Paul Krugman's basic argument against Barack Obama's cross-party outreach -- for a while I was skeptical, too, and time will tell whether Krugman is right (and whether I used to be right).

But I really don't understand how Krugman could write this today:

All in all, the Democrats are in a place few expected a year ago. The 2008 campaign, it seems, will be waged on the basis of personality, not political philosophy.

Paul, this is America. How often is a presidential campaign not waged on the basis of personality?

Krugman suggests that if ever there was a presidential election in which Democrats could run on the issues, it's this one. But why wasn't that the case in 2004? A huge segment of the public had become utterly fed up with the war. The violence was only getting worse, and the incompetence continued to escalate. We'd learned there were never any WMDs and we'd seen the Abu Ghraib pictures. Yet the election turned on whether John Kerry was a "flip-flopper," whether he looked silly in a windsurfing outfit or saluting while beginning his convention acceptance speech, whether he was as beer-worthy as George W. Bush. The previous election turned on the beer-worthiness of Al Gore. Before that, we picked Clinton's youth and vigor over those of Bob Dole and Poppy Bush, and before that we rejected Michael Dukakis and Walter Mondale because we thought they were boring little wussies.

Yes, I wish this weren't the case. I wish we voted on issues. But this America. We don't. Personality is the necessary delivery system for any issues payload. Krugman suggests that we'd be running an issues campaign if Obama hadn't run and done well, but we wouldn't -- we'd be running a personality campaign with, in all likelihood, no one the voters want to have a beer with as much as they do with John McCain. And that's why we'd lose.

No comments: