Well folks, the inevitable has happened. After enjoying an eight point lead in the Gallup Tracking poll only a week or so ago, Barack Obama now trails by three points. I say it was inevitable, because the media has clearly become infatuated with a different politician. Obama has lost his “celebrity” status – he’s becoming just another politician. Sarah Palin is the flavor of the week. Or is it the month? Or is it the season? I can’t definitively answer the latter two questions, but I think I could answer it if the Democrats don’t have anything in mind to change the dynamic.
My wife captured the moment quite aptly when she said that Sarah Palin has captivated a nation that is hooked on Reality TV. She’s become this year’s American Idol. And there’s no Simon Cowell to put her down.
Barack Obama won’t do it – he has trouble putting down anyone, except maybe George Bush (talk about a piñata!). Joe Biden won’t do it – I was shocked and frankly appalled when he referred to Palin’s put down of community organizers as a “great line.” Are you kidding me? That’s our attack dog? His opponent insults thousands of hard working, low paid, public servants by claiming that they have no “actual responsibilities,” and our attack dog says “great line”?
Apparently, Hillary won’t put down the new American Idol either – at least that’s what is being reported. She was willing in the spring to tarnish Barack by making invidious comparisons between him and John McCain, but she’s not willing to take on a politician who would lock up a rape victim for aborting her fetus, ignore global warming, cut taxes for the rich, and say absolutely nothing about foreign policy?
I used the term rope-a-dope the other day to refer to a GOP strategy. I can only hope the Dems are employing it now, or perhaps they’re waiting a couple of more days for the glow of last Wednesday night to wear off. But just as likely, they are revealing the typical Democratic reluctance to take the gloves off.
This, remember, is the same political party that threw my friend Steve Novick under the bus in Oregon because they found a monotonous and uninspired professional politician to run for Senator. Novick dominated the contest, except for one thing – he couldn’t compete with all the money that the Party establishment in D.C. threw at his opponent. So Novick lost by three percent. And – surprise! – the GOP candidate seems to be ahead after the Democrat has run a lackluster general election campaign.
Going back in history a bit, this is the same political party who, in the past two decades, went down to defeat after nominating a war hero who allowed others to mock his war record (John Kerry), a successful Vice President who campaigned as a block of wood (Al Gore), and a brilliant Governor who showed not a shred of emotion when asked how he would react to hearing about his wife being raped (Michael Dukakis). Methinks the party needs a little less reason and a bit more spirit.
What follows is a passage from The Creed Room that I wrote a few years ago to illustrate the plight of the Democrats. I had hoped we would have learned our lesson by 2008, but I’m beginning to wonder if we ever will.
“Tolerance. Compassion. Reason. These are words that most Americans can rally around, regardless of their political affiliation. I still believe that liberal Americans have been the most consistent in fighting for these principles, but they haven't fought with balls …
“Lately, we've heard them hype their leaders as warriors. Don't make me laugh. Warriors are characterized above all by their courage. When they run for office, they must show the guts to act decisively and to risk their political lives on unpopular positions. Warrior politicians don't claim to be more “competent” or “smarter.” They claim that deep down, you know they're right.
“Remember that this is a country that loves guns, hates taxes, and isn't overly concerned about universal health care. How do the liberals take power in such a place? Certainly not by playing it safe and pretending to be something they're not. In order to win, liberals must inspire. And …if you want to inspire, you had better be authentic.
“… Stop being liberals in moderates' clothing. Show your balls. Maybe you won't get people to agree with you, but at least they might respect you. That would be a start.”
When a political unknown with an unimpressive record insults not only you but a group who is part of the very heart and soul of your movement (community organizers), isn’t it time to strike back? And when you do strike, isn’t it time to do so with some sharp words – words indicating passion, and not pensiveness?
What I saw this morning from Biden and Barack on the talk shows was the typical Democratic appeal to the mind. But if they hope to avoid the fate of Dukakis, Gore and Kerry, they had better appeal just as much to the viscera. I guarantee you that Sarah Palin gets that, and she hasn’t even had to deal with losing seven Presidential elections out of the last ten.
You’d think experience would be a great teacher. You’d think the “Hillraisers” would have learned from experience that Reagan was on to something when he termed the Eleventh Commandment, “Thou Shalt Not Criticize a Fellow Republican.” You’d think Barack and Biden would learn that when you’re swift boated, the worst thing you can do is nothing at all. And you’d think that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee would realize that at a time when every party needs money for the General Election, you don’t throw huge bucks at machine politicians so that they can beat inspired insurgent candidates in PRIMARIES.
You’d think. Then again, just as nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American voter, nobody ever got rich betting on the Democrats to communicate with those voters either. They have two months left to go against their instincts and fight for hearts more than minds.
Let’s put it this way, sports fans. It’s late in a close game, and the Democrats have the ball. But I’m afraid the Republicans have the lead. If that sounds like a toss up, it’s because it is.