Building A True Big Tent

There are a lot of lame arguments given by Clinton supporters to oppose Obama around the blogosphere and I generally ignore them, but this one is worth mentioning. Not only is it absurd, but it actually shows a reason why Obama is preferable to Clinton.

Big Tent Democrat once again shows his support for a very small tent in a post which tries to make the argument that Obama should be opposed because some DLC people support Obama. Considering Bill Clinton’s support from the DLC, I suspect that DLC support is actually split, but for the sake of discussion let’s assume that the DLC does support Obama.

Obama’s positions are independent of those who support him. Looking past the DLC, Obama also has the endorsement of several unions, MoveOn, and multiple political leaders whose liberal credentials are not questioned. If Obama can add members of the DLC to such a coalition, more power to him.

The DLC has a poor reputation in the liberal blogosphere primarily because of their support for the Iraq war. Obama opposed the war from the start while Clinton supported the war. This difference in their positions is far more meaningful than whether members of the DLC now support Obama. In terms of philosophy, Clinton and not Obama is the candidate which represents the views of the DLC which we oppose.

Big Tent Democrat writes:

Obama’s Unity Schtick is precisely what the DLC and Joe Lieberman have been preaching for decades and that the progressive blogs were supposed to be fighting AGAINST. 

Joe Lieberman? Last I heard he is supporting John McCain, not Barack Obama, so don’t try to tie Lieberman’s views to Obama’s.

His perception of what the progressive blogs are supposed to be fighting against is precisely why I object to so much of what Big Tent Democrat writes. This attitude is true of many in the liberal blogosphere, but this is a mistake.

It is up to every blogger to decide what they should be fighting for or against, but personally I would base this upon a set of principles. If a candidate such as Obama can promote liberal principles while achieving support from a wide range of people this is a good thing.

There are really only two ways we can achieve political change. One way is to practice the same 50% plus one philosophy of the Republicans. Clinton is trying this, but fortunately not succeeding. The other way is to achieve majority support for their proposals. This means receiving the support of independents and some Republicans. This means receiving the support of people from both the DLC and MoveOn. Obama is doing exactly what must be done to promote progressive ideas. 

Clinton Claims Obama Using Her Own Tactics

Hillary Clinton has frequently resorted to distorting Obama’s statements and positions during the campaign. Lawrence Lessig has an excellent video (posted with transcript here) which summarizes how Clinton has run her campaign. Now she has the nerve to make an issue of an Obama mailer which, while it does appear to have faults, is a minor issue compared to what Clinton has been doing.

Obama’s mailer could be faulted for the manner in which a third party quote appears to be from Clinton. I would prefer that even this degree of error not be present, but this is quite trivial compared to how Clinton has campaigned.

While misleading with regard to a quote, Obama’s mailer is correct with regards to the facts concerning Clinton’s support for NAFTA.

In contrast, Clinton has sent out mailers which were totally misleading regarding Obama’s positions on issues such as Social Security, abortion rights, Iraq, and health care. Clinton’s distortions on abortion rights led Lorna Brett Howard, the former President of Chicago NOW, to drop her support for Clinton and back Obama. Clinton has also raised bogus charges such on plagiarism, distorted the meaning of voting present in the Illinois legislature, and distorting Obama’s references to Ronald Reagan in an interview.

Clinton objects to Obama’s criticism on health care mandates but this is a legitimate objection. Many believe that mandates are both a bad idea as well as opposing them on philosophic grounds. There is a tremendous difference between Obama’s view of government in terms of helping those who desire assistance and Clinton’s view of forcing her ideas upon everyone. Clinton relies upon the idea of imposing her views with the support of 50% plus one. Besides her repeated reliance on Rove style attacks, this is the aspect of her views which most makes me fear that she is the candidate who is far too much like George Bush.

Campaigning based upon differences of opinion is legitimate, but Clinton supporters often falsely equate this with the dishonest mailers Clinton uses which outright distort Obama’s positions.

The Straight Talk Express

I haven’t devoted much space to the latest allegations regarding John McCain. The question of whether he had an affair is receiving the most coverage, and the mainstream media will continue to discuss that one. I’m not sure the story really will go very far if both sides deny it. The far more interesting aspect from a long term political perspective is McCain’s relationship with lobbyists and the favors he might have provided.

Stories like this are not always best for the blogosphere as many rumors and denials typically fly and it takes some time to sort out what is really true. While I’m holding off on any overall conclusions as to what this says about McCain one news report which I must note. The Washington Post looks at McCain’s relationship with lobbyists and feels they are essentially running his campaign:

A common career path for political operatives is a lucrative job at a Washington lobbying firm that allows them to continue campaign work, and McCain is hardly the first candidate to draw on that talent pool. The campaign of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) has been aided by lobbyists Harold Ickes and Mark Penn, who heads Burson Marsteller Worldwide. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) has been advised by former senator Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.), who is not a registered lobbyist but advises clients about Washington.

In McCain’s case, the fact that lobbyists are essentially running his presidential campaign — most of them as volunteers — seems to some people to be at odds with his anti-lobbying rhetoric. “He has a closer relationship with lobbyists than he lets on,” said Melanie Sloan of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “The problem for McCain being so closely associated with lobbyists is that he’s the candidate most closely associated with attacking lobbyists.”

An example is given of the relationship between McCain and one lobbyist. McCain’s chief political adviser, Charles R. Black Jr., is chairman of BKSH and Associates which has represented AT&T, Alcoa, JPMorgan and U.S. Airways. Note the final line of this excerpt (emphasis mine):

Of all the lobbyists involved in the McCain campaign, the most prominent is Black, who has made a lucrative career of shuttling back and forth between presidential politics and big-time Washington lobbying. He has worked for the campaigns of former congressman Jack Kemp (N.Y.), former president George H.W. Bush and former senators Phil Gramm (Tex.) and Robert J. Dole (Kan.), all Republicans.

“I’ve spent a fair amount of my life as a lobbyist, but I’ve spent a majority of my adult life running Republican political campaigns,” Black, 60, said.

His relationship with McCain, for whom he is a senior adviser, goes back more than two decades, from the time McCain first came to Washington. They got to know each other well during Gramm’s 1996 presidential run; Gramm, now an investment banker, is a major supporter and adviser to McCain.

But even as Black provides a private voice and a public face for McCain, he also leads his lobbying firm, which offers corporate interests and foreign governments the promise of access to the most powerful lawmakers. Some of those companies have interests before the Senate and, in particular, the Commerce Committee, of which McCain is a member.

Black said he does a lot of his work by telephone from McCain’s Straight Talk Express bus.

Remember Dick Cheney’s energy task force? Are there any doubts as to who will be setting the agenda should John McCain be elected?

Ohio Poll Shows Obama Leading Clinton, Clinton Advisers Realize The End May Be Near

The polls have gotten tighter in both Texas and Ohio, with most showing that Obama has greatly reduced Clinton’s earlier lead in Ohio. One poll now shows Obama in the lead in Ohio (hat tip to From the Left):

Ohio was early seen as a state where Clinton had the advantage due to the dynamics of the race so far. Clinton has done better with Ohio’s demographics, but there is no good reason for this. Basically poorly educated/low information voters have bought Clinton’s argument that her policies are better for the middle class, even though Obama’s economic plans are actually better. It is notable that the unions have seen through this and are supporting Obama. As time goes on more voters are also realizing this.

I don’t know what’s going to happen in Ohio, but if Obama wins, even by a handful of votes, it is the end for Clinton. Losing Ohio would destroy all her arguments as to why the states Obama has won should not count. There is already talk of Clinton supporters considering how to get Hillary to drop out if she doesn’t do well on March 4. The Washington Post reports on the new reality seen by the Clinton camp:

Inside Clinton’s inner circle on Friday, the feeling was that the Thursday night debate in Austin was unlikely to slow Obama’s momentum from 11 straight primary and caucus victories. Some supporters said they had discussed how to raise with Clinton the subject of withdrawing from the race should she fail to win decisively on March 4. One option was to wait a day or two and then dispatch emissaries to former president Clinton to urge him to make the case.

One adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak freely, said Obama’s 17-point Wisconsin victory on Tuesday had started to sink in as a decisive blow, given that the state had been viewed weeks earlier as a level playing field.

“The mathematical reality at that point became impossible to ignore,” the adviser said. “There’s not a lot of denial left at this point.”

Despite Clinton’s public pronouncements of optimism, this adviser said: “She knows where things are going. It’s pretty clear she has a big decision. But it’s daunting. It’s still hard to accept.”

Backlash Against Dirty Politics

One aspect of Obama’s campaign which I’ve particularly appreciated has been how he has avoided the negative campaigning seen in recent years. While Clinton has resorted to a campaign largely based upon distorting Obama’s statements and positions, Obama has kept it clean. The result has been a string of victories and a significant lead in the race. Clinton tried once again to resort to a bogus smear during this week’s debate and wound up getting booed. Could this be the end of negative campaigning? McClatchy has also noticed this trend:

WASHINGTON — Hillary Clinton apparently thought that she had a killer sound bite during Thursday’s debate when she ripped Barack Obama as a promoter of “change your can Xerox.”

Instead, the audience booed, critics winced and once again the New York senator’s attempt to demonize her rival fell flat, another illustration of how 2008, at least so far, is the year that negative campaigning just doesn’t work as it once did.

“It looks like people are just burned out on that stuff,” said Peter W. Schramm, the executive director of the Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs in Ohio.

In state after state, voters said they moved from Clinton to Obama — or, on the Republican side, from Mitt Romney to John McCain or Mike Huckabee — partly because they were tired of what seemed like politics as usual.

“What Hillary Clinton says just seems like dirty politics. Obama offers a very positive message,” said Roshay Malone, a Milwaukee child-care business owner.

“Clinton’s just too polarizing. Obama is able to inject some enthusiasm into the process,” added Bryan Hale, a land surveyor from Smithsburg, Md.

Analysts warn that the campaign still could turn on negatives, should a major scandal erupt. And the rules are likely to change in the general election, which will pit candidates at largely opposite ideological poles against each other.

The article proceeds to provide a list of reasons why negative campaigns no longer work as they have in the past. Hopefully this comes down to voters now being smarter and not blindly accepting these types of attacks. In addition, I hope voters will see it as a negative to campaign in this manner, ultimately punishing candidates such as Clinton who resort to this type of dirty politics. As one television news consultant put it, “There just may be a backlash this year against this kind of stuff.” I hope this backlash continues.