Krugman Looking For a Democratic Rove Campaign

Today’s column by Paul Krugman looks like his last ditch attempt to derail Obama’s campaign prior to tomorrow’s primaries. It is essentially a rehash of old arguments, and previous posts on his columns such as here have already commented on much of what he says today.

Krugman is right on one point–the general election is not a guaranteed victory as some liberals seem to believe. He is wrong on the reasons and wrong on not realizing that the chances for victory are far better with Obama than Clinton as the nominee. Basically Krugman prefers Clinton’s policies and therefore tries to make the case that her politics are also preferable.

Krugman misunderstands why the Democrats won in 2006, mistaking opposition to recent Republican incompetence for support for Democratic policies. Like many Democrats, he hopes to campaign against George Bush yet again in 2008. That worked in 2006 while Bush was still in office, but will not work in 2008. While there are certainly similarities which can be beneficial to Democrats in the 2008 election, John McCain is not George Bush. Failure to recognize this and failure to adjust campaigning for the post-Bush era is a sure path to defeat.

Krugman believes that the Democratic candidate should campaign as Karl Rove did in reverse, and on this point is right that Clinton but not Obama would do this:

Unless Hillary Clinton wins big on Tuesday, Barack Obama will be the Democratic nominee. And he’s not at all the kind of candidate one might have expected to emerge out of the backlash against Republican governance.

Now, nobody would mistake Mr. Obama for a Republican — although contrary to claims by both supporters and opponents, his voting record places him, with Senator Clinton, more or less in the center of the Democratic Party, rather than in its progressive wing.

But Mr. Obama, instead of emphasizing the harm done by the other party’s rule, likes to blame both sides for our sorry political state. And in his speeches he promises not a rejection of Republicanism but an era of postpartisan unity.

Krugman would prefer to stick with the Republican strategy of forcing their policies on the country with the support of 50% plus one. This might work if Clinton is the nominee, but leaves little margin for error. Sooner or later, and most likely sooner, we would have a backlash against the Democrats similar to the backlash against the Republicans. In contrast, Obama presents the party with the opportunity to win a real majority and move beyond the current red/blue state deadlock. While Democratic partisans may not agree, Democrats have not been perfect and independents are more willing to vote for a candidate who realizes this.

Maybe Krugman opposes such attempts to build a new majority because the results will not be what he desires. Krugman’s characterization of Clinton and Obama as both being in the center as opposed to the progressive wing of the Democratic Party show where his priorities are. Krugman is far to the left of the country on economic matters, and it would take Rove-style 50% plus one politics to impose his views. If we look at the areas where Clinton and Obama disagree, which is obscured by looking at votes which are predominately party line, Obama is significantly more liberal on civil liberties issues, social issues, and foreign policy. These differences, however, are not where Krugman is concerned with having a candidate who will try to push his views with a narrow majority.