Bill Kristol Shows Why The Republicans Are Losing

William Kristol has an op-ed today speculating on How McCain Wins. With all the twists we have seen this year it certainly is not impossible that unexpected events could again change the race, but the mindset displayed by Kristol shows why it will be hard for McCain to win this year. Kristol is being mocked the most in the blogoshpere for his advice on Sarah Palin in which he writes, “He needs to free her to use her political talents and to communicate in her own voice.” This is not Kristol’s only mistake.

Kristol’s primary argument is to return to the same types of demonization of liberals which Republicans have used with success for years:

The core case against Obama is pretty simple: he’s too liberal. A few months ago I asked one of McCain’s aides what aspect of Obama’s liberalism they thought they could most effectively exploit. He looked at me as if I were a simpleton, and patiently explained that talking about “conservatism” and “liberalism” was so old-fashioned.

Maybe. But the fact is the only Democrats to win the presidency in the past 40 years — Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton — distanced themselves from liberal orthodoxy. Obama is, by contrast, a garden-variety liberal. He also has radical associates in his past.

The problem in following this course is that it has already failed in this election year. If people still fell for the conventional attacks on liberals Obama would not be in the lead at this moment. People are looking for a change from the failed policies of the Republicans and are no longer afraid of the word liberal. Those who have followed Obama also know that he is not really a “garden-variety liberal” and that the smears based upon “radical associates in his past” are nonsense and have already been debunked many times.

Marc Ambinder, while not specifically responding to Kristol, provides a good explanation as to why this strategy is no longer working in his explanation of why Obama won the debate:

There was something Pat Buchanan said that night that is at once blindingly obvious and yet very important; Obama’s debate performance placed him solidly in the American political mainstream.

Think of the “bitter” comment, his middle name, the flag pin, the Chicago connections.  Low information voters wouldn’t be out of line if they had a pretty strong impression of Obama formed by these attributes.

The sober performance and the congeniality towards McCain worked so well because so many people expected to see someone dangerous. Obama, in the debate, just did not read as an Ayres-Wright Chicago Elite Radical. Even the throwaway line: “we’d lower everybody’s taxes if we could” quietly undercuts the notion of old-school liberalism.

It’s possible that this weird racial/ideological caricature was priced into our (campaigns, media) debate expectations, and with Obama coming off as a sensible, middle of the road senator actually did him a world of good as far as the reassurance of sensibility.

Obama supports a middle tax class cut, not tax increase. He has a long history of working with members of both parties, both in the Illinois legislature and in the Senate. He demonstrated that the difference between himself and Bush/McCain style politicians by both discussing areas of agreement as well as disagreement during the debate while McCain appeared overly partisan with his unsubstantiated claims of lack of understanding on Obama’s part.

Obama showed he was the more presidential and the more moderate of the two. Name calling won’t alter the reality that voters saw during the debate. The Republicans have had a long run based upon smears, but with the failure of their policies now exposed they need to come up with policies which actually work, not more name calling.

Update: McCain Can’t Win A Debate Because He Can’t Get Away With His Lies

1 Comment

  1. 1
    Anonymous says:

    I think that you hit the mark. However, I must say that I’m sick to death of so-called “mainstream” republicans looking upon their views as the only one that matters or that is “American”. Since when did the republicans have a patent on being being good Americans and or having the higher moral ground? Why is it that radical right-wingers don’t see themselves as being out of touch? It’s okay to resemble a fascist, but if you embrace any socialist ideas than you are dangerous, and Unamerican? How does that make any sense?

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