With only two months to go to election day, the Obama campaign remains in a pathetic stall, unable to break out of a statistical tie with a candidate who proposes to undo 80 years of American progress. Lacking an appealing record, a comprehensible program and, perhaps worst of all, anything approaching hope and joy, Obama seems incapable of acting like a real Democrat, a real president or a real guy up against a worthless, lying SOB.
Writing in the British Guardian, Jonathan Freedland notes:
Romney and Obama are now locked in a bitingly tight contest, one that the Republican candidate has a good – and increasing – prospect of winning. On 7 November there is an even, maybe better than even, chance that the world will wake up to President Romney. . Start with two numbers that are horrible for Obama. The first is his poll rating, which remains stubbornly below 50%. History suggests that incumbent presidents unable to break the 50% barrier at this stage end up serving just one term. The second figure, which goes a long way to explaining the first, is the statistic that puts US unemployment at 8.3%.
Joblessness has not stood below 8% since the month Obama took office. Again, the historical record is brutal on sitting presidents seeking re-election against such a bleak economic backdrop. The last one to pull it off was Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1936.Part of what’s wrong is that Obama is that he's a spoiled kid who’s been praised and promoted his whole life - even making it from state senator to president in just four years – and simply doesn’t know how to act when he’s not in an iconic glow. There’s not an ounce of Lyndon Johnson or Harry Truman in him and that’s what these days require.
His orchestrated rise hasn’t helped in other ways. For one thing, he hasn’t really joined the Democratic Party the way a normal politician would. He has made few friends on Capitol Hill or out in the field as the Wall Street Journal recently noted:
The president does almost no fundraising for Senate or House candidates and hasn't transferred money to other party election committees. His numerous campaign offices rarely coordinate with local candidates or display signs for anyone but Mr. Obama.
At rallies, Mr. Obama seldom urges supporters to volunteer -- or even vote -- for other Democrats running for office. Sometimes, he mentions other politicians in the room without noting that they are seeking re-election. He rarely shares the stage with other candidates.
That’s the reality and we only have two months to do something about it.
Still, the biggest issue in the campaign is not Obama, but the destruction that a President Romney – especially with an all Republican Congress and a couple more rightwing Supreme Court justices - will do to America, in all likelihood the worst damage by a domestic political cause since the Civil War.
Here’s one solution: those groups with the most to gain or lose from this election should ignore the Obama organization and launch their own campaign aimed at getting out the vote, defeating Romney and promoting their own platform.
The theme should be about saving America rather than saving Obama.
Here’s how such an independent campaign might look:
- Major progressive groups would come together and organize a massive get out the vote campaign.
There were, for example, some 41 million Americans between the ages of 18 and 44 who did not vote in 2008.. The under 29 crowd that did vote gave 63% of its support to Obama, the older group gave 55%.
There were some 18 million latino or black Americans who did not vote in 2008. Their margin for Obama these days is roughly two thirds for latinos and 95% for blacks.
In a race so tight, such a loss of voters is of overwhelming import.
A good place to start would be for black and latino groups to join in a long overdue coalition initially centered on getting voters to the polls. After the election, no matter who wins, this coalition could expand into one of the most powerful political institutions in America.
The actual get out of the vote plan must be far more than advertising and and public pleas. Churches, for example, are a great source of inspiration as well as of information about who might need encouragement or transportation help getting to vote. For example, one of Washington’s most successful politicians –Marion Barry –used church vans and free independent taxicab service to get people to the polls.
Central to any get out the vote program is surveying neighborhoods to find where one’s supporters are, helping those who need assistance, and, late on election day, double checking on those who haven’t voted to remind and drive them necessary. Any individual can do this for their own block or apartment. Larger organizations can handle much larger areas and provide telephone numbers to call for those needing transportation.
And you don’t have to be a political group. Getting people to the polls is a non-partisan act of American democracy at work. Environmental, civil liberties, senior citizen and labor unions should make helping people vote, especially the ones on their mailing lists their top priority in coming weeks.Every college campus should have an organized voter drive.
This used to be widely understood and practiced, but with the rise of the Internet and the increasing isolation of Americans from community institutions a more atomized form of politics has developed. Yet on election day, clicktavism and niche causes aren’t enough. People have to leave the virtual and rediscover the magic of communal action and decisions.
When it happens, you notice. For example, the current effort for gay marriage in my state of Maine is much more visible than the previous unsuccessful one. At a street art fest in Portland, I counted a half dozen activists soliciting volunteers and donations. And I have received two friendly phone calls of a similar nature. This voter feels much more excited about the referendum because it involves real people instead of just TV ads and emails.
- Every major progressive issue area should have a one page bulleted list of how a Romney victory will harm the voter. Non-rhetorical things like a list for seniors stressing the damage that will occur to Social Security and Medicare. These lists should be posted on the Web, distributed door to door, available wherever people gather, and distributed to groups and institutions concerned with the issue area.
- Progressives should push their own platform. Stop being beholden to, or silenced by, the Obama administration. Instead lay out publicly an agenda that these groups will push regardless of who wins, adding the point that it will be a hell of a lot easier to struggle with Obama than with Romney. And for the next 60 days, stay away from the more controversial stuff and overwhelming emphasize programs that will provide jobs, more secure economic conditions and help for those in financial trouble. It’s been the failure to concentrate on such economic issues that has been a prime cause of progressive failure in recent decades.
The basic theme should be that it’s not about Obama, it’s about us, with us meaning everything from a 18 year old still looking for her first job to a 70 year old latino worried about losing his Medicare.
The message is that we’re not saving Obama, we’re saving Social Security, Medicare, civil rights, national parks, Amtrak, public schools, women’s rights, voting rights, veterans, bridges, highways and other public works, college students, people facing foreclosure, the disabled, fire departments, and all the other people, programs and services Romney and his pals want to cancel, cut, or critically damage.
For the next 60 days the job is to defeat Romney. If successful, we’ll deal with the Obama problem after November 6.
First you rescue the sinking ship; then you fix it.