Friday, March 7, 2008

Obama is going down

There are two remarkable pieces today in NYT and WaPost. The first is by David Brooks, and the second by Charles Krauthammer, both addressing the coming Obama meltdown.

Now, it behoves to make it clear at the outset that these two columnists are conservative, meaning Republican leaning, and can always be justifiably accused of partisanship when addressing topical Democratic issues, but still they make some penetrating arguments that cannot be dismissed with such ready ease.

Both accurately diagnose the central weakness of the Obama campaign's astonishingly successful USP: that he's a uniter, who can uniquely transcend partisanship in a post-partisan America where people are tired of internecine bickering, and yearning to rise above and beyond their this-worldly differences.

After suggesting that Obama is eventually succumbing to the advice from his strategists that he needs to "throw punches" and take the "gloves off," Brooks concludes:

Besides, the real softness of the campaign is not that Obama is a wimp. It’s that he has never explained how this new politics would actually produce bread-and-butter benefits to people in places like Youngstown and Altoona [where people have lost jobs].

If he can’t explain that, he’s going to lose at some point anyway.

Dr. Krauthammer is more diligent in his diagnosis-- an accurate one at that, I hasten to add. He observes that Obama has succeeded in presenting himself in "grandiose terms" as "a conciliator" by clinching a broken argument, a "non sequitur" if you will:
It goes like this. Because Obama transcends race, it is therefore assumed that he will transcend everything else -- divisions of region, class, party, generation and ideology.
The effect of such sweeping invocations of unity is electric, particularly because race is the deepest and most tragic of all American divisions, and this invocation is being delivered by a man who takes us powerfully beyond it. The implication is that he is therefore uniquely qualified to transcend all our other divisions.
With passage of time, and through some aggressive, though underhanded, tactics by Hillary, this carefully stitched winsome argument is crumbling. Barack Obama's Achilles' heal is that no one questioned him how exactly he was going to bridge the ideological gap. His argument seemingly was that as long as we talk about it good intentionally, we'll find a way. Cute argument, but still, where's the substance?

It is another matter that despite Hillary's "dirty tactics" Indian leftists are cheering Hillary comeback. After all, foreigners--Saudis, Chinese, leftists everywhere included--are heavily invested in Clinton restoration.

It is no surprise to surmise why this is so. In fact, it is eerily close to what we witness back home, in India, almost on a daily basis. There's that irritating but fanciful suggestion that in the subcontinent, and even within the country, we're all "same same," "they're like us," and that we can iron out our differences through talk.

The trick is that in such "talks" we are inexorably urged not talk at all about those very differences lest we become obstacle in way of resolving dispute . "Talks become their own objective" as Kissinger said.

By mentioning our differences, or acknowledging them as much, we might just disturb the communally harmonious, "secular" utopia that we're otherwise standing only a step away from.

Essentially we're supposed to transcend our differences by glossing them over. That's a curious way to resolve disputes, except that it is no way but cute cajoling. Further, it is always appealed to be "large hearted," "forward looking," "be different," "we're not like that," "courageous," "giving," and thus concede our interests. There. Differences ironed out. It is no coincidence that the weaker side is usually encumbered with being "courageous" and "trusting" during negotiations, at least to give a facade of honorable stand if nothing else.

Things never work that way, and we're often reminded of this bitter truth through the umpteen revisits that reality offers us on a regular basis.

So, Obama is going down, for the simple reason that his candidacy is being made to confront harsh reality, which it was never prepared to face off. There's nothing to lament about it though, unless you were taken over by Obamamania. As they say, reality bites.

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