Friday, March 07, 2008

Two Views About the Campaign

Peter Levine:

One view says that what's wrong with America is the Bush Administration and its allies among Republicans and conservative groups. They really messed up the country through some unprecedented combination of malice and incompetence. To solve that problem, they need to be defeated, and it has to be clear that the voters have rejected them. (That way, they won't just bounce back for another round). The ideal Democratic candidate is someone who represents a restoration of the situation before 2000, and none better than the wife of the last Democratic president. Further, Senator Clinton is thought to be especially tough and skillful in the face of the politics of personal destruction, which (according to this viewpoint) is the specialty of today's Republicans.

This view is reinforced by: examples of Republican malfeasance, polls showing George Bush's unpopularity, and evidence of Senator Clinton's tactical/managerial skills. This view is undermined by: examples of social problems and bad government under Democrats, surveys showing a public desire for reconciliation, and doubts about Senator Clinton's public appeal or political skills.

The alternate view says that what's wrong with America started well before 2000 and implicates the whole class of political leaders, Democrats and Republicans (although not necessarily to the same degree). This whole class has lost the confidence and support of Americans because of unproductive conflict in Washington and because leaders haven't called on--or even permitted--Americans to participate in solving our problems. The best president to bring about reconciliation would be a newcomer to the national scene, someone with experience in the nonprofit world, a progressive with the ability to understand and respect conservative views and a message of empowerment. Senator Obama fits the bill.

This second view is reinforced by: new voters entering politics to support Obama, the resonance of his message, and evidence that we could address important social problems through popular participation and broad, cross-partisan dialog. This view is undermined by: doubts that Senator Obama's appeal is broad, evidence of unbridgeable gaps within the public, or arguments that Obama is only popular because of his personal charisma, which may prove evanescent.

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