The Do's and Don'ts of Campaigning: Clinton and Obama Edition
February 27, 2008 - 3:32pm ET
Earlier I posted the Do's and Don'ts of campaigning against Ralph Nader, because it is quite obvious that as in 2004, far too many Democrats are going to waste badly needed time and energy trying to eliminate him from the ballot -- time and energy that can and should be spent selling the Democratic nominee.
Now I'm going to offer tips on the Do's and Don'ts of selling Clinton or Obama when on the campaign trail.
- For Clinton: DO try to focus your remaining primary efforts on using Howard Dean's fifty-state strategy.
- For Obama: DON'T keep using right-wing attacks against your opponent.
- For Clinton: DON'T respond to your opponent's right-wing attacks with Rove-style attacks of your own.
- For Clinton and Obama: DO run campaigns that run to the left, especially going into the general election.
- For Clinton and Obama: DON'T divide the party.
I had hoped, at this point, that she would have learned by now what a losing strategy the DLC campaign method is. Focusing the bulk of one's efforts on the "big" electoral states while ignoring the rest is flawed for two reasons: it assumes that Mrs. Clinton shall win each of those states, which has turned out to be disastrously wrong for her; and it assumes that her opponent isn't winning because, unlike her, he has in fact been smart in embracing the fifty-state method.
It may be too late for Hillary Clinton to shift her strategy and tactics at this late date. While next Tuesday's primaries may yet keep her in the race until convention, that looks increasingly unlikely. But it's not too late for her to show that she is capable of learning from her mistakes.
Those 'Harry and Louise' ads he's recycled from the 1990s may help him win the Democratic nomination, but they're not going to help him unite the party going into the general election. The thing about portraying one's self as a uniter is that people tend to see it as hypocritical when one turns right around and resorts to divisive attacks during the primaries. Obama, if he takes the nomination, needs to be aware that everything he says and does on the campaign trail is being scrutinized by Democrat and Republican alike. The GOP nominee and the Republican Noise Machine are kicking back, taking notes, and biding their time for the general election. And Democratic voters disenchanted by Obama's attacks on Hillary Clinton are wondering if her opponent is worth rallying behind, if he insists on being such a hypocrite on his unity rhetoric.
Her mantra of "he's not ready to go on Day One" rings kind of hollow, considering she's been exposed for not being able to manage her campaign finances. It doesn't help that this brand of campaign rhetoric can be, and is being, taken as pulling pages from the Rove play book. Democrats cannot win by trying to play the GOP's games. The party simply doesn't have the talent for it, or the practice.
They don't appear to have noticed, but the political pendulum has been swinging back to the left for quite some time. Voters have seen the destructive effects of conservative misrule, and they want a real change in direction. Take the issue of health care, for example. What good does it do to quibble over mandates, when doctors, union members, businesses -- indeed, the general public favor single-payer health care?
The problem Clinton and Obama have is that because they're so snugly in bed with the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries     that they cannot conceive of an environment in which the majority of Americans demand single-payer. They figure it's too difficult and undesirable to approach a health care battle from the perspective of bringing single-payer to the negotiating table as a starting point, so they don't even try. The problem with this reasoning is that the industries have no incentive to meet a Democratic president half way on health care reform -- not when they've bought Congress, too. So the end result is that health care reform in this country remains just another unattainable dream.
But it doesn't have to be this way. As I pointed out, the majority of Americans, from lay voters to doctors to businesses, wants single-payer. By openly standing in support of it, either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama could easily win a huge mandate from the electorate, such that the corporate industries now managing health care in this nation could not stand against the wave of true change.
Another issue to run to the political left upon is Iraq. Most Americans want out, and as soon as possible. Both candidates need to start campaigning on a promise to end the occupation of Iraq -- completely -- within the first year of the presidency. This shall require going to the United Nations, hat off and tail tucked firmly between legs, to get help. We broke that country quite thoroughly, and we must rebuild it as much as we can even as we draw down our occupation forces. But since the U.S. treasury is empty, and we must rebuild our own degraded infrastructure, we cannot rebuild Iraq alone. The main point, however, is to acknowledge that we cannot sustain the occupation of that country -- especially since all excuses for remaining were exhausted long ago.
Campaigning to the right in year in which the political pendulum has swung back to the left validates the perception of many who feel that there is no fundamental difference between the two major political parties.
Followers of both Clinton and Obama have demonstrated a level of nastiness that makes Democratic Underground look like a friendly tea party by comparison. Remember, going into the general election requires uniting the party behind the eventual nominee. That can't happen as long as the two main candidates continue to play dirty against one another, and encourage with their silence the sort of attacks that take place in coffee shops and on web sites such as this. The time to unite the party has been here for some time, but we've been stuck with two massive egos who've made this campaign personal. That's a truth that doesn't go over well with the zealots who troll-rate anyone critical of their candidates, but it is what it is. But both Obama and Clinton can begin to heal the rifts right now by calling upon their followers to stop with the hyper-partisanship, and start realizing that the party must put aside petty differences YESTERDAY. This is the most important, because it is no secret that the eventual nominee shall need a united Democratic Party to beat John McCain in November. Allowing the back-and-forth between the two camps, and discouraging zealotry from the more die hard supporters, can go a long way toward patching things up.
These aren't all the things that Clinton and Obama can, and should, do from this point on. But they are a good start.
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