Like most Obama supporters, I have been aghast to see the national polls swing from a comfortable lead for Obama to an undeniable lead for McCain in just a couple of weeks. And it is beginning to look like more than just a post-convention "bounce": While we should not take the polls too seriously, nor panic as a result of them, something serious is clearly going on--something that could lead to Obama's defeat in November.
Of course, many of us are hoping, or even assuming, that the current Wall Street crash will wake voters up to the fact that it is the Republicans who drove the economy into the ditch over the past 8 years; and McCain's gaffes about "strong fundamentals" should, or could, help. And it is hard to believe that the majority of Americans would prefer the aging, fumbling, uncharismatic and Bush-tainted McCain to the young, dynamic, and future-oriented Obama. While some think that race is a factor, I somehow doubt it is playing much of a role--certainly not enough to account for the major mood swings in the American electorate.
No, I think something else is behind this. This is just a theory, and I can't prove it, but I suspect that many Americans are having doubts not just about Obama himself, but about the Democratic Party and its ability to lead and take strong action in times of crisis--including economic crisis.
Why might they think this? Because despite polls showing that the economy is the number one concern of voters right now, the Democrats have failed to pass the test voters gave them in November 2006 when they became a majority in Congress: The test to see whether they would really end the war in Iraq and bring the troops home. The Democrats failed this test, and they failed it miserably. Oh, there were plenty of excuses. They didn't have a big enough majority to cut funding, Americans were against a precipitous pullout, etc. And yet the great majority of Americans were in favor of beginning to withdraw troops two years ago--but the troops are still there, in greater numbers than before.
The Democrats could have ended the war by courageously refusing to introduce funding for it in the House of Representatives, where all spending bills must begin. They could have held firm, and explained their position to the American people; and then, when the Bush administration realized they were serious, the Democrats could have negotiated with the White House, from a position of strength, to provide enough money to support the troops with whatever they needed while the withdrawal took place. Why didn't they do this? Because Democrats got spooked by accusations that they would be willing to leave the troops abandoned in Iraq with no funds, a ridiculous idea with no foundation. And so what did they do? The Democrats abandoned the troops in Iraq to the whims of the Bush administration, and at the same time abandoned their own credibility. Let me repeat that: Because they were afraid of being accused of abandoning the troops, the Democrats abandoned the troops.
A Barack Obama and a Democratic Party that had successfully gotten us out of Iraq by the time of this election would have been a presidential candidate and a party that had proven it could take leadership at a time of crisis and get things done. Instead, we have a presidential candidate who is easily accused of being a great speechmaker, a talker rather than a doer. And it may sound crazy, and it may sound stupid, but John McCain, and even Sarah Palin, are successfully competing against that image and that reality--like it or not.
So what is to be done? It's time for Obama, and the Democrats, to talk about Iraq and the economy in the same breath--because the disastrous decision to go to war and the economic disaster we are facing are inextricably linked. Obama and the Democrats must stop avoiding the topic of Iraq, which they have been doing as much as possible during this campaign--perhaps realizing that their failure to end it is a strike against them--and make it an issue again. Starting with the presidential debate on September 26, if not sooner.
McCain's fundamentals: Michael Shear has a good history of his deregulation stance in the Washington Post, for those who want to be well-informed at the next dinner party. And the International Herald Tribune covers the international perspective on the AIG bailout; in essence, the U.S. is no longer in a position to preach to others about the free market.
Light relief department: Our gal Sarah (with thanks to PK for the link.)
Obama's new ad on the economy: It makes the link with Iraq very briefly at the end, and offers concrete proposals--but is too sedate and does not attack McCain head on for his Republican economic policies, which are directly responsible for the crisis.