Barack Obama is a brilliant politician. You would almost think this would go without saying for a man who in the span of 4 years went from being a State Senator from Illinois, to a United States Senator, to the President of the United States. But somehow the lesson always seems to be forgotten.
There is a frequently recurring theme regarding Obama that he has been lucky in the past and is now in over his head. It happened in the primaries, it happened in the general election, it happened during the healthcare reform legislative process and it is happening now.
At the risk of being accused of being a dopey 11 dimensional chess fanbot, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the reason Obama's brilliance as a politician always gets forgotten is that he's just too damn subtle and clever for the typical pundit to keep up with.
Let's review his history:
***UPDATE: Thank you everyone for the tips, recs and comments. I thought I'd take this opportunity to expand upon and clarify certain aspects of my diary before I slide off the rec list forever.
First, like it or not politics is a game of 11-dimensional chess. There are exponentially more pieces, squares and moves available in the "game" of politics than there are in the game of chess. It would take near infinite intelligence to master the game of politics. So, I'm not saying that Obama's an 11-dimensional chess master, but he, and all of the other players are, in fact, playing 11 dimensional chess and he, objectively speaking, does play it better than anybody else in American politics. That's how he went from nobody to top dog over the course of 4 years.
Second, I am not at all trying to suggest that Democratic victory in November is a sure bet. All I'm saying is the bad Democratic poll numbers over the course of the last year are not particularly good predictors of what is going to happen in November. Between now and November 2nd is the time that matters. If there hasn't been some improvement in the polls between now and mid-October and significant improvement between now and the end of October, the the Democrats really will be in trouble.
Third, though I didn't highlight most of the substantive policy reasons for supporting the Democrats in my diary, there is a long list of accomplishments for Democrats to run on, including accomplishments dating back to 2007, like raising the minimum wage from $5.15 per hour (where the Repulicans had left it for 10 years) to $7.25 per hour, like reforming lending laws so that banks and credit card companies are no longer free to gouge unwary consumers the way that they have in the past, like passing a stimulus that actually focuses on alleviating human suffering and moving our energy infrastructure in a more sustainable direction, and like passing healthcare reform that will bring affordable, quality health insurance to 10's of millions of Americans who don't have it now and will improve the cost and quality of the coverage for 10's of millions of additional Americans who are underinsured.
Fourth, I know some of you are less than pleased with the Democrats' accomplishments because they don't match up to what you think think is possible and necessary. And I know that it's unfashionable to say this in some circles, but please consider the alternative! When Bush was still President there was surely no effort to insure the uninsured. In fact, do I need to remind you that after the Democrats took over congress, Bush actually vetoed a modest expansion of SCHIP! And with unemployment near 10% the Republicans have fought tooth and nail to prevent extension of unemployment benefits that 10's of millions of families are counting on right now. When you compare Democrats to Republicans instead of to some ideal that exists nowhere except in your head, the Democrats positively shine!
Fifth, and finally, I thought people might get a kick out of this mini hate-mail-palooza item I found in my inbox this morning in response to this diary:
bamas A game gets an F
Do tell me you little progressive maggot, after your long non sensical drawn out trying to
brainwash your lefty friends into believeing the lefties have a chance in November
Did you brainwash yourself ?
How many people do you actually think will watch all those youtube videos?
Things are different now. People know who and what he is and where he came from.
This is about FREEDOM, LIBERTY and RESCUING AMERICA from SOCIALISM.
That's what we're up against. So, even if you're disappointed and skeptical, why not get 100% enthusiastically behind the Democrats? What do you possibly have to lose? END OF UPDATE ***
It was completely understandable that Obama would be underestimated before Super Tuesday in the primary races. But ever since then Obama has repeatedly demonstrated that he is a political force not to be trifled with. He has also repeatedly demonstrated that he will generally look vulnerable early and close strong.
Do you remember what was being said about Obama's chances by most media two months before the Iowa caucus?
Here's John Judis Doing the Math over at The New Republic on October 31, 2007:
Polls can mislead, but at the risk of making a fool of myself, I will try to draw some conclusions from the current ones: Hillary Clinton is going to get the Democratic nomination unless she makes some very big mistakes between now and the first caucuses and primaries...
Democrats: Some supporters of John Edwards or Barack Obama point out that the frontrunner in October doesn’t always win the Democratic nomination. Bill Bradley, after all, was leading Al Gore in some polls in October 1999 and either Wesley Clark or Howard Dean was ahead in October 2003. So, why make so much out of Hillary Clinton’s current advantage in state and national polls?
There are two reasons: First, the size of her advantage. When CBS News reported in December 2003 that "Dean pulls away in Dem race," he was ahead of his nearest competitors by 13 percentage points, and still had only 23 percent of the total. Bradley, of course, was barely ahead of Gore four years before. By contrast, Clinton’s margin is double that of her nearest competitor. In some polls, she is actually getting more than 50 percent. CNN’s latest is 51 percent for Clinton, 21 percent for Obama, and 15 percent for Edwards. She is ahead in all the state polls, including Iowa.
Secondly, her support appears to be relatively solid. In the current CBS poll, where she leads Obama 51 to 23 percent, 64 percent of her supporters say they strongly favor her candidacy, 26 percent say they like her with reservations, and only ten percent say they are supporting her because they dislike other candidates. In the Marist polls of New Hampshire voters, where she leads Obama 41 to 20 percent among likely voters, only 14 percent of these voters say they might change their mind. By contrast, 32 percent of John Edward’s voters say might change their mind.
Then, on November 10, 2007 Obama gave a speech at the Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Iowa that seemed to breathe new life into the campaign:
Then remember how, after Obama had secured the nomination, it seemed like his campaign just wasn't nearly as nimble as the scrappy McCain campaign and he seemed to be drifting downward in the polls? McCain's campaign just kept cracking off good attacks about celebrity and whatnot while the Obama campaign looked strangely passive.
Here's how Charlie Cook saw the race on September 9, 2008:
In short, while the Senate looks most likely to end up with GOP losses of at least four, but most likely five to seven seats, and most likely between 12 and 17 seats in the House, this presidential race is very much up in the air. The fundamentals argue one thing, but there is a resistance that prevents it from being a done deal and a running mate that seems to have slowed down Democratic momentum.
Even Nate Silver's model was forecasting 2.2% national victory for John McCain as late as September 13, 2008.
But then what happened? Lehman Brother's collapsed on September 15, 2008, McCain pulls a genius, statesman-like move and cancels a scheduled debate and suspends his campaign to solve the financial crisis, then unsuspends his campaign after Obama makes him look like an immature jackass. Obama goes on to hand McCain his ass in three debates and then hands him his ass on November 4, 2008.
We've seen this pattern reassert itself since Obama took office too. Does anyone else remember when healthcare was dead after Scott Brown was elected?
I particularly like the way this like the way this piece by Peter Suderman at Reason magazine captures the mood of the moment on what he obviously did not realize was virtually the eve of Obama and this Democratic Congress's greatest legislative triumph to date:
As they say, predictions are hard, especially about the future. But I don't see any plausible options for reform supporters. And reform supporters aren't floating any serious possibilities either: In a conversation with Chris Matthews, liberal MSNBC political correspondent Lawrence O'Donnell just said something to the effect of "I know all the procedures that are available, and I don't know one that can work." For Democrats, it's fourth down, 99 yards to go, they need three touchdowns, and a home run too, but all they have on the field are ping-pong players.
Hmmm... Fourth down, 99 yards to go, need three touchdowns, and a home run too. Now let's see, do we have a player who can pull it off? Oh, I know, let's put in Barack:
State of the Union, January 28, 2010
Oh look, Obama just scampered 99 yards for a touch down, but he still needs to more touchdowns and a homerun, and the clock's running out!
The Republican House Retreat, January 30, 2010
Did you see that?! Obama just recovered an on-side kick and ran it in for another touchdown! But he still needs one more and a home run.
Healthcare Summit, February 25, 2010
Dammit! He just scored another touchdown! But no way he's going to hit a ... wait is that a bat he just picked up? No!!!!!
Obama addresses the House Democratic Caucus on the eve of passage of historical healthcare reform bill, March 20, 2010
The media is always trying to set up a narrative. This year the narrative is that the public is angry about the condition of the economy and they are going to take that anger out on the party in power. The narrative is about a Democratic party that is frightened and in disarray and ready to collapse into a big steaming pile of recrimination. This narrative supposedly has too much momentum now to be redirected.
The story the press really has been itching to tell about Obama since he first entered the Presidential race in January 2007 is: "Upstart Politician Gets Comeuppance." The problem the press keeps running into is that every time their preferred story seems to be moving toward its inevitable conclusion, Obama suddenly grabs the mic and starts telling a much more interesting story about how a great politician steps up in the 11th hour, when it seems that all hope is lost, to outbattle his foes once again.
This week has been like de ja vu. Suddenly, starting on Labor Day, we see Obama step up and start dominating a new cycle with his chosen message. I've seen a lot of comments to the effect: "where the f*ck has this guy been?"
I'll tell you where he's been. He's been waiting for the right time to turn up the heat. Look at your calendars. It's less than two months before an election. This is when Obama brings his A game.