The Only Way To End Gridlock In Washington Is For Obama To Run A Negative Campaign
Rebutting the main argument in Doug Schoen and Patrick Caddell’s latest travesty of an op-ed column (“The Hillary Moment,” in Monday’s Wall Street Journal) would be a pretty egregious example of shooting fish in a barrel. Their idea that Barack Obama should abruptly shut down his re-election campaign so that Democrats can run the Secretary of State is both ludicrous and pointless, aside from the fact that neither of these two Fox Democrats comes to the topic in good faith.
On the other hand, Schoen and Caddell build their dumb and disingenuous argument on a premise that is accepted in better company than their own: that if Obama wins with a “negative campaign” focusing on the extremism of the Republican Party, he will make his second term a shambles, marked only by increased partisanship as insulted conservatives refuse to cooperate with his agenda. But this premise is as equally flawed as the other arguments the duo put forward. Win or lose, the kind of Obama campaign that Schoen and Caddell bemoan may, in fact, be the only way to end the polarization and gridlock and make governing in Washington possible again.
To begin, it’s far from clear why conservatives would be offended by the claim that they represent a very different governing philosophy than the one put forward by President Obama. Indeed, it’s exactly what they say. Aside from their fatuous claims that the cautious centrist Obama represents something new and dangerously leftist in the Democratic Party, the prevailing conservative belief is that their own party had “abandoned conservative principles” up until 2009, and made big gains in 2010 precisely because a previously hidden majority of Americans were mobilized to vote for a Tea Party-influenced GOP that was finally loud, proud, and consistent about its ideology.
If conservatives are right about the likely outcome of an election representing a “choice, not an echo” (to adopt the title of Phyllis Schlafly’s famous book from the Goldwater campaign, which became an abiding slogan of the conservative movement), nothing should please them more than a “negative” Obama campaign that calls attention to their party’s hard-earned ideological rigor.
Besides, we already have an excellent example of a president who ran on a message of bipartisanship—Obama in 2008—and we all saw how well that worked out for him. There’s no reason on earth to believe an Obama campaign based on constant appeals to bipartisanship, if successful, would work any better to produce actual bipartisanship than the constant appeals to bipartisanship the president made during his first electoral campaign.