24 September 2007

Obama's Strategy

In today's Times (UK), Andrew Sullivan has a perceptive, big-picture take on Barack Obama's strategy and standing in the Democratic primary now underway. Here's the money quote:

In a polarized climate, where Rudy Giuliani is already lambasting Hillary and itching for a fight, Obama is sticking to a disciplined message of reconciliation, unity, responsibility.

Is this a mistake? Whoever won a Democratic primary by insisting on being open to Republicans? That is the risk Obama is taking. But when you observe and listen closely, you see this is what he actually means.

He detects an enormous weariness among Americans about their internal divisions in a time of war, overlaid by the anger and divisions that have deepened and widened under the Bush presidency. He suspects that if he can get past Clinton’s aura of inevitability, Democrats will realise he has a much better chance of winning a real national majority in the general election than Clinton does. Clinton polarises the way Bush polarises. She can hope for a Karl Rove-style 51% majority in a deeply divided country. He’s aiming for 55%.

Clinton, in other words, represents payback for the Democrats and liberals after the Bush era, just as Giuliani is emerging as the inheritor of the Bush legacy of divide and rule. Right now, Obama remains to the side, offering Americans something else: not payback, but a new page.

The rest of the article is available here.

I think Sullivan is absolutely correct about the kind of strategy Obama is relying upon, and he's right that it could well fail. The hard question is whether we should prefer to fail with his strategy or to win with hers. My fear is that we are bound to do both.

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