The phrase "Obama Derangement Syndrome" has entered public usage. It seems to have two strains. The first is adulation for Senator Obama beyond what can be linked to his accomplishments in public office. The second is the more usual strain, irrational dislike, which has to date infected a number of Democrats, but none more publicly than Paul Krugman. He continues his quest to be the poster boy for ODS in his New York Times column today, "Deliverance or Diversion." Stay with this excerpt until the punchline:
But Mr. Obama, instead of emphasizing the harm done by the other party’s rule, likes to blame both sides for our sorry political state. And in his speeches he promises not a rejection of Republicanism but an era of postpartisan unity.So, in this installment of Krugman's anti-Obama screed, Democrats are supposed to be concerned about Senator Obama winning the nomination because it is not clear that he can secure a landslide victory in the general election. And if they believed him, and thought twice about voting for Senator Obama in the remaining primaries, they would instead vote for Senator Clinton.
That — along with his adoption of conservative talking points on the crucial issue of health care — is why Mr. Obama’s rise has caused such division among progressive activists, the very people one might have expected to be unified and energized by the prospect of finally ending the long era of Republican political dominance.
Some progressives are appalled by the direction their party seems to have taken: they wanted another F.D.R., yet feel that they’re getting an oratorically upgraded version of Michael Bloomberg instead.
Others, however, insist that Mr. Obama’s message of hope and his personal charisma will yield an overwhelming electoral victory, and that he will implement a dramatically progressive agenda.
The trouble is that faith in Mr. Obama’s transformational ability rests on surprisingly little evidence.
Mr. Obama’s ability to attract wildly enthusiastic crowds to rallies is a good omen for the general election; so is his ability to raise large sums. But neither necessarily points to a landslide victory.
Going first to personalities, is it really Krugman's contention that the odds of a Democratic landslide victory are higher with Senator Clinton than with Senator Obama as the nominee? Going next to tactics, is it really Krugman's contention that the odds of a Democratic landslide victory are higher with Senator Obama campaigning to the political left of where he is now? Or that they are higher if he makes partisan rhetoric a more central part of his campaign? If he holds any of these views, then he's got precious little company among rational people in holding them.
I don't doubt that Krugman and many others would be happier if they could implement a more so-called progressive agenda as a result of the 2008 election. But this group does not comprise a majority of the voting public, to say nothing of a landslide majority. Absent that majority, the candidate needs to have appeal beyond the political left.
And, yes, many people -- myself included -- do fault the Republicans of the last several years for the poor state of public policy today. They've had the presidency since 2001 and majorities in Congress over much of that time. To not hold them responsible would be ridiculous. But that does not mean that we would opt for government by a 51% majority in the opposite direction if there is a possibility of something based more on a broad-based, politically centrist consensus. People seeking that consensus will be voting for Senator McCain or Senator Obama.