Mickey Kaus is worried. He writes:
I’m already worrying that if Obama loses, Democrats will be deprived of the highly productive “recriminations” period that followed the party’s humiliating defeats in 1972, 1980, 1984 and 1988. Recrimination gave us neoliberalism, Gary Hart, the DLC, Bill Clinton, public school choice, industrial policy (sorry about that one) and welfare reform. . . .
But even a mild round of self-critical competition — let alone the traditional orgy — will be hard to mount in today’s media environment. As everyone knows, much of the engaged left has effectively hived itself off in MSNBC world, where the typical show features a liberal host, and a guest who agrees with the host, and another guest who agrees with the first guest. Even in the printosphere, when Obama screws up Jonathan Chait or Michael Tomasky are there to explain why the screw up isn’t really such a screw up and actually hurts Republicans in the long run.
In other words, we already know why Obama will have lost. He’ll have lost because he wasn’t populist enough, he demoralized his base, he didn’t pursue single-payer, he foolishly tried to win over swing voters instead of registering new voters, he was too nice to the Republicans. Rachel Maddow and both her guests will nod sagely.
Well, that is getting a bit ahead of ourselves, but the echo chamber Kaus refers to is alive and well in the blogosphere. There are so many rationalizations for President Obama’s missteps that it is sometimes hard to keep track.
The Wisconsin recall was a great idea. And then it was awful, but it didn’t matter. So Obama was a genius for staying away.
Obama was going to raise a billion dollars. And the he wasn’t and just about every Mitt Romney advance is explained by his money advantage. But that’s good because it shows he is a pawn of the 1 percent.
This is how Obama, in the eyes of the left, goes from self-inflicted wound (“the private sector is doing fine”) to rebirth (we’re talking about hiring more teachers!) in the blink of an eye.
The audience for the Obama-can-never-be-in-peril punditry is not the critical voters who will decide the election. They tend to be be nonideological voters who don’t follow politics in June. (They are busy with graduation ceremonies and summer vacation plans.) So the audience for this chatter is the political class, including the Obama campaign, which never gets some honest advice from its fellow Democrats.
Kaus is concerned about the implications after the election. But the real damage is done during the campaign. Contrast the bubble-wrap spun around Obama to the drumbeat of criticism, constructive and not so constructive advice and feedback the Romney team gets. The trick there is not to be overly reactive to every suggestion. But the Romney team has not been lacking in input. To a significant extent Romney has incorporated many of the ideas offered by conservatives: offer a contrast in visions, be specific on tax and entitlement reform, pare back on the biography, etc.
As a result of that process and a spirited primary, Romney is a better candidate than he was even a few months ago. And Obama is arguably much worse. Obama could use fewer true believers like Valerie Jarrett and lefty bloggers and a few more practitioners of tough love.