Obama Throws 'Hope and Change' under the bus

It had to happen sooner or later. Once the emptiness of Obama's "Hope and Change" campaign was realized by the voters, the Democratic candidate for president had precious little substance to fall back on.

Political attacks only resonate if the voter perceives a kernel of truth in them. And the way John McCain has been pounding away at Obama's non-existent plans for what exactly he would like to accomplish as president, it was bound to have an effect on the polls.

It has.

Abandoning all pretense of being a candidate who can unite the country by reaching across the aisle to Republicans and reforming Washington, Obama has dramatically shifted his campaign rhetoric to the Bill Clinton strategy of telling voters "I feel your pain:"

Barack Obama sounds more like a man trying to shake a rain cloud these days, dispensing a teeth-clenching, I-get-your-pain stump speech in town after town that offers only snippets of the unbridled optimism that long permeated his campaign pitch.

Beginning in the days before his party's convention, the inspirational has given way to the traditional: attacks on John McCain, a register of policy prescriptions and partisan language with the sting of a needle.

Over the summer, Obama would often simply say that he and McCain "fundamentally disagree" on key issues. In
New Hampshire on Saturday, Obama said the Arizona senator "doesn't get it. He doesn't know what is going on your lives. He is out of touch with the American people."

The poetic defenses of hope, the playful jokes about being a distant relative of Vice President Cheney and the glancing attention to policy have been replaced by an emphasis on economic fears - an issue-by-issue argument of why the American dream is slipping away and the Republican ticket has no plan to rescue it. He furrows his brow, wags his finger and broadcasts exasperation at the idea that a 26-year veteran of Washington is co-opting his mantra of change.

The Obama campaign has even replaced the wistful slogan, "Change We Can Believe In," with the more imperative "Change We Need."

This is the sign of a desperate candidate who doesn't have a clue how to go about regaining the momentum he enjoyed in the early summer. Gone is the messiah who will go to Washington and save us from partisanship and race hatred. Gone is The One who's campaign once promised to transcend politics and enter the realm of a crusade.

Now the brawling, Chicago trained street fighter is emerging - and it isn't pretty. One wonders how his younger, more naive fans are taking this switch. I would have to say that based on history, many of them will become disillusioned and could stay at home on election day - as their older brothers and sisters and even their parents did when they were young and impressionable and had their eyes opened about politics and politicians.

One group this change won't affect is Obama's African American base who would probably vote for him if he was found to be the devil himself.  This part of the equation could still make the difference in some blue state races in Michigan and Pennsylvania (among other states) where large African American populations in Detroit and Philadelphia respectively could supply Obama with the margin of victory in very tight races.

But the millions of new voters who answered Obama's call and saw him as a different kind of politician will, unless they are completely unaware of what is going on in the campaign, have second thoughts about this new version of Obama. This is the Machine pol who kicked his challengers off the ballot in his first state senate race by challenging their signature petitiions. This is the "reformer" who walked into Illinois senate leader Emil Jones' office and made a deal with the devil in order to have some kind of legislative record to run on for his US senate bid. And this is the Obama who threw the Chicago reformers under the bus by endorsing some of the worst Machine candidates at the expense of those running on a "hope and change" platform.All of these critiques will now resonate with voters.

That's why Obama's new strategy is so risky. Cynically, he is banking on the economy getting so bad that the voter will respond to his Clintonesque class warfare claims which will allow him to barely squeak out a win in November.He apparently feels that's all he's got left.

One thing is certain, however; Obama has totally abandoned all that made him different and exciting to so many voters and now appears to be just another Democratic politician.

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