THE BLOG

Obama's Debate, Elizabeth Warren's Moment, Bill Clinton's Lift

10/05/2012 02:55 pm ET | Updated Dec 05, 2012

What Barack Obama could have talked about during his disastrous debate was that a president needs to represent all of the people, and show contempt for none of the people, which is why Mitt Romney's video was so powerfully revealing about why Democrats MUST win the election. Obama could have spoken about why women must have equal pay and why Republican support for a Missouri Senate candidate who speaks of legitimate rape should disqualify them from ever electing a president who would give the radical right total control over the Supreme Court for generations.

Obama could have talked about the great battles for consumers and fairness and justice represented by the person who ultimately has become one of the most historically great Democrats of our age: Elizabeth Warren.

Obama could have talked about why he is so proud to be the legatee of the party of JFK and RFK and Bill and Hillary Clinton and advanced this legacy, by announcing, as I suggested in a recent column in The Hill newspaper, that if elected he would ask Bill Clinton to negotiate with Congress for the kind of economic programs that we desperately need.

What happened in the debate was that Obama did not speak to the nation, he spoke to Obama, about Obama. He did not speak in terms that real people understand, in terms that affect their lives. Obama did not offer a grand vision for the nation, he opined about what he thinks about various matters. Obama did not offer a plan for the future, he offered talking points of political positioning. Obama did not look voters in the eye and reach for the stars, he looked downward at his notes for talking points of tactical advantage.

Romney came to fight. Obama came to opine. Romney played to win. Obama played not to lose, and therefore he lost. It is the Democratic disease of our age, this unwillingness to fight for high principle and big ideas and deep values. We have become a party of political consultants, interest groups and vanity players.

Don't get me wrong. Nothing is more important to America than President Obama being re-elected, Democrats keeping control of the Senate, Democrats regaining control of the House, and the Supreme Court regaining its role as an advocate of justice and not a champion of greed and inequity, which has already begun and would be cemented if Romney and Republicans win.

I do not believe that President Obama will rise to the stature of great Democratic presidents such as Roosevelt or Kennedy. There are reasons that he promised hope and change but delivered Timothy Geithner.

But, and this is critical to understand, President Obama is a decent man trying to move the nation in the right direction, while Mitt Romney panders to the darkest instincts of rightist extremism. It would be an unmitigated disaster for America if these forces of rightist reaction and extremism and hostility to social justice and economic fairness and basic decency took control of the presidency, the House, the Senate and the Supreme Court a month from now.

We should hope Obama learns to fight and stand for most important things that matter.

But we must not wait for him. We must wage this fight ourselves, every hour, every day, from now until the polls are closed.

I believe, as I wrote in my recent column, that we have the high ground and some wind at our back. Obama still has some edge against Romney. Elizabeth Warren has a great chance to win and become the new shining star in Washington. Nancy Pelosi has a fair chance to return as Speaker with House Democrats, who are the most enlightened force in government, back in control of the House of Representatives.

Yes, the debate was a dud for our dream, and for many of us President Obama will continue to be a disappointment. But it is imperative that he be re-elected along with Democrats in Congress.

In one direction, if Republicans win, disaster will plague us. In the other direction, if Obama and Democrats win, we move forward by fighting for the hope that still lives and the dreams that will never die, as a great man who still lives with us in spirit once said.