10/12/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Transformative Campaign My Black Ass

Why isn't the Obama camp attacking Republicans for crying "sexism" left and right? Why isn't every Dem surrogate out there mocking Palin and her defenders with the same condescension with which Republicans and Obama surrogates mocked Hillary Clinton for suggesting that her gender was held against her?

On the democratic primary home field, Obama ducked, danced and weaved like a damn fine fighter. Today, he lumbers and lurches like a bum. His news soundbites (and folks, that's all most normal folks pay attention to) are about as distinctive as a mid-summer LA weather forecast. His speech is halting and tentative, as if he's verbally walking on eggshells. Close your eyes and listen. You'll find yourself screaming "figure out what the hell you want to say and say it!" His professorial mien appears toothless, dispassionate and yes, weak. It exudes a lack of drive and passion. Barack Obama seems significantly smaller than he did a few months ago.

It's as if he took criticisms and fears too much to heart. Of course, he needed to add some meat to his rhetorical mousse, as he did at Democratic convention. But he needn't sound like he swallowed a handful of Librium. His rhetorical style, borrowing significantly from the black church, was the device that telegraphed his passion. The style itself suggests gravity and mission, and he used its conventions admirably during the primaries. Since then, however, he seems to have largely abandoned it. Instead, he's trying to seem just like 'us' ("us" being working class whites). His story, the convention informed, was a quintessentially American one, just like 'yours.' His family, we were told, was just like 'yours.'

Well, by choosing the whitest woman in the world for a VP, a woman whose teenaged daughter's baby daddy called himself a "fucking redneck," Karl Rove's minions have effectively put a stake in that strategy's heart. The goal and effect of naming Sarah Palin was to put a bone through Obama's nose. He has never seemed blacker. And as a result of his own longstanding campaign strategy, which has not adjusted to the Palin pick, he has never seemed less significant.

The Obama "just like 'us'" strategy is dead. His supposedly transformative candidacy has been reduced to just another political show--only the competition has a full-blown circus, while Obama's holding a sock puppet.

To reverse the trend, Obama needs to tie himself more closely to his white running mate, Joe Biden, just as McCain has tied himself to Palin. We need more Obama/Biden joint appearances. We need to see more photo ops of the two of them. He needs to aggressively ally himself with a white face.

To reverse the trend, Obama needs to return to his rhetorical roots. It seems the only arrow in his quiver through which he telegraphs passion. Without it, he's Adlai Stevenson. He needs to raise his voice.

To reverse the trend, Obama needs to use that rhetorical device to effectively trash his opponents. The device offers sufficient cover through which attack Sarah Palin for crying "sexism" without looking like a bully--because he'd be doing it in the robes of another minority.

To reverse the trend, Obama needs to use his rhetorical devices to rail, rouse and mock. He needs to shout to the rafters the Republican damage to the American economy and the American dream and he needs to shout just as loudly his intention and vision for remedying both.

Democratic primary voters took an extraordinary chance in foregoing a candidate with a surer path to the presidency in favor of a relatively unknown black man with a thin resume. The Obama camp assured us that this election would be different, that this time, there would be no politics of division, that he would raise the level of discourse and so would not face the same fate in the press and the public mind as his most recent predecessors.

It was bullshit then and it's bullshit now. We're right back where we've always been. The Democratic candidate is playing defense and the press is largely running Republican press releases. The swing states and swing voters will, again, decide the election. Only this time, the Repubs have the extra added gift of blackness to run against. And in American politics, that's a gift that keeps on giving.

It's time for a change. Let's see how nimble the Obama campaign really is.