Well, the President has been rolled again -- this time about the scheduling of his speech on jobs.
While the rescheduling of even a major speech may seem a triviality, especially compared with prior cases of being rolled (the raising of the debt ceiling, to give just one example), it is important to realize that this president's inability to win arguments has made him an ineffectual leader, and that with each failure, public perception of his weakness increases greatly -- along with his unpopularity.
It is unclear whether the source of these repeated failures is ineptitude or a lack of desire to accomplish what he promised in 2008, or both. But the cause doesn't really matter. All the goodwill in the world will not grow him a backbone, or teach him negotiating skills. So the reasons that progressives voted for him -- apart from the symbolic aspect of his candidacy -- have ceased to exist.
That is just one reason not to support his candidacy in 2012. He has betrayed his base in almost every way. And even if he miraculously changed overnight into the tough negotiator we want him to be, it becomes more likely every day, based on repeated polls, that he cannot win. His candidacy is merely a way for the Democratic Party, and especially its Progressive wing, to self-destruct. (Again.)
Rather than continuing to wallow in symbols and sentimentality, we should cut our losses now, and use our frustration as a learning experience or (to borrow a term of art) a teachable moment. It is time to look for, and work for, a candidate to run against Barack Obama in the 2008 primaries that we can trust and who can win.
Before we make any choices, we should make note of what we have learned, so as not to be tempted into the same misjudgments again. Why did the Democrats make such serious errors in choosing their candidate in 2008?
In that year we were offered two main candidates. The older offered experience, the younger, hope. Being a youth-crazed society, we opted for the latter.
The candidate of hope offered soaring rhetoric and catchy slogans; the experienced one offered only her resume, much of which many Progressives did not like. It was a no-brainer, or so it seemed.
We forgot that promises and slogans are just words, not worth the air it takes to produce them. The problem with Candidate Obama has become the problem of President Obama: his words mean nothing. Both problems arose because voters in 2008 had nothing of substance on which to base their vote. The record we had to go on was that of an obscure state senator who had made a speech opposing the war in Iraq, when he had nothing to lose by doing so, and so failed to demonstrate true courage; and that of a newly-minted U.S. Senator, who spoke of unity and bipartisanship but could point to no actions on his part that might reveal his ability to be bipartisan under fire.
On the other hand, his opponent had eight years of senatorial experience on her side (during which she had, to be sure, voted for the war). She spent those eight years learning how the senate runs, making connections across the aisle, becoming a highly effective freshman senator, and working with colleagues who, a few years earlier, had repeatedly trashed her and her husband, sometimes in the vilest way. That's doing, not saying, "bipartisanship."
So in Clinton we had relevant experience. In Obama we had only hope: he had never held any job -- not law professor, nor community organizer, nor state senator, nor U.S. senator -- long enough to establish any track record. Nor had he ever held any of those jobs long enough to learn the ropes, much less to acquire skills transferable to the presidency.
That's why we should not be surprised at his ineffectual performance. And that's why we should not reward that performance by giving him another term. And that's why the candidate we choose to replace him in 2012, should be someone who offers real experience and a relevant resume, not mere words.
I have two suggestions: Elizabeth Warren and Jackie Speier. Both have truly heroic narratives, personal and professional. Both have long been passionate, committed, and successful fighters for progressive causes. Either, as president, would be tough yet reasonable, able to persuade or, when that fails, be unyielding on what counts. Both have shown, again and again, that they cannot be intimidated or bought.
There's only one problem: both are sane. Neither has shown any desire to be President. (But we could work on it.)