The Smell of Fear
Warning: Strained Sports Analogies Ahead
It goes without saying that the Bush administration is on the ropes. The Plame affair is heating up, the Meet the Press softball-fest was a dud, the WMD commission is a joke, etc. However, when scouring liberal blogs, I constantly detect a whiff of gloomy fatalism about November. That is, no matter how vulnerable W. seems, I find many liberal bloggers consigning themselves to the fact that somehow, some way, they just know that the Rove Death Star will use its evil powers to pull out another "victory" on November 2nd.
Now, I generally try to avoid hackneyed comparisons to sports, but I'll make a small exception just this once. Anyway, if you recall the NBA Western Conference Finals from 2000, the Portland Trailblazers had been down 3 games to 1 against the mighty Lakers, but had rallied to win 2 games and were up 15 points at the beginning of the fourth quarter in Game 7. However, rather than putting a stake through the heart of the Lakers, you could just see Portland's tentativeness and lack of self-confidence, as if they just knew that Kobe and Shaq would find a way to erase the seemingly insurmountable deficit in the nick of time. Which is exactly what happened.
How does this relate to this year's election? Many liberal bloggers (and Democratic voters, I'm sure) have become so cowed by the vaunted Rove Machine and right-wing Wurlitzer that they've become singularly obsessed with how we can lose in November, rather than how we can win. Thus, we constantly hear Chicken Little scenarios about Diebold, or the Osama October Surprise.* The problem with this fear of failure is that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, as the Trail Blazers found out. Rather than keeping the Repubs on the ropes, this ingrained mindset provides the Rovians with the perfect opportunity to regain control of the agenda, and also prevents the Dems from pushing back, if they feel powerless in the face of the Mighty Wurlitzer. Ruy Teixeira made a similar point a few days ago:
DR's not sure Democrats are psychologically prepared to deal with all this clear evidence of Bush's vulnerabilities and the very real possibility that he could be beaten in November. In some ways, it's easier to fall back on the gloomy assumption that Rove and the rest of the GOP machine will find some dirty, but clever, way to deliver the election for Bush, no matter how unpopular he starts to get.
Time to ditch this ridiculous outlook. Rove is certainly a good operative and the GOP machine is well-organized and funded. But fundamentally, they have to play with the political hands they're dealt. For awhile those hands were amazingly good, which helped the Rove machine look almost magical in its effectiveness. But now their hands are getting worse which will make the Rove machine look progressively less effective and way short of magical.
In other words, hard work, smart politics and a willingness to play hardball may be all Democrats need to beat these guys. No supernatural intervention, contrary to the beliefs of some, will be required.
Now, I have some serious problems with much of Teixeira's DLC-lite political analysis, but in this case, he's absolutely right. It's easy (and comforting) to shrug your shoulders and lament how the Democrats will once again snatch defeat from the jaws of victory come November. But it doesn't have to be that way. Anyway, I apologize for sounding like a third-rate Matt Foley. And I apologize to all the Trail Blazers fans for bringing up this psychological trauma once more.
* I fully realize that either of these scenarios could very well occur. However, it's one thing to calmly and rationally prepare for these contingencies. What bothers me is the fatalist assumption that Darth Rove is keeping these surprises in his bag o' tricks, and that there's nothing the Dems will be able to do about it once he unleashes them upon us.