At a fundraising event last November, Barack Obama described changing the political cultures of Washington as his biggest challenge, calling it “the biggest piece of business that remains unfinished. That’s probably the area where we’ve been most stymied over the last three years” (article). No doubt referring to the rather cavalier stand-in-the-way-of-everything tactics of his Republican-led lower house, the president has had to discover that the absurdly upbeat sentiment of “Yes we can” (which Obama himself has thought a silly slogan) can play hard to get.
And while four months is a century in political terms, witholding the possibility of a major scandal, his reelection in November is not unlikely. Opinion polls put him ahead consistently if marginally. Some of this is attributable to the fact that the Republican ticket is only just getting into gear. Romney’s choice of running mate will be key, as it was for John McCain four years ago, however it’s the tone of argument coming from the Democratic election HQ that is equally interesting.
First comes the admission that fundraising is going to be rather more difficult than last time round. In 2008 the vast majority of almost $800 million raised came from individuals donating small amounts online. And while at the end of May Obama’s coffers were twice as full as Mitt Romney’s, the latter significantly out-fundraised in June, collecting over $100 million, $40 million more than Obama. The response has been to call for small donations of $3-5 to “Close the gap.” While it would be rash to qualify this as desperation - as Der Spiegel (article in German) did today - it must be admitted that mobilizing comparable numbers will be a major hurdle.
Secondly, the tone of Obama’s campaign has been as much to discredit the opponent as to discuss actual policy. This is epitomized in an obnoxious video advert and the “Truth Team” (a pretentious term if ever there was one). Romney’s campaign meanwhile sports an even more laughable website called “Obama Isn’t Working,” his main campaign meanwhile splashing headlines such as “Meet Mitt” and “The American Entrepreneur - You Did Build It!”, this coming from a party whose previous President famously exclaimed that the French don’t have a word for entrepreneur!
Mitt Romney has a lot of answering to do about offshore accounts, business ventures and so forth and, to paraphrase Richard Dawkins, Americans need to ask themselves whether they can vote for a man who believes that Joseph Smith dug up some golden tablets and believed the Garden of Eden to be in Missouri.
It’s simply not good enough for a campaign centerpiece to consist of cheap political point-scoring. When all this is done, maybe we can get back to discussing policy because Obama has some tough questions to respond to as well. The state of the Guantanamo detention center for instance or the roadmap on foreign policy. There’s a term for what’s currently happening, and that’s called distraction.