Listen up, dejected liberals. President Obama’s debate performance was bad, but it wasn’t that bad. Yes, he seemed unprepared, perhaps even a little nervous, and that contrasted poorly with an aggressive Mitt Romney who appeared to have tried caffeine for the first time. But the president didn’t say anything that we haven’t cheered him on for saying before. Most of it was actually pretty eloquent. Don’t believe me? Go back and read the transcript. The substance was there. You might even appreciate some of the president’s “zingers.”
No doubt the president erred in what he didn’t say, namely “47 percent.” We’ve tried to explain this lapse in a number of ways: fear of looking unpresidential, exhaustion, altitude sickness… Whatever the cause, the president squandered a open-goal opportunity to publicly shame Mr. Romney. After all, isn’t that what we wanted? We’ve already made up our minds about this election. So have most people. What we craved was an auto-da-fé, exposing Mr. Romney as a liar and heretic on national TV.
Let’s be honest, though. We don’t really care what the president did or didn’t say. We’re upset that he lost on style. Liberals love to congratulate ourselves for emphasizing fact over flash, but we swoon when our commander-in-chief swishes three-pointers and sings Al Green. Truth be known, he’s always had this other side to him, the “Uncle Fluffy” side, the one that wears mom jeans and plays golf (not that well, either.) We found the president’s avuncular alter ego somewhat endearing until it took the stage last week in Denver. Ninety minutes later, we were left wondering why Superman suddenly looked so much like Clark Kent in contacts and a leotard.
So that’s that. It’s over. Time to move on. Do you know how many people watched the debate? 67 million. That sounds like a lot, but it’s roughly half the number of people who will vote in November. And the half who watched were the ones that follow this stuff closely, e.g. anyone reading this blog. How many disinterested voters could persevere through the 40-minute discussion of tax policy that began the debate? No, what they paid attention to was the post-debate soundbites and spin, and our indignant hysteria turned an event many predicted — history tells us that the incumbent president usually loses the first debate to the challenger — into Agincourt. Just look how public opinion has shifted: focus group responses were roughly split during the debate, while post-debate instapolls gave a plurality to Romney. A week later, almost 80 percent of Gallup respondents credited Romney with the victory! The most lopsided debate in history!
Do you think that most people rewatched the debate, took it under careful consideration, and changed their minds? Or did the reaction from Obama’s base color their perceptions? The fact is, the president lost the bout on points; he only got knocked out after he left the ring. Our panic has become self-fulfilling, and it needs to stop. We still have the advantage on electoral math, on campaign organization, on the issues, on money. Romney’s bounce in the polls is receding, and the topline economic data is looking so good that Republicans are accusing our side of manipulating it. And, though you may have forgotten after the past week of left-wing Chicken Little-ing, we also have the better candidate: the one who passed universal healthcare, saved the auto industry, repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, cracked down on Wall Street, stuck up for financial consumers, rebuilt our roads, invested in education and green energy, capped auto emissions, expanded Pell Grants, enacted fair pay, eased student loan and credit card repayment, ushered undocumented young people out of hiding, ended the war in Iraq, signed an arms reduction treaty with Russia, deposed a dictator in Libya without committing American troops, ramped up international pressure on Iran, and killed Osama bin Laden. And he did all this while facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and turmoil in the parts of the world where you least want it.
Here’s the deal, fellow liberals. If this fear and loathing feels familiar, it’s because we’ve been through it before. Remember when the left revolted over the public option? When we said Obama sold out to Wall Street? To the neocons? When he didn’t repeal DADT fast enough? When he didn’t prosecute the Bush folks over torture? Come to think of it, when he didn’t torture the Bush folks? When he compromised on the stimulus, and the tax cuts, and the Grand Bargain? On each of those, the loudest boos came from the president’s left. We were so upset with the pace of change that we didn’t show up to the polls in November 2010, then we blamed Obama for getting “shellacked” by the Tea Party. With friends like these, who needs enemies?
And yet Obama has more enemies than he can count. They call him a Muslim and a socialist. They demand to see his birth certificate, and then accuse him of forgery when he produces it. They say he apologizes for America and intentionally weakens our power. They are willing to ruin the good faith and credit of the United States government just to defeat him. His enemies want to roll back all of the accomplishments of the last four years, often for no reason other than spite: for Obama, for gays, for undocumented immigrants, for unions, and for the rest of the 47 percent “who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.”
Throughout all of this, President Obama has remained remarkably, almost impossibly, cool. Now, we — his supporters — are upset because during the debate he played it… too cool? Angry liberals are demanding that the president be more like us, when really we should be more like him. Keep calm. Focus on the big picture. Seek common ground. Only fight when there is none. In other words: No Drama.
But for those of you out there who still want this campaign to show a little more grit, a little more passion, a little more temerity — you may just be in luck.
Joe Biden is on tonight.