Sunday, June 08, 2008

The second of two parts:
Pt 1 How McCain Can Win the White House
Pt 2 How Obama Can Win the White House

How Obama Can Win the White House
Earl Ofari Hutchinson

A Pew Research Poll Center Poll in early May found that "inspiring," " fresh," "change," and "visionary" was not the word that voters said best described Obama. The word was "inexperienced." Republican presidential contender John McCain has made this and the boast that he’s the best on national security, the terrorist fight and defense preparedness his attack mantra against Obama.
Obama can parry the attack by turning the table and proclaiming that his lack of national and especially international experience is a positive. That he'll bring fresh ideas and approaches to statecraft that replace the old, tired, and failed polices of recent times. But that’s not enough. He must choose and choose carefully a vice presidential running mate who is every bit the tough guy on national security, the war on terrorism and defense preparedness that McCain claims to be. Then he must convince voters that he will back up his pledge to bring an honorable and workable end to the Iraq war.
But it’s still Bush and the GOP’s domestic fumbles that are potentially his biggest selling point. He must repeatedly remind voters that they should be mad at Bush and the GOP for the bungle of the economy, his draconian tax giveaway to the wealthy and corporate interests, his gut of environmental and civil liberties protections, and his Medicare prescription drug benefit bill that lined the pockets of pharmaceutical companies and eroded Medicare coverage and protections. He must adeptly remind women's groups that the GOP will continue to wage a relentless war against abortion rights. He must remind gay groups that top GOP politicians are staunch opponents of gay marriage, and are likely to continue to fight hard against stronger civil rights protections for gays.
He must make the ringing call by the Democrats for party unity more than a feel-good, politically correct self-assuring call. This means repairing the deep polarization among Democratic voters, or more particularly, the hardliners who backed Clinton and are wary if not hostile to him. He must make an all out effort to convince white blue collar and rural whites that an Obama White House will aggressively battle against soaring gas prices, home foreclosures, job losses, plant closures, the erosion of farm supports and to implement affordable health care and a McCain White House won’t. He must make an equally all out effort to convince Latinos that an Obama White House will just as aggressively fight for immigration reform and affordable health care, and a McCain White House won’t.
Obama must turn the campaign for the White House into a holy crusade among black and Latino voters. The enthusiasm of black voters for Obama and Latino voters for Clinton was sky high in the primaries and the numbers that turned out were near record setting. The bellwether for that was Obama’s smash victory in the South Carolina primary in January. More than a half million Democrats voted. That was nearly twice the Democratic turnout of 2004 and almost 20 percent higher than the Republican vote the week before. Blacks make up more than half of the Democratic vote in the state. In California, Latinos make up nearly 30 percent of the voters and had a higher than average turnout in the Super Tuesday primary in February.
He must make sure that those near record numbers that flooded the polls in the primaries flood the polls in near record or better yet record numbers in the fall election. He must turn part of his campaign into a bully pulpit to speak out on the need for vigilance on voting rights and civil rights protections, the need for tougher and expanded hate crimes laws, and the repeal of the racially skewed mandatory drug laws. He must boldly call for increased funding for underserved inner city schools, and for combating the HIV/AIDS plague, greater funding for minority business, and the appointment of Supreme Court and federal judges committed to protect civil rights and civil liberties.
He risks little in aggressively championing civil rights and going all out to ramp up the black and Latino vote turnout especially in the South. There's little chance that he can break the strong grip Republicans have on white male votes in those states. Polls show they likely will still be McCain’s biggest and most enthusiastic backers in the South.
Finally, Obama must convince a significant number of swing state independent voters that he is the real change alternative to McCain in handling the war, the economy, health care, immigration and energy issues, and is centrist enough to convince them that he is as tough on terrorism and as big an advocate of a strong military as McCain.
That's a tall, but very doable, order but he can win the White House by filling it.

New America Media National Political Writer Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is The Ethnic Presidency: How Race Decides the Race to the White House (Middle Passage Press, February 2008).