ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Change is coming, change you can count on.
That is the simple, central message from the two presidential nominating conventions held in Denver and St. Paul during the past two weeks.
Whether it is Barack Obama or John McCain going to the White House in January, the new president will understand that his mandate from the voters is to cleanse Washington of its excessive partisanship and attempt to break the gridlock that has prevailed on almost all the big issues.
The good news is that Obama and McCain, for different reasons, have about as good a prospect of achieving that change as any two politicians you could find.
The acceptance speeches they delivered will not find places in many collections of great campaign oratory. But rhetoric aside, the clear intent of both candidates was to signal that they understand the frustration of voters of all parties with the poisonous status quo of recent years in Washington.
How addled is Broder? First of all, although he later notes the two candidates have different "agendas," as always, he's ignoring that their policy differences are drastic. McCain's voted the Bush line over 90% of the time, and boasted about it when it seemed politically prudent. On tax cuts and Iraq especially, McCain is the same as Bush or even more extreme (even more money to the wealthiest Americans). How is that possibly "change"? Apparently, McCain saying he wants change is more important to Broder than his actual policies, and McCain's promises are somehow credible, despite plenty of evidence they're preposterous. (And if Broder doesn't believe Obama will deliver, fine, but he doesn't make that argument.)
Second, as ever, Broder believes the solution to whatever ails Washington is always comity and bipartisanship, because policies themselves simply don't matter. He just hasn't noticed what's been going on for the past eight years, if not the past few decades. "Bipartisanship" to Broder and his ilk almost always entails Democrats kowtowing to a lockstep, radical conservative agenda, and his idea of a "mandate" is either incomplete or flatly wrong. For a long time now, Congress has been unpopular with voters for not sufficiently opposing the Bush administration. Voters want something done. Comity is at best a means to that ends, and the GOP has successfully pursued an obstructionist agenda, aided by a pretty weak Democratic leadership. Strangely, Broder's never seemed to notice this dynamic, preferring instead to wax nostalgic about the good ol' days when Reagan and Tip O'Neill would have a drink together. Broder also doesn't seem to get the concept of bad faith. (Meanwhile, he still thinks Bush shouldn't be impeached, but Clinton should have resigned over Lewinsky, which really says it all.)
Third (and this is the point where I found myself really doubting Broder's mental capacity and work ethic) Broder writes that "The acceptance speeches they delivered will not find places in many collections of great campaign oratory." What planet is he on? Perhaps it's the same one as the AP's Charles Babington, who clearly wrote his hit piece on Obama's speech without bothering to actually watch the whole thing first. Even some of McCain's allies acknowledged that McCain's speech was disjointed, poorly delivered, and lacking substance. In contrast, Obama made a number of specific policy points, his speech was well-structured, and he delivered it powerfully. Broder's free to disagree, of course, but his opinion certainly goes against most journalistic opinion. Rather than justifying his unusual views, in one sentence he instead dismisses Obama's greater substance and delivery, and again ignores the wide divide on issues (not to mention the soundness, consequences and popularity of their respective policies).
A later section also stands out (emphasis added):
Their skills and agendas are different, but both McCain and Obama bring strengths to what will obviously be a struggle against the forces of parochialism and partisanship resisting change in Washington.
Obama has an exceptional mind when it comes to analyzing and then formulating policy. His methods are reflective and sometimes iconoclastic, but the results are impressive. He has outlined approaches to domestic issues that might enlist support across a broad political spectrum. Still, his skills as a negotiator are largely untested, and he has yet to demonstrate, as McCain has, the backbone to challenge the prevailing interest groups in his own party.
Again, Broder is pushing his beloved comity. Broder grants McCain courage versus ego and pique for opposing his party. He echoes an earlier McCain ad, and much of McCain's rhetoric, that he's 'stood up' to his own party. There are three glaring problems with this. One, it once again ignores that there are qualitative differences between policies. Not all are good. Two, it's easier to stand up to policies when they're lousy, as the GOP's largely are, and less necessary when they're good. Broder values opposing one's party regardless of a given policy's merit. Three, McCain has voted the Bush line over 90% of the time, and boasted about this. He hasn't opposed his party. He's also reversed himself on almost every issue, including torture. But Broder again simply hasn't noticed.
Steve Benen comments on this Broder piece, too, noting that Broder once again pretends that the McCain campaign has somehow gone scurrilously negative against the noble Saint McCain's will. And Quiddity also delves into the idiocy of Broder's ideas about opposing one's own party as well as confronting the opposition party (and also challenges Broder's grasp of history). Quiddity apparently shares my take that the "centrist" Broder's arguments always seem to be novel reasons why you should vote for a Republican.
In any case, if another crappy, warmed-over, reality-challenged op-ed by Broder leaves a bad taste in your mouth, too, here's a series of palate cleansers from folks who somehow gleaned the truth that Broder dare not grasp. Here's Tom Toles, pointing out the obvious in style:
Here's Jon Stewart on The Daily Show:
And here's that guy who didn't deliver "great campaign oratory" in Denver:
That covers both the change the delusional Broder believes in, and the real differences he stubbornly refuses to acknowledge.
Update: Obama gives Toles a shout-out. Although the Obama campaign has long hit how McCain doesn't represent change, I guess he saw the cartoon!
(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)