Obama owes it to the country to go negative

Ed Kilgore: The Only Way To End Gridlock In Washington Is For Obama To Run A Negative Campaign | The New Republic

if a second Obama term is to amount to much of anything, it’s important that he make the policy choices facing the country as clear as is humanly possible. And yes, that means comparative—which is by necessity partially negative—campaigning, rather than some placid demand that voters judge his record in an up-or-down vote that does not take into account the kind of politicians and policies they would thereby elevate to power. And even if he is doomed to lose, he owes it to the country to keep constant pressure on the GOP to make its positive policy agenda as explicit as possible. Under such pressure, it’s possible a nominee like Mitt Romney would disappoint the Republican Tea Party base by foreswearing highly destructive courses of action and embracing positions that involve something more than a demand that Democrats unconditionally surrender. 

Moreover, Obama has a moral obligation to remind voters that the presidential election is not, as a simple matter of fact, a referendum, but a decision for and against two candidates, two parties, two philosophies, two agendas, two prospective Supreme Courts, two prospective foreign policies, two views of economic inequality, two attitudes towards the very wealthy and the very poor, and two concepts of the very purpose of government. Americans unhappy with life in the United States who vote against Obama next November will not simply be registering their unhappiness with the status quo, but will be voting for policies ranging from the abandonment of reproductive rights and progressive taxation to the proposition that anyone rich enough to be regarded as a “job creator” should be exempt from accountability to the public for much of anything. 

Of course, thanks to the obstructive power of minority parties in Washington, a comparative election will not necessarily empower the winners of either the presidential or the congressional elections to govern effectively. But it’s far more likely to produce accountability for winners and losers alike, hastening the day when the country is not lurching from one status quo referendum to another with each cycle’s losers choosing to deny the winner any sort of mandate. So let’s hear it for “negative campaigning,” if it offers Americans an opportunity to give Washington some clear direction. 

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