The issue for Obama is the vulnerability he has to scandal. His trump card will be his outsider status and his candor. Obama represents the hope of a change from business as usual in Washington, a uniter instead of a divider -- the kind of meme that elected the last two Presidents, of course, and we have seen the resultant increase in partisan rancor over the last 14 years. If Obama's relationship with Rezko gains any traction, it threatens to hurt Obama's greatest strength.
Emphasis my own. I was six when Bill Clinton first ran for President, so I really don't know to what degree he ran on a platform of inspiration and unity and whatnot, but I certainly recall the "uniter, not a divider" rhetoric of George W. Bush in 2000. I always understood it as distancing from the vicious attack machine of the Republican Congress, whose constant scandal-mongering and ill-advised impeachment push had seriously turned off voters to the entire concept of Republican leadership.
Of course, "uniter, not a divider" rapidly became a sick joke with regards to the Bush administration, which without fail has set out to divide the country as deeply and as passionately as possible. That's how a guy like me went from supporting the Iraq war in 2002 to a bona fide anti-Bush firebreather in the Daily Kos vein.
Even still, however, I wonder whether there might be a grain of truth to the idea that "unity" pledges are ultimately self-defeating. This is not a happy thought for me, as I am a to-the-bone supporter of Obama's brand of politics.
But consider: Politics feeds off a division. Politicians need to formulate a reason to vote for you, which means voting against the other guy. Normally, that division comes down simply on a policy level--politician A argues that his opponent's plans are ill-advised, weak, or wrong, and the opponent responds in kind. However, if A attempts to take the high road and reach out to his opponent's base, that paradigm doesn't work as well. B's policies aren't under attack, they're being co-opted. That leaves B with two responses: Either a) press even harder to show policy distinctions, which means focusing on the most extreme elements (or perceived elements) of A's beliefs, or b) go straight mudslinging. Either way, it's a recipe for increased, rather than decreased, negativity. Since one can't counter nice with nice, one has to go naughty. And political discourse gets dragged down with it.
Agree? Or am I being too cynical?
Last Push! Let's finish the vote strong.
Also, before I forget, I added Captain's Quarters to the blogroll. Welcome aboard! (I'm sure he's thrilled).