Dispatches From the Democratic National Convention

How Can Obama Convince People He Can Change Politics—Again?
Who's winning, who's losing, and why.
Sept. 4 2012 6:44 PM

Dispatches From the Democratic National Convention

VIEW ALL ENTRIES

If Romney loses, won’t Republicans become more partisan?

Illustration by Robert Neubecker.

Illustration by Robert Neubecker.

Gentlemen, 

I have taken my position on the floor for the festivities. Once again, I'm near the New Mexico delegation. To get here, I enjoyed a series of rain showers and the strange, constantly changing set of requirements to get into the hall. In the half a dozen trips I've made to the Time Warner Center, the rules have never been the same way twice. This matters when you're adding an extra mile to your walk. I think the Secret Service code name for this operation is switchback.

Doing all this walking, I ran into a former senior Obama administration official (I don't mean he was demoted; he's a civilian now). I asked him how Obama was going to convince people that his promises for a second term were ever going to come true given the level of partisanship. He didn't have an answer for me. He tried to find one, outlining how the president would be able to go to Congress in 2013 and say that the people have spoken and that he has their mandate. But then he paused and said, "Of course, that was his message in 2008, too."

Advertisement

Any incumbent faces this question, but there's a large distance between promise and reality with Obama because his big promise was to change politics and even he admits that the atmosphere in Washington is as bad as it has ever been. So when voters hear the president, won't they just ignore his promises because Washington is clotted with hairballs, frustration, and despair? The president's campaign says that if Obama wins, the fever will break and Republicans will be forced to bend a little. But might it not be the case that Republicans will conclude that they lost because Romney was a weak candidate who didn't really run on their issues? Republicans could reasonably conclude, in this scenario, that they lost because they weren't conservative enough. Plus, the off-year energy in 2014 will be in that part of the party that will demand constancy to conservative ideas; so no wobbling or you'll face a primary. 

Sasha, your campaign versus election construction is the right one. The campaign is lame, but the election is for real. So perhaps we should spread that word near and far. I'm going to stop people in the street and tell them.

John 

John Dickerson is Slate's chief political correspondent and author of On Her Trail. Read his series on the presidency and on risk.

TODAY IN SLATE

Foreigners

The World’s Politest Protesters

The Occupy Central demonstrators are courteous. That’s actually what makes them so dangerous.

The Religious Right Is Not Happy With Republicans  

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:58 PM The Religious Right Is Not Happy With Republicans  

The Feds Have Declared War on Encryption—and the New Privacy Measures From Apple and Google

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You

It spreads slowly.

These “Dark” Lego Masterpieces Are Delightful and Evocative

Crime

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

Politics

Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Activists Are Trying to Save an Iranian Woman Sentenced to Death for Killing Her Alleged Rapist

Piper Kerman on Why She Dressed Like a Hitchcock Heroine for Her Prison Sentencing

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 1 2014 7:26 PM Talking White Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 2:16 PM Wall Street Tackles Chat Services, Shies Away From Diversity Issues 
  Life
Outward
Oct. 1 2014 6:02 PM Facebook Relaxes Its “Real Name” Policy; Drag Queens Celebrate
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 9:39 PM Tom Cruise Dies Over and Over Again in This Edge of Tomorrow Supercut
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?