The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

You Can’t Community-Organize Your Way Out of a Sequester


From the midweek edition of the Morning Jolt:

You Can’t Community-Organize Your Way Out of a Sequester

You’re familiar with the notion of the Hedgehog and the Fox, right? “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing”?

Hardball producer Michael LaRossa marvels, “Only in America can a President propose a law, get it passed, and then actively campaign against implementing it.” Yes, instead of spending time in Washington, with all of the members of Congress who could pass something to replace the sequester, Obama went to Newport News to hold a campaign-style event shouting about the need to pass something to replace the sequester.

Permit me to spotlight a funny recent essay by Red State contributor Moe Lane, where he examines the skills and philosophy of President Obama through the lens of role-playing games:

To begin with: a munchkin (or power gamer, or mini-maxer, or a bunch of terms that cannot be repeated here) is a type of gamer (roleplaying, computer, roleplaying-computer) who looks for loopholes in the rules – because games have rules, and there isn’t a rule-set in the world that cannot be manipulated by somebody with enough motivation/obsession.  And it turns out that the American Democratic primary system was full of such loopholes, which is why Barack Obama won the nomination in 2008 despite losing almost all the big Democratic primary states (and arguably the popular vote, depending on how you score Michigan).  And it also turns out that the intersection of our electoral system with our rapidly-expanding online culture can produce what computer gamers call “exploits:” which is to say, a glitch in the system that gives someone an unintended benefit (if it just crashes the system, it’s a bug).  Strictly speaking, the system is not designed to elevate a state Senator to the Presidency in five years – for what turned out to be very good reasons – but it can be done.

Mini-maxing is when a player designs a character that is fantastically good at one thing, at the expense of everything else.  So you could end up with a character who is, say, obscenely good at hitting things with a sword – but can’t convince a bunch of sailors to drink free beer.  The mini-maxer doesn’t mind; he’ll just go around the game trying to resolve as many problems as he can by hitting them with a sword (tabletop gamers – err, “D&D players” – often call this The Gun is My Skill List, although obviously substitute a sword for a gun in the name).  The problems that the mini-maxer can’t resolve that way he’ll either ignore until later, or else flail about on the screen while hitting the buttons quickly and/or at random (“button-mashing”), in the hopes that eventually the laws of probability will allow him to bull on through anyway.

And that’s where we are now.  Barack Obama knows how to do one thing: elect Barack Obama to public office.  And that’s not ‘elect Democrats.’  Or ‘elect liberals.’  Or even ‘elect people that Barack Obama likes.’  It’s just him: his team is trying pretty hard right now to figure out how to use their over-specialized skill more generally, but they don’t have much time to figure it out and the system is actually rigged against them in this case.  Barack Obama certainly doesn’t know how to govern effectively; take away a Congress that will rubber-stamp the Democratic agenda and he flails about.  He’s so bad at this, in fact, that when confronted with a situation where all he had to do was do nothing to fulfill a campaign promise (the tax cuts) we somehow ended up with a situation where Obama gave in on 98% of those tax cuts and voluntarily signed up to take the blame for the AMT fix.  In short: Obama was woefully unprepared for the Presidency, and he hasn’t really spent the last four years trying to catch up.  Instead, he goes from situation to situation either trying to recast the problem in ways that he does have some skill in (permanent campaigning for office), or else… flail about on the scene while hitting people’s buttons quickly and/or at random, in the hopes that eventually the laws of probability will allow him to bull on through anyway.

How did Obama try to pass his stimulus? Campaign-style events. How did Obama try to pass Obamacare? Campaign-style events. How is Obama pushing for amnesty legislation? Campaign-style events. How is Obama pushing for gun control? Campaign-style events. Fiscal cliff? Campaign-style events. This is all separate from his actual presidential campaign.

But mind you, his campaign-style rallies didn’t move the poll numbers on Obamacare, and Democrats to this day never use the word “stimulus” when discussing new spending. Obama is very good at getting people to like him and believe in him – more than for his agenda. We see this phenomenon when his overall job approval rating is 5-10 points higher than his handling of most major issues like the economy.

But this is what he knows, and with his reelection, he’s convinced it works. So here we go. More cowbell.

He’s got a fever.

Tags: Barack Obama , Campaign Advertising


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