If Barack Obama fumbles away the Democrat year, it will be hard to say when the fatal mishap occurred. Part of losing a campaign that you ought to have won comes from mistakes and revelations that cohere. It wasn't just the Willie Horton ad or the picture of him looking silly in a tank or his inability to answer a provocative question of what penalty would be appropriate for someone who killed his wife that doomed him. It wasn't the dirty tricks of Lee Atwater - or of anyone else. The problem was that these events were consistent with many others that created a sense of Dukakis as a sheltered and naive theorist who couldn't be trusted with leadership in a dangerous world.
Obama wanted to run as a post-political uniter, as a New Man of American politics. He's quickly becoming an Old Lefty. This is reflected, not so much in his policies,a although it is there (more taxes, more government, economic isolationism and foreign policy capitulation). It's in the little glimpses that we get of him.
That's why the Wright matter will have legs into November and his comments about the "bitter" hoi polloi of rural Pennsylvania is a serious gaffe of the type identified by Michael Kinsley (i.e., when a politician inadvertently says what - at least in my version - he believes to be true.)
Obama's riff on these benighted folks is of a piece with Thomas Frank's undeservedly celebrated "What's the Matter with Kansas." It's grounded in an elitism that says no one could really care about abortion or immigration or marriage or the right to bear arms because, well, none of the smart set does. It can't fathom how these poor fools won't at the offer to have someone else's money in exchange for a vote.
There may well be nothing wrong with Kansas, but that doesn't even occur to Thomas Frank.
Or, it appears, to Obama.