One of the primary purposes of this blog since its inception has been to promote what I have called political fortitude, the civic virtue of standing up courageously for just, democratic political principles and relentlessly defending them against those who ambitiously seek power. As I’ve said before, in any democracy or republic citizens and their representatives in government must “courageously, vigilantly, relentlessly, and audaciously standing up for proven political principles of justice, equality, freedom, and democracy, even when apparent short-term interest or political calculations deem otherwise.” Politics is a sport for those with principled determination, not for those given over to vacillation.
President Obama was widely criticized for his weak, listless performance in his first presidential debate against Mitt Romney two weeks ago. In this he was simply following the same pattern of his entire presidency, which has been marked by an absence of progressive vision and a willingness to compromise with intransigent conservative ideologues -- Mr. Obama sometimes, as in the health care debate, negotiated away his bargaining position before talks even began. He has genuinely seemed to believe that if he is nice to conservatives, they will be nice to him too. In the debate on October 4, Mr. Obama failed to strongly and passionately argue for even the mildest of left-wing political principles, and instead allowed Mr. Romney to own the debate. The president has said that he was just trying to be polite. He has paid for it in the polls: Nate Silver, the excellent and widely respected polling analyst, gave Mr. Obama an 87.1% chance of winning on October 4 at his FiveThirtyEight blog; that plummeted to 61.1% in the nine days after the first debate, a drop of a full 26 out of 100 chances. There has since been a slight uptick, and if Mr. Obama fails again tonight he probably won’t lose quite that much support. But he will lose a significant amount, enough to put Mr. Romney in the lead and quite possibly lock it in through election day.
Silver also observed that Vice President Biden’s much more spirited debate performance last week helped to stop the slide in the polls, with most polling indicating it was a tie or a slight win for Biden. Democracy often needs strong defense; if President Obama wants to win the election the he has to leave the politeness at home and bring some spit and spirit with him tonight.