Barack Obama lost the first debate for one reason: he couldn’t take a consistent left/center position and defend it coherently for 90 minutes. Romney had a philosophical point of view and a debating strategy. Obama tried to convey reasonableness, decency, the complexity of modern problems and so forth but always making sure he wouldn’t be seen as a leftist. Strikingly, Obama didn’t mention the 47%, one of the most repulsive remarks ever made by an American Presidential candidate, and guaranteed to turn a great part of the country against Romney. Similarly, he barely mentioned social inequality or women. Instead he reverted to his first three years (prior to Occupy Wall Street) in which he basically ran by claiming to be the more grown-up of the two candidates. His strategy was obvious: pick up some independents; no need to worry about his base, because they will support him whatever he does. But you can’t lead the country without rallying your base. Only the kind of progressive agenda that began to emerge after the OWS demonstrations last fall can revive his candidacy or give meaning to his Presidency. Only with the development of an independent left, centered on the problem of inequality, can some rationality and direction be restored to our politics.

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