President Obama's disappointing debate performance has split Democrats into two camps: those who are openly panicking, and those who want the first group to just shut up. It's not so much that liberal panic is unfounded, but that they are being so open about it. It's a case of when keeping it real goes wrong.
In the classic series of Dave Chapelle skits, men's lives are ruined by keeping it real—saying the one thing they really want to say—instead of censoring themselves in the way polite society demands. In one example, when a white coworker, extending his hand for a high five, makes an cringey "You the man" comment to Chapelle's character, the video freezes. "Though he could have ignored the simple comment his mentor made," the narrator says, "Vernon decided to keep it real." The video unfreezes: "Get your motherf--king hand out my face." Vernon loses his corporate job and is forced to work at a gas station. Liberals fear their too-honest allies might force them all to suffer negative consequences: a self-reinforcing media narrative in which Obama is the wimpy loser who maybe, as The Daily Beast's Michael Tomasky suggested, doesn't even want to be president anymore.