Game Changer: The Thrilla from Wasilla

A healthy debate rages over all modes of communication now and for days to come as to whether Sarah Palin is good or bad for America, an authentic conservative voice or a cynical political device, the second coming of Margaret Thatcher or an unwelcome second helping of Dan Quayle.  But no Reasonable Mind disputes the fact that this campaign is fundamentally changed by the feisty young (I can say that because she’s younger than me) woman from the Last Frontier.

It would be disingenuous of me to say that I’m not interested in spouting on about Palin’s virtues — if I had a “Weird Science” computer, the only thing I’d remove before pushing the go button is the NRA membership.  Everything else leaves me swooning in right-wing bliss.  But the Internet is polluted with bombast from both sides of the aisle these days, and I’m sure I have nothing interesting to add to that.

What I am interested in doing (and I’m disappointed in Granulous, who is wallowing in a self-indulgent Ron Paul funk right now and ignoring his duties as Love Boat cruise director here) is teeing up a discussion around the handicapping of the election from here in.  Here are my thoughts on where we stand post-conventions, what I think the election will come down to, and, fine, what I think the outcome will be.  This isn’t a clever topic, but can we really sit around twiddling our thumbs when the most interesting election since Kennedy-Nixon is right in front of us?

– I really thought McCain would play it safe with Romney or Pawlenty, because I actually believed pre-conventions that this election would be a nailbiter without a wild card.  Obama had been unable to seal the deal and open up the kind of lead a Democrat would normally need during the summer to hold on in the stretch.  Voters pretty reliably list to the right as Election Day approaches, and polls usually don’t capture turnout trends properly, so the Dems need 10 points in August to win by 3 in November.  But Granulous, and the actual performance of the also-rans at the RNC, convinced me that this was wrong.  McCain/Stiff (of your choice) was going to come in a respectable 2nd, an outcome McCain had no interest in.  His instincts were good about that, and about who to go after to change the game.

– The pick was a miraculous “two birder” for McCain, somehow allowing him to satisfy the base he’s been forced to lean toward, while giving him adequate coupons to move himself back toward the “maverick center” where he naturally resides.  Somehow, against impossible odds two weeks ago, the Republican party is energized, unified, and clapping for things they really don’t like.  Whooda thunkit?

– Women, in my limited experience, have not reacted predictably to Palin.  Asking around my New York but otherwise very diverse office, I’m finding reactions coming in all over the map, from ecstasy to disgust.  I’ve also found lots of women in the middle — Palin’s performance did not convince them to vote for McCain, but it did “put them in play”.  They are paying attention now, and could be swayed if Palin can take the ball in from the red zone in the Biden debate (and McCain doesn’t piss them off).

– Obama has played his personal hand the best he possibly could have under these circumstances.  He has no control over the rabid left blogosphere, which has behaved in manner too perfect to comprehend for the Republicans.  It must have driven him crazy to sit there and watch those supporters create the perfect atmosphere for Sarah Palin to outperform in.  Nevertheless, he and Biden stepped forward and denounced the unconscionable attacks on Palin’s family, and that statesmanship helped them contain the damage that the anti-media backlash could have caused them.  As a result, we emerge from the conventions in a virtual dead heat (fading for the poll bias), with the debating stakes higher than anyone could have imagined.

– I expect Obama and McCain to battle to a draw within rounding.  Obama is smarter, McCain is a better debater but no longer really benefits as much from low expectations, the panels are likely to tilt the questions somewhat in Obama’s favor, and frankly, all eyes are now focused on the Palin/Biden showdown.

– Biden is in a hell of a difficult spot, contrary to the initial talking-head prognosis of Biden clobbering the foreign-policy-light Palin.  We now know how capable this woman is on stage in a tight spot — the teleprompter was broken for her speech.  By all accounts she’s a quick study, but William Buckley himself wouldn’t be able to go from zero to 60 in one month.  But offsetting this knowledge deficit is the fact that if Biden decides to be Biden, he’s going to lose the PR war no matter what comes out of his mouth.  This is a guy who doesn’t know when he’s saying something that won’t play in 2008.  He already leaked out one brain fart when he said, when asked for contrasts between himself and Palin, that “she’s good looking”.  Was this offered innocuously?  Of course.  Can he get away with something cutesy and a tad condescending like that in this debate?  No way.  If Biden comes away from that debate with a draw, he will have walked a fine line he has rarely managed to stay on in his rhetorical career.  I’ve got to believe a Biden bungle is more likely than a Palin “potatoe”.

– When I look at the electoral map on Realclearpolitics, I’m stunned by how few states I see in play.  I don’t think McCain can win Pennsylvania, and I don’t think Obama can win Florida.  I see three states deciding this election: Ohio, Colorado, and New Hampshire.

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/maps/obama_vs_mccain/?map=10

Big turnout should now be a given on both sides.  I think it’ll be a long night.  I see McCain winning Ohio in a squeaker, and then it’s a matter of whether he can flip Colorado.  If he does, he wins.  If he only flips New Hampshire, and assuming something goofy doesn’t happen in splittable Nebraska or Maine, we have an electoral vote tie.  I think that means that the President vote goes to the House, the VP vote goes to the Senate, and the Dems win.  Also, another popular vote/electoral vote divergence is totally in play this year.  If McCain pulls this off, you could see some serious efforts to kill the Electoral College in the years to come.

I think McCain/Palin will win another painfully close election, which will be a very divisive outcome.  They will struggle to govern in the context of a non-mandate win, with a strongly Dem-controlled Congress.  This will be a fair challenge as they are now running as the reform candidates capable of reaching across the aisle.  This could be great for America if it works, or a mess that will lead to a Hillary Clinton presidency in 2012.  If that happens, the world will end, and we can continue this discussion in another dimension.

I’m dying to hear divergent views.  We could not possibly have been treated to a more enthralling battle.  (Unless, of course, you love Ron Paul, in which case, I suggest you convert all your assets to gold bars and move to Canada.)

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20 Responses to “Game Changer: The Thrilla from Wasilla”

  1. Mark Grannis Says:

    OK, I’ll take the bait.

    First, I like Sarah Palin so far, but I like her in the way I like cars when they’re advertised on TV. I understand why she’s ducking interviews right now, and it’s certainly understandable in light of how little time she has had to bone up on all the policy specifics that serious and thoughtful candidates for national office have to know. But I don’t think she can avoid Q&A much longer, because we only have until November 4 to get comfortable with her as leader of the free world.

    This is not a knock on her experience, by the way. I don’t think experience is required, and in fact I’ve thought about selling car magnets that say something like “Obama/Palin 2008: Because experience wasn’t working.” No, as I’ve written here before, I think the value of a long record in public life is that it gives the voters greater confidence that they know where the candidate really stands. Many people who would make fine presidents can’t get elected because nobody knows who they are. If she doesn’t get out and do some unscripted interviews soon, Sarah Palin might become one of them.

    On the horse race, your electoral tie scenario sounds interesting, but I don’t think this election will be that close. Before Palin and McCain spoke to the RNC, I thought Obama would win about 400 electoral votes. I thought the key question in the election was going to be whether disaffected Republicans and independents could get comfortable with Obama, and I thought they would, in much the same way that disaffected Democrats and independents gradually got comfortable with Reagan in 1980.

    Now, though, there is a new question, namely whether the two Republican candidates we met last week have any affiliation, formal or otherwise, to the officeholders formerly known as Republicans. Some 80% of us think the country is “on the wrong track,” or “sliding down the crapper,” or however the pollsters ask that question, and I think the major reasons for that consensus are war, recession, and reckless spending. So if there is a new Republican party that actually believes in fiscal responsibility, limited government, and individual freedom, that party should cruise to an easy victory.

    The problem for these new Republicans is that they might easily be confused with another group of people going by the same name, who have controlled the White House for the last eight years and one or both houses of Congress for six of those eight. Logically, that group should appeal to only about 20% of the electorate. Except on the torture issue, John McCain went along with the looters and hacks from that other group of Republicans almost all the time. Unless he was under the Imperius Curse, there are really only two possibilities: either he doesn’t really believe all the stuff he said about limited government and fiscal responsibility last week, or else he doesn’t really act on his true convictions when it’s not politically convenient to do so.

    McCain tried to address this vulnerability by telling the Republican National Convention that Republicans had been doing a terrible job. The delegates tried to help him address it by cheering. But outside the convention hall, McCain’s interlocutors will ask him to address the contradiction directly, and they are unlikely to be so deferential. Running away from his own record seems like a pretty implausible campaign strategy to me, and if it succeeds I think it will say something not very nice about our collective intelligence.

  2. Timothy Peach Says:

    I liked that. My only beef is that in most places I would substitute “Granulous and some of his brainy friends” for “the electorate.

    As we’ve discussed offline, I think you tend to confuse these two questions:

    – “Who do you think is going to win the election?” and
    – “In a perfect world (i.e. one built by Granulous Lego-by-Lego), what would be the intellectual process by which the ideal voter would decide what to do?”

  3. David Fitzgerald Says:

    Tim, I really think you may be on to something. Perhaps it is the result of getting my news via the BBC for the last two years but I had really thought this presidential election was going to principally be about competence. George Bush doesn’t have a 30% approval rating because people have tired of his “Aw shucks”, yet strangely condescending manner. He has a 30% approval rating because (or so I thought) people have assessed his job performance and have found it lacking. I thought that in this election cycle people wouldn’t ask which candidate they would prefer to have a beer with and would instead focus on the candidate best positioned to address some pretty serious economic and geopolitical problems.

    Without gilding the lily too much, I think both John McCain and Barack Obama have provided answers to how they would attack the current situation in which we find ourselves. The question for voters seemed to be about who they thought had the best answers. As such, my initial reaction to Sarah Palin was that McCain had pretty much ceded the competence argument to Obama and, with it, his fate.

    Shows you how much I know! The Palin selection, apparently, is directly responsible for a swing of 20% in McCain’s favor among white married women! This presumably is the demographic most interested in the trains running on time? As far as I can tell, they are flocking to Palin for the following reasons she (i) shares their plumbing, (ii) dresses nicely, (iii) did not abort her special needs child and (iv) did not throw her 17 year old daughter out of the house when she got pregnant. Because of this, they “relate” to her and “see themselves” in her. Perhaps this is offensive and “elitist”, but, if I were making $7.50 an hour at Walmart without health insurance and my 17 year old daughter came home pregnant, the last person I would want a heart beat away from the Presidency is someone like me.

    The point (at least of this post) is not that Barack Obama and Joe Biden are qualified to run the country and John McCain and Sarah Palin are not. The point is that the criteria by which we judge who is qualified has been so Oprahfied (a new word?) that I am afraid that our politics may be irretrievably broken. Harry Truman used to say that our democracy will work as long as each voter votes according to his own selfish interest. I’m not even sure that is happening anymore.

    Oh well, even George Bush was competent enough to appoint Hank Paulson and Ben Bernanke and then got the hell out of the way.

  4. Timothy Peach Says:

    David — I don’t agree with your assessment on Obama/Biden qualifications, but voters aren’t doing “job interviews”, I guess you could say, when they’re figuring out which lever to pull.

    Risking a charge of sexism, I think it’s particularly true of women that identifying with a candidate, and having a candidate make them feel a certain way (about themselves, about the country, about what matters, what have you) is a huge driver of voting behavior. Identification was clearly the attribute fueling the Hillary candidacy. “She represents me!” was the battle cry of the Hillary supporter, and it’s now the battle cry of many WalMart moms in Ohio who have been lit up by Palin.

    Vanity isn’t reserved for the beautiful, wealthy, and powerful. It’s the engine that runs the modern political world. It’s the reason why liberals see no bias on the major networks, and conservatives see no bias on Fox News. We want to hear what we believe reinforced, to make us feel smart and make us feel secure in our (often unearned) opinions. When it happens, we light up like pinball machines, and we’ll follow the people who make us feel like that anywhere. This is true across the political spectrum.

    And it’s perfectly appropriate to rue this reality — Granulous drove me nearly crazy rueing it at me. But I didn’t ask him who ought to win the election. I asked him who was going to win the election. He wasn’t listening. He was too busy being angry about Ron Paul’s marginalization.

    The important thing for people trying to escape this dynamic is to be genuinely open-minded… for instance, for me to consider the possibility that Obama will be a thoughtful uniter, despite my extreme skepticism, and for you to be open to the possibility that McCain is a real stateman who will try to do the same.

    In less than two months, one of us should try to be a graceful winner and the other a hopeful loser — because the alternatives are pointless, ugly, and in my opinion, Un-American. This is a great country that benefits immensely from good leadership when it gets it, and always seems to survive bad leadership and move on. And I’m open to the possibility that your dude is a good dude. So whoever wins, it’s nothing but upside.

  5. David Fitzgerald Says:

    We’re getting closer to it.

    My problem is that I cannot imagine (and I use that in a technical sense) how anyone could think that Sarah Palin is a qualified candidate for the second highest office in the land. I know that there are those on the other side who cannot imagine how I could be supporting Obama. That lack of imaginative consensus raises, to my mind, whether E Pluribus Unum has become nothing more than a platitude.

    These are not mere policy differences. Bush’s approval ratings tell us what Americans think of the policies a McCain adminstration is likely to implement. Have we reached the level where first principles of legitimacy are at issue? We have faced these existential crises before, will we be an industrial nation or an agricultural one, will we be slave or free, will we be a world power or isolationist? Each of these questions was resolved only by significant political upheaval and crisis. Perhaps we are heading in that direction again?

  6. Timothy Peach Says:

    I just typed a response, submitted, and it vanished. I can only assume it sucked. I’ll try something shorter.

    You assume McSame. That approach is fizzling with a lot of voters. Palin gave McCain the leeway with the base to go back to the middle. Obama better figure that out quickly or he’s toast.

    The only thing the public disapproves of more than Bush is the Dem-controlled Congress. So as much as McSame blows in one direction, preference for gridlock (Rep Pres with Dem Congress) blows the other way. It’s a wash.

    Obama needs to get back to the message he began with at the 2004 Convention. The Great Uniter has gotten way off message. And now he’s trading jabs with Palin, while McCain is getting a free ride above that noise! He needs to tell his handlers to go pound sand, and be himself. (There was a NYT editorial fretting over this a few weeks back.)

    But characterizing support for McCain as a complete breakdown in consideration of legitimacy is silly and partisan. Let’s not sensationalize this — the Republic will be better off than it is today regardless of who wins.

  7. David Fitzgerald Says:

    I think you may have slightly misunderstood my comment.

    Certainly it is perfectly reasonable to support the policies that a McCain adminsitration would implement and to think that John McCain would be a fine President. Consider, however, that it is the selection of Palin that has “lit up” (as you say) the McCain campaign. A significant portion of the electorate and the most influential elements of the Republican party apparently think that McCain is a better candidate for President, indeed, they have only come fully into his corner, because he selected Palin as his running mate.

    In that sense, Sarah Palin has legitimized John McCain. For these people, Sarah Palin embodies a vision of what the country, at its best, should be and John McCain now, finally, fits into that sense of what is right, just and seemly. It is passing strange that a man who has served his country for 50 years should require from his own party the deflected legitimacy of a woman who is 30 years his junior and whose most significant public accomplishment, even on the fairest reading, is taking on entrenched Alaskan oil and corrupt political interests, but I digress.

    Palin converts have been “lit up” because of how she imagines the nation, as a place where teen pregnancy and marriage is preferred to quality sex education, where virtually unrestricted drilling for fossil fuels is encouraged, where the scientific veracity of evolution is questioned and where gun ownership is unrestrained and unregulated.

    Obviously, hard core Obama supporters have drunk similar Kool_Aid. Obama is legitimate because he embodies a very different place within the national imagination.

    What concerns me is that these visions are so opposed that it will be impossible for either candidate, if elected, to build consensus about where the country should be moving to address our very real and collective problems. Unless we have some shared consensus about the type of nation and people we are our policies will continue to be muddled and ineffective.

    It was only after Alexander Hamilton won the economic argument, Lincoln saved the Union and TR beat back the forces of isolationism that we were able to craft laws and policies to implement their national vision.

  8. Timothy Peach Says:

    All fair points, but campaigns fade quickly and the real work begins.

    And you know what, I have faith in both these guys to drop the crap and get to work. They both rode the “available rails” to the dance, because that’s how the game is played”. But they are both their own men.

    Despite a lot of tripe about the continuing downslope in presidential candidate quality, I think we did pretty well this time. These two guys strike me as head and shoulders above everything we’ve been offered since Ronald Reagan. Who, in his day, was considered by many to be a vaudevillian boob with a double-digit IQ. But then we heard about a shining city on a hill, and “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

    As I type this, I’m actually feeling good about the prospects for the Republic.

  9. Timothy Peach Says:

    Hey David, here I am, always grinding this out and taking the last word.

    I said my piece. You should have the last word.

  10. David Fitzgerald Says:

    The financial system is in melt down mode;
    New Orleans is still in ruins;
    There has been zero efforts to improve our refining capacity since 2005 and another gulf hurricane is reversing a downward trend in oil prices;
    Our national debt is $9 trillion on balance sheet with another $5 trillion (conservatively) off.
    Our infrastructure is crumbling and is making very little effort to move toward green.

    If you think that John McCain and the cast of characters that have controlled the executive branch for the last 8 years and Congress for 6 of those years can begin to address these problems, by all means, vote for McCain.

    If you’re voting because Sarah Palin is a “hockey mom”, or you “relate” to her or because John McCain spent five years in the Hanoi Hilton or because you think Obama is a Muslim or you don’t “trust” him or you think his wife is a b*&ch, well…we always get the government we deserve.

  11. Mark Esswein Says:

    I’ve been holding my peace until Palin entered the first turn and I think I saw a stumble, if not out and out lameness. Until the Charlie Gibson interview, she had been recycling bits of the convention speech. If she kept that up for much longer, that would have been the end of that bounce.

    Instead she did it one better. Granted the “Bush Doctrine” was an almost obscure reference, but her answer sounded like a college student in an oral exam making up an answer, when “I don’t know” might have elicited another question from the prof to get at what she did know.

  12. Timothy Peach Says:

    Yup, another smug wonk looks down his nose at the hockey mom, and schools her on her weak suit. Big fun.

    Checked the polls? Read the reviews? Guess how many million people (including me) didn’t know which “Bush Doctrine” that Captain Peckerhead was referring to?

    It ain’t playing in Peoria. And you know what? It would have, if the media hadn’t blown its credibility out of the gate on Palin.

    She had a marginal performance, at best. But when you decide to turn what was supposed to be a balanced interview into an aptitude test on a subject everyone knew she was light on, and you send out perhaps the smuggest jerk on the planet to light her up, once again everyone on the bubble stops listening. Instead, they’re saying to themselves, “What is wrong with these guys? Don’t they know they’re reporters and not campaigners?”

    Anyone watch O’Reilly and Obama? Anyone think that interview convinced a single Democrat to leave the Obama camp? Even after he conceded the surge was successful “beyond our wildest dreams”?

    O’Reilly is a stupid bully. Obama got points for going into the lion’s den. Don’t think it doesn’t go both ways.

  13. Mark Esswein Says:

    OK, point taken. On the smug wonk looking down his nose, I’ll claim ignorance (I watch so little network news anymore that I couldn’t tell you who’s who and couldn’t have told you which network Gibson worked for until today.) The only TV news I ever watch is Jim Lehrer – when I am home in time and still have the energy to wrestle the TV away. BTW, John McCain used to be a regular on The Newshour – back in the day.

    I’ll also admit that the interview did make me squirm a bit in her favor. I thought that Gibson could have tried another tack which would have been the more objective approach.

  14. Timothy Peach Says:

    Thanks, and listen, no one is saying she didn’t stink it up. It was a big step back from the Twin Cities.

    I ran 16 miles in Central Park this morning (a mentionable feat if you’re weren’t going as slow as I was), and I thought a lot about all of this. And you know what, I got kind of disgusted with myself. With these debates coming, I realize I’m actually hoping for Obama and Biden to f up, to say something stupid, to contradict themselves, to be ugly on camera.

    Why am I hoping for that? What is wrong with me? Wouldn’t a rational person want these debates to be fantastic, acute exchanges of ideas where viewers get clear distinctions to choose from, and are left with the impression that the process is working — it’s producing quality candidates?

    Forget whether it has. That’s a different issue. It’s what’s wrong with me — what I’m instinctively hoping for.

    I think I might need to get stoned for these debates so, in a sense, I’m “not there”, so I can do some actual listening for once.

  15. Mark Grannis Says:

    Tim, I think by sneaking up on yourself and observing your own internal attitude, you’ve identified one of the major reasons the process doesn’t produce better candidates or more thoughtful debates. The two major parties are like teams to which the voters have declared their allegiances long before kickoff. Two thirds of registered voters (at least) root for one team or the other, and they view absolutely every development through that lens, in much the same way that fans at a college football game tend to think the officiating is good when it favors their team and bad when it favors the other one. This makes it hard to change any minds on the other side by being reasonable; hence all the attention on “energizing the base” in the hope of greater turnout.

    I was appalled and offended by Palin’s performance. But at the same time Gibson’s attitude was not lost on me either. And sure enough the R team’s fans focused on Gibson’s deficiencies while the D team’s fans focused on Palin’s. Of course, Gibson’s flaws as a journalist may matter a hell of lot less in January, but this seems not to occur to the R team’s fans. God help us.

    I’m in the other third of voters. We are frequently imagined to be in the middle, but it’s probably more accurate to say that we don’t have anything good to say about either side and our only option, election after election, is to vote for an acceptable person with no chance of winning, or to pull the lever for the lesser evil. Is it any wonder this third is disengaged? Is it any wonder that only half of us vote?

    All of this, it seems to me, is a very heavy cost of the two-party system, or at least of the many ways in which the two parties have conspired to keep the duopoly in place.

  16. Brian Freeman Says:

    Good points, Mark and Tim, but lest we end this energetic exchange with these potentially morose musings, it may be helpful to consider some history. I’m out of my league here, but so far as I know this Wikipedia article on 19th-century elections is at least basically sound: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_election_campaigns_in_the_19th_century

    Here’s fuller treatment, in this recent book (again, can’t vouch for it, etc., but doesn’t seem out of left field): “Deliver the Vote: A History of Election Fraud, an American Political Tradition-1742-2004”
    http://books.google.com/books?id=tQ4QgnUER9AC&pg=PA139&lpg=PA139&dq=American+elections+corruption+20th+century&source=web&ots=qKuWhbhUvu&sig=pjlb3dGVhNFDxWu3Ke5oZ3vPLuc&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=6&ct=result#PPR7,M1

    This is not to throw in the towel on the problem. It’s just to say that it’s not new.

  17. David Fitzgerald Says:

    I think Mark’s and Brian’s posts are related. While it is true that American democracy has always been ugly, the arrival of the 24 hour news cycle, 500 channels and the Internet have altered the game dramatically. While all administrations have kept an eye on the next election, in the last 15 years we’ve seen the emergence of a White House in constant campaign mode. This has made the counter-intuitive Presidential move much more unlikely and a focus on the broad national interest and good governance harder and harder to come by; Eisenhower could build the interstate highway system, Kennedy could lower taxes, Johnson could pass the Civil Rights Act and Nixon could go to China. Some might argue that Clinton supported NAFTA and welfare reform but these policies fit in with his “triangulation” campaign strategy. I find it hard to think of one instance where either Bill Clinton or George Bush, Jr. truly advocated and shepherded a policy that would antagonize their base. It makes Papa Bush’s decision to advocate a tax increase seem all the more a real “profile in courage.”

    I believe that it is this constant campaigning by administrations that bears the brunt of the blame for the situation among the electorate that Mark describes. We are so constantly bombarded by messages that reenforce our preconceived notions that it is very hard for any candidate to call his “fans” (to extend the metaphor) to account. To advocate a competing vision would make the candidate “other” among the very circle of people he most needs to get elected not only now, but in the next election, which, in today’s saturated media climate, must appear to him/her as always just around the corner.

    Hence, the spark has seemed to come out of the Obama campaign as he starts to sound more and more, especially in his convention speech, like John Kerry and it accounts for McCain’s abandonment of positions, like his principled stance against tax cuts in a time of war, that initially won him the admiration of so many. It also accounts for how an obscure governor from Alaska with no qualifications can be selected as a vp candidate, she comes from central casting as far as the base is concerned. That is the only “qualification” she needs.

  18. Timothy Peach Says:

    Although not prepared, after a hostile interview laser focused on a clear shortcoming, that Palin is Quayle, I’m inclined to agree on the tactical analysis. It was an astute piece of positioning, purely from an election dynamic standpoint.

    Major party campaigning is ruthlessly practical. No one wins running a “campaign on principle”. The 21st century world is what it is, and representative democracy shows its weaknesses (which are of course unavoidable) the bigger and more technologically sophisticated the world gets.

    I’m not sure any one group is to “blame” — the media, the candidates, the entertainment industry, or We the People. I have no idea how it could be any different. In a representative democracy, deferral to authority has to be the guiding principle for the average citizen. Whom do I trust to look after me? As our distance from our leaders gets greater, and the media through which we experience them gets more and more canned, campaigns about personality over substance get more and more likely.

    It also explains the perpetual campaign phenomenon David points out, as deference to authority breaks down when every action and decision is jammed in your face with spin. You’re forced to have an opinion about everything, however dumb it is. Every action therefore needs to be sold, and both parties have bought into the notion that all big decisions are effectively decided by polls (e.g. the Iraq war).

    As for myself, I enjoy a simplified voting palette, where most of the canvas is pre-painted with one color, a bright pro-life white. So except in places like northern Pennsylvania where everyone is pro-life, I would be a “pre-decided” in most elections with limited flexibility to move to the left. And you know what? In the context of “central casting” elections, voting on the issues you care about is the safest place to sit. Because outside of your narrow focus, you don’t really know what you’re going to get anyhow.

  19. David Fitzgerald Says:

    Tim, what of the reasoned deliberation which the Founders thought essential to a democracy that could stand the test of time (hence the Senate and the counter-majoritarian Judiciary)? Presumably, even single-issue voters need to exercise some prudence. I note the Reagan era actively pro-life DOJ lawyer (whose name escapes me) who is endorsing Obama as the pro-life candidate in this election. Even a single-issue must presumably grapple with these type of first order arguments before casting a ballot?

  20. Timothy Peach Says:

    Yes, you’re right. I need to be open to a wider range of considerations, but all things being equal, I stick with the folks more likely to try to get the worst piece of jurisprudence ever, Roe v Wade, reversed. And I can understand why someone might argue, all in, that Obama is a better bet on pro-life, broadly defined, if they believed a number of things (that McCain doesn’t really care about the issue, that McCain’s pro-gun stance is a huge issue, that they believe McCain is going to shoot first and ask the U.N. later, that Obama’s affiliation with radical feminist groups like NOW, Naral, Planned Parenthood, etc were marriages of convenience, and so on).

    I don’t buy that, I take Obama at his word and at his actions — he wants Justices like Ginsberg, who is an abomination (he said it), and he did kill that bill in Illinois that was tantamount to countenancing infanticide. I do think McCain doesn’t put abortion in his top 10 issue list — I have the early fundraising letters to prove it. And I hate the gun thing. But the math still comes up net McCain for me.

    But I repeat, you’re right. You have to solve a more complicated equation than just who’s superficially a pro-life Republican.


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