Thursday, July 31, 2008
Then again, that would be a principled stand that would probably incur some cost for McCain that would make it more difficult to win. There was a time when he might have been up for that, but now that he's willing to just flat-out lie to win these days I doubt he will.
Update: Evidently the McCain campaign had even lower to sink.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
What is striking to me is how relentlessly negative McCain's campaign has become. If this keeps up the public is going to tire of him pretty quickly. I don't know exactly why his campaign has gone in this particular direction, but he'd better right his course.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Okay, the neocons are worse. Okay, no they're not. The neocons get us to fight disastrous wars, but the moneycons make it impossible to actually govern the country with their wrongheaded theories on money (like supply-siderism) and are ground zero for the evisceration of the middle class. These are bad dudes, and it's not even like most Republicans believe their trash. Come on, Johnny! Do something worthwhile for once in your lifetime!
Discussing the extremely harsh tone John McCain has taken against Barack Obama,
Marc Ambinder notes, "The contempt that many McCain aides hold for Barack Obama rivals the contempt that McCain held for Mitt Romney a year ago."
...not to mention George W. Bush, who in 2000 McCain and his advisors viewed with even more contempt than Romney during the primary or Obama now. Notice the pattern here? The McCainiacs whip themselves into a moralistic frenzy against anybody who stands between them and the presidency.
And should that person subsequently become potentially useful in McCain's quest for the presidency (first Bush, now Romney), they can convince themselves that he's not so bad after all.
My only complaint is that this post downplays the extreme self-righteousness of John McCain. No matter what McCain believes in (and it appears to switch a lot, as Steve Benen's McCain flip-flop list now has 71 items) he thinks that he's absolutely right and that his opponents are incomprehensible madmen who hate America. He tends to like issues where that can be the case, like campaign finance reform. How can you oppose that without supporting fat plutocrats? McCain probably figures that he's served his country faithfully for so long that he has earned his above reproach status, and that the only people who can question him are people with more service than him. That service (including the torture) has created a pervasive moral superiority about the man, which has kinda grown stale as it's become clear that he really doesn't stand for anything aside from a Hemingway sort of military greatness. I have to hand it to him...most people who see war tend to come away thinking it's insane. John McCain saw combat and seems to have come to the conclusion that we should do it more often. Maybe it's just bloodlust.
I'm beginning to think that McCain feels his country owes him the presidency, and that Obama's ascendancy is depriving him of the natural fulfillment to a lifetime of service. That accounts for quite a bit of his recent behavior, but if it's true I'm not sure his paens to serving a cause greater than one's self will have any resonance. He's beginning to look like Hillary Clinton in the wrong ways--old, bitter, angry, entitled, and yesterday's news. But he lacks Clinton's positive attributes--policy knowlege, political skill, a hugely enthusiastic base. In fact, to say that McCain often sounds retarded when discussing policy details does a huge disservice to actually mentally challenged people who could surely come up with a more compelling argument than this for the gas tax holiday. I think Obama ought to keep trying to get under McCain's skin, get him even more indignant and angry. Angry people make mistakes, after all, and it's not like there isn't some basis for pusing the anger narrative.
That pro-McCain spin is not just counterintuitive, that's, like, metacounterintuitive. Pretty silly, guys.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Saturday, July 26, 2008
As for the rest, I think energy is a big issue, but I don't think that it's necessarily a winner for McCain, as Obama narrowly edges him on this issue. That same data shows that Obama only narrowly leads McCain on the economy, perhaps because of the drilling issue, which indicates only that Obama has more work to do. And while people are more optimistic about the War on Terror and the Iraq War, I don't see this as being so much due to Republican policies as to military professionals--at least, that's how it's perceived as Bush is still roundly hated despite things getting better. He's not getting the credit, and while the Republicans are doing better on these issues than they were a year ago it's not overwhelming.
So, once again, Reihan might be right, but I have some doubts. And I think it'll take until the convention before we can get a clear view of the dynamic for this fall.
Friday, July 25, 2008
- He'll keep talking about how he was right about the surge, which won't matter as he was wrong about the war to begin with, was wrong about what to do next year, and is going to have to triangulate to remain even viable in this election. Which he's already doing.
- He'll go after the economy and basically make the standard GOP attacks about how he wants to lower taxes for
gazillionaireshard-working middle class voters and the Democrats want to raise them. That will no doubt warm Grover Norquist's heart but taxes just aren't a big issue this election year, despite the GOP always wanting them to be.
- He'll keep trying to subtly advance the smears about Barack Obama (exhibit A: McCain says "I don't know" if Obama's a socialist), and destroy all good will among folks like me who used to like him. He says he'd rather lose a campaign than lose a war, but apparently he's willing to become just as bad as the GOP pit bulls he used to hate in order to win an election.
- Many, many more uses of his trademark (and unbelievably irritating) catchphrase, "my friends." (Okay, that was a funny one, but probably true too.)
But I just don't see him making such a bold shakeup. Even if he did I still can't see him winning. He's up against an historic candidate whose election might well atone, in the eyes of the world, for our darkest sins, both old and current. McCain simply can't offer that. Plus, virtually nobody seems too excited about his candidacy.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
I don't trust the Bushies, but I do think I understand them, and I trust them to act in accordance with their established motives. I do think they really believe what they're doing is helping the country. I don't really agree, but there's no evidence they just want to start locking people up, or clamping down on opposition leadership, or whatever. I don't speak out much in favor of Bush, but let's be fair: he's not Joseph Stalin. I just don't see the data points to show why I should be terrified about this.
I don't think it's wrong to be upset by the outcome of this whole thing, but I'm not terribly worried. It is Bush Derangement Syndrome of a sort to just be worried about unjustified, nameless fears, but just because that asshole has done lots of bad things doesn't mean that he'll necessarily want to do every bad thing.
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
I'm beginning to think that social conservatism is pretty much a worthless ideology in practice at this point. All sociocons do is tell us what everyone knows but nobody can fix, and then repeat said information at ever-increasing volume and remind us about the good ol' days. Umm, what's the point of this? I'm trying to think of a social issue where the sociocons have a valid plan to make things better. Not family matters, and certainly not abortion, where the prevailing right-wing plan (i.e. ban the shit out of it!) will be unenforceable, will cause many more deaths among women getting the procedure illegally, and will almost certainly necessitate the creation of a vast new regulatory apparatus or a beefing-up of existing law enforcement options to deal with the millions of these things that happen every year. So much for small government. The GOP has fuck-all to say about the problems in the Black community beyond the standard bromides of self-reliance. Well, drug dealers are self-reliant. This is not the problem. And the drug war? Education? No ideas, nothing. If anything these days, sociocon thinking tends toward trying to make life as miserable as possible for the types of people they don't like (e.g. like opposing non-discrimination laws against gays) not so much out of some grand principle as much as just to be a bunch of cussed bastards. To be fair, I'm not accusing Ross per se of any of this thinking--he's smarter than that--but just the prevailing thinking of the right right now. I think the time has come for a spell in the wilderness. It'll be better for everyone.
Now, to be sure, this does bother a certain class of Democrat. Let's just say it's Paul Krugman. Krugman's a world-class economist, to be sure, but when he talks about politics he's so naive as to be practically unreadable, and his emphasis throughout the primaries was about being as combative as possible. With Krugman, it's all about partisanship instead of politics, and his desire toward combativeness is based primarily on a visceral loathing of Republicans rather than a deep commitment to liberalism. Not that I'm saying he's not got the latter as well, but I always wince when he complains about being mistaken for someone with Bush Derangement Syndrome. Mistaken?
But people like this don't really know much about politics. Let's look at this cynically. In politics, as in sports, the goal is to win. Not to beat the other team to a bloody pulp and annihilate their self-confidence. That's nice but not necessary. If it is possible to win with a message of conciliation--if that's the message that is the best suited to the election cycle--then that's what you play. Now, I don't believe Barack Obama is that cynical, but I do think he's the greatest intuitive presidential candidate since Richard Nixon. His message simply fits the times in which we find ourselves. Unity--especially after a divisive reign--is a powerful message. Maybe he'll deliver, maybe he won't, but it's a pretty darn smart thing to be saying. And that's why Obama's got a damn good chance of winning.
There will be plenty of bloodying-up of the Republicans this cycle, but the idea that the best way to win an election is by drawing sharp contrasts on every issue is a bad one because not everyone in this country is a hard-core liberal. People sense that Obama's a reasonable guy, and they sense he's liberal, and they still like him. So, in this way, Obama says something that makes people think he understands them. They hear it and say, he's not too bad, and overlook some of the policies they disagree with him on. In other words, people want to have their cake and eat it too. Which is not to say that Obama's policies are unpopular--just check the polling on the subject--but that the group who support his health care policy aren't the same as the group who support his environmental policies, and so on.
I guess this is all by way of saying that America is a nation of centrists. I don't think there's too much antipathy toward liberals these days, but Krugman's insulated world of center-left NYC elites causes him to extrapolate things that don't really hold in the real world.
Hey, if McCain wanted to make a bold move I'd welcome it. It would make things more interesting. I'd love to see him try to drop one of the legs of the GOP's stool to appeal to independents--really, significantly breaking from the GOP line on any major area of policy would be better, if for no other reason than that I'd like to see the GOP move a bit to the center and shed some crazies. I've suggested cutting the supply-siders loose numerous times, largely because there aren't many of them and most Republicans aren't of the tax-cuts-so-help-me-God camp. It'd be harder for McCain to raise money, sure, but he'd still be better than Obama to those folks and the balanced-budget types would be ascendant (and I'm actually sympathetic to them). Also, it would probably cause chaos, which is also good for me. But I think it's becoming clear--especially when one considers that Obama is managing to win the center despite not giving up anything of substance along the way--that McCain's going to have to do something like this or just settle for losing and being the last of the Reagan era of GOP presidental candidates. Is he comfortable with that? I'm beginning to think he is, and the Republicans ought to be very afraid of it.
Monday, July 7, 2008
In the abstract, of course, conservatism (in the Burkean sense) can definitely be hopeful and just seeks to preserve the institutions, traditions, etc., of a society. But American conservatism is anything but Burkean. Even before Goldwater it has consistently held that culture has been corrupted, that we face enormous external threats that we are now ill-equipped to handle, but it has never actually proposed solutions for those problems so we wind up getting bitter crankery about these problems that stick around so that the next generation of conservatives can bitch about them. How can we make progress if the same issues stick around one election cycle after another? But the Republicans won't just move on and accept progress in any number of areas. They keep the wounds open so that people will keep showing up to vote for them out of bitterness. The entire GOP cosmology, at this point, largely depends upon keeping the grievances of the 1960s, and their attendant bitterness, as the motivating factor for people to vote. How does hopefulness fit into a worldview where you keep fighting the same losing battles, and when many conservatives feel that teh liberals are simply too dastardly and powerful to lose?
Sunday, July 6, 2008
I suppose the major difference between the different (outward) forms of patriotism is that the left's version isn't all that exclusionary. I don't recall a single time a liberal has called a conservative unAmerican ever. And I think that's why saying, for example, that America's policy of torturing people is unAmerican would be a good thing for the left, because it is and also because liberals tend to find such charges icky in general but here it's true. America's never done it before. We generally believe in treating people humanely. Most of us, anyway. Hearing, say, Barack Obama tossing around charges that X is anti-American because he/she supports torture would have a certain novelty to it. Liberals have become so stigmatized by patriotism attacks that they no doubt find them distasteful, but in this case it happens to be true. I wonder if there are any other issues where this would work. Maybe immigrant-bashing as America's generally been pretty accepting of outsiders who come here to work, though there's been a pretty strong anti-immigrant tradition in American history as well.
The Man, The Myth, The Bio
- East Bay, California, United States
- Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.