Karl Rove was wrong about everything.
Perhaps the best news about this election is that it looks like we as an electorate are finally at a point where we can no longer be suckered into voting for the one guy because the other guy is (pick one) a terrorist, a socialist, the guy who freed Willie Horton, a Muslim, OK-not-a-Muslim-but-we-don’t-like-his-church, a northeastern liberal elite, a baby-killer, or whatever. Today’s young voters, God bless ‘em, look right through that as if it weren’t there.
In hindsight, it was inspiring, the extent to which Obama steadfastly refused to play the dirty game. Whereas McCain, who said there was a “special place in hell” for the Bush operative who was responsible for tarring him in South Carolina in 2000 with push polling that suggested he fathered an illegitimate black child, actually went and hired that same guy in ’08. Nice.
Obama talked issues; McCain (and Palin) said nasty things about Obama. Today’s voters, especially you youngsters, look at that and conclude that McCain must have nothing positive to say about his own candidacy. And so you take your patronage elsewhere. Good for you.
It has always gone that if you spent all your air time smearing the other guy, you could probably win. Now, I think if you spend all your air time smearing the other guy, you’re going to lose. Hallelujah.
With respect to leadership: stupidity and closed-mindedness are not, in fact, assets.
The reason so many on the left were so irate over Sarah Palin was precisely this. While the main thing said on her behalf by the red meat Republicans was, “she reminds me of me!” many of us outside that narrow band prefer the idea of a leader of the free world who is actually better than me. Someone smart, successful, curious, measured, open-minded… dare I say, someone elite.
Obama told us that his victory means that anyone can grow up to be president. Maybe I’m in the minority, but I kind of like to think it means just the opposite.
When you have the most important job in the world, and you do it very, very, VERY badly, there are going to be consequences.
The combined movement in the house and senate over the past two elections is seismic; we voters have been punishing the Republicans for George Bush quite sternly for some time now. Both parties need to hear that; the Republicans need to understand that they failed the American voter badly, and the Democrats need to realize that punishing the other guys is not the same as awarding you a mandate. In sports terms, if the other team fumbles on their own five yard line, do not conclude that you have a great running game. Instead, figure out a way to capitalize on the serendipity and get the ball into the end zone.
So for the Dems, it’s first and goal. But we’ve all seen them cough up the ball enough times in this situation to be concerned. This time, though, they do have one hell of a quarterback.
There is no right and left; there is only forward and backward.
The Democrats—and Barack Obama—are looking forward; the Republicans, and especially the Sarah Palin Republicans, look back. Specifically, they look back to the ‘50s. The “real America” that Sarah Palin speaks of, the small town America where there are no liberals, no questioning the government, no abortion, no birth control… that town is Mayberry. It is Pleasantville, if you saw that movie. In short, it is a fictitious idealization of a bygone era, shot in black and white. If it ever really existed, it doesn’t now.
But Republicans like to look backward. It is why, from Reagan to Bush I to Dole to McCain, they like to nominate old white men for president. And like the movie Pleasantville, there is no cramming the genie back in the bottle; there is no returning to the ‘50s, no wiping out the color and returning to black and white.
Republicans don’t like the future. They don’t like, for example, gay marriage, which is out there in the future. They don’t like easy access to affordable health care, also out there. Many of the things they don’t like loom large and inevitable off in the distance, and so they face backward. Using McLuhan’s metaphor, they look at the present through a rear view mirror; they march backward into the future. Invariably, when you do that, the future smacks you in the back of the head. That thud you hear about now…
A year ago I thought Obama was one election away from being ready. I’m glad I was wrong.
Bellicosity is not a foreign policy.
It is very easy to stand in front of a cheering crowd and announce, “We’re going to show those other guys what for!” And it is wholly appropriate… when the milieu is, say, college foot\ball. When it’s foreign policy, though, it remains unclear what such rhetoric accomplishes. I totally get, speak softly but carry a big stick. But “boast like an ass and don’t have the wherewithal to back it up”? Not so compelling. War should be, truly, a last resort, not the feel-good movie of the summer.
The Republican party as we know it is dead.
The social conservatives and evangelical Christians, around whom the Republicans have built their winning coalition since Reagan, are increasingly a fringe element of their party, and of society. All the conservative pundits on CNN last night (such as the insufferable William Bennett) insist that this is a center-right country. But it isn’t. It is a center-left country. Just watch daytime TV if you want to understand the “real” America. For every fundamentalist Christian, there are 5 baby daddies. Rank and file Americans are not intolerant of abortion rights, gay rights, non-traditional families and so on—rank-and-file America embraces these things. Rank-and-file Americans live these things each day.
Here in the real America, we live in or near cities, we are multi-racial, multi-cultural. Some of us are gay, some of us are divorced and share child custody. Some of us are single moms. We are black, white, Asian, Hispanic, and more. We are Indian, Korean, Japanese, Jewish, Latino… and that’s just my daughter’s pre-school class.
Not all of us are Christians, not all of us are religious, some of us have gone to graduate school, some of us question the government when it does something stupid. That is the America that I live in, and it is the America that you live in. That other America, the Sarah Palin “real America,” the one the Republicans keep trying to sell us and appeal to—for the overwhelming majority of us, it doesn’t exist. Maybe 20% of Americans live in the kind of place where Sarah Palin thinks real American values can be found.
Like many of my friends and loved ones, I was offended and mortified by the Republican convention, and especially by Fred Thompson, Rudy Giuliani, and Sarah Palin. Sport was made at the expense of us liberal citified northeasterners; for Palin, “northeast” is a laugh line.
The northeast is not America? Well, you know, there are 63 million of us here (New England; New York and New Jersey; Pennsylvania; Delaware, Maryland and DC.) Can you imagine the outrage if Democrat party leaders mocked and disparaged “the conservative south” from the stage of their convention? (Southern states comprise some 60 million people; I exclude Florida, which is not the south but is actually past the south.) Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity could go two weeks riffing off the faux outrage they’d muster off that. And yet it is OK for Republican Party leaders—for their Vice Presidential nominee—to disparage the liberal northeast? Here’s a hint: no. It is not, in fact, OK.
Living in New York City in the ‘90s I watched Giuliani’s government by us-versus-them in action. His first move as mayor was to get rid of the squeegee guys—the vagrants who hovered by the entrances to the city off the bridges and tunnels, and began to wipe your windshield in order to intimidate you into giving a gratuity. Everyone (except the vagrants) loved it; we were all “us,” and the squeegee guy were so clearly “them.”
But the problem with “us-versus-them” governance is that inevitably the circle of citizens who qualify as “us” gets smaller and smaller. And indeed this characterized Giuliani’s tenure as mayor: eventually almost all of us had become “them.” Did you want to fly a kite in the park with your kid? In Rudy’s New York, that made you one of “them.”
The electorate has passed the Republican Party by. Their base is dwindling—really, literally, dying out. According to a study Sam Donaldson quoted on ABC”s This Week a couple weeks ago, and which no one disputed, Obama was running ahead of McCain by about 3 points… but among first-time voters, Obama was ahead by seventy(!) points. How does all this bode for Republicans? They fare worst among the fastest-growing population segments: Blacks, Hispanics, urban dwellers, and people born after 1980 (and 1990.) They do quite well, it has been noted, among white men. But white men are a minority who represent a smaller and smaller portion of the electorate.
This is not a thing that can swing back with time. I’ll say it again: Obama was up seventy points among first time voters. The Republican Party has to reevaluate everything it stands for, keep the good, lose the bad, and undergo a profound reinvention. Otherwise we will end up with only one major party. For all the haplessness of the Democratic party—really, save for Bill Clinton, unabated since JFK—they have managed to undergo just such a reinvention.
Now it is time for the blame game. There will be a fascinating struggle for the soul or the Republican Party. Already the extreme right is floating the debrief that the problem is, the party just isn’t conservative enough. That would be scary if it wasn’t so funny. Or maybe the other way around.
Labels: The politics