Hate Literature in America

October 18, 2008

Wow.  Here’s a blogger’s compilation of  hate literature being circulated in swing states.  This compares rather starkly with Factcheck.org’s research on the subject of Bill Ayers.

What interests me is that people get this stuff and circulate false information based on it. No wonder Bush did not adequately fund education and cut back education loans.

You Go, Joe!

October 17, 2008

Here’s a healthy sign:  Bidden denounced a Palin statement.  It has for me been weird hearing her highly inflammatory statements echoing through the news with nothing but denials by Obama and Biden.  Palin has been treated like a little girl who should not be treated severely.  This has given her a sort of immunity to make the most outlandish statements which seems to be mobilizing a segment of the population that everyone prefers not to talk about.

Today Biden called her out for apparently identifying areas of “real America” as apparently opposed to geographical pockets of sedition.  This of course is  (I thought) by now a hackneyed tactic of setting Americans against each other for political gain.  All you need to do is fill some people (a majority) with self-righteous contempt for others or promote righteous doubt about the legitimacy of others, including candidates.  (Palin informs us that Washington D.C. is not pro-America and cities should be viewed with suspicion.) It seems so transparent but it still seems to work to some degree.  At least the tactic does not appear to be effective with a majority of the people.  At least not right now.

Anyway, I say call demagoguery out.  This tactic needs to be aired and revealed for what it is.


October 16, 2008

The debates and campaigns for the presidency certainly give us an opportunity to learn about the candidates and their parties. Many. many people become political junkies during this period. Each election brings new insight and hopefully understanding. What is just as interesting to me is what we learn about ourselves.

I was frankly astonished at the results of the last presidential election. A significant number of the people who now hold Bush in low regard voted for him four years ago. Yet to my knowledge nothing happened in the second term that was not at least very clearly telegraphed in the first term. Concern about the economy was clearly expressed four years ago. Nobel Prize winning Paul Krugman (among others) has been prominently and clearly talking about the failures of Bush’s economic policies for years.

Actually as early as the late stages of the Clinton administration people were beginning to express concern about credit default swaps and the health of the financial industry. Four years ago we knew pretty much as much about our foreign policy and its flaws as we know now.

So I have to confess, not only was I surprised at the 2004 election results, but I have been surprised by the strength of the present aversion to Bush and his policies. It seems like Bush is being scapegoated a bit. No one can say that Bush did anything unexpected in his second term. His second term, like his first term, is defined by ideological inflexibility. We voted ourselves into this situation. I just don’t buy blaming Bush for our problems when we chose him with our eyes open.

In the current election, Gallup just came out with interesting polls that show demographic results. The economy seems to be driving voters to Obama. As I see it the well publicized miscalculations of the McCain campaign are not the reason for his decline in popularity. Rather they have merely impeded his ability to overcome the devastating effect of the economy on his campaign.

One thing the Republicans have been absolutely lock-step about is the deregulation of the financial industry and the deregulation of corporate activity in general. It is hard to imagine any proud advocate of this policy (such as McCain) being embraced by the population at the time of the catastrophic exposure of the consequences of this policy.

The Gallup survey shows that Obama for the first time now has a lead among male voters and for the first time among elderly voters. In September he gained a lead among college graduates and has always had a substantial lead among people who extended their education beyond college. This is all consistent with the broader polls.

One of the features of this campaign that is interesting of course is the fact that an African American is running for the first time. In that light it is interesting that McCain still has an edge among white voters. It is a steadily declining edge and no longer a clearly significant preference, but white voters as a group are showing more reluctance to vote for Obama than other demographic groups. This, I guess, is not surprising but it is a little startling to see.

I would not attribute this to racism, as that term is commonly used, but perhaps to unexplored precognitive associations. A good exercise I think for undecided whites or whites not strongly disinclined to vote for Obama is to imagine that things were reversed.

Imagine that McCain, instead of being at the bottom of his class had been at the top and had been Editor of the Harvard Law Review.

Now imagine that Obama barely graduated from college. Imagine that 15 years ago was deeply involved in a savings and loan scandal that cost tax payers hundreds of billions of dollars. Imagine that he was an ardent champion of deregulating the financial industry, and that all of the unpleasant aspects of Senator McCain’s personal life were a part of Obama’s life instead. Imagine that he had an unwed pregnant teenage daughter and had been found to have committed serious ethics violations while in the legislature.

If you can do this kind of switch and say that it really would not matter to you, or that your attitude about these things would the same for both candidates then I think you can say that you are not laboring with the precognitive associations of the sort I’m talking about.

I by no means am suggesting that a white’s disagreement with Obama is racially influenced. It is just that the polls suggest that in about one out of ten cases that could be an unexamined influence.

Another interesting poll result is that Obama lags among the group of people that attend church at least once a week. This is the group in which McCain is strongest. His is up 16 points there. I do not have the polls that predate the Republican convention but by all accounts Palin has firmed up McCain’s standing in this group. My guess here is that people who attend church the most tend to be more zealous and that among the zealous, McCain’s opposition to Roe v. Wade wins him the support of most people in the group. I’m presuming that this group is mostly a single issue group. If I’m wrong then the poll results would become even more interesting.

Why is McCain so Bitter?

October 8, 2008

When I read that McCain had on Monday launched bitter personal attack on Obama, I attributed it to desperate campaign tactics. McCain’s odd reference to Obama as “that one” then declining to shake hands with him suggests instead that he really harbors a personal grudge against his rival. That is an odd thing to see.

Here is a video of the non-handshake:

In Case You Missed It

October 3, 2008

If you missed the debate or would like to see it again, the New York Times has the video with transcript here.

The debate turned out to be without breathtaking gaffes, which was probably the major surprise of the event. Lacking that spectacle, it seemed like people in the audience pretty much took from the debate what they were inclined to see.

Stripping away everything else and just looking at the transcript, I believe that Biden clearly prevailed on the merits. The polls indicate that most people thought Biden did a better job.

That, however, was not what this debate was about. The overwhelming issue was whether Palin could maintain the appearance of competence. Toward the end she seemed to falter but she hung on to get through it.

My guess is that Palin shored up the eroding base but probably did not do much to sway undecided voters. We’ll see. Monday the polls from today and the weekend will be out.

In this instance though the polls are not all that reliable. The LA Times today has an interesting article on the effect or racial attitudes on voters and speculates that Obama will need a double digit lead to prevail in the election because of the Bradley Effect according to which white voters shy away from candidates of color at the moment of voting.

CBS News Says Obama Won by a Wide Margin Among Uncommitted Voters

September 30, 2008

CBS says that Obama won, although the polls do not seem to show a bump after the debate.  This may be because there were so many things happening last week, including last week’s declaration by McCain of “Mission Accomplished” with respect to the bailout. It was only this week that this was shown to be as illusory as previously accomplished missions.

McCain’s seizing the headlines last week and his efforts to portray himself as leader of the congressional bailout coalition no doubt caused expectations for his performance in the debate to rise, particularly when foreign policy, his acknowledged strength, was the focus of the debate.  Higher expectations may have contributed to the perception that he lost the debate.

I got the impression that he was betting the house when he “suspended” his campaign to demonstrate his leadership ability with the bailout legislation.  He of course did not suspend anything except his own public appearances and arguably the television time he got for this gesture exceeded anything that he would have received had he continued to make scheduled public appearances.  Once again though he took a short term gain — the appearance of leadership in crisis — and risked a long term loss.  Once again, as with the vice presidential decision, it looks like the long term loss will outweigh the immediate gains.  For all the broohaha last week, this week McCain looks ineffective.  His white horse seems to have charged in the wrong direction.

The vice presidential debate could given the recent downward direction of the polls momentum.  I shudder to think what episode awaits us to curb that event if it occurs.

The First Debate: Body Language

September 27, 2008

After all the theater preceding the debate, I was surprised to see such cautious, measured talks at the debate.  They were both nervous particularly at the beginning. There is a video and complete script of the debate here.

McCain, while seeming like a tight spring, maintained a reserve that seemed to be broken only by dismissive comments toward Obama.  Obama on the other hand seemed more relaxed but at times struggled for the right word and slid into his habit of saying “a-a-a-a” as filler while he searched for the next word.

Does anyone else see Nixon in McCain’s style of talking? They have that same hunched-over delivery and a similar gravamen.  Nixon had a more “presidential” manner when he spoke, geturing more broadly and varying the tone and meter of his speech a little more, when he was at his best.

Obama’s reserve came across clearly enough with him more or less declining the invitation to look at McCain (who never turned from the audience).  Obama’s response to the moderator’s invitation to talk to McCain was interesting.  He started mixing up his pronouns, alternating between second and third person when talking about McCain and would only glance at him.  He seemed particularly forceful later the few times he actually turned and spoke to McCain.  When he did that however he did not vary his somewhat professorial tone.

They both seemed rather grave which no doubt was appropriate.  Obama has a great smile which was caught on camera occasionally when there was a shot of him looking at McCain while McCain spoke.  It did not seem mean spirited or anything of the sort.  McCain’s smile on the other hand seemed like a cheek muscle exercise.  When he smiled to reveal his sharp little teeth, he conveyed more malice than mirth.

In the candidates’ interaction with the moderator, Obama took the lead.  McCain strangely had almost no interaction with him, but followed Obama’s lead.  This created a sense of poise in Obama that was not present throughout the evening.  McCain, staying hunched over and looking straight ahead, conveyed at these times a brittleness of manner, something that he is trying to avoid.

Obama’s loose limbed lankiness served to promote a sense of comfort, which contrasted with McCain’s rigid hunched over posture.  His smile when they met on stage at the beginning of the debate, combined with his manner, seemed authentically gracious.  McCain’s smile and manner seemed uncomfortable and perfunctory.  That struck met as unexpected as McCain is billing himself as the sage leader and Obama as the young neophyte.