Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Barone’s bets

Michael Barone is guessing that John McCain has some momentum in Florida and that HRC--who apparently prefers winning ugly to losing (imagine the bile of a Romney-Clinton race)--will do well on February 5th, though he’s hedging a little on the latter.

I know people are swooning over the Kennedy endorsement, but I find it hard to believe that it will actually sway any voters.

Discussions - 11 Comments

Maybe there's an additional point to be made about the last week on the Democratic side.

I frequently use materials on the Ashbrook websites in my teaching. One of their themes is the political significance of American oratory, the capacity of oratory (against mere logic) to capture the imagination and propel events. (This may be why Peter Schramm loves both good poetry and good oratory.) Like the policy content or dislike it, we are seeing real oratory, more from Democrats - especially Obama - now than Republicans. I believe it would be a mistake for Republicans to dismiss the effect of swooning or the possibility of swaying.

Joe,

Ordinarily I'd agree with you that endorsements mean very little. Here is one contrary thought, though. In the case of Obama, endorsements help him gain the aura of acceptibility, that he is a serious man competent to be president. If he has a weakness it is that he is perceived as all style, no substance. This is tied to the "lack of experience" argument. If people with experience endorse him, that mitigates the effectiveness of these kinds of attacks. He gains gravitas by proxy.

Steve,

I agree with you that Obama can talk circles around all the Republicans, with the possible exception of Mike Huckabee. He has a real gift, but I find that when I sit back and look for the substance behind the soaring words, it's fairly conventional. And though he gives words to the non-liberals with whom he disagrees, at the end of the day, that's all he gives. Whether being able to pin him down will be sufficient to counter his rhetoric is another story. I have my doubts. I'd rather have someone on the other side able to tell as compelling a story.

But Ted Kennedy???

McCain will win FL, and the story will be old voters. Romney has pumped in millions over the last week trying to buy a huge media market state. Another week and it would have worked, but I don't think he had enough time to undermine McCain's name recognition.

Probably right, Clint. And Hillary will win FL with the granny vote she's courted so well.

Steve Thomas' point about the importance of oratory is very well taken . . . but then so is Joe's about substance rearing its sensible head. The real question in the end will be timing.

Shelby Steele's critique of Obama is the most thoughtful I've seen and he argues, in the end, that Obama cannot win. I'm no longer sure I agree with his conclusion (though I do lean that way), but his analysis of Obama is unmatched. It has to do, mainly, with the problem of sweeping oratory. If what you say inspires swooning more than it inspires thought and then agreement, that probably means what you're saying is not very substantive. It could not be substantive and inspire such emotion and such urgency from so many quarters.

People love Obama because he is an empty vessel of hope and change into which they pour all of their hopes and desires for "change" whatever that might mean to them. He is a flashy vehicle who appears to have the power with which their desires can seem to gain importance and, even, nobility. Voting for a black man like Obama makes engages their more ordinary and pedestrian interests in a pursuit of Justice. Steele's emphasis is more on race and on his position as a "bargainer" (like Oprah) who lets white voters feel good about liking a black man while at the same time not confronting them with his blackness. But that description of "bargainer" applies to more than his race, I think. Obama does not confront voters with anything about which there can be much disagreement or unpleasantness. The bargain is that he will let you touch his cloak and perhaps, if you believe it strong enough and work for him hard enough, you may be healed.

Sometimes, watching his campaign is almost like watching something that is a parody of itself. Last night as I caught the news, I watched the crowd from the Kennedy endorsement announcement. Some of the women--and not all YOUNG women--were jumping up and down, waving signs, and screaming with tears streaming down their faces. It was like an especially over-the-top episode of the Oprah show. Now, I can tear up when reading a moving Lincoln speech and, sometimes, even sections of a Reagan speech can cause me to choke up. I've seen rowdy crowds at Republican rallies--and we have our share of eccentric ladies. But it's hard to imagine grown women acting like Elvis fans (without the assistance of alcohol) at any Republican speech from any time whatever. Maybe that's because it's just hard to imagine Republicans pouring so much of their hopes and dreams into the fortunes of any particular candidate for anything. A good Republican orator can inspire us to thought and action . . . but the object of Obama's oratory seems to be to get people to abandon their own thoughts and to direct their actions on his behalf.

Obama wants you to want him and, in so doing, he makes his admirers want to want him too. Together--and consistent with Democrat Party political theory--they're all one great, big, giant ball of want! At some point, however, people will start to get more specific about what it is, exactly, that they want. At that point, it's very likely that they may find what they want is not what Obama really wants. The question is whether that realization will come before November. How long can Obama fan the flames of this desire? My guess is that he can do it for a pretty long time and that--unfortunately--Democrat politics and drama will continue to be more interesting than what's going on with the Republicans.

Guess it's just cranky old me on a growl again, but does anyone see any major dropoff from Clinton's comfortable poll-number leads in any major state? I understand that the whole NYT op-ed page lineup is humming the score of "Shamelot," um, I mean "Camelot," but who goes into a polling booth with the latest clipping of Gail Collins in hand? As far as I can tell, Obama is going nowhere, although I concede he's going very fast and stirring up a lot of dust.

I found this funny:

“With Barack Obama, we will turn the page on the old politics of misrepresentation and distortion,” Senator Kennedy declared.

Tell that to Robert Bork, Teddy!

M. Shawn Anderson - Yes, that's pretty funny, I agree.

On Shelby Steele: I admire his writing, but the short versions I've seen of what he's said about Obama are off-putting to me. Criticize the proposals, the rhetoric, the resume. But this seems to me a distasteful way to say bad things about Obama in a manner that admits of no rebuttal, least of all from us white folks. This is asymmetrical: you can accept it -- taking Steele's word for it, which may reinforce your own doubts on other grounds -- but how can anyone, including Obama, refute it? Or maybe this a discussion that belongs in the black community, but that's not Steele's purpose. His is a partisan purpose, with another wrapping.

I don't care for either Barack or Hillary, but Ted's endorsement of the former recalls to my mind the Chippaquidick incident, and a history of general disloyalty to his women friends.

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