There has been, rather unfortunately, a convergence of the national polls. Six of the seven that reported tody have Obama ahead between 7 and 9.
Here’s some news that could be worse but isn’t good: Gallup tells us that the early voting has mirrored very closely the national polls. That means Obama isn’t doing as well as some feared. But it also means he already has a 7 to 9 lead, and those who’ve voted can’t change their minds.
And especially against Barney Frank. Can McCain stay on this message, with the relevant commercials etc., for the next week? To make it more authentic, he should add praise for his own record of bipartisanship, which is very, very real. There’s some reason to hope that harmmering this one point home will make a difference. It puts the attention on the economy and shows that, even if Obama is a smooth, smart guy, the all-Democratic government isn’t going to be marked by wisdom and moderation.
I note that we complained about the McCain campaign's unimpressive ground game. It certainly pales in comparison both with the GOTV efforts of the 2004 Bush campaign and the exceedingly well-organized and well-funded 2008 Obama effort. But I'll also note that my drive through the Ashbrook part of Ohio (on my way to the Turnpike and ultimately to my alma mater, Michigan State University) displayed plenty of physical evidence of a McCain presence. Indeed, there are surely more yard signs for both campaigns this time than there were in 2004.
Two days in small-town western New York remind us who live in big Eastern cities about why we fight, and the footsoldiers who carry on that fight. Despite being New Yorkers, doomed to defeat in the State, they worked enthusiastically on the McCain campaign. I dined with Joe the small businessman (and County Republican chairman), Joe the local radio talk show host, Joe the successful alumnus, and Joe the professor (and local politico). They (and their Joans) are sober, sensible, and active citizens--and all appalled at Obama. Many of their Democratic neighbors seem to be, too, they tell me. There are thousands upon thousands more of their fellow Americans in small towns further south, in Pennsylvania; in West Virginia and Virginia; and west through Ohio (sounds like Ashland, doesn’t it?) and Indiana.
Should McCain win, the victory is theirs, these American Joes, these happy few, this band of brothers.
Whether in victory or defeat, let’s not forget these Americans of the heartland.
1. I really, really enjoyed the Ashbrook discussion last night. The crowd was large and appreciative, and the hospitality was unsurpassed.
;2. I sort of agree with Julie that we didn’t get the audience much hope that McCain could win. It’s not inconceivable that he could. So I’m tempted to give him some unsolicited advice, But I’m starting to notice that Mac just doesn’t deal well with advice that doesn’t seem to him authentic. Let him give it his best shot in the way he thinks best. You can count on him to fight to the end.
3. Alright, some advice: The one huge flaw in your campaign that’s not a matter of controversy is the lack of organization. David Broder today writes about his visit to some rural county in OH: The Republicans were giving out yard signs. The Democrats, of course, we’re doing lots more. Some kind of ferocious call for an all-volunteer army to get out the non-early voters might really help. Right now, the danger is there that the organization gap will produce a result even worse than the one polls show. (OK--one more piece: Lay off Obama, trumpet your own virtues and the irreversible damage that can come if the Democrats control everything.)
4. It’s certainly untoward to be speculating at this point about whether or not Sarah Palin becomes a national force if McCain loses. We still should be talking up her (real!) virtues in an incredibly hostile, even venomous environment. But here’s one reason she’s been mismanaged by her own party’s strategists: McCain, apparently, didn’t really wanted her. He wanted Joe Lieberman. And so the Sarah pick looks inauthentic to lots of voters, and maybe to Mac himself. The standard of authenticity for Mac is unreasonably high: We expect him to choose purely and honorably, even at the expense of success. He’s the one who put that standard on himself. Especially with the economic crisis and all that, Lieberman would certainly not have been the ticket to victory. Right now: Sarah keeps McCain from falling lower than he has, but she’s also an impediment to him to getting to a majority. And that’s because the Republicans have let the MSM and the Democrats own the development of her narrative.
5. The worst pieces of news today for McCain: The stock market is tanking AGAIN. And there’s one poll that has Obama up one in Georgia (one of many, but still...). Obama could easily carry Georgia, in my opinion.
So today finds me near Charlotte, North Carolina at Belmont Abbey College for this conference on "the future of conservatism." I have no idea what the future is at the moment given the bleak electoral outlook, but it’s okay; thanks to Schramm, I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night, so I’m sure I’ll be able to figure it out.
Our Sarah’s problems came up prominently in discussion at the NLT Bloggers Confab last night, and opinion was split about whether she has fatal limitations and has taken too many hits below the waterline, and whether she was badly served and prepped by the McCain campaign (unanimous agreement on this point). My view is that she is very talented and capable, but would never have been able to break into national politics on her own owing to the peculiar isolation of Alaska.
Now that she is here, what next? Assuming McCain-Palin lose (no--I haven’t given up hope yet, but stay with me here), will she be a contender in 2012? Much as I like Douthat, he’s too young to remember that there is nothing being said about Palin now that wasn’t said about Reagan in the 1960s and up until he won in 1980. And Reagan made several blunders at the beginning of his official public career and even after becoming governor that might have been more damaging had they occurred on the national stage instead of just in California. Palin is playing for big stakes, and everything will depend on what strategy she adopts after returning home to Alaska. I actually think her path is harder if she ends as Vice President two weeks from now. She needs to step up her game, to be sure, but I don’t think she needs a wholesale makeover.
If I may offer myself and my fellow bloggers a gentle criticism, I would say that while an honest assessment of the negatives in front of us is important--it isn't important only for the sake of brutal academic honesty. Such brutal honesty is fine as far as it goes and we'd all rather be right than wrong in seeing the outlines of the political field before us. But once a brutal political fact is asserted, it is also important that we not seem to permit marinating in it or appear to be satisfied merely with nailing the diagnosis. We ought, also, to point to a prescription. Political problems require political answers and an important first step in getting to one, of course, is a more complete understanding of the nature of the problem. But we should also remember that we are talking about political consequences that will have a real impact on the lives and futures of our friends and fellow citizens (to say nothing of ourselves). Given that reality, there is also something to be said on the side of duty; duty to look beyond the problems and toward solutions.
After last night, I am more convinced than ever that the conservative political problem is at once rhetorical and intellectual in that it has failed to connect with the people in such a way as to lift them up to understand as well as love their country. The post-60s Liberal problem might be said to be a reverse of the conservative one in that it offers an understanding of America (that it is an incorrect understanding is beside the point) but it has failed--at least until, perhaps (oddly) this year, to give convincing evidence of love for country. I recognize that this is an odd thing to say, in a way. In a year when the Democrat candidate appears to have connections to questionable people who have expressed more than one variety of deep-seated contempt for America, Conservatives ought to have been able to make a convincing case that Obama did not, in fact, love his country. But this assumption misses the fact that Obama and Conservatives are talking about two completely different things when they talk of love for country. Conservatives made a mistake in thinking that it would be sufficient (to say nothing of possible) to tie Obama to the contempt of Wright, Ayers, and even Michelle.
Obama claimed not to share the sentiments of his more hate-filled associates even as he embraced them as something of a piece with the American experience; a piece of the fabric of our lives. He tells us that he loves America because he is capable of loving all things and, especially, of loving those things that he thinks can be "changed" or made to serve something called progress or--even less dogmatically--"the future." His love letter to America may, in fact, be a love letter to himself. But it should also be remembered that Obama, in embracing Wright at the same time that he distanced himself from Wright, gave every other American permission to write themselves a similarly self-indulgent love letter if only they agreed to come along and be a part of this important moment in our history.
With Obama, you are entitled to your weaknesses and to your cynical narrow interests--especially if you can put them to work for the purposes he believes will move us forward. The only thing you are not permitted to do or to be is someone who is retrograde or reactionary in Obama's view. If your own particular brand of weird opinions do not permit you to move forward with the rest of the country shouting "Yes We Can!" from on high, then you must be defeated. And Obama will not blink as he sets about defeating you. If Conservatives and Republicans fail in this election--as appears now to be the trajectory of events despite some cheering poll numbers--I believe it will be because in recent years (when, by the way, we had ample opportunity to do otherwise) we have failed. We have failed not to prove that we love our country but, rather, to give a satisfactory and compelling explanation of why we love our country.
For good or ill, it now seems clear to me that Barack Obama understands himself to be offering both an understanding of and a reason to love America. Remember that he described his "A More Perfect Union Speech"--where he addressed the question of the Reverend Wright--to be a "teaching moment." From Obama's point of view and if you share Obama's views, this was exactly the right way to understand the situation. He rightly saw the danger and, instead of seeking to mitigate it, he embraced it as he embraces all things. He made it his opportunity.
It is not sufficient to argue that his brand of "love" for America amounts to a condemnation of America as we ought to understand it. This assumes too much. People are looking for a way to understand their country and no politician today can assume that he's working from a pre-existing or deeply held understanding that is healthy at the start. Our educational system has made sure of that. So there is no way for a politician today--particularly an American politician--to speak in short hand about his love of country and putting his "country first" and expect that people will understand him as he understands himself. He is obliged to teach.
It is true that this simpler and older expression of love for America still has some massive appeal (it's not for nothing that Sarah Palin drew crowds of 60,000 + and inspired a two-week surge in the polls for McCain) but good as that was, it required a follow up--an explanation or an understanding of itself that could have been shared with the American people and would have translated itself into confidence in our ticket. People need to know that a candidate thinks he knows what he is doing and why he is doing it. They need to know that a candidate has confidence in his understanding of his purpose. This is why people think Obama is cool. He has that confidence. I think he is wrong to have that confidence because he is wrong in his understanding of America--to say nothing of the character of Americans. Unfortunately, the argument about why he is wrong has not materialized in any public way that was sufficient to our purpose. It may be--though I cannot say for certain--that this has to do with a lack of understanding about that purpose at the top of the ticket.
Having said that, however, I understand that the odds against McCain and Palin (and we don't really need to review those) were stacked heavily against them. Their instincts in responding to the onslaught from Obama and those seduced by him in the media were not entirely wrong and we should be grateful to them for the few high points in the campaign that pointed to hopeful signs on our side (including some healthy fundamentals) and, at the same time, speak volumes about the problem. That there was so much energy stirred by a young, attractive, and conservative governor from America's Western Frontier who exuded a kind of manful (yes, I understand and appreciate the irony in that term) independence is a massive fact that ought not to be forgotten as we move forward. And that a humble guy in Ohio named Joe could come closer than any politician in this election yet has done to causing Barack Obama to lose his "cool" and inspiring the hearts of the American people is also not an insignificant fact. Starting here, we might begin to build a more resonating case for ourselves as we look ahead both to the Congressional races in 2010 and, of course, for a more serious challenge in 2012.
This post by Ross Douthat is worth thinking about. Douthat argues: "that Sarah Palin might well be a formidable contender for the GOP nomination in 2012 even if she’s massively unpopular with the sixty-five percent of America that doesn’t vote in Republican primaries."
Douthat’s point is congruent with something that I have heard several times of late. I keep running into people who claim that they gave very serious thought to Senator McCain until he tapped Governor Palin as his VP pick. Admittedly, this is not a scientiffic sample, but I suspect it reflects a trend. As I have said before I think Palin is rather more moderate than many people think. But that’s not how she is perceived.
Douthat notes the problem: "Given the way she’s presented herself on the campaign trail and/or been used by the McCain campaign, and given the media narrative surrounding her candidacy at the moment, for Palin to be elected President of the United States would require an image makeover even more substantial than the one Hillary Clinton underwent between the late 1990s and this year."
Deborah O’Malley considers Joe Biden’s views on the Court, not to the Senator’s advantage.
So I’ll be at Ashland/Ashbrook tomorrow with the other bloggers. I promise not to be too defeatist and not say too much along pre-mortem postmortem lines. I’m actually bigger than ever that people show grow up, show up, stop whining (and there’s plenty whine about), and vote. But I also think, as Steve H sort of admitted below, that the polls that now show a wide margin are more realistic. So the Republicans had a rather miraculous victory in the 2000 recount and miraculously defied the exit polls with massive turnouts in key parts of FL and OH in 2004. Three miracles in a row might be a bit much even to pray for. But I’m not against it.
On Monday, I will talk at NOON at the Naval War College and at 4pm at Salve Regina College. Both, of course, are in Newport, RI. My topic is MODERN LIBERALISM AND THE FUTURE OF NATIONS.
Just when you think it’s over. . .
I have to prognosticate tomorrow night at the NLT Gala Bloggers Confab, and this morning brought news from the Wall Street Journal and Zogby-Reuters that Obama has jumped out to a double-digit lead. It feels that way to me: that 100,000 person rally Obama had in St. Louis the other day was remarkable. I’m pressed to recall a campaign rally that big before.
But then this afternoon AP has the race dead even. It is hard to tell from the text of the story why this poll is so different from the others, except for the little detail that they randomly called cell phone numbers. I do know that the increasing use of cell phones is a huge methodological problem for pollsters who are used to landline-only calling. But you’d think cell phone users would tilt toward Obama, wouldn’t you? In any case, the story doesn’t give us enough to go on. But these two polls can’t both be within a correct margin of error.
Jonah Goldberg writes today about a simmering kind of disgust that is percolating among McCain supporters. Their disgust is not for McCain who, finally via Joe Wurzelbacher, seems to have found a way to connect with their deepest political instincts and understanding. Their disgust is with the legion of reporters and the Army of Democrats who just don’t seem to "get" what moves them. These folks are now showing up at McCain and Palin rallies, carrying signs that say things like "Phil the Bricklayer," "Rose the Teacher." The media breathlessly report that Joe--and, by implication, Phil and Rose--are not in danger of having to pay higher taxes because they are nowhere near the magic number of $250K. In doing this, they betray a bit of cynical exasperation. They are also saying that they don’t believe Joe or Phil or Rose are really capable of reaching for those levels. As Jonah puts it, "They think [Joe is] stupid or a liar for not understanding that a promised check from a President Obama is more valuable than some pipe dream about future success."
Jonah calls this a rebirth of a kind of "optimistic, individualistic vision of America" that he notes has been sorely lacking in McCain’s campaign and I’d add has been sorely lacking in the majority of Republicans for the last several years.
As always, Jonah elaborates the point with grace and wit. But I have to say that a fellow named Tito Munoz (discussed in this article) may have put it even better: "Joe the Plumber has an idea. He has a future. He wants to be something else. Why is that wrong? Everything is possible in America. I made it. Joe the Plumber could make it even better than me. ... I was born in Colombia, but I was made in the U.S.A."
For years, at least since Michael Dukakis ran for President, Democrats have been complaining that Republicans are questioning their patriotism. For the most part, this is simply clever demagoguery. Questioning someone’s patriotism does not sit well with voters, and hence it is useful to play the victim card.
But all this does raise a question: is there something to the charges? As I understand liberalism, it does not believe in patriotism. The reason why liberals always wish to build international institutions like the UN and th World Court, and the reason why liberal lawyers believe in applying internationally popular laws to America is because liberalism is an ideology that wishes to transcend the nation-state. Liberals wish to create a world in which patriotism is not necessary. In that sense, liberals don’t believe in partiotism. To the degree that they love America, it is because they see America as a vehicle for furthering that vision.
Conservatives, by contrast, believe that we are, of necessity, stuck with a world of particular nations and balance of power. Hence patriotism can be a good. We believe that our nation is particularly good, and hence particularly deserving of love. I suspect this is what they mean when they suggest that conservatives are mean-spirited and divisive. They are blaming the messenger. Human nature ain’t what liberals think it is. The hatred we have seen in the Left, since it was invented during the French Revolution, is the result of reality clashing with their hopes for universal peace, harmony, and brotherhood. It is what happens when a vision of the future crosses the fine line between idealism and misanthropy.
"What happens when the voter in the exact middle of the earnings spectrum receives more in benefits from Washington than he pays in taxes?" Adam Lerick asks in today’s Wall Street Journal?
In 2006, the latest year for which we have Census data, 220 million Americans were eligible to vote and 89 million -- 40% -- paid no income taxes. According to the Tax Policy Center (a joint venture of the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute), this will jump to 49% when Mr. Obama’s cash credits remove 18 million more voters from the tax rolls. What’s more, there are an additional 24 million taxpayers (11% of the electorate) who will pay a minimal amount of income taxes -- less than 5% of their income and less than $1,000 annually.
In all, three out of every five voters will pay little or nothing in income taxes under Mr. Obama’s plans and gain when taxes rise on the 40% that already pays 95% of income tax revenues.
Charlie Cook, a most capable and balanced analyst, explains why it might be reasonable to think it is. Obama has all the advantages when it comes to organization, enthusiasm, money, and early voting. Any "Bradley effect" (and they’ll probably be very little) will be negated by the huge African-American turnout. The focus won’t shift from the economy prior to the election. Today’s polls are slightly worse for McCain than yesterday, and Obama’s is still viewed every favorably. Surges require more troops and a new strategy, and McCain doesn’t have either. I’m not SURE about the bottom line here, but Charlie makes it tough to ignore so much evidence.
So as not to seem too defeatist, let me add some Zogby data showing McCain remaining competitive and even gaining ground in the key battlground states, despite slide a bit nationwide. We still have to wonder whether McCain has the resources to close the deal in these states.
UPDATE: Zogby, sadly enough, shows rapid movement to Obama over the last 48 hours.
Our prayers are with Barack Obama as he visits his ailing grandmother, a woman who, with his late grandfather, raised him in Hawaii for several years. His affectionate portrayal of “Toot,” with all her many virtues graces the pages of Dreams from My Father. She came to public attention in his famous speech on race, in which he renounced the Reverend Wright for his belief that America could not change its racism. He could not disown him any more than he could disown his own grandmother, “who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street” and who indulged in racial and ethnic stereotypes “that made me cringe.” (The episode is more complex than Obama lets on his speech, as his autobiography makes clear, pp. 87-89).
Obama will doubtless shed tears as his grandmother fails. In Dreams from My Father he weeps at length twice—first, when he is moved by a sermon by the Reverend Wright, “The Audacity of Hope.” He does not weep because he has come to accept God and all his power and mercy (a point I misunderstood in my earlier post) but because he sees the power of God over others’ lives—a power he does not yet accept. He weeps because he is outside the community the Reverend Wright is calling into being in his stirring cadences. (In his later book, The Audacity of Hope, he will note that he was baptized—why doesn’t he mention this in the earlier book? This is a rare revisiting of his earlier book in the later.) The other time he weeps is when he visits the graves of his father and grandfather, in Kenya. Earlier he had declared to his Kenyan relatives, in jest, “I am Luo.” Obama sees himself as fulfilling their dreams, moving beyond the modernity that opened up their lives, while it threatened their control over life:
“For a long time I sat between the two graves and wept. When my tears were finally spent, I felt a calmness wash over me. I felt the circle finally close. I realized that who I was, what I cared about was not longer just a matter of intellect or obligation, no longer a construct of words. I saw that my life in America—the black life, the white life, the sense of abandonment I’d felt as a boy, the frustration and hope I’d witnessed in Chicago—all of it was connected with this small plot of earth an ocean away, connected by more than the accident of a name or the color of my skin. The pain I felt was my father’s pain. My questions were my brothers’ questions. Their struggle, my birthright.” [429-430]
At book’s end, with his brother at Obama’s wedding, he follows the tribal custom of dribbling drinks on the floor, and toasts to “a happy ending.” “And for that moment, at least, I felt like the luckiest man alive.”
The world and Obama, Obama and the world. Who is Obama? How does he understand being an American? How does he understand being human?
What he writes about faith is central to understanding who he is. Thus, we cringe when we read in Audacity of Hope about the “the books of Timothy and Luke” and are reminded of Howard Dean’s claim that Job was his favorite New Testament reading (102, from the 2008 Vintage edition; add about 40 pages to get the correct citation in the first, 2006 edition). The focus on faith went beyond his anthropologist mother’s influence. She had gotten him interested in political philosophy (244), which he tried to apply in his community organizer work. His mother enabled him to float above cultures, but he willed himself to be rooted in the black community.
It was the Reverend Wright who changed his life, by making him part of the black church and giving him roots. Obama’s earlier book noted the political importance of being a church member ”to spur social change.” And he discovered that he could retain his modern skepticism and embrace this church that called sinners. “It was because of these newfound understandings—that religious commitment did not require me to suspend critical thinking, disengage from the battle for economic and social justice, or otherwise retreat from the world that I knew and loved—that I was finally able to walk down the aisle of Trinity United Church of Christ one day and be baptized” (Audacity, 246). This is social gospel Christianity. His later conversion account is prosaic, compared with his earlier, tearful encounter as one who held back. One is led to wonder whether the same man wrote both books. The key here is that when he wrote as a politician, he was a changed man.
But not completely different. We are reminded in all this of chapter 18 of Machiavelli’s Prince, “In What Mode Faith Should Be Kept by Princes.” A careful reading of this brief, rich chapter praising malleability or change helps illuminate Obama’s political character. Princes must keep up appearances but must always be in charge of the way they appear.
Critics have derided Obama as “the messiah,” ridiculed the Greek columns at his acceptance speech, and lampooned his “presidential” seal, with a Latin (!) motto expressing a rather un-classical view. But the criticism goes much deeper. The flaw of Marxism (and its competitor social gospel Christianity) on this point is making man into a God. Theoretically, there should be no place for tragedy, no place for tears. Toot’s decline restores Obama’s humanity, for the moment. As we pray for him and his family, we should pray for all the candidates and for the United States of America as well.
David Brooks argues that "Patio Man," the quintessential American suburban voter, wants stability, which the Democrats are promising (except when Joe Biden speaks about the crisis that’s going to test Barack Obama’s mettle). But if what they deliver answers the pent-up demands of the party’s left wing, watch out.
[T]he shift in public opinion is not from right to left, or from anti-government to pro-government, it’s from risk to caution, from disorder to consolidation.
There is a deep current of bourgeois culture running through American suburbia. It is not right wing, but it is conservative: a distrust of those far away; a belief in convention and respectability; and a strong reaction against anything that threatens to undermine the stability of the established order.
Democrats have done well in suburbia recently because they have run the kind of candidates who seem like the safer choice — socially moderate, pragmatic and fiscally hawkish. They, or any party, will run astray if they threaten the mood of chastened sobriety that has swept over the subdivisions.
Patio Man doesn’t appear to care much about social issues, according to Brooks. Judging from my neighbors, he’s probably right. But that’s because he and they wrongly think that you can have economic and social stability without a strong moral foundation. I don’t blame proponents of abortion rights and same-sex marriage for the fix we’re in. Their attitudes are symptomatic, not foundational. The foundational attitude is the self-indulgence in which we all share, a self-indulgence that is articulated every day on the radio by Rush Limbaugh and that is practiced by Patio Men, Women, and Children, but not so much by their parents and grandparents.
But it may be too late for Cato the Censor or his "Abrahamic" counterpart.
That’s powerpoint "teaching" for you, according to our Ivan the K.
While you’re over there at CULTURE11, go to the POSTMODERN CONSERVATIVE blog, where Ralph Hancock is leading a deep discussion about Plato, Strauss, postmodernism rightly understood, the dignity of ordinary life, and many other fascinating topics.
This FrankTV guy, whom I’ve never heard of before, offers this terrific YouTube send-up of Al Gore, complete with tin-foil hat. (About 2 minutes long.)
Peter Myers was here for a Colloquium on his book, Frederick Douglass: Race and the Rebirth of American Liberalism last Friday. About 40 minutes of remarks from him and then conversation with the Ashbrook Scholars. First class program (and book).
1. The national tracking polls are about the same or maybe a very slight McCain drop. I’d say he’s closer to 6 than 5 down.
2. But the new state polls from a variety of sources are discouraging. Obama seems to have large leads in VA, NC, and OH. Clearly McCain would need all three to win, and just as clearly Obma is better organized. And VA and NC will probably have a bit of the ol’ reverse-Bradley effect, as they did in the primaries.
3. Senate: Bad news--Dole seems to be falling further behind in NC. Good news--Coleman has pulled even with Franken in MN and McConnell’s lead in KY is narrow but real. My real fear here is that the dominant party tends to win all the close ones in a really decisive year.
Update: The OH polls are wildly inconsistent, but the very newest one, posted in the last hour by Rasmussen, has McCain up by 1. And the same pollster has McCain up by 2 in FL and only down 3 in NC.
So the one needful state that still looks really bad with consistency in VA. The actaul data aren’t as bad as what almost everyone, including me most of the time, expect.
This was the motto that Winston Churchill’s father encouraged him to remember even as he was--shall we say--slightly more aristocratic than the average Joe. He didn’t mean that the people are always going to be right, of course. They’re not. But the fact remains that they are more often right than are the self-anointed experts and the self-declared wise. Of course, this was fitting advice for a future Prime Minister who was half-American in fact and, maybe, more than that in sentiment.
But for Conservatives--to say nothing of so-called "Progressives"--there has always been some tension in accepting that rule of the people. The wise guys of both types like to think that they’d do better without the annoying necessity of seeking consent. Bill Kristol offers an excellent column today that begins to examine the fundamentals of American sovereignty. Is it wisdom or is it the people--with all their flaws--who rule? Here, Kristol concludes, the people rule. This means that there has always been a kind of populism alive in American politics. It’s not simply a Progressive invention--though, as with most things, they succeeded in using it for their own purposes and to different ends.
The use to which Progressives put populism gave it a bad name as a kind of pandering to the baser instincts in people at the expense of reflection about and refinement in choice. But Conservatives are too quick to mistake refinement in tastes with refinement in intellectual or political ability. There is more than one way to skin a cat and there is more than one way to basic political wisdom. Some can get it from reading Plato and Aristotle at an ivy league institution, and others may learn it from washing windows under Communists or by installing toilets in America under a regime of excessive taxation and regulation. Most often, the readers of Plato and Aristotle would do as well to listen to the wisdom of the window washer or toilet installer as those window washing and toilet installing folks would do well to listen to the readers of Plato and Aristotle.
Though our regime is set up to encourage trust in the people, it is also true that the American people have not simply spurned wisdom. We’ve tried to set up ways for it to guide us with our institutions and by declaring the foundational principles of those institutions before a candid world. We’ve had varying degrees of success in maintaining those institutions and principles but, in all, it’s still a darn fine country and we are still a darn fine people. We still produce gentlemen like Joe Wurzelbacher and we still produce fine scholars and thinkers.
It’s too early for post-mortems on the election and it’s certainly too early for post-mortems on the performance of the conservative media critics who have been struggling with this burgeoning acceptance of populism in Conservatism. Those critics are not wrong to caution prudence . . . but, in general, they need also to follow their own advice--separating out the visceral from the intellectual critique. When this election is (finally) over the most important conversation within Conservatism is going to be this one. Bill Kristol’s column today should be bookmarked as a good starting place for that conversation.
Imagine if Sarah Palin made a remark about McCain being old or hot-tempered. Ya think the media wouldn’t be all over it? How about this from slow-Joe Biden:
“Mark my words,” the Democratic vice presidential nominee warned at the second of his two Seattle fundraisers Sunday. “It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. The world is looking. We’re about to elect a brilliant 47-year-old senator president of the United States of America. Remember I said it standing here if you don’t remember anything else I said. Watch, we’re gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy.”
Biden added this little nugget, just for grins: "I’ve forgotten more about foreign policy than most of my colleagues know, so I’m not being falsely humble with you."
Since the "Bradley Effect" is back it the news this weekend, I refer everyone to my NLT post last February debunking the original incidence in California.
Don’t miss Mark Steyn’s column on Joe the Plumber, "now the most notorious plumber in American politics since the Watergate plumbers. And they weren’t licensed, either."
And don’t miss the line about Larry Craig in the Minneapolis Airport bathroom.
That’s the title I gave to my latest Culture11 piece. The editors gave it a different one, which is why they’re paid the big bucks. It’s all about Republicans, Democrats, faith, and reason. In about 1,000 words, no less.
One thing this campaign has demonstrated is that Senator Obama knows how to organize and run a campaign. From his realization that he could beat Senator Clinton by picking up delegates in smaller states and hanging close in larger states, to his fundraising talents, to his decision to invite 80,000 people to his acceptance speech at the Democratic convention--creting a huge number of people motivated to work for him, Obama has shown political talent.
Perhaps that’s part of what he learned as a Community Organizer. The job, however, seems to have a less pleasant side. Obama is a talented lawyer, and he knows how to use the law. He was able to game the system to keep others off the ballot when he first ran for office, for example. The link to which Steve points below notes that Senator Obama also seems to be inclined to keep those who disagree with him from being able to voice their opinion. Is the heckler’s veto, combined with litigation designed to make opposition more costly also something he learned as a community organizer?
Senator Obama wants to bring us all together in a world of peace, love, and brotherhood. Those who disagree with his vision are being divisive, and ought not be allowed to ruin things. I hope that’s not how he, and the people around him see things, but I fear that it might be.
He called it a three-letter word, probably because he’s been lectured about not using the four-letter kind. Where’s the outrage? What if Sarah had said this? Quayle’s POTATOE was genius by comparison.
The American born Samuel Franklin Cody, cowboy, sharp shooter, and generally interesting fellow, took a bunch of horses to England, fell in love, and stayed. About five years after the Wright brothers flew, he became the first in England to fly. "To commemorate Cody’s achievement, a replica of his fragile aircraft was unveiled in the presence of Lady Thatcher, the former prime minister, and other dignitaries." Good story, with a short video.
If Obama wins, and the Democrats indeed try to reinstate the broadcast "fairness doctrine" (better known as the "Hush Rush" rule), Unfair Doctrine.org will be a crucial blog to have bookmarked.
Here, along with contributions from other political scientists, including one from whom I took a class when I was an undergraduate. He surely doesn’t remember me.
According to RCP, he’s down an average of 4.9% in the polls. So jwc (with me agreeing, I admit), for example, was wrong to say he’d never crawl within 5 again. According to David Brooks, the country is stuck with a reactionary lurch to the left that will produce unsustainable (European-style) economic policies that will make our downturn worse and make America far less able to endure the demographic crisis just around the corner. And the same can be said about politically correct social/cultural policies alien to the ways most Americans live, including an unprecedented kind of judicial activism. That overreach, Brooks predicts, will cause a backlash. Well, maybe so, but it’ll be a reasonable backlash against decisions that will be almost impossible to reverse; when reasonable people are impotent, they get unreasonably angry. Every conservative has to admit that an unprecedented overreach will produce an unprecedented backlash, and it would be better, if possible, to moderate them both. If you like out-of-control culture war, vote Democratic across the board this time.
According to aesthetic or Crunch Con Rod Dreher, a big McCain and Republican defeat will be a just judgment on their sins and errors. I have to admit there are plenty of those, and the biggest of them was to be so corrupt, incompetent, and clueless as to allow the Democratic "negative landslide" of 2006 to occur. Truth to tell, if the Republicans controlled Congress, the Obama presidency wouldn’t seem that bad.
BUT, Brooks admits, any moderation in ambivalence in the smart and cool Barack himself will be overwhelmed by the ideological extremism of the most dogmatically liberal Congress ever.
SO it’s really, really important to vote for McCain to moderate the overreach. Just as it’s really, really important to vote Republican for Congress--especially for the Senate--to have some kind of check on the big-time reactionary excesses.
Lots of conservative purists are saying that McCain ain’t so conservative and doesn’t deserve our allegiance. Not only that, Sarah screwed up the interviews and hasn’t read enough books. Well, he is a piece of work and Sarah should have been better prepared. So what? All that posturing is just stupid and self-indulgent: The point of voting is to make life as good as it can be for Americans, espeically ordinary Americans who depend on government in many ways to enjoy peace, prosperity, and freedom.
As a social scientist, I think McCain only has a ghost of chance; I’m sticking with my August prediction that it’s about 10-20%. A complete collapse of his campaign is probably just as likely as a successful surge. But for now I’m moved by his favorite closing argument about nothing being inevitable and all that.