Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

If You Really Want to Know

...why attacks on Obama’s character, associations, and actual political opinions don’t work, consider that plenty of voters just don’t care. They know that they probably won’t even like him as president, but they’re so negative or angry that anything MIGHT be better...

Discussions - 8 Comments

I think there is another factor at play here. Attempting to paint Obama as risky confronts the problem that people are generally less risk averse when it comes to expected losses. Given the current economic environment, people are anxious about their current livelihoods. They're probably more willing to take chances to avoid those losses. So the economic climate makes people more impervious to the "riskiness" argument than they would otherwise be.

Probably an even more important factor is that what tests well at the lunch table at National Review or in Sean Hannity's dressing room just sounds weird to the uninitiated, particularly when the case isn't that solid. Of course if you listen to Hannity or "el Rushbo" or read Stanley Kurtz every day, you're hip to the message. But it's a subculture, talking primarily to itself, without much check from the outside world.

Or dumb, if you read that piece. Some fine American specimens there! To my mind, there is one and only one reason to vote for Obama if you're a genuine conservative. That's the reasoning that the Dems will be so bad when given unadulterated power, that conservatives will surely return to power in Congress by 2010, Presidency by 2012. McCain simply confuses things and thus will prolong Republican agony.

The punishment rationale for voting Obama, however, seems fairly illogical once you really think about it. Intuitively, it makes sense, unlike those voters who talk in the piece. But Bush has been punished. The GOP Congress has been punished. Perhaps it needs to be punished more--fine, vote against your Republican rep or Senator if they're mediocre or worse, but don't contribute to a situation in which there is no check on the Dems. Are you really punishing profligate or complacent Repub leaders, whether generally or in the specifically Congressional sense, by voting against McCain? I don't see it. Again, while the punishment rationale has an intuitive appeal initially, I think its pretty lame reasoning.

The first rationale for voting Obama or sitting out, the "give the U.S. the pure Demo treatment," so that they recall how much less of a lesser evil the Repubs are, is one I take much more seriously. One problem with it, however, is that it may seriously misunderestimate Obama's ability to lead (even discipline) his party. The man has demonstrated a Rove-like sense for where the center is and how to position oneself in the rhetorical center even one quite remains liberal policy-wise. The man might just school his party a bit in terms of how to speak to America, and which American buttons not push. Yeah, major character issues there, but they may be in the past--Wright and Ayers and Rezko were used by Obama when he needed them, now, he's his own man. Yeah, the man will begin to annoy Americans with his monotonous smoothness and superiority. Yeah, inexperience will cause problems. Yeah, not a few of the thousands of appointments he make will turn out to be rotten to the core, ethically and/or ideologically. Yeah, the race issue will remain alive in problematic ways for him--see Shelby Steele.

But guess what? He has demonstrated an ability to glide over a number of problems. If he can demonstrate early on to leaders in the Dems, in the unions, and in various minority-pressure groups that he's not going to be pushed around, that he's not going to go along with a predicatble Dem agenda, he will rapidly be in a position of strength. The economy will give him a plausible reason, as Perot did for Clinton, to resist some of the more egregious big-gov instincts of the Dems, if he so chooses. The problem with his health care plan is a long term one, (it inexorably will push more and more of us into the govt. plan) and so he is in a good position there.

Of course, none of this matters. My vote in Virginia might help the Repubs win this state, and thus diminsh the embarrassment and disaster, but the overall game was over the day the depth of the economic crisis was admitted.

And an emotional part of me is a little relieved that we won't be listening to four years of McCain. he hasn't been bad in the debates, but man, he sure sounds stale. He sure sounds of an era that has passed. Obama's ideas are stale, but he doesn't make them sound that way, and he half-convinces me that he's beyond the tired war of the baby-boomers that McCain and Clinton represent. Not that Gen-Xers and the aughters will be all that much better. But one does get tired of certain things.

I'm emotionally preparing myself for the age of Obamanus, you see...

BTW, this new comment system of NLT is going to cause the long-winded commenters like myself to stop contributing...I've lost several comments and have had to repost them...it ain't worth it. There is some technical glitch.

Final point: low blow Brett to class Stanley Kurtz w/ Sean Hannity. Hannity is what he is, and I have some small measure of respect for it and couldn't pull it off myself, but Stanley Kurtz is a serious thinker and investigative journalist. It's not his fault that 95% all the other reporters in the world decided not investigate Obama's background and thus left some ugly stuff for him to uncover.

That was tragically more of what I have been seeing all day. The classic remark came this morning. "Obama just communicates so much better. I have no idea what he is saying, but it sounds better!" When the "enlightened" voter has shut down, is there any hope for an enlightened statesman at the helm? McCain just doesn't seem to know how to seize the day. The NLT bloggers get it, Joe the Plummer gets it. Why can't Mac get it clearly enough to express it with some passion and clarity?

I agree with just about everything Carl said--but especially about getting rid of the new, needlessly complicated comment system.

Carl,

Don't forget the honesty factor. The GOP has confirmed itself to be the party of rhetoric (campaign one way, govern another) to a depth the Dem's have not. The Dem's campaign as liberals, and govern as liberals. As a traditional conservative, I go for the honest liberal over the dishonest fill-in-the-blank each and every time.

Also McCain, besides not being anything close to a conservative, is a "maverick". Is not a "maverick" someone who can not be trusted? Who knows what the man will do next (arrogantly and defiantly so). McCain would make Bush's choice of Myers look prudent, and would never admit the mistake. In this sense, Obama looks wiser, in that the man has a sense of his own limits.

Besides, it's not about "punishment". Such reasoning assumes the "anything is better than the Dem's" and the two party system. I think we are at a point in history where party affiliation just ain't what it used to be. More and more people do not vote for a negative reason (as in, the lesser of two evils). If there is not good reason to go with a certain canadite, then they will gladly "throw their vote away".

In any case, as a traditional conservative, I will not be voting for McCain. In my state, New Mexico, it is looking more and more like Obama has it wrapped up. IF it proves to be close however, I might have to set aside my distaste for Obama's whole hearted support for the holocaust of the unborn and vote for Obama. You see, I have a reason to vote for Obama (he is who he says he is) and several reasons not to vote for McCain (even though he has an "R" by his name - wait, BECAUSE he has an "R" next to his name :)

I think that the salience of the noneconomic issues (Ayers, Rev Wright, ACORN the Born Alive Act) is being misunderstood. Some conservatives seem to think that they are silver bullets (if only the people UNDERSTOOD how radical Obama really is. Other conservatives think they are of little value.

I suggest that those issues are only conditionally valuable for McCain. Most persuadable voter are stunned at the financial crisis and scared about their financial future. Before they they hear anything else, they want to know that the candidate understands the problem and has a solid policy to deal with it. The policy itself doesn't have to be good economics per se. The situation is such that most voters (including me) don't really know what good economics is. Its more impressionistic. Obama looks in command of himself and the facts (regardless whether the facts are true or not). McCain looks clueless and flustered.

Until McCain gains the confidence of the public on the economy, he can't score on those other issues with persuadable voters. Those voters don't hear McCain talking about Ayers or ACORN, they hear McCain trying to change the subject. Think of it as scoring system. Its not like voters think that winning on the economy is worth ten points and scoring on Ayers is worth one point. Until McCain presents himself as being at least as good as Obama on the economy, those other issues are worth zero points.

McCain was always (barring a sudden all consuming foriegn crisis) going to have to fight Obama to at least a draw on the economy. If the public was equally satisfied (or unsatisfied) with Obama and McCain on the economy, the issues of Obama's associations and his abortion radicalism might well be pushing many persuadable voters away from Obama. The problem is that Obama is killing McCain on the economy. Obama is even coming across as the REAL tax cutter. And the economy isn't just the most important issue, losing on the economy blunts McCain's advantages on all the other domestic issues.

WOW... I certainly do not agree with you on this one Dr. lawler that the problem is the anger of the voters because whose angrier than Mccain? nor Carl Scott's assertion that the voters are "dumb". If that were the case they would vote for Palin. No I'm sorry... but it is much simpler than that. They are afraid, and Obama knows that better than anyone I've seen recently. Obama as Brook's noted in his visit to Berry College is very personable, he understands people ... he understands they are afraid, perhaps more afraid than ever ... and what is the best way to deal with people who are afraid? Exactly what the very intelligent/prudential Obama did in the debate, he acted cool, collected and under control. he showed that people don't have to be afraid under his watch. Mccain on the other hand has not demonstrated that at all, and the "tough" (negative) campaigning the Obama campaign has been doing points exactly to that (not directly but implicitly). Mccain showed sadness and anger when he claimed Obama has run the dirtiest campaign in history, he was genuinely hurt by the fact that the Obama campaign implicitly claims you cannot trust Mccain (who is quite trustworthy - see POW story).
The fact of the matter is gentlemen that Obama is a whole lot more perceptive and intelligent then you are willing to give him credit for. He will if he wins this election have the opportunity to steer this country in any direction he sees fit, for he is entering an office whose power has grown exponentially under the imperial presidency of Bush (Cheney), and we are entering a time of great crisis. What he chooses to do with that power is an excellent preponderance... personally I think he knows exactly what he wants to do, and the fact that he has not told us, and instead uses very eloquent speech making (sophism not philosophy as Socrates would note) to get him this far worries me... Does that mean I should not vote for him?

Carl, one dissent. I don't think that Obama has an instinct for the center. I think he is good at making his liberalism seem tame, without really moving to the center. People tend to think of ideological politicans as wild, so they tend to see very calm personable people as unideological. That one reason the ideological (but pragmatic) Reagan did so well. I suggest that the best reason to oppose Obama is that he will 1)govern as a radical 2)be able to pass his agenda through a Democratic Congress and 3) the damage (in the form of new or transformed institutions) will be largely unfixable by future conservative election victories. If we want the fastest path to a reinvigorated Republican party, then a McCain defeat might (or might not) be the ticket. But if conservatives win a future election in a courty that is transformed, it might prove hollow. So maybe the best realistic scenario for conservatives is that McCain wins now and the Democrats win with a moderate (like Evan Bayh or somebody) in 2012. It might put off the day when a "real" conservative gets to be President, but there are other considerations at play too.

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