What I mean, instead, is that know-nothingism — the insistence that there are simple, brute-force, instant-gratification answers to every problem, and that there’s something effeminate and weak about anyone who suggests otherwise — has become the core of Republican policy and political strategy. The party’s de facto slogan has become: “Real men don’t think things through.”I really, really wish Obama would run more advertisements highlighting this side of his political presentation:
Saturday, August 9, 2008
It probably doesn't come across, but I'm actually very critical of my support for Barack Obama. In fact, the longer the time I spend as "a supporter" the more I find to criticize in his policies. On the other hand, I also keep finding stuff I really, really like about his general approach to politics that makes me much more confidant in his ability to make good decisions as President. In the final analysis, I probably agree with 50-75% of his policies, but what really makes me enthusiastic is stuff like this: pushing back against what Paul Krugman accurately labeled the "know-nothingism" of the current Republican party. From Krugman's recent NYT Op-Ed:
Sunday, August 3, 2008
I honestly wasn't convinced that the McCain campaign was trying to play the racial angle with the now infamous "juxtapose Barack Obama with two very white, female, and vapid celebrities" advertisement from last week, but after this latest web video I'm no longer sure. The web video entitled "Barack Obama Forgot Latin America" uses the premise that Obama's failure to mention a Latin American country in a list of countries during his speech in Berlin means...something? Here's the text, as printed on the McCain campaign website:
English Script For "Barack Obama Forgot Latin America" (WEB 1:00)I'll be the first to admit that I don't really understand racial dynamics in America. But I'm not sure how you can repeatedly use campaign materials that skirt the fringes of historical racial conflicts without knowing exactly what you're doing. If it's an isolated incident I can buy that pairing Obama (black man) with Paris Hilton (ditzy white woman) isn't so much about race as it is about directly insulting Obama's character and accomplishments. That isn't much better, of course, but it's allowable by the unwritten rules of national American politics in the present moment (I realize that at the state or local level things can get much uglier). You're generally allowed to say false and insulting things about your opponent's character, it's risky but done regularly, but generally not allowed to overtly exploit their race, ethnicity, parentage, etc.
CHYRON: The World According To Barack Obama
BARACK OBAMA: Tonight I speak to you not as a candidate for President, but as a citizen; a proud citizen of the United States and a fellow citizen of the world.
CHYRON: But Entire Nations Were Forgotten!
BARACK OBAMA: France, Berlin, Hamburg, Britain, Kandahar, London, Rwanda, Iran, Bangladesh...
CHYRON: Where Was Latin America Left?
BARACK OBAMA: Karachi, Beijing, the former Soviet Union, Pakistan, Paris, Bali, Russia, Chad, Zimbabwe...
CHYRON: And Latinos?
BARACK OBAMA: Afghanistan, Somalia, Darfur, Belfast, South Africa, Madrid, Europe, Burma, Amman...
CHYRON: Maybe He Forget About Us?
JOHN MCCAIN: I'm John McCain and I approve this message.
It's possible to make a similar argument about this web video, that it could be run about any candidate who didn't mention a Latin American country in a speech, whether they were white or black. You have to essentially argue that it's pretty low, divisive politics, and the McCain campaign really should be ashamed, but that it's not racist per se. However, I think it's pretty difficult for the McCain campaign to say "It never crossed our minds that there were racial tensions that might be exploited by implying that the black candidate doesn't have Latino interests at heart" right after saying "It never crossed our minds that there were racial tensions that might be exploited by juxtaposing a black man and two coquettish white women." I'm trying really hard not to let my bias in favor of Barack Obama color my perception of what the McCain campaign is doing here, and it's possible that I'm seeing racism because I really, really want Obama to win. On the other hand, even taking my self doubt into account, it's starting to look like the McCain campaign is using a strategy of deliberately skirting the edges of racial and ethnic tension.
At this point I think you have to describe their strategy as, pardon my crudeness, "shitstorm politics." They're losing badly on the issues, but they're not losing badly on the dynamic of "familiar, older white guy politician who has been on the news for years" versus "unfamiliar, younger black guy politician who is relatively new to the public eye." In fact, the McCain campaign's success at working this dynamic is keeping this race alive, and distressingly close. The only way McCain can win this thing, and he very well might, is to start slinging bullshit, and try to stick enough of it to Obama that McCain looks like the better of two mostly unacceptable options.
At this point I would like to acknowledge my incredible naivety in thinking that with McCain and Obama winning the respective nominations we would actually get a policy debate during this election. In 2004 the election was almost entirely about your affiliation or opposition to Bush, and there was still more substantive debate than we've gotten so far. Thanks, McCain campaign.
Friday, August 1, 2008
It's kind of getting me down that lately my politics basically involves disagreeing with everyone. Taking this extended break in Oregon has left me with a fair amount of time to read and consider. As per usual, that's had the effect of putting me at even greater distance from any solid moorings of politics or ideology. It's not just in abstract, either. For example, I've been a fairly regular volunteer at the Obama campaign, and attended their big Division Street office potluck a few weeks ago. On the whole it was a fun event. However, one of the speakers, a former Governor, during her (pretty skillful) rallying speech, said something to the effect of (paraphrasing):
"We need to elect Democrats to every office, not just the Presidency. Oregon is going to get another Congressional representative after the next census, and we need to make sure the Secretary of State is a Democrat when they're drawing those Congressional districts."And it was like, "Whoah!" I'm actually, as a rule, pretty much against gerrymandering, and such an outright appeal to partisan loyalty was a reminder that I'm in with the Obama campaign for my own reasons. Sure, I'm more comfortable with Democrats in charge, but mostly because I think they have less of a track record of outright hostility to science and the objective appraisal of the problems facing our country. Beyond supporting better policymakers, I don't have a hell of a lot of interest in the greater glory of the Democratic Party. I can understand the counterargument, that enabling the Democrats means lessening the death grip the Republicans currently hold on the emergency brake of this country's legislative system. But that's the thing, I actually don't think that conservatism as a governing philosophy is inherently flawed. Or rather, I think all governing philosophies are a mixed bag and conservatism is no exception.
I really think we should be arguing about policy, not about party. I've seen great policy ideas come from Democrats, Republicans, Greens, and Libertarians. However, I've also seen all of these groups display ideological blind spots that leave me aghast at the thought of putting them in charge without checks and balances. Fundamentally I consider myself an optimist because I think innovations in science and technology have put us on the cusp of a great future, but only if we get our shit together.
To my horror, I've become the mythical Independent Voter.