Friday, January 04, 2008


In Which DAS Degenerates into Commentary on the Horserace

It's like a train-wreck: you know you should actually call the authorities and either do something or get out of the way, but you cannot help but join in the Villagers just staring and watching and saying stooopid things. So, even though I hate everything this sort of focus on the horserace mentality stands for and produces (especially a focus on early states that means that by the time Cali votes, nobody has a real choice), I'll join in with my $0.02 (actually $0.04: inflation?) on the IA caucus:

$0.01: The media seems to have a crush on Obama. They treat him like the McCain of the Dems: because he really knows how to play to the media. Unfortunately, to many people he comes off as smug and/or vacuous. Friends of mine are predicting Edwards will win the Dem. nomination. I think Obama. He can win the Presidency so long as (1) the media doesn't turn on him and (2) he does something about people's perception of him as smug and/or vacuous (although I think that, even though the people who think this way would sincerely deny it, there is some subconscious racism in how Obama is perceived as "smooth")

$0.02: Democrats should be comforted by the victory of Huckabee rather than fear the strength of the religious right. Why? Because the support by evangelicals for him proves their bona fides. As the media are spinning it, the GOP caucuses (caucci?) were reduced to the GOP base. Now, the GOP base has at least five components: each of whom has a candidate: the "libertarian" wing (Paul), the richer wing (Romney), the "keep us safe" wing (Giuliani), the "we need a fearless leader" wing (Thompson) and the fundie wing (Huckabee). It was a fear of many Dems., including myself, that the average fundie's religion was really more about mean-spiritedness than actual religiosity, but Huckabee's win proves that fundies at least can be swayed by a populist, if not progressive message -- that the fundies are bona fide religious. Of course, it could just be that even amongst feller basers, the fundies don't want to admit their mean-spiritedness (IA is a caucus where people have to take public stands after all, and if Giuliani were to win in SC primary, that would be a bad sign, IMHO) ... but still, I can't help but be glad that the GOP base prefers friendly Huckabee to the rest of them ... I know -- GW Bush was just a friendly Southron Gov. who ran for Pres. But who, except in the media, actually fell for that schtick and thought that GW Bush was friendly and "aw-shucks-esque"?

$0.03: if the richer part of the base doesn't manage to paper over their differences with the Huckster (which they may very well do), this means the GOP base is fractured. Nu? The Dems. can pick off pieces of it -- not by changing our platform one bit (which changes would rightly be seen as pandering and rejected), but by proper emphases. Even if Paul is a thouroughgoing wingnut -- people aren't supporting him 'cause he's pro-life. If we turn up the liberty-aspects (e.g. anti-torture) aspects of our rhetoric, we'll get some Paul supporters (as well as general "we don't trust gummint" types even among the fundies, if the Dems. simply do things like promise to deal with "airport security theatre"). If we turn up the populist-aspects of our rhetoric (but in a less simple-minded way than Edwards has been doing lately ... you'd think such a successful litagator would be better at convincing people of things ... but Edwards convinced nobody that he's anything beyond a snake oil salesman or the sort of 19th century populist liberals to which Viereck compared Tailgunner Joe), we might get the Huckabee voters, etc. Simply put, the Dems. have an opportunity to pick off parts of the GOP base (like the GOP picked off part of our base in the 1960s-1980s, so it's payback time!) -- but, contra the instincts of the 1D seeing consultant class who says we should along the 1D political spectrum toward the right to meet GOoPers half-way, the way you get people to vote for you is you give them a reason to vote for you ... which can't be done by being mealy-mouthed. Now, not all moderates are mealy-mouthed (Bill Clinton wasn't) ... but it's easy to fall into that trap when you're a triangulatin'!

$0.04: I bet the Villagers would hate Huckabee (and they've shown some signs of doing so -- including minimizing his victory by saying the GOP turnout was low rather than relatively high for the IA caucuses ... enough that the Huckster could gain some support based on "those evil liberals in the media hate him", but not so much, at least at this point, that the media will inject enough anti-Huckster talking points into the air to kill him) as the neo-aristocracy (given that Huckabee won IA, has the neo-aristocracy tried to make an accomadation with him and like him along the lines that we've always been at war with Oceania?) but for the fact that he's really clever, a la John McCain, at letting them in on his "secrets" and plays both the political game and meta-political game so well. Obama really does the same thing. In fact, Obama and Huckabee both are, rhetorically and meta-politically, both using the same media-friendly, independent-friendly strategy that McCain used in 2000. And I suspect the whispering campaigns that killed McCain's candidacy, cannot be applied to a true-blue fundie like McCain, nor would they apply to Obama. So, pace my friends, I'm almost wondering if it'll be a Huckabee vs. Obama race in 2008. That'd be interesting, since both are, in their own way, running as the heir to AK Gov. Clinton ("new and improved and without the, um, appetites" say the newly nicotine free Obama and the newly thin Huckabee) and McCain in 2000.

I actually had a 5'th cent, but I guess I lost it in the market or something.

Update: I remembered my $0.05: there is a reason why HRC is viewed as "strident", etc., even though she's so centrist, etc. It isn't just a vast right wing conspiracy to keep the scalawags down and drive out the carpetbaggers and redeem the South (although that aspect of Clinton hatred needs to be better explored -- the Clinton impeachment was part of the Southern response to Reconstruction ... I better watch it before I go off into a "why were people still fighting Union liberators in Reconstruction so blind-sided by Iraq's occupation by 'liberators'?"), HRC always seems to "sound" strident.

And, as I've pointed out before, she's not the only one. Many Democrats (and I hate to be sexist, but it's mainly women) really need to learn how to speak in a pleasant and well-modulated manner. AFAIK, the only person famous for speaking, who spoke like HRC, Pelosi, etc., was Aimee Semple McPherson who made up for her strident, grinding twang with thearticality and even a bit of variety in tonal modulation. So when will Democrats stop complain about (admittedly real) double standards and actually do something to at least try to sound less strident? It'd really go a long way (and this is why I say there is a double standard with Obama, who generally has actually benefitted from his race as it makes him stand out: Obama is the anti-HRC in his voice modulation, etc., so people say "I don't trust him, 'cause he's so smooth" ... but if he wasn't so smooth, they'd be treating him like he's the second coming of Eldridge Cleaver) to changing perceptions not only of HRC, Pelosi, et al, but also, considering their central position in how people imagine us Democrats, the party as a whole.

If I wasn't so broke trying to pay for a wedding, I'd chip into some speech lessons for our Dems who need them.

Update #2 (up to $0.06 now ... I shouldn't be spending so much when I'm so broke!): another good thing about the Huckabee win is that it will help decrease the influence of money on politics. The reason why money has a corrosive influence on politics is because politicians need (or feel they need) a lot of money to get elected. I reckon most politicians don't actually like begging for money and would assume not do it if they didn't (feel they) have to do so. The reason why money can have such a corrupting influence is that politicians feel they have to get it, even if it corrupts them.

Of course, the way you change something (evolutionarily -- I know Huckabee doesn't believe in it, but it does work) is to reward desired behavior and dock bad behavior (which is why our punditocracy is broken ... pundits, et al., are not rewarded for being right ... if there's no incentive to be right, why would people be right? ironically, the same people benefiting from and even behind the dismantling of such a meritocracy are those who are pushing testing, etc., on schools, c.f. Michael Moore in Stupid White Men). The IA caucus has rewarded the desired behavior (and docked the bad behavior) of spending a lot of money on an election. If more elections go like this, politicians will say "look, why should I break my back raising money, when that's not the way to win?", and if there is less of a demand for campaign contributions, contributers and their special interests with deep pockets will have less of a corrosive influence on our system.

You can't just legislate things like this away -- aside from the free speech issue, campaign financing is like drugs: no matter what you do to curtail their usage, if people demand them, there will be a supply to meet that demand. But if elections no longer become spending contests, the demand for money to fund campaigns will vastly decrease, which'll benefit our democratic system immensely.

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