September 16, 2008

So, What Could Be Coming?

Could be!
Who knows?
There's somethin' due any day;
I will know right away
Soon as it shows.
It may come cannonballin'
Down through the sky,

Gleam in its eye,
Bright as a rose!
Who knows?

It's only just out of reach,
Down the block, on a beach,
Under a tree.
I got a feelin' there's a miracle due,
Gonna come true,
Comin' to me! -- Sondheim/Bernstein, West Side Story
For the moment, McCain has his miracle: Sarah Palin. Of course, if certain parts of the media and many Democratic supporters had greeted Palin with a big yawn and maintained a severe and unforgiving focus on McCain, Palin would have received attention for several days or a week, and quickly faded from view in large part (certainly compared to what has been going on). She'd now be the beneficiary of immensely valuable free coverage as much as that guy on the Democratic ticket. Forgotten already, have you? Shame, shame. This guy. Instead, Palin served as the lightning rod collecting our culture's huge reservoir of misogynistic loathing. The ensuing spectacle has been remarkably and profoundly disgusting. You can start here and follow the many links, to see some sickening low points in this unleashing of hate and contempt directed at women as such discussed in detail.

But Obama, whose candidacy was itself once regarded as akin to a miracle, has now been returned to the realm of the merely human. I'm still considering the reasons for this change, which I regard as a significant one, and I'll probably write more about it in the future. A very large part of the Obama deflation has directly resulted from the huge missteps of the Obama campaign itself. I think many of the deeper reasons for Obama being revealed as "just another politician" -- which is, I emphasize, what he always was for those paying attention -- are correctly identified by Anglachel here. And I think another factor is involved: the common sense of the American public. Please note that I do not subscribe to any degree to the sentimentalized, vapid view of the allegedly wise and good "American public," which is very frequently anything but wise and good. See this essay for much more on that subject.

In recent years, I have despaired of the American public ever being sensible or even decent about anything ever again. A general acceptance of torture as a ho-hum matter of perpetual warfare will do that to you. But at unexpected moments, many Americans can be resolutely down to earth. And I think this is in part what happened with Obama. He peaked too soon, and given the image he had been selling -- "The One" and related idiocies -- the image simply couldn't be kept up over a sustained period of time. Many Americans looked at the purported grandeur and quasi-Biblical posture of the campaign -- which included such implied (and sometimes explicit) claims as, "His candidacy and election will end racism as a serious, endemic problem!," which is dangerously, horrifically not true -- and said, in effect: "What the hell? This is an election, for Pete's sake." And so Obama is now "another politician." This is very, very good.

But for Obama and his campaign, it's very bad. What distinguishes him from McCain? Why should people have a strong preference for one over the other? I emphasize, as I often must, that of course there are differences between the two parties; see the discussion in the middle section of this article. But right now in the campaign, Obama is finding it extremely difficult to market himself in a way that finds support in the critical part of the electorate, that part which might vote for either man. He needs to do so quickly, and take control of the terms in which the campaign is being fought.

For several days, I had been thinking that the Democrats affirmatively want to lose the presidential election. Perhaps they see the massive catastrophes that are coming -- economically and in many other ways -- and would prefer that a Republican be in charge. Possibly they hope that Americans will blame the Republicans for all of it, despite the fact that on a host of issues, there is very little that the president can directly affect. But many Americans still tend to blame whoever is nominally in charge. So maybe it would be better, from the Democrats' perspective, to let the Republicans take the heat for the next four years. Then the Democrats can look forward to several decades of dominance.

What other than a determination to lose could explain something like this:
On "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" this morning, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., a surrogate for the campaign of Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., raised the age and health of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., when discussing the qualifications, or lack thereof, of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

McCaskill said she stood by her remarks that she's "uncomfortable with anyone, regardless of gender, that is going to be vice president to one of the oldest presidents we've ever had, that has never met a world leader."

When Stephanopoulos asked her if it was fair to raise McCain's age, McCaskill doubled-down and mentioned his past skin cancer, saying, "I think what we're talking about is a reality. Other people talk about his melanoma. We're talking about a reality here that we have to face. This is someone who's going to be one heartbeat away from the presidency. All of us know it. I just think that it's the facts, George, and that's something that we need to start focusing on, are the facts, instead of distortions and lies."
This is an excellent lesson in how to antagonize large blocs of voters, while failing to focus on any of the issues that so concern many Americans. Add to this the frenzy of Palin-hatred, and you have to wonder what many Democrats are thinking. The vicious personal, non-issue-oriented attacks on Palin have done nothing but inoculate Palin going into the future. At this point, Palin actually could burn books on national television, as she threw axes at political opponents lashed to targets, while she field dressed human babies. After having watched the Festival of Palin Loathing, many Americans would say: "She's strong! She's tough! She's Frontier Woman! Why are you sliming her?!?!?!" Well done, Democrats.

Of course, it might not be that the Democrats want to lose. They might just be dumber than a box of rocks. So there is that possibility.

But as I extend my benevolent love for humanity to its fullest scope, let us assume that the Democrats want to win. Despite everything, that would seem to be the safe, sane bet. Even if everything falls apart, there is still all that power to enjoy, and all those patronage benefits to hand out. All politicians love that kind of thing (maybe not Kucinich, maybe not Paul, but that's about it on the other side of the question). Okay, the Democrats want to win.

How does Obama get refocused? And when does he do it? Note this:
September 26, 2008: Presidential debate with domestic policy focus, University of Mississippi, Oxford, MS
That's next week. Ten days from now. And the debate has a "domestic policy focus."

It's the perfect opportunity for Obama. The constricting format of these faux-debates makes it very difficult for a candidate to break out in a significant way. Still, I would bet that the Obama campaign is thinking very, very hard about how they might make that happen. Given this week's economic developments, I wouldn't be surprised if we might see an attempt to capture and repackage the FDR allure. Set aside whether you think the allure is deserved or not; I'm talking about how the FDR image has taken hold in the public's collective memory, if you will.

Obama, bringing you A New Deal for a New Millennium. Or, since Obama is so wedded to American exceptionalism, An Exceptional America for a New Century. Hmm, a bit wordy. A New Deal for You. Well, you get the idea. Add some bullet points on policy (health care, education, worker protections, etc.), and voila! Obama, another FDR and just in time.

If the Obama campaign isn't already thinking along these lines, and if someone with the campaign happens to see this, they should feel completely free to send me enormous sums of money. That would be payment for services already rendered, and they shouldn't count on anything further in this regard. I might be giving advice to McCain next week. You just never know...

A New Deal for a New Millennium. That isn't bad...