Monday, September 15, 2008

Time Capsule

I am sure you've seen this video by now. Is this not totally eerie? You have to think that Gore, Kerry, and Dukakis Are feeling a bit of vindication at this point. After years of analysing just what went wrong to make them lose the race, Obama is in exactly the same position 2 months from the finish line. "How do the republicans get away with their lies? Their false ads? their failure to do anything they say they will?" Democrats ask. "Why doesn't obama fight back?!" they ask with rage.

But Democrats just don't get it. There's nothing they can do, because the people deciding these elections are not concerned about analysing issues in the first place. The people breaking the tie are those who are motivated by irrational faith based factors. There is very little that can be done. Progressives are way outnumbered.

I repeat, there is nothing to be done. There is nothing the Democrats can do to get ahead. If they attack they look weak, if they do nothing they look weak. If they lie outrageously like the Republicans do they are called on it doubly because the Republicans are the tongue in cheek "morals and values" party, which provides infinite cover for the immorality of their dirty political campaigns. They use dirty politics to support typical religious positions which vindicate them fully in the eyes of their base. Democrats have no such cover. Democrats always lose elections unless the economy is really bad. the average middle class income grows under democratic presidents, yet Republicans have figured out how to use religion, guns, tribal nationalistic pride, gays and abortion to unite the poor and working class to vote for the well being of the wealthy, at the expense of themselves.

Nothing to be done. Even if Obama wins, it does nothing to solve this problem.


cs in New Jersey said...

In the fall 1988, amidst the '88 election between Bush Senior and Dukakis, I was a junior in college, living in D.C. for a semester on a journalism internship that was organized by Boston University. About 3/4 of the 20 or so students that got accepted into the program were from BU, and the rest of us were from various and sundry other universities around the country that had heard of the program, and one student was from Oxford. Several of us were on journalism internships, print or broadcast; one or two students were at the NIH; but the majority of the students worked as interns on capital hill in a congressman or in a senator's office, at the DNC or at the RNC. About half the students were young liberal democrat types and the other half were young Reagan-loving republicans. The guy from Oxford seemed amused by all of us, but I think for the most part, he was more liberal than conservative overall. We interned at our different offices during the day, and at night we all had classes together. It was an exciting time to be living and working in D.C. I can say ABSOLUTELY that the '08 election is in many ways reminisent of the '88 election in the sense that With Dan Quayle as his running mate, NO ONE thought Bush Senior would actually win. And he did. It was a shock. After all the hype that had led up to the Democratic nomination that year, and the fact that Quayle was a moron, NO ONE thought Bush would win. And he did. I really hope the Obama campaign somehow is able to take a lesson from history, for all of our sakes....

upinVermont said...

//But Democrats just don't get it. There's nothing they can do, because the people deciding these elections are not concerned about analysing issues in the first place.//

You need to read Drew Westen's book: The Political Brain. Westen lays it all out. It would be very easy for Democrats to win, but Democrats have to stop being so stupidly ignorant, so god-damned ignorant, of the psychology of the populace they are trying to persuade. Democrat after Democrat after Democrat thinks that the way to win the election is to win the issues argument. No. Issues don't win elections. McCain may not have figured this out, but he seems to be listening to people who *have*, all Rove proteges. Here is what Drew Westen recently wrote:

"A week ago, I warned of exactly what could turn the election around for the GOP after the stunning success of the Democratic Convention and Obama's magnificent acceptance speech:

Obama is now poised to break 50 percent in the polls. Whether he does so, and whether he wins or loses in November, will likely depend on whether he, his campaign team, and the Democrats learn the lessons of this convention, or whether they backslide in debates and public statements into the politics of meandering, dispassionate prose; failure to demonstrate toughness, resolve, and, yes, aggression where appropriate; and failure to understand that the best time to shape the public discourse is before the other side has had a chance to "sell" its version of truth to the American people. Decades of research in social psychology have demonstrated that two of most important principles of persuasion when people have a choice between options are to get there first--to tell your side of the story--and to inoculate against what the other side is likely to say. Democratic consultants need to read that research--tonight--and stop relying on the same intuitions that have proven wrong in election after election. We are supposed to be the party of science, yet we constantly practice political creationism... A case in point is the way the Obama campaign appears poised to respond (or, more accurately, not to respond) to McCain's choice of a running mate, which they need to do immediately, before the start of the GOP Convention.

The piece went on to describe the story McCain would try to tell at the Republican Convention--"that this was a bold move of a maverick reformer, an effort to break the glass ceiling for women, an effort to bring executive experience to his team, and the elevation to prominence of a young, socially conservative reformer with a moving story of her commitment to the crusade against all abortions"--and warned that Palin would showcase her decision not to abort a Down Syndrome baby at the GOP Convention (replete with repeated camera shots of the cuddly new baby) and use that decision as part of a story that would make her a folk hero, a mixture of Mother Theresa, Wonderwoman, and Supermom.

I argued that before the opening gavel, the Obama campaign needed to brand McCain as reckless and impulsive, having selected a running mate who wouldn't have been on anyone's shortlist of, say, 1000, to be a heartbeat away from the leadership of the free world on the ticket with a 72-year-old man with recurrent melanoma; that it needed to brand McCain as a hypocrite who was running as a maverick but had just selected a woman who makes George W. Bush look like a feminist to pander to right-wing religious extremists, and who had been hammering Obama relentlessly for months for his lack of foreign policy experience and then picked a person whose only foreign policy experience consisted in knowing where Russia was on the map and applying for a passport; and that it needed to brand Palin herself as an extremist who reserves for herself and her family the right to make painful, difficult, highly personal decisions but believes the government should make those decisions for every other family struggling with the question of whether to carry a troubled or unwanted pregnancy to term. She would even force teenage rape victims to bear their rapists' babies--something 85 percent of Americans find morally abhorrent, including the majority of evangelical Christians, and something every American should hear about her over and over. There is, in fact, a country where people with the hubris to believe that they know what's in the mind of God use the instruments of state to enforce their interpretations of scripture on other people's lives, and perhaps when Palin and her husband succeed in convincing their fellow Alaskans to secede from the United States, they can suggest joining that country: Iran. I'm sure the Iranians would be happy to annex Alaska for the oil.

But the Obama campaign chose, once again, to run its plays from the Kerry playbook, in this case waiting for Palin to define herself in whatever way she wanted in front of an enormous television audience, just as they had allowed McCain to run unopposed in his self-definition as a "straight talker" and a "maverick." And the results were just as predicted: Palin emerged a folk hero, and McCain's decision, instead of being branded as reckless, reinforced his reputation as a maverick."

You can read the whole Westen's article at:

Aaron said...

I think I intuitively understand this now. I knew it when I heard Obama say "the American people are smarter than this" and "does he think you're all stupid?". My stomach flipped over. I'd heard that before. Is this not word for word what every democrat has said from Dukakis to Gore to Kerry? Maybe Clinton figured it out or maybe Perot allowed made it possible for him to win.

No, they are not smarter than this. Democrats over think their strategy. They also have a key disadvantage as I said- the republicans can go gratuitously negative because they have the moral values slogan as constant cover.

upinVermont said...

//I think I intuitively understand this now//

Even so... read the book. It's highly readable, to the point, and insightful. I'm the guy who recommended Sam Harris. Trust me. If you get the book, you'll like it.