Two Notes on the Election

1. I keep hearing about “the real America,” which is presumably different from the fake America of which I am indubitably a part. You know, until this phrase started showing up in right-wing discourse I was inclined to hear Obama’s talk of unity and coming together as campaign rhetoric; but now I see that it marks a real difference. The right is exclusionist, liberals inclusive by instinct, if not always in practice. Here’s just one example, from a bush-league congressman. Update: Only Real Americans® should be allowed to vote.

2. I don’t expect the McCain campaign to make the distinction, but there is a difference between criticizing someone’s approach to stem cell research or one’s health care plan and making darkly portentous statements about someone’s character that suggest the other guy is not a true American (see above). It would be nice if the news media enforced this simple distinction in the name of intellectual honesty.

Presidential Debate: Sneering Demagoguery

Well, the snap polls are in & Obama is the clear winner of the debate. Cool & calm has seen him through. It is hard for me to believe that anyone could be an “independent” at this point in the campaign, like that “typical voter” I heard on NPR the other day who said “both gentlemen have things about them I like, but I’m just not sure.” the guy sounded like he was waiting for someone to come & wipe his ass, not choose a president. (As someone commented on one of the blogs I read, “If it weren’t for low-information voters, the Republicans would only have a cople of billionaires showing up at the polls this year.”)

Oh, yeah, the debate. McCain looks like a study in anger-management in the split-screen close-ups & that’s not doing him any good, especially when contrasted with Obama’s cool demeanor. Not just anger but contempt. The exchange about negative campaigning was revealing: you had to be paying attention, but McCain believes that an ad attacking his health care plan is a “negative ad” on par with his campaign’s relentless personal smearing of Obama’s character. For McCain, it’s all about McCain. (“I know how to get Bin Laden,” “I know how to fix the economy.”) For Obama, who is the ur-technocrat, it is about issues and systems. It’s really not personal with Obama.

But McCain lost the debate — & revealed himself as a moral zero — in two exchanges. In the first, he accused the Obama campaign of “perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy.” This was in reference to the hysterical right-wing Pavlovian response to the acronym ACORN. McCain had to ring that bell for the crazy base & he did, but he knew he was lying. McCain is an enthusiastic but unskilled lyer & it showed. (You see the same kind of bell-ringing with the phrase “class warfare,” which McCain managed to shoehorn into his discussion of Joe the Plumber — & was there ever a more elitist, condescending campaign invention than this particular everyman McCain tried to use for his own benefit?) So that’s the demagoguery; the sneer came in McCain’s discussion of abortion, in which he dismissed legal language in restrictive abortion laws that seeks to protect a woman’s health by putting air quotes around the word health. That pretty much says it all. The man was of course pandering to his base — he doesn’t care about abortion rights any more than he cares about taxes or health care; but it was exceedingly clear from this exchange — in which he hauled out another tired old debunked lie about Obama voting to kill babies — that the man hates women. We already knew this, of course, but if there was any doubt, this moment would have erased it.

Conservative Science Studies

I know the American radical right has a problem with science, but I had no idea they had adopted the doctrine of the four humors; next thing you know, Sarah Palin will be talking about the four fundamental elements of earth, air, fire & water. Oh, read it yourself, as much as you can take before you bust out laughing, but the upshot is that the choleric John McCain will make a better president than the phlegmatic Barack Obama.

The First Presidential Debate

My single insight is that when McCain responds to a question, he responds from the position of the isolated ego — “I did such & such. . .” — whereas Obama responds as a member of a group — “we must do. . . such & such.” McCain wants to be president because it will fulfill his personal ambitions; Obama wants to be president in order to accomplish things beyond himself. McCain responds with anecdotes about his personal experience, telling us that he has been to Russia, or Pakistan; Obama responds with an analysis on which to base his proposed actions.

The Campaign

I’ve given quite a bit of money to the Obama campaign this year & I’m likely to give more, but not until I see them go on the attack. I got an email this morning form David Plouffe (me & millions of other contributors) to the effect that the answer to Sarah Palin’s sneering attack on “community organizers” is to say, “Community organizing is how ordinary people respond to out-of-touch politicians and their failed policies.” sorry, the right response will be to hang Palin out to dry for her lies & radical right-wing ideas. Don’t explain, don’t complain — make the right wing culture warrior play defense. That’s when I’ll cut another check.

Later: Here is another view of the email I referred to above. I also posted the above paragraph in a discussion thread at TPM, where one person responded by saying that “getting down in the mud” with McCain & Palin was a losing strategy. I don’t think you hve to get down in the mud in order to aggressively attack the lies & distortions coming out of the Republican convention — Mitt Romney’s assertion that McCain / Palin will change “liberal Washington” doens’t meet the laugh test & ought to be mocked mercilessly. Same goes for the Republican’s claims to be “reformers.” And it is not “getting down in the mud” to point out that Sarah Palin, as a mayor, tried to get the librarian to remove Harry Potter from the library because it offended her Christianist beliefs; then, when the librarian refused to go along, that Palin tried to fire her. Palin wants to put her experience as mayor up against Obama’s Harvard law degree & public service? Great, let’s look at the quality of Palin’s experience. The Republicans have decide this election is going to be fought on cultural grounds. Bring it on.