2008 Elections


“Yes We Can” (Obama campaign slogan)

Isn’t this the rejoinder to Bob the Builder’s rhetorical question, “Can we build it?”

Maybe that’s what I’ll call President-elect Obama.  Barack the Builder.  No, that may sound too flattering.

Or how about the slogan: Change we can believe in

Did anyone notice how that slogan ends with a preposition?  I realize it’s just a slogan, but come on…Bush is lambasted for sounding stupid and Obama gets a free pass on grammatical errors?

Oh well.  Like the post title suggests, these thoughts are a little belated, but now they are written down for posterity.

MW

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On the night of the presidential election I had more pressing things to worry about than which state was being “called” for whom and what the electoral tally was looking like. The skin around my wife’s shunt had developed a hole and we were looking at a weeklong hospital visit to remedy the problem (see the Caring Bridge link for more details about that facet of my life). Nonetheless, I couldn’t resist turning on the television to see what was happening. And once I did, I felt the onset of something akin to the flu: Obama Derangement Syndrome (an affliction similar in symptoms to Bush Derangement Syndrome, but with a clearly different set of triggers). More on that later.

Earlier in the day, while we were at Dartmouth Hitchcock, a nurse had asked if we had voted yet. I informed her that we had indeed voted earlier in the day. Then she made the comment that it was “a historic vote.” I didn’t have a response. What was I supposed to say?

Of course, by calling this election a historic vote, I think most reasonable people would assume that the nurse was talking about the fact that a black man was one step away from the most powerful job in the world in a country that has had a long history of struggle with racism. I suppose that she could have also been referring to the fact that a woman was potentially two steps away from holding the most significant positions in our country. Or maybe she was even referring to both of those possibilities in one election.

Once we had left the nurse and were halfway out of the hospital, it finally occurred to me what I should have said in response to her comment. Every presidential election is a historic vote. We live in the greatest country in the world. We arguably live in the greatest country in all of history. Keeping in mind that we live in a fallen world and no one, or country, is perfect, everything we do as a country is motivated by the highest of ideals. Therefore, it seems reasonable that almost anything we do as a country can be considered historically important even with something as “ordinary” as a presidential election. Unlike many of the countries in our world today, we have been able to celebrate a peaceful transfer of power over 40 times in the last 200 plus years. So yes, it was a historic vote.

Flash forward to election night. By the time I turn on the TV the electoral count is already well in Obama’s favor. By the time I turned off the TV it was evident that Ohio and Pennsylvania, two states we were told McCain had to win, were being called for Obama. Unbeknownst to me, Obama Derangement Syndrome (ODS) was beginning to settle in.

I am compelled to confess that I woke up the next morning almost unable to drag myself out of bed. I had not checked the news yet, but I was pretty convinced that Obama had won. A quick check of the news confirmed what I had already suspected: the president-elect of the United States of America was Barack Obama. I was depressed. Or perhaps more accurately, I was profoundly upset (in a sad sort of way). I had no appetite. It wasn’t until later that I realized these were the early warning signs of ODS.

I quickly recognized that I couldn’t go through the rest of the day in mourning (for fear of giving the more annoying Obama supporters in my life an opportunity to say, “Nah, nah, nah boo-boo, stick your head in pooh-pooh.”) I turned on the computer and after looking at the electoral damage wreaked by the Democrats, I flipped to National Review Online. I needed some level-headed encouragement to stave off what was rapidly accelerating into ODS. It worked.

I read a number of articles from NRO on Wednesday morning, but two comments stick out in my mind as having helped me to come to grips with what had just happened in our country. First, I read a level-headed accounting by Yuval Levin in his post, Our Election:

But this campaign has had a positive side that went beyond political strategy. I think our country made a serious mistake in its choice of a leader today, which is something democracies do very frequently. But we also showed that we can make our judgments—right or wrong—without the taint of racism that used to burden America’s big decisions. That’s a very real silver lining in what for some of us is a very dark cloud of an election. We looked at two men of different races and we judged them as two men, not two races. Obama did not win because he was black, and was not set back because he was black. It’s another reason to love our country. We have shown ourselves that we are better than we used to be in at least one important way. We didn’t need to elect Barack Obama to show ourselves that; we needed only to treat him as we would any candidate in his position. And I think that’s all we did. I only wish that in judging these two men as men we had judged them correctly. 

I agree that “our country made a serious mistake in its choice of leader” when we chose to elect Barack Obama. Seeing this written helped me to realize that, yes, it is okay to be upset with America’s choice of president. There are certainly many reasons (which a different post for a different day). The remainder of this paragraph helped me to see the “silver lining” in the outcome of the election.

Next, I read Mark Steyn’s post, His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition in which he writes:

As for us losers, there’s no point going down the right-wing version of Bush Derangement Syndrome. Any shrill vicious ad hominem invective would be much better directed at each other. The Republicans lost this election.

Ah ha! There it was in black and white. What I was experiencing was the onset of Obama Derangement Syndrome and by acting as I did in seeking the wisdom of more experienced politicos than myself I managed to stop the maddening thoughts and discouraging feelings and fight back against this debilitating disease of the psyche. Now that a couple of days have passed since the election, I am feeling cautiously optimistic that I will be able to beat this disease and live a normal life for the next four (please, please, only four) years.

MW

PS Here are some pictures of what ODS might look like in the ones you love.

Dismay

Shock and disbelief

Okay, so I didn’t watch the whole debate again (family always seems to interfere with national politics, for shame), but I still want to throw out my two cents about what I did see.

I came in at the end of the “attacking” that was being done.  It’s unfortunate that McCain seemed uncomfortable with his attacks because what he had to say has substance and I think a significant bearing on what kind of policies Obama would attempt if elected president.  I hope that his discomfort didn’t detract too much from what he was highlighting about Obama’s political “training”.  If nothing else, however, it may have brought some things to the national stage that may never have made the light of day because of a media blackout on all things detrimental to the Obama campaign.  (An anecodotal example: when talking with people about the election and listening to various details about Todd Palin and abuse of his wife’s office, I asked if they had heard about ACORN’s woes with the feds.  Surprisingly, they had not heard of their problems, nor had they even heard of ACORN.  I know my conversational partner watches CNN and CBS for informational updates, and this is a good example of the aforementioned media blackout.)

I haven’t declared “winners” from these debates in the past because they aren’t really debates and it has been my perception that neither candidate is really saying much of anything.  However, based on what I saw of the debate last night, I will try and make a case for McCain being the winner.  At the very least, I think McCain may have done more for himself last night than Obama did for his campaign.

Beside from looking (and sounding) a little awkward next to the silver-tongued Senator from Illinois, McCain was clearly pointing to most of the problems that we face as being a result of Democratic-type initiatives (i.e. big government).  If nothing else, his answers to some of the questions, especially the Roe v. Wade quetion, were more genuine than Sen. Obama’s.  McCain tried, only partly successfully, to point out Obama’s double speak and expose Sen. Obama’s most left-leaning positions.  I say partially successful, because again, McCain just seemed uncomfortable being aggressive with his opponent and that may have played poorly with undecided voters.

I don’t have time now to delve into the specifics of the portion of the debate that I saw last night, but I will finish with this…what happened to the oratorical skills of Obama during is closing remarks?  He seemed completely flustered.  Did anyone else notice that, or am I just projecting something on to what actually happened?  McCain stumbled a bit in his closing remarks, but no one (or almost no one) expects him to be a grand orator.  Obama, on the other hand, seemed ill-prepared to make his closing remarks.

Well, it should be an interesting three weeks.

MW

PS And now, I want to try out the new polling feature!

The Democrats have a distinct advantage when an election is boiled down to which personality is more electable (especially on a national stage).  Not because Democrats are inherently more like able (not really knowing the candidates on a personal level, I don’t dare even speculate).  No, because for the Democrats its all about personality.  Without going into an in depth study (because postulating on politics is a hobby, not a profession for me), a case in point would be this year’s Democratic primary battle between Clinton and Obama.

Hillary Clinton was a personality darling because she was a trailblazer for women in politics and other high-profile careers.  It helped (mostly) that her husband was the President of the United States.  Enter Barack Obama.  Now, here is some one who is a minority race in America.  He is affable, articulate, and new to the national political stage (a change in politics-as-usual in Washington is something that Democrats often say they want without ever being able to deliver because in their version of politics necessarily involves seniority – eerily similar to teachers’ contracts in the country’s public schools).  This Obama guy could deliver us from our own malaise, not to mention he has many (if not all) of the characteristics of a victim that we fight so hard to elevate in our cause.  Sorry, Hillary, you’re just not what the cult of personality ordered for the Democratic Party.

Fast forward to the last few weeks before the election.  Obama (with the aide of his many popular personality allies) continues to chip away at McCain’s personality as unsuitable for the presidency.  His tactic is not unsuccessful, but nor is it particularly honest.  By using the measure of personality as a qualification for being president, there are number of outstanding citizens that we know in our own neighborhoods that would beat both of the men running for president.  By focusing on Obama’s personality the Democrats have invited the current attacks on his associations with Bill Ayers, Jeremiah Wright, Tony Rezko, and others.  The good news for Obama is that the Democrats are very well-equipped to distract the public from those personality flaws. 

McCain, and any Republican, faces an uphill battle any time they enter into a contest for a national position.  A Republican candidate actually has to be perfect, while a Democratic candidate only has to be like able.

MW

So, both campaigns are playing the ‘guilt-by-association’ card with their opponent.  McCain’s tack is a little more obvious: Obama hangs out with unrepentant terrorists and America haters.  Obama’s is a little more subtle: McCain hangs out with the well-to-do and those unsympathetic to the poor and downtrodden.  Thanks to the campaigns of both candidates we find ourselves, once again, considering who do I like rather than whose candidacy has the best ideas for governance.

Now, that being said, it isn’t unimportant who the candidates ally themesleves with.  Depending on the depth of that relationship an association can play an important role in shaping the candidate’s thinking on many issues that would play out in the White House if elected.  It makes sense for McCain to tie Obama to Ayers and others because it may give voters some insight into how Obama thinks.  How a candidate thinks should be important to consider when voting for the President of the United States.  For Obama, his attack on McCain may not be quite as effective.  It makes sense for Obama to alienate voters from some one who can’t identify with their station in life, but it doesn’t necessarily give the voter any insight into how the candidate thinks.

Either way, personality politics is relatively useless in determining what kind of governing a candidate will execute once in office.  I am not the most informed voter out there, but neither am I ignorant of the race for president and some of the various subtexts accompanying the major stories.  I don’t pretend to know the details of how each candidate would govern, but here is my (simplified) summary:

Obama: centralized planning by the government

McCain: free-market approach by the government

It would be refreshing if we could discuss the differences between those two approaches to governance rather than who is cooler or braver.

MW

Before I add my own two cents about the debate, I have to come clean and confess that I only watched the last half of the debate.  While I may not be able to give you my impression of the overall debate, I can still weigh in with my thoughts on what I did see.

This debate seemed to me to be much more substantial than the first presidential debate.  That being said, I still don’t think that there was a great deal of substance from either candidate.  You are not likely to ever hear a politician give you a straight answer especially when their goal is to gain the support of such a diverse electorate as ours.  They have to be careful not to speak in absolute terms but rather in ambiguous terms designed essentially to avoid offending people.

That being said, it’s easy to see why Obama has gained the support he has.  While he has not actually articulated the details of his vision, he is attempting to elevate some moral positions to the status of being absolute: health care is a right, dialogue with our enemies is the right thing to do, paying our fair share of the taxes is a burden we must share together, people who have more are obligated to pay more because they have more, etc.  Our country is hungry for a return to moral absolutes that were abandoned over the course of the last century and Obama is providing a framework for (re)defining what those absolutes are.  Only his absolutes aren’t shared by everyone so, his vision of what is true necessarily involves the government (and those that work in the government) because the only way he can establish the absolutes if elected is by coercion on a massive scale only possible through legislation and judicial compliance.

I didn’t hear anything in Obama’s remarks that changed from any of his previously stated positions.  In fact, he has a remarkable gift for always circling back to the core principles of his campaign platform of hope and change.  His comments about health care were a little unnerving.  If you like your current health care coverage, you can keep it.  We just want to provide a premium coverage for everyone who doesn’t have health care insurance.  Wow!  Who would want to stay with their current coverage when the government is going to guarantee a premium coverage?  It sounds good in a speech to offer the kind of health care coverage that U.S. senators enjoy, but what are the costs (especially long term)?

McCain was also ambivalent in most answers and stuck with his theme of being fundamentally different from Barack Obama without really explaining how that fundamental difference would translate into concrete policies.  When he did come close to offering a more concrete example of how he is different from his opponent he failed to see his example through to its conclusion.

That said, I think McCain had more to offer in last night’s debate in terms of what his administration would actually do if elected.  Specifically in terms of foreign policy but also in the realm of health care.  Obama basically asks us to trust him when he promises us all health care and the he will work out the details once he’s elected.  McCain gives us some things to consider and is working on convincing the voters that his plan has merit (he needs to work harder if he’s going to counter the pie-in-the-sky plans of Obama).

I think the strongest point McCain made in the debate last night (the part that I saw, at least) was when he argued that America is the greatest force for good in our world.  He stumbled a bit after he said it the first time, which tells me he is still worried about appealing to the undecided voters, but his first iteration of the phrase was strong and resolute.  He does not possess the oration skills that Obama does, but he does have a vision of America that is at least as appealing as Obama’s, if not more so.

My overall impression of the debate was that Obama continues to promise the sky in a dazzling and meserizing fashion while asking us to trust him on how he’ll get us there.  McCain is struggling to beat Obama at his game of rhetoric but has a more practical message of individual responsibility that could have broad appeal if he could only find a way to sell it to a broader audience.

I found these two videos online today:

Obama Supporters, Video 1

Obama Supporters, Video 2

Both of them are disturbing and I am trying to get some feedback on them from my liberal friends.  I don’t need any more convincing that Barack Obama is the wrong candidate for this country, but I would like to hear a supporter’s (or potential supporter’s) perspective on these two videos so I can understand.

Understand what?  I’m not sure.  See, I’ve never been attracted to the Obama veneer.  I am (for better or worse) preconditioned to reject any candidate who supports a bigger government.  I am not closed for discussion or debate on the issues, but I don’t want to waste my time or money supporting a candidate that will only disappoint me by ushering in programs that cost me (and my countrymen) more money and I would probably not approve of in the first place.  I would like to think that I’ve outgrown the high school personality politics and matured (at least in some areas of my life) to focus on issues, the possible solutions to those issues, and the costs that those solutions entail.

I’m new to blogging, so I don’t know if I’ve properly researched these two videos to ensure that they are legitimate and that I am passing them on to you as unadulterated as possible so that you can make up your own mind about what you see and not be potentially turned off by some ones remarks.

MW

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