Saturday, May 03, 2008

Ready for the Audacity of Hope?

It seems that we're not quite there yet. Not only does Obama need to (and so far, has failed to, and will probably continue to fail to) secure the all-so-important Bigot Vote, but he also needs to win the War of the Low Signals.

Quotes from the Time article:
In his 1991 book, The Reasoning Voter, political scientist Samuel Popkin argued that most people make their choice on the basis of "low-information signaling" — that is, stupid things like whether you know how to roll a bowling ball or wear an American-flag pin. In the era of Republican dominance, the low-information signals were really low — how Michael Dukakis looked in a tanker's helmet, whether John Kerry's favorite sports were too precious (like wind-surfing), whether Al Gore's debate sighs over his opponent's simple obfuscations were patronizing. Bill Clinton was the lone Democratic master of low-information signaling — a love of McDonald's and other assorted big-gulp appetites gave him credibility that even trumped his evasion of military service.

The audacity of the Obama campaign was the belief that in a time of trouble... the low-information politics of the past could be tossed aside in favor of a high-minded, if deliberately vague, appeal to the nation's need to finally address some huge problems. But that assumption hit a wall in Pennsylvania. Specifically, it hit a wall at the debate staged by ABC News in Philadelphia — viewed by an audience of 10 million, including a disproportionate number of Pennsylvanians — that will go down in history for the relentless vulgarity of its questions, with the first 40 minutes focused exclusively on so-called character issues rather than policy. Obama was on the defensive from the start, but gradually the defensiveness morphed into bitter frustration. He kept his cool — a very presidential character trait — and allowed his disdain to show only when he was asked a question about his opponent's Bosnia gaffe. "Senator Clinton deserves the right to make some errors once in a while," he said. "What's important is to make sure that we don't get so obsessed with gaffes that we lose sight of the fact that this is a defining moment in our history."...

[Obama's] point, and Bill Clinton's, is indisputable: there is a need for a big election this year...
But Obama is going about it the wrong way. "After 14 long months," he said in his concession speech, "it's easy to get caught up in the distractions and the silliness and the tit for tat that consumes our politics..." What's wrong with that, you might ask? It's too abstract, too detached. Too often, Obama has seemed unwilling to get down in the muck and fight off the "distractions" that are crippling his campaign. Obviously, this is strategy — his appeal has been the promise of a politics of civility (and as a black man, he wants to send low-information signals that he is neither angry nor threatening). But what if, after ABC had enabled the smarmy American-flag-pin question from an "average citizen," Obama had taken on George Stephanopoulos and Charlie Gibson directly, "Why aren't you guys wearing pins? Why isn't Hillary?" Indeed, this was Clinton's strategy in an earlier debate, upbraiding her questioners from MSNBC — and it may have turned the tide in her favor in Ohio and Texas.
Another article (this time on the division within the Democratic Party between those with a post-secondary education and those without and, in general, about demographics) by David Brooks here.

Regarding the Wright controversy (which I still don't understand how people so far removed from the situation as to never having attended an African American church or trying to understand the ideas and justifications for the Black Power movement can even begin to condemn - not to mention the fact that many conservative White pastors say largely the same thing [Pat Robertson, for example] for different reasons), Bill O'Reilly and Newt Gingrich are still continuing to drag that cat out and toe and extol the Fox News Party Line. I was bothered by the fact that, on "The Daily Show", Jon Stewart pretty much let Newt have his ridiculous and racially-ignorant say. Yet Hillary Clinton, on O'Reilly's own Fear-Mongering Factor, pretty much put him in check and played him like an accordion.

Don't get me twisted. Obama all the way. He'd still be the best option for this country, especially in terms of our international appeal. And that is absolutely crucial during this time of the so-called War on Terror. Strengthening our ties and the livelihood of developing nations throughout the world will make our job easier, as it will be harder to recruit new blood to the terrorists cause, because there will be nothing to justify that way of life/death/killing. His reluctance to support a federal gas-tax is also promising (even if it's political suicide) that his plans for the future are sustainable; that we should stop worrying about the rising cost of energy and instead start thinking about changing how we do things (cf., this Stephen Colbert interview with James Howard Kunstler).

But it just may be the more politically savvy (if not exactly trust-worthy) Clintons who may win the fight against the McCain power play.


h/t for the Time and Times articles to Scot McKnight

oh. And there's this:


  1. Anonymous5:42 AM

    Phenemonal post. You are absolutely right on a number of counts, particularly the paralells between Reverend Wright and the Fallwell and Co.
    In fact Wright, and Falwell are really making many of the the same claims that Osama Bin Ladden makes: that modern American values are evil.

    A factor about that ill-fated pathetic excused for a debate in Pennsylvania:
    How does George Stephanapolous end up a moderator for it? The man rose to fame as Bill Clinton's press guy. By what perversion of logic can he be seen as a fair and unbiased moderator? Even if in his own heart the man thinks he can be fair, even if he's right, in the simple name of appearance of propriety he should have stepped aside.

  2. sorry for not commenting earlier, jeff. thank you so much for your too-kind words.

    steph... meh. at least he got to ask clinton a tougher question in a one-on-one this last week (about the gas-tax holiday). but everyone knows that that debate was a sham. well... everyone that paid attention.

  3. Anonymous1:49 PM

    I think you bumped your head. Nobody cares what Wright says in his church. I love the fact that he is out there, keeping the government in check, and making sure the African American community has a voice. What I do care about is that a man who is running for PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES was mentored by said man for 20 years. Does Obama share Wright's views? Americans have the right and responsibility to ask that question. And apparently the answer is "No", since Obama himself says that Wright has gone too far. You are also correct in the sense that many churches use a pulpit as an opportunity to knock America and it's moral decline. But no one in Robertson's or Falwell's church is running for PRESIDENT! Is this hard to grasp? You really seem like you are an intelligent why can't you make that connection. I assure you, if a member of Fallwell's church was running for President, he would be ridiculed and lambasted until he disavowed any relationship to Ol's Jerry. Again, is this brain surgery? The truth is, if John McCain came out today and said that he loves Jerry Fallwell and has been attending his church for 20 years, and feels that he is his spiritual mentor...would you respond the same way the GOP responded towards Wright. You bet your arse you would! So, please stop the hypocrisy, you are better than this.

  4. Anonymous2:01 PM

    What does "bigot vote" mean? Surely it can't mean that if I (a white guy) don't vote for Sen. Obama, then I am de facto a bigot. Surely that is not what you are implying. Will you clarify this for me? On a similiar subject, do you despise bigots? Do bigots not have the right to be bigots? And if you despise bigots, what does that make you? A bigot?

  5. ryan,

    i'm a gym teacher. i'm clumsy. i'm 6 ft, 3 in. tall. of course i hit my head. several times.

    for the record, robertson himself did run for president. two of my beloved ex-pastors went to falwell's school, not just his church.

    but here's the deal with pastors (and for that matter, founders of schools) and their congregations (or, student bodies): you don't have to agree with everything they say. i know very few people who do agree with what their pastors say w/o fighting over it. and as much as i loved my old pastors (and my new ones), i certainly don't agree with everything they say/do.

    the thing is, our pastors usually have something for us. obama saw a lot of good in wright, even as he admits that wright is stuck in the black power/nationalist movement of the 70s rather than the more positivistic outlook on bridge-building that obama is trying to associate with/espouse. (although there is much good and truth in what i've heard from him. more the truth is that the american people were not ready to hear much of what he says. although to attract the vote of a crazy dispensationalist mega-church pastor isn't as sensational? how 'bout we run streaming youtubes of Hagee on foxnews/abc and the msm 24/7?)

    and, please, obama is highly intelligent. i think that the people who accuse him of falling for what his pastor is (mis)quoted as saying are forgetting something that we christians should always be on the lookout for - discernment. not to just turn your back on someone b/c you disagree with them on or several issues (otherwise we wouldn't be having this discussion, eh? and i wouldn't have much of a family anymore), but to sift out the truth from the opinions and half-truths.

  6. o, and the bit about my pastors attending Liberty U? that was a response (albeit kinda confused on my part, as i worked it out in my head a while back but forgot the connection while i was typing. duh!) to your suggestion that i would call out and renounce mccain for having been under the ministry of far-out right-wing pastors. i would be upset (as i am of his seeking endorsements from the three aforementioned), but i still wouldn't see it as being necessary to spread virally (in the literal and figurative sense) and broadcast 24/7 on the mainstream news. i would still tell bill o'reilly to shut up his bigot-spewing mouth.

    and, btw, to paraphrase forrest gump, 'bigot is what biggot does.' i know that i need to love biggots (which is easier from afar, i know), but sometimes true ignorance really does irritate me. although i'm trying to - as we say in the church - love the sinner, but hate the sin.

    you are not a bigot b/c you don't want to vote for obama. you would be a bigot if you don't want to vote for obama b/c he's black. or clinton b/c she's a female. or mccain b/c he's old. or white. that's bigotry - acting on and living according to one's prejudices. hating bigotry does not make me a bigot. hating anyone from west virginia would make me a bigot.

    does that make sense?

  7. Anonymous10:32 AM

    Thanks for clarifying what "the bigot vote" is. As per the discussion of pastors, you still miss the point. America's reaction to Rev. Wright is justified, as would it be if McCain sat under any "radical" teacher for 20 years AND then referred to that pastor as a mentor. Again, I have no issue with Wright saying what he says, as I don't with Falwell or Robertson. I just don't tune in because I find their teaching to not be all that edifying. But it is nothing less than gross hypocrisy on the part of the left to "not understand" where these "attacks" are coming from. For Pete's sake, look at Stayc' blog comparing Wright's situation with the fact that Bush's grandpa was a Nazi sympathizer...what on Earth does one have to do with the other? The fact that the left is trying to so hard to juxtapose Wright/Obama with Hagee/McCain is all the proof one needs. Run as much youtube footage of Hagee as you want. It will not change the fact that Obama distanced himself from Wright when he did not invite Wright to the announcement to run for office, yet when the tapes come out...he claims to have never heard this propoganda. And those actions need to be accounted for. Again, this is not about Wright, this is about Obama and trying to discern how much he has in common with his pastor/mentor of the last 20 years. Obama has since come out and stated that Wright was wrong and has gone too far, fine, end of subject, move on. But the Left's need to then immediately compare this to McCain/Hagee or Bush/Prescott is both silly and outlandish. Each relationship needs to be understood and criticized on it's own. This quid pro quo propogated by you and stayc and countless others looks like a schoolyard bully that just got exposed for being a fraud. Man up and recognize that your candidate handled the entire situation poorly.


Be kind. Rewind.