Monday, February 25

Kevin Drum, Éminence Grise of American Politics

I like to think that I have standards, however lax or sui generis. I do retain some of my early Christian training, especially the parts about the Hypocrites, the Pharisees, and the Assholes; I'd never short-change you in a financial transaction; I would never physically assault anyone older, bigger, or in sight of objective witnesses. If I write at length about faulty toaster design or television programs where eating live insects is more attractive than the performers themselves, well, I hope it's because there's some larger lesson for the kids out there, one I would have benefitted from in my youth, like "writing a blog is for imbeciles."

There are two things about this, as there are about a lot of things. One, I learned and accepted at a very early age, say, twelve, that crap was going to come out of my mouth which frequently would be instantaneously misunderstood--sometimes to the point of having someone nearby try to shove it back in, and not always helpfully--even, maybe especially, when I thought the sentiments were too outrageous for anyone to believe they reflected my own. Here again, it would have been nice if some trusted adult had explained to this tender sapling that scrapping with bullies, xenophobes, hilljacks, self-appointed defenders of the Republic, and Boilermakers was as nothing compared to the sort of deep gonadal pain a sex partner, or even a potential one, could inflict. Two, even I get confused about where the line between intended minor giggle and revelation of my inner crochets lies. I defer to my Poor Wife when it becomes an issue, even though I know she thinks I spend too much time hitting fungoes in the Outer Space league and just wishes I'd shut up long enough so she could hear the weather report.

I haven't asked her to settle the Obama thing for me, in part because it's less real than hyperreal, and in part because she's a white suburban girl with feminist sensibilities, a dues-paying union teacher who began life as a fair-share-paying non-union member before she saw the light (compare her poor excuse for a husband, a trades unionist since the early Thirties), and, while informed politically as much as anyone who has to try to concentrate on the news while someone in the room rants about That Idiot Mayor or The Goddam Scree Slope that is the Democratic Leadership in Congress, she manages to be reasonable about it.   I'm on my own.

It's more hyperreal than real. I live in Indiana. I've voted in every election since 1972. I've never had a vote count. I think this may color my perception of Blogtropia having turned the '08 Democratic primary into a sort of myspace war. Short weeks ago I thought my daily reading habits had been hewed to the point where I might run into "While I agree with Matt that ..." no more frequently than I run into a Pink Moon;  there are places I go, places I've frequented, where it's now found in every second post, and sometimes in every second paragraph. This may or may not explain why, on successive nights, I dreamed of being a scuba diver who gets his flipper trapped under a cement block which is chained to a corpse. And not a pink-skinned naked female corpse with floating hair, either. Not that I regularly dream of those.

The weekend murkiness contained--again!--a learned discussion on whether Experience was really an electoral millstone, or whether Hillary was just lying about it. Matt?
If you win a primary on an "experience" argument, then you'd damn well better be more experienced than your general election opponent. McCain would make an experience argument against either opponent, so it's much better to be the opponent with a record of statements aimed at rebutting such arguments (I don't think the American people judge your qualification based on duration of service in a broken Washington system...) than to be the opponent who's been making the argument that voters need to stick with the more seasoned Washington hand.

Mr. Drum explains:
Seen through this lens, the problem with Obama isn't that he's less experienced than Hillary, but that he's inexperienced, full stop. And again, like it or not, John McCain will certainly use that as an argument in the general election campaign in a way he couldn't against Hillary. Sure, he's got 25 years to her 15, but that doesn't matter. Beyond a certain point voters aren't interested in who's got more experience, and 15 years is well beyond that point. If McCain tried to paint Hillary as inexperienced, it would be a waste of breath. Nobody would buy it.

FIRST, let us note here that in terms of national elections alone we experience close to five hundred biennially. So that by age 25 someone paying attention has at least had the opportunity to listen in on over 1800 of 'em, not counting any state or local races. In how many of those does someone tout Experience? This requires analysis? Please. It's like a Winston smoker proving that Chesterfields don't really satisfy.

Drum is right: Senator Obama is a crapshoot, and it'd sure be a more attractive game if we could get a close look at those dice. (This should not be taken as an invitation to link to hilzoy for the umpteenth time.)

Here's another thing. If you've got to jump on board the Out With Old Washington, To Hell With Boomer Partisanship bandwagon, kindly keep your feet inside, and refrain from donning bell bottoms and handmade sandals and flashing the peace sign when it's convienient:
There is a hushed worry on the minds of many supporters of Senator Barack Obama, echoing in conversations from state to state, rally to rally: Will he be safe?...

Yet worry they do, with the spring of 1968 seared into their memories, when the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Senator Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated in a span of two months.
Mr. Obama was 6 at the time, and like many of his admirers, he has only read about the violence that traumatized the nation. But those recollections and images are often invoked by older voters, who watch his candidacy with fascination, as well as an uneasy air of apprehension, as Democrats inch closer to selecting their nominee.

Okay, okay, that's a Times "news" story, and I trust we all share a concern over the safety of all candidates, and even a sizable portion of our fellow citizenry, but it'd be nice to find a hint somewhere that we recognize the distinction between the twin martyrs of a black year forty years gone and unlettered and cost-free projections about a guy who's done nothing so far to merit the comparison beyond a presumed susceptibility to gunshot wounds.

Garry Wills noted (in his fine study of another charismatic politician) that one only has power until it is used. It'd be gratifying to find more concern about that and less about spinning every last Clinton utterance. But, like I say, I'm a Hoosier, so it's easy to pretend to withhold support when that support will never even mean the 1 in 121 million it does for others. Then again, I'm a natural-born agnostic. Meaning, in the absence of convincing evidence I should favor one centrist Democrat over another, I'll be a lot more comfortable two years down the road apologizing for not supporting the man than apologizing for having believed in him.


Anonymous said...

I'd be willing to bet that 75% of his supporters will vote for McCain in the general if Obama loses. Around 35-50% even if he wins.
I think a lot of Pubs are voting for him in open primaries. That is what I worry about.

Jaye Ramsey Sutter said...

The Republicans in Texas are voting for Obama because they hate Hillary. But McCain will beat Obama because McCain may be an asshole, but he is an experienced asshole and that is a hell of a lot more comforting than this feel good shit coming from half my party.

I don't get it. But I am not supposed to. I am Obama's age and I don't get him. Perhaps because I read about those things he is too young to remember and he doesn't strike me as a reader. It doesn't jibe with his "it doesn't matter, vote for me and your soul will be healed" nonsense.

I don't get him. I just don't. I get the Hillary thing.

I am just dumbfounded by this but I am well aware as I have told my college students throughout my career of teaching government--we will have a black man in the White House before we have a woman. This culture doesn't like women no matter how qualified. No wonder Hillary comes off as angry. She is and other women are, too.

And there are quite a few Democrats who value experience who are actually looking at McCain. It makes them sick but they know what they are voting for. They don't want 100 year war in the Middle East but they don't want two years of Senate experience, either.