January 31, 2004

Come Swing with Me

I never know how to characterize my politics when it comes to US domestic flim-flammery. Despite the fact that I sprang from the womb a registered Democrat, and am quite likely to remain so (owing to sheer inertia as much as anything), sometimes I think I have quite a bit in common with the South Park Republicans; other times, I feel more like a Daily Show Democrat. If I were to be honest, perhaps I'd have to come down as a Reno 911 Independent: kinda funny, kinda boring, kinda crazy, and trying a bit too hard to ridicule things that hardly even exist, except in the sense that I say they do, which is all I think really matters. What can I say? I like being a swing voter, I guess. In any situation, whatever the cost. I hang on to my swing voter identity like grim death, and though I'm sure I fail sometimes, I always try to be the best anti-partisan I can be.

All I know is, there is some show on Comedy Central that is a perfect metaphor for my dark, secret self, encompassing my entire self-consciously quirky being. There has to be.

Anyway, I love this response from the Daily Show's Stephen Colbert to an inane question about "liberal bias," in an on-line chat sponsored by the Washington Post (via Steven Rubio):

Dallas, Tex.: Why is it the Daily Show takes an overwhelmingly liberal stance when it comes to the elections and Democratic candidates? Shouldn't the Daily Show be a little more unbiased? The Daily Show can still be funny yet fair at the same time.

Stephen Colbert: First, we are not news. We are under no compunction to be fair or balanced or any other thing other than funny. Second, satire always attacks the status quo. The status quo is presently a Republican executive, legislative and judicial branch. There's hardly a liberal target left. Third, we throw hay makers at the Democratic candidates across the board. Fourth, I hope Bush loses.

"Liberal" targets abound, of course, but still: that's exactly the right response to the hectoring of the idiotic, self-appointed bias police. I (pretty much) (think I) hope Bush loses, too. Unless you accuse me of "conservative bias." Then I hope he wins by a landslide and cuts everybody's taxes but yours.

Apropos of that, the commentator who most clearly expresses the tender feelings that cower unloved and unappreciated in my heart of hearts (on this subject and, maybe, this subject alone-- there may be more, who knows?) is Ken Layne, whose comments to some other post are quoted by Matt Welch. Read the whole thing, but focus on the conclusion:

It's truly a shame that the fanatic chicken-little left has been yelling nonsense for three whole years, because a lot of swing voters are so turned off by this noise (including me!) that it took me a long time to really despise this administration. Dubya's secret commandos Michael Moore & Al Franken have done such a good job since 2000, making sure the sane voter tunes out all the "Bush = Hitler" crap. I hope Karl Rove is paying those boys well, because Christ knows they're earning it.
Hell,yeah. I despise you all, too, pretty much equally, and if I could vote against every one of you, I would. And I mean that in the nicest possible way. Posted by Dr. Frank at January 31, 2004 02:15 AM | TrackBack

Dear Dr. Frank,

I am a loyal fan, so I will continue to purchase your punk rock wreckords until you become this band [ http://www.onefoot.com/ ], even though you are a right-wing fascist.

p.s. The Simpsons is the closest *I've* ever come to self-actualization through tv.

p.p.s. Will you please autograph my little sister's face when you come through Vegas?

Posted by: spacetoast at January 31, 2004 04:24 AM

I'll continue to buy them as well -- but only if the Bush tax cuts are renewed. :P

Posted by: JB at January 31, 2004 04:41 AM


Yeah, the left has ruined my socialist dream of a country where the government provides basic, self-sustaining services at a low cost (you know electricity, gasoline, internet and cable access, telephone, and yeah some kind of health plan that insures everyone can afford/receive the care they need but allows for private health care, etc, etc, etc) to its citizens, thus allowing us to put our money into more economically productive things.

But as it is, our money will keep going into a fat, bloated, disgusting, tangled web of government programs that can barely do what they are intended to do. Your tax dollars at waste.

Furthermore, I can see from both sides, right and left, that I am going to be bitter for life. Sigh...

Posted by: Dave at January 31, 2004 08:37 AM

Oh, sorry. I was writing into my diary. That's what I do. I start all my entries off with a gretting to myself.

Ack. It's 3:30 in the morning, and I'm incoherent.

Posted by: Dave at January 31, 2004 08:39 AM

Reno 911 Independent. Ha. I guess that's probably me...

Posted by: Ben at January 31, 2004 04:05 PM

I would like to know, Dr. Frank and any of the rest of you who may count yourself in the swing voter crowd that we hear so much about in the news, but who I've yet to meet in person...

Given a Bush v. Democratic Candidate x in November, how do you vote?

Where x = Clark, Dean, Edwards, Kerry, Kucinich, Lieberman, Sharpton (in painstaking alphabetical order, for fairness). I suspect, for a lot of people, "Independent" looks better on the resumé than IRL.

Posted by: Dave Bug at January 31, 2004 04:23 PM

Everybody knows when he's coming to town 'cos he's Lieberman The Shark.

Don't mind me, I just can't help but think of those lyrics whenever someone mentions Lieberman.

Posted by: Amy 80 at February 1, 2004 12:55 AM

Interesting question, Dave. There are probably more swingers than you think. (btw, what's "IRL"? In real life? Just curious.)

For what it's worth (which ain't a whole lot): as I see it any of the real candidates (even maybe including Dean-- though that's hard to say one way or the other, as he's a potential chameleon) are better presidential material than the current guy. GWB leaves a great deal to be desired. However, Kerry and Dean both rub me the wrong way for some reason I can't quite explain logically: I just don't like them. That's neither here nor there, maybe, but it makes it harder to give them the benefit of the doubt. Clark has grown steadily less appealing with familiarity. Now that I think of it, I'm not all that sure he'd be that good a president. He strikes me as too flaky and unserious, the lightest in a field of relative lightweights. That leaves Edwards, whom I've always kind of liked; and Lieberman, who is by far my first choice, for pretty much the same reasons as those given in the New Republic endorsement. (http://www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=20040119&s=editorial011904) That's despite the slightly creepy religious posturing and the anti-Hollywood/porn belt stuff. Credibility on defense and true dedication to liberal democratic principles is more important to me than any of that stuff, which is pure bravado anyway, and in the end I don't think that even the most determined puritan will actually be able to take our porn away in the real world.

Neither of those guys has a prayer, though, and while I'd have little trouble supporting either of them, it's very hard to imagine either of them as President of the United States. (That's true of all of them, really, Kerry, perhaps, excepted. My wife, not American and not engaged or terribly interested in American electoral politics sees these guys on TV and says, in every case, "well, he's never going to be the president," just based on how they look and carry themselves and speak. GWB lacks gravitas too, but he has the advantage of actually being the President. It's not enough to out-gravitas him, which wouldn't be hard-- you have to actually push him off the hill by the sheer force of your vastly superior charisma, wisdom, and credibility. Doesn't seem like even that would be too tough, but no one's doing it now. The primary situation is set up to present everyone in their worst possible light, though, so that could change. Clinton didn't seem "presidential" --to this observer-- till he had actually been the president for awhile, so you never know. Ditto Bush himself.) I can't really get excited about any of these guys. The only recent politicians I can think of who have inspired anything like visceral enthusiasm, a gut feeling of "that's the right guy"-- John McCain and Tony Blair-- obviously aren't on the ballot.

In the end, I'm just going to have to wait to see how the campaign develops. If they turn it into a simplistic referendum on the war, it's over before it begins. I don't think they'll do that, though. So it's not realistic to try to judge now: whoever it is is going to change his tune more or less completely once he has secured the nomination.

All things being equal, I'd vote against Bush without much hesitation, almost no matter who his opponent might be. Not because I hate him, or think he's evil or anything: rather, just because I think the cynical, irresponsible, unprincipled, opportunistic, barely even apologetic "hey kids, let's go get some ice cream" approach to formulating policy is a poor way to govern and I wouldn't like to see it rewarded. However, the challenge from Islamist terrorism _cum_ fascism is a serious one, and I want a leadership which takes it seriously, and which won't shrink from the responsibility to take aggressive steps to combat it. If the Democrats can't offer one, I suppose I would choke back the tears and vote Republican for the first time in my life; but I'm ripe for the convincing. There's a lot to complain about as to the Bush administration's handling of this situation so far, certainly, though they deserve credit for their successes; the Bushies often leave the impression that they don't really have any idea what they're doing, which is worrying and depressing. Bush delivers a decent foreign policy speech now and again; he seems to have the right idea sometimes, depending on which audience he happens to be addressing. Domestic policy is looking like more and more of a developing trainwreck, having been driven, as it seems, solely by considerations of short-term political expediency. (And those ill-conceived, at that.)

But in the end, it is a war, we can't wish it away, and we must win it. Whoever the Democrat is: even if I don't like the look and feel, even if he says some silly things from time to time and panders to this or that group in an unseemly fashion now and again, if he's able to present a credible defense stance, I would almost certainly vote for him in the end, for the reasons I mentioned. Moreover, I think a believable mildly hawkish, fiscally responsible, culture war-neutral, free trade centrist Democrat who didn't look or act too goofy would even probably win, as things look at this point in time, anyway. Not that I hold out much hope on that score, but it's possible. Let me know if you find him. Bush's vulnerability quotient is inching up steadily; or so it seems to me.

So there you go, Dave, if you've bothered reading this far. Probably could have tightened it up quite a bit, but I've got a bit of hangover. Bottom line: I have no bleedin' idea yet.

Posted by: Dr. Frank at February 1, 2004 06:59 PM


To put it in dating terms:

Bush v. Clark: She's new to the dating game and doesn't know the rules. Likely to ask you to take care of her dog for the weekend after one date, or show up at your apt. with her suitcase at three a.m. after her roommate kicks her out for being annoying. Move to the third party, quick.

Bush v. Lieberman: Like dating a girl who will only do it with the lights out. She hates your friends and wishes you wouldn't drink so much. You find another girl (third party).

Bush vs. Kucinich or Sharpton: She looks crazy, she talks crazy, she acts crazy, and being too old to think that Crazy equals Interesting, you run (don't walk) to the comforting, relatively sane arms of any available third party and leave Crazy Girl to the men with the butterfly nets.

Bush v. Dean: She has no friends and hates yours. She wants your relationship to be you and her against the world, sitting in the apartment every night drunk on misanthropy. Insanely jealous and subject to bouts of suicidal depression. She's so full of cynicism that you know it's only a matter of time before she starts hating you; the murder/suicide plot is a distinct possiblity. You vote Bush just to avoid a potentially lethal catastrophe.

Bush v. Edwards - She's not perfect, but she's close. Knowing a good thing when you see one, you pull the Edwards lever and live happily ever after.

Bush v. Kerry - You need some action and you're too horny to concern yourself with maintaining dignity and self-respect. Turn the lights down low and pretend she's beautiful and doesn't have a halitosis problem and a botched botox boobjob. You'll feel bad in the morning, but hell, you were desperate.

Posted by: Ben at February 2, 2004 03:30 PM


Lieberman doesn't have a prayer? Very funny...

How many of our 20th-century presidents have seemed "presidential" and have they outperformed the "non-presidential" ones? This sounds like a question for Michael Beschloss's or Doris Kearns Goodwin's blogs (www.cureforinsomnia.com), but I'm not sure "presidentiality" is a common trait. You've already mentioned that Clinton, to you, didn't qualify. GHWB was a dweeb, and didn't seem presidential even as an incumbent. Reagan certainly exemplifies presidentiality to millions of people. Carter was sincere, but not a square-jawed "leader", Ford was a doofus, Nixon was a shifty-eyed, 5-o'clock-shadowed creep. LBJ in public was presidential, but in private was a manipulative SOB. JFK exemplifies presidentiality for many of the folks who reject Reagan. Ike was also a dweeb, but a dweeb in a uniform. Truman was a Dean-like guy -- small town, small state, known for being direct and sort of angry. FDR exemplifies presidentiality for those who reject Reagan AND JFK. Hoover, Coolidge, Harding, Wilson, Taft...well, TR was Presidential, also sort of Dean-ish, I guess.

Anyway, seems pretty hit-and-miss to me. As you say, once they're in office they seem like "presidential material" (especially if you support their policies). I guess we could compare them to their (vanquished) opponents to see if the more presidential candidate won. Quick question: did Carter-Ford '76 have a lower or higher total presidentiality score than Bush-Dukakis '88?

Posted by: Nick at February 2, 2004 05:04 PM
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