September 06, 2008

Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet

Three of the reasons I kind of wanted Obama to win:

1. Obama would have looked good as a head of state and would, at least initially, have spun anti-American straw into public relations gold in favor of America and the American version of liberal democracy the world over. Related to this is a purely parochial and self-interested deal: where I live an Obama victory would, again at least initially, make everyone very, very happy. Sure, the spectacle of everybody falling over themselves to pat themselves on the back for our forward-thinking, tolerant, terrifically virtuous wonderfulness would have gotten old quickly, but I still think it might have been nice to live in a place where everyone was happy and in love with life instead of seething with hatred and resentment and I'd still like to see what that would be like, just once. Obama makes people feel good about themselves, and that's not merely a reason he has sparked such enthusiasm, but is also a good in itself (i.e., it's not just a political matter, but also has a degree of what they sometimes try to call "substance" as well, albeit indirectly.)

2. The Republican Party does not deserve to be rewarded for the last eight years of big government fake conservatism. I felt that way in 2004, too, despite the unimpressive Democratic candidate, and it is all the more compelling now. At least one term in the woodshed would benefit the USA and also the party itself.

3. Obama's genuinely even temperament and astute political judgment held out the promise of a campaign that would transcend the culture wars and usher in a less rancorous and perhaps marginally less vapid debate on policies and competing visions for the future that would in and of itself be edifying and, again, is something I would like to live to see once in my life. Perhaps that hope was always naive. Perhaps rationality in national politics is always a pretense, and people always vote from their gut in the end, rationalizing after the fact choices that are in reality senseless, tribal, animalistic, and purely instinctive. (That is, I'm pretty sure, what I may actually believe, for good or ill. But the idea of escaping our reflexive tribal atavisms is appealing nonetheless, perhaps in inverse proportion to how realistic it ultimately may be.)

If I'm honest, number three is frankly, naive or not, the main thing I liked about Obama's candidacy, and I think it is pretty clear now that it is gone forever. Devoted, not to say blinkered, Obama partisans like Andrew Sullivan and Josh Marshall spent the weekend after the Palin announcement desperately trying to assure their readers and themselves that the Palin pick was a big mistake, an error in judgement that called into question McCain's fitness as an executive, a reckless gamble, and a disaster that proper "vetting" could have prevented. How long would it be, they wondered, before Sarah Palin was forced to withdraw from the race in disgrace? They wish. The indications of this failure of "vetting" are so far rather thin and petty, and against that has to be stacked the pretty significant fact that picking Sarah Palin has, over the course of one week, reawakened the once-dormant culture war, against all - or at least my - expectations, and thereby revived a candidacy that seemed destined to lose. That may be a bummer, guys, but it's not failure.

I still think a President Obama would be good for the country in many ways, and he has conducted himself admirably and shrewdly, as almost always, in the face of this shake-up. It is impossible not to like him, and I do, maybe even more now than before. But the terms of the contest have really changed, and not only because the Republican ticket has managed to close the charisma gap. It's also not just a matter of scurrilously "serving up red meat" for "the base" as media types have condescendingly framed it. Class identity and cultural values matter to people, whether or not they happen to be base; hence, populism works, and, believe it or not, it works both ways. "Bittergate" was and is pretty silly, but it is effective in the hands of a convincing "communicator" because of a sad truth we all know: Obama's laudable post-whatever intentions notwithstanding, "we" (blue state urbanites) really do tend to look down on "them" (everybody else) and have a hard time hiding it. It has long been a big problem for "our" electoral chances. That's why the Palin speech landed all those punches, despite Obama's lovely, quixotic attempts to transcend that dynamic. It may not be fair, but all the temperance and statesmanlike bearing in the world at the head of the ticket won't keep the class ridicule off the internets and the TV. It is poison, as we saw last week, and now it has started I really doubt it will get much less poisonous as time goes on. Do you?

Last week I'd have bet any money that Obama would win; now it's more of a toss-up, and the momentum is, for the time being, with the Republicans, outrageous as that seems to a lot of people, and karmically undeserved as it may be. I know, it was supposed to be our turn, at last. Until last week, we did everything perfectly and the (g)od(d)s favored us. How is it that that horrible, stupid, evil party and their despicable TV network and the simpleton moron-sheep that follow them blindly even though it is not in their interests dare to rain on our beautiful presumptive victory parade? No problem: all we need to do is explain clearly and sarcastically and in words of one syllable how much smarter we are than they are. Why the hell does that keep not working?

Well, this is not the election we might have wanted, but it looks like the one we're going to get. And if it comes down to Ohio again, God, guts, guns, baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet will probably tip the balance as they almost always do when it's close. Right? We'll see, I suppose.

Posted by Dr. Frank at September 6, 2008 02:00 AM

OMG I can't take a GD nother "Too close to call"!!!! U know how many heart attacks people had that night? LOL

Posted by: Leslie at September 6, 2008 05:14 AM

"It is impossible not to like him"

I was with you up to here...

Posted by: Jim Treacher at September 6, 2008 02:03 PM

If blue-state urbanites have nothing more to show for their superior intellects than sarcasm, then maybe their party deserves what they get?

Posted by: Nate Pensky at September 6, 2008 06:34 PM

A non-sarcastic Mark Morford trivia question: How many times has he used the word "deeply"?

I'd like to see one of those word cloud things on that.

Posted by: Jason S. at September 6, 2008 09:13 PM

"Related to this is a purely parochial and self-interested deal: where I live an Obama victory would, again at least initially, make everyone very, very happy."

I feel for you, Dr. Frank. That's an honest admission.

Posted by: JB at September 7, 2008 06:18 AM

If you're fond of statistics, I suggest for all your electoral math needs. I definitely agree with you that Palin is an exciting choice. However, I wouldn't say that it was necessarily the best move. The fact that Mrs. Palin is confused about economics to the extent that she doesn't realize that Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae were private companies ( worries me.

Posted by: Derek at September 8, 2008 08:49 PM

Your analysis reminds me of Dave Edmund's singing "I Love You Baby, But I Can't Stand Your Friends".

Ohio. And Michigan. And Pennsylvania. And Colorado. And even New Hampshire.

Posted by: Lexington Green at September 8, 2008 11:14 PM

Statistics? Sorry, but you'll have to excuse me while I go water the lawn.

Posted by: Mike at September 9, 2008 03:06 AM

i am lukewarm on both obama and mccain, but don't think i haven't given some though to how much easier it would be to live in san francisco with a dem (or in this case, a saint) in office. the past eight years in the town where the president eats babies for breakfast have been a sloppy little slice of lockstep hell.

Posted by: lefty at September 12, 2008 08:35 PM

Word, Lefty.

Posted by: Dr. Frank at September 12, 2008 08:49 PM

I've got a question for both Dr. Frank and Lefty (or anyone else who chimes in). From comments like those above (and other posts on this blog) one gets the impression that San Francisco is mad with PC overload where you must walk on eggshells for fear of offending the hard left mafioso that run the town.

So why exactly do you live there? I promise I'm not trying to be a smart-ass, I'm really curious (never been to the Bay Area myself). Does the good out weigh the bad? Are less PC places (say Norman, Oklahoma) worse? Are you exaggerating for affect?

Posted by: JoshM at September 18, 2008 03:56 PM

Each of five parties shares a degree of national attention by attaining the mathematical possibility of its nominee becoming President of the United States -- i.e., having ballot status for its presidential candidate in states whose collective total is at least half of the Electoral-College votes -- in the U.S. presidential election, 2008.

* Democratic Party (1828 modern, 1792 historic)
* Republican Party (1854)
* Libertarian Party (1971)
* Constitution Party (1992)
* Green Party (1996)

Posted by: she's in parties... at September 19, 2008 08:20 PM