Thursday, February 21, 2008

Election surprises... This is why...

Anti-Obama folks go nuts on Michelle Obama based on an intentionally misinterpreted comment lifted (without context) from a speech.

Bill O'Reilly only supports a "lynching party" if Michelle Obama really isn't proud to be an American.

Hillary Clinton creates a website ( filled with a series of misrepresentations, lies of omissions and plain old bullshit.

The New York Times decides its time to jerk John McCain's chain by alluding to potential improprieties without a shred of hard evidence.

Hillary Clinton warns us all that we need to be wary of smooth rhetoric and soundbites by saying poetic and persuasive things like "It's time that we move from good words to good works, from sound bites to sound solutions" herself.

Meanwhile, the Clinton campaign is still trying to figure out why Barack Obama keeps winning and the most conservative elements of the Republican party remain flabbergasted that a right-wing standard-bearer couldn't beat McCain.

WHY, WHY, WHY? What is going on around here?

I might be wrong, but I think this guy might have it figured out:

"You don't need a poll to know that the vast majority of Americans--Republican, Democratic and Independent--are weary of the dead zone that politics has become, in which narrow interests vie for advantage and idealogical minorities seek to impose their own versions of absolute truth. Whether we're from red states of blue states, we feel in our gut the lack of honesty, rigor and common sense in our policy debates, and dislike what appears to be a continuous menu of false or cramped choices...Perhaps more than any other time in our recent history, we need a new kind of politics, one that can excavate and build upon those shared understandings that pull us together as Americans."

Just in case you don't recognize that explanation... It's author is currently winning the Democratic nomination.

Not a coincidence.

Now, let's see if it can last.


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1 comment:

  1. Exactly. Very nice, John.

    I have to say that, as of this point, give the politics of the McCain campaign versus the Obama campaign, I'm leaning more Obama, even though I still take issue with him on the war (and plenty of other things, but the war is my top priority, right now).

    What I really hope is that Obama can help lead us, especially the Washington and most influential intelligencia out of the morass.

    What I like about the possibilities of this Obama campaign is that we swim in the bullshit for so long that we begin to forget that we smell. It would be nice to have someone like Obama - and it will take much more than just one person, but someone running for office doesn't hurt the cause and is probably a really important way to focus peoples' attention on this more fundamental issue in our policy discussions - to keep confronting this tendency in our political culture until we start getting a more honest discussion.

    I'm really disappointed with the McCain campaign's hyperaggressiveness, at this point. And perhaps that will bode well for Obama. One can only hope.

    But, really, what I'm interested in is more people taking seriously the idea that the substative debates matter and to begin to engage them more seriously with an eye to a way out.

    You can tell that people are grappling with this question. David Brooks just wrote a piece that my para showed me, today, from USA Today, which begins to get at some of these questions. George Will has taken a much clearer free trade/free economy position more consistently in his columns, lately, which I think reflects this grappling on his part. There are plenty of liberal scholars doing this work, but I have to say that I think that there is too much groupthink amongst liberals in the press, right now, for me to be able to identify a liberal that I think is really trying to grapple with the larger issues of direction of the country in a way that accounts for some kind of integration of the best ideas, rather than satisfying ourselves with either false consensus, the political moment, old school New Deal economics, on the left, or old school militarism on the right, for example, easy ideologically-driven answers, or any host of answers that are not really answers beyond our own random opinions or which certainly do not try to account for better ideas from whatever quarter they come from.

    What Obama should really take to town, because it is is strongest quality, is a serious effort to engage in political discussion that explains why we need to transcend polarized divisions that do not offer us the best path to policy and instead engage in more honest and humble policy discussions that do not constantly defer to the politics of personal destruction and meaningless bullshit arguments that avoid the more substantive policy discussions/arguments.

    Because, from that vantage point, it becomes completely clear just how bullshit the current politics are and at least a better direction for where they need to go.

    David Brooks tries something like that in his article, even as he lambasts Obama in a previous article. I think Brooks' takes some easy ways out that I think I better account for. I also think that the circling of the wagons among the Washington intelligencia against Obama's message of hope and transcending these divisions is a symptom of the problem - the absence of more substantive and genuine policy discussions and disagreements - rather than any kind of wisdom about the election. I'm very disappointed with the media, right now. Not because they've taken a more Obama-skeptical tone lately, but because they are missing the really important discussion in that message because they are still mistaking their cynicism for something for real or wise than it really is.

    Being a skeptic is great. But we need policy answers to get us somewhere. And to act like that kind of discussion and the answers that might come from that discussion is already looking prettier in influential political circles than it really is is a symptom of the problem: a political class that swims in its own bullshit too much and pretends like its clear blue waters.

    Just once, I'd like one of those folks to say, "The truth is I have no fuckin' clue where the country is headed or needs to be headed, right now. I have some ideas that I think are better than other ideas, but I'm not sure exactly. And maybe we should listen to these folks who would like us to engaged the substantive discussions more honestly so that we can all figure out things more honestly and humbly rather than pretending like we have more answers than we really do or pretending like the search for answers is not as important as it really is."

    But to do that would take a level of humility that I am more confident, for all of my disagreements with him, that Barack Obama carries with him than his critics in the press, right now. I am totally cool with the criticisms and actually share many of their concerns. But I do think the cynicism is swamping the substance of his message, right now, which, uniquely for a Presidential candidate, actually does have something new and important to say.