___ Debate Commentary ---
The essential thing to come out of the first presidential debate was "comfort" -- many marginal voters got to know Obama better and were thus incrementally, icreasingly able to accept him, allowing the normal dynamic of a "throw the bums out" year to move ahead. He did not have to attack and was better off being seen as the calm one. Keeping cool was smart and it has been reflected in the polls.
No accident that McCain’s most common phrase was: “Senator Obama doesn’t understand...” while Obama’s most common was “Senator McCain is absolutely right that___, but ____.” Very effective!
Though -- of course -- I yelled at him throughout the debate, shouting "Why didn't you say ____!" (My wife finally kicked me out of the room, and rightly so! ;-)
A few core things that Obama (and later Biden) should have mentioned:
- that McCain backed the Bush plan to invest social security in the stock market.
- that Iran is the chief beneficiary of our self-ruining adventure in Iraq.
- that Phil Gramm and 500 other Bush-crony sidekicks prove McPalin and Busheney are siblings, they are not reformers.
- Mexico (!) - helping it not to fail. (A great reach to hispanics while showing that Republicans have foreign affairs tunnel vision.)
- Science and Technology(!)
- The readiness issue.
- The abused civil service and officer corps
There doesn’t have to be any wonkish detail on any of these. Just a mention, even in passing, would perk the ears of those who care deeply about them. Add up those groups and you get a heap o’ voters.
As for Biden-Palin -- well, both exceeded expectations, Palin by a large margin. But I believe that the lasting impression will be of Biden’s good-natured solidity. His general demeanor as a smart and sensible and reasonable adult will resonate with people. The fact that Obama chose him increased my respect for them both.
Though -- still -- I yelled at Biden, of course. (And got banished again.;-) Not only for failing to mention the items above, but also failing to:
- graciously congratulate Palin for proving she’s a formidable pro, fully capable of mixing it up in the open... and therefore we look forward to news conferences... (expressed in tones of genuine respect and sure-’nuff expectation).
- nail her on her refrain of “the past doesn’t matter.” How CAN we fix climate change without acknowledging how it’s caused? And how can we “fix the Washington mess” without caring how it happened... and maybe chucking the 500 Bushite operatives who now surround McPalin?
- laying on her the burden of proof that she and McC really are different than a Republican establishment that sure seems to be running their campaign.
And no, Palin did NOT try to invoke Hillary Clinton. I was a little surprised, since they had signalled an eagerness to reach for Clinton supporters. Maybe word reached them that I had been urging (through my cousin) that Biden prepare a modified, ironic-wink version of that famous Bentsen “I knew JFK” gotcha. (Well, I can fantacize, right?)
I did think that the stark difference between them was never more clear than when they answered Gwen’s somewhat obscure question about the Constitutional role of the Vice Presidency. Palin sent a chill down my spine. She understood the question, and clearly wants to be Cheney II. (Even if Obama wins, we have not seen the last of her. You sci fi fans, remember that 2012 is the "year of Nehemiah Scudder.")
Biden made it clear he sides with the Constitution, America, and us.
As for future debates, sometimes it's little things. Like that viral image of McCain and Stephen Colbert ... and a lizard... all sticking out their tongues, a hilarious riff that has gone viral (look for it!) If it goes superviral enough, then will many people be watching for that nervous tick? Will McCain concentrate hard, in order not to exhibit it? This is not something he deserves (unless, as some cops believe, the tick actually means "I'm lying.") I am not proud of rooting for him to display his tongue. But I'll take whatever gifts that he can subconsciously give to his country.
-- Election Tracking Sites
Watch out. These two are addictive. One of them is fivethirtyeight.com/ (though I’m puzzled as to why it isn't fivethirtyseven, which makes more sense.) It gives lively realtime analysis and has an excellent track record spotting trends... though there slips through some eident pro-Obama editorial commentary. Another site with an emphasis on informative poll lists and maps is realclearpolitics.com/
Have a look at the poll numbers there "w/ Barr, Nader." Yes, the GOP brand sucks vacuum. So one would have thought that some republicans would be seeking a compatible alternative in the LP. If the Libertarian Party cannot get it together this year, how can they ever? But polls show that the Libertarians are being of no help, either to themselves or the nation. Their truly awfulperson candidate, Barr (a monumental piece of work), is probably the reason. Meanwhile Nader is his usual drag-bummer. (Talk about a man his younger self would have disowned.) Made worse by the fact that I have yet to see any vote-swap sites emerge, to allow Naderites in battleground states to vote for Obama while a Californian compensates.
These sites are needed and should have been in motion, by now. Somebody go forth and make the queries, hm?
-- Demographic Tectonics? --
Recall how Nixon’s decision to go for a “southern strategy” leveraged upon regional resentment over Johnson’s civil rights push, resulting in a rapid “flip” of all the southern states (with brief pauses for Carter and Clinton) into the Republican column, transforming American politics? By pursuing this strategy to its most manipulative and take-no-prisoners extreme of Culture War, Nixon’s successors have brought us to the point where we seem to be engaged in the American Civil War Part III: Red vs Blue. The resulting ironic hypocrisies are too innumerable to count: e.g. the parts of the country that are net recipients of government largesse (net tax-receivers) and who are NOT likely targets of terrorism, and who have the worst marriage/sex/morality statistics, obsessively sneer at the net-taxpayers who raise healthier kids and who live in the terror crosshairs. A bizarre situation that has been fostered and foisted upon us by those who saw a divided America as one ripe for plundering. This strategy also benefited from the 220 year-old Constitutional bias in favor of rural states, giving those who live in high-population states much less bang for each vote.
But are we going to catch a break, at last? What suddenly struck me as fascinating about all this right now is to observe recent shifts in voting patterns in Virginia, Colorado, Missouri and North Carolina, all of whom seem to be tipping toward the democratic side of the ledger. Even allowing for a “throw out the bums” year, this is interesting.
One hypothesis: all of these states have seen major influxes of population from Blue America, heading for Virginia’s dyanamism, North Carolina’s incredible universities and tech corridors, or Colodado’s lifestyle. It’s been going on for some time, but, till now, it was always assumed that there’d be no political or social change. Rather, the influx would be absorbed, digested, with the newcomers either outvoted by locals or converted to local tastes and attitudes. Texas is a prime example.
What we are seeing now, however, appears to contradict that common-wisdom. Instead, we may be witnessing a tipping point, where youthful, increasingly urban and tech-savvy populations (both newcomers and evermore educated locals) may be propelling some basic shifts in three (or more) "red" states.
If so, it would be justice, since the old Union of Abraham Lincoln long ago lost Indiana and seemed sure to lose Ohio, as well. (Their blue-uniformed ancestors are grave-spinning, of course. Fetch coils and tap that energy!)
Again, one feels a taste of bile, having to look at recent history as the American Civil War, Part III. But just as Blue America had to win Civil War Part I in order for the nation to survive at all... and had to win Part II in order for us to abandon racism and become a decent society... it appears that it will have to (briefly, I hope!) get militant and pissed-off before this latest phase ends, before the Republican Party rediscovers some sanity, and before we can re-unite as a forward-looking and advanced civilization, once again.