Monday, November 27, 2006

Lopsided Centrism

Thought I was done with the Lieberman numbers? Far from it. Because some of those centrist-types I mentioned in the last post had another criticism of my numbers. Sure, perhaps Dems rejected Lieberman, they said, but that’s just because he wasn’t the Dem candidate. Somehow, that fact alone wasn’t enough for them to realize that Dems didn’t like Joe anymore. But no. They didn’t like the idea of using Party ID to see how close to the center someone is.

And the point was that “centrism” and being in the center wasn’t really about being in the middle of the two parties, but rather an ideological question between liberals and conservatives. And this, I believe, is just mistaken. Because guys like Joe aren’t dealing with the big issues of economics and policy, scouring texts for proper middle theory that explains how to best navigate America’s destiny. It’s really about splitting the difference between Republicans and Democrats in Congress. About finding compromise between the two sides.

They’re not trying to balance FDR’s liberalism with Goldwater’s conservativism. They’re trying to figure out how to get bills passed in an exceedingly right-leaning political world, to retain support from their media and corporate cohorts without offending the rest of America, which isn’t nearly as right-leaning. And too often for centrists, that just means that they get as close to the Republican position while staying slightly to the left. Unless they’re Republican centrists, in which case they have to wring their hands at the fact that Republicans can’t be a touch more moderate, before casting meaningless votes that won’t change a damn thing.

And so that was one reason why I picked Party ID from those exit polls as a way of showing Joe’s right-of-center leanings. Plus, there’s the fact that labels like “Liberal”, “Conservative”, and “Moderate” are really quite subjective. One person’s Moderate is another person’s Liberal or Conservative, and some people who really belong on one side like to believe that they’re actually Moderate. Calling oneself “Democrat” or “Republican” is fairly straight-forward (though many who always vote Republican like to claim to be Independents), but ideological labels are even more subjective.

But whatever. As I said before, all this is utterly unprovable to these sorts of people, because they need to hide behind vagueness and reverse-engineered theorems. So let’s just turn to the numbers. They didn’t like the party identifiers, so how do ideological identifiers show Lieberman? Were there many liberal Independents who swung towards Lieberman? Or were the Lieberman Republicans merely moderates, with the hardcore conservatives rejecting him for the “extremist” Schlesinger? In a word: No.

And remember, it was Joe’s supporters who first suggested that the election results proved Joe’s position in the center of the political spectrum. Yet they hadn’t even looked at the numbers.

Bring Out the Numbers

Here’s that same CNN Exit Poll:

Liberals (26%):
Lieberman - 27%
Lamont - 69%
Schlesinger - 3%

Moderates (53%):
Lieberman - 55%
Lamont - 36%
Schlesinger - 8%

Conservatives (21%):
Lieberman - 66%
Lamont - 13%
Schlesinger - 21%

My my. What do we have here. Self-described Liberals rejected Lieberman at a slightly higher rate than Democrats had, and Lieberman crushed Schlesinger with self-described Conservatives; who were his strongest supporters. And note, Lamont’s 13% of Conservatives really isn’t too far off from Schlesinger’s 21%, as compared with Lieberman’s 66%.

And so combined with the Party ID numbers in the previous post, we see Liberals and Democrats rejecting Lieberman, gaining more support from Moderates and Independents, and with the strongest support coming from Conservatives and Republicans. Whereas a centrist should show a Bell Curve-like hump, getting primary support from the middle and rejection from the two extremes; instead, we see a relatively straight line, with rejection on one extreme and strong support from the other.

So what the hell kind of centrism is this? I mean, in the messageboard I was on, many of “centrists” clearly implied that both Lamont and Schlesinger were extremists, taken as proven because one was a Democrat and the other a Republican. So Lieberman must have been in the middle. But if he was, his conservative voters didn’t know that. Because they preferred Lieberman by a wide margin over the “extremist” candidate. I mean, it would have been telling if they had split the conservative vote. But this was a blow-out. Lieberman got almost as many Conservative voters as Lamont got Liberals. And if Lamont’s an unabashed liberal, then Lieberman’s got to be some kind of conservative.

The Extremes

But there’s more to this than the subjective ideological labels, right? I mean, a Connecticut conservative isn’t the same as a Texas one, right? That was another argument given against these numbers, and there’s something to that. So how about the flavor of Lieberman’s conservative Republican voters? Are they bland, middle-of-the-road Conservatives, or are they the same fruitcakes we’re dealing with every day? Short answer: Same damn fruitcakes.

Here’s a rundown of the extreme positions on that exit poll, and surprise, surprise, the far-right extreme voted for Lieberman and the far-left extreme rejected Lieberman. Even worse, the far-left positions easily outnumbered the far-right positions; showing the rightwing position to be even further from the mainstream. Yet they were Lieberman’s strongest supporters. We’ve been told repeatedly that Dems showed their liberal fringe-side by dumping Joe in the primary; yet the exit polls make one thing clear: The Left Fringe is far more mainstream than the Right Fringe.

In parenthesis, I’m putting the total number of people who hold those positions, so you can see how extreme they are. The numbers on the right are the percentage of these voters who voted for Lieberman.

Wants Republicans to Control Senate (29%): 76%
Wants Democrats to Control Senate (55%): 31%

Voted Today to Support Bush (15%): 72%
Voted Today to Oppose Bush (40%): 17%

Lieberman Does Not Agree with Bush Enough (9%): 66%
Lieberman Does Agree with Bush Enough (42%): 82%
Lieberman Agrees with Bush Too Much (44%): 13%

Strongly Approve of Bush (12%): 66%
Strongly Disapprove of Bush (49%): 31%

Strongly Approve of Iraq War (12%): 77%
Strongly Disapprove of Iraq War (46%): 28%

Send More Troops to Iraq (15%): 72%
Withdrawal All Troops from Iraq (31%): 29%

And no, those aren’t a special sampling of a few issues that happened to go in Lieberman’s direction. Those are every one. Every exit poll question that could identify a far-right extremist position showed that these people voted for Lieberman. And as the numbers in parenthesis shows, those really are the extreme positions in Connecticut and totally out of the mainstream. Yet they supported Lieberman. And the other extreme was far more popular, yet rejected Lieberman.

Overall, it’s clear. Joe got a huge portion of his votes from the far, far right. As I said, those people should be as much against Lieberman as people on the other side. But it’s not even close. His strongest support wasn’t from moderates, but from far-right extremists. And the far-left people who were far more representative than their far-right equivalents roundly rejected Lieberman.


I wrote one more section comparing these positions with Ohio and Nebraska, to show that even conservative states like Nebraska don’t have such a far-right agenda as Lieberman’s strongest supporters; and how “battleground” states like Ohio look more like Connecticut than Nebraska. And that would once again show how far to the right Lieberman is. Because America’s political spectrum isn’t nearly as far to the right as Congress’s. But I had to cut that section because it was too long.

And sure, maybe all this is crap. Maybe this has more to do with Fox News and other rightwing blowhards telling their sheep-like followers to vote for Joe simply because that helped the President more. But that alone should be disconcerting for Joe’s centrist supporters. But maybe it’s meaningless. Maybe these numbers were a fluke of this particular election and not a reflection on Joe. Then we really can’t use these election results at all.

But Joe’s supporters did want to use the election results as proof, and without even having seen them. They “knew” that this election proved Joe was in the middle, and weren’t even the least bit surprised at learning exactly how thoroughly the left had rejected Joe, or how much the right embraced him. The exact numbers themselves apparently fit within the normal threshold and shouldn’t be of concern to us. It’s enough to know that Joe’s numbers showed slightly more variability than the typical partisan’s, even if it did put him strongly on the right-side of the aisle. And so this did nothing but confirm what they already believed, which was utter crap to begin with.

I, on the other hand, had expected to see strong support from conservatives, but was still surprised at how one-sided the whole thing was. The "centrists" kept insisting that these numbers would match the few other centrists in Congress, yet nobody came close to Joe's oddball numbers, and they certainly made him look fairly rightwing. And sure, most of Joe’s votes did come from the middle, but that’s just because the middle is the biggest group and Joe’s supporters had promised them all that that’s where Joe was. They were told that Lamont was dangerous and Schlesinger wasn’t an option. But when we actually look at the numbers, it sure doesn’t look like he was the man for them.

And the fact that one of the extremes rejected Joe as much as the other embraced him should surely alter the "centrists" opinions of Joe's centrism. But it doesn't. And in many ways, that denial of reality is perhaps what makes Joe and his supporters look most Republican of all.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Republicans for Lieberman

I was just reading about how uber-wanker Marshall "Bullmoose" Wittman has been hired by wanker extraordinaire Joe Lieberman, and saw a few “centrist” types on Yglesias’ message board insisting that both Wittman and Lieberman are in the center of the political spectrum. And as I pointed out, the label “centrist” itself is nothing but a ruse designed to paint all non-centrists as extremist-fruits destroying America through their zealous extremism.

But that’s the kind of unprovable thing that makes arguing so stupid. If someone’s so blind that they actually think centrists form some sort of majority, then it’s fairly hopeless to bother attacking the very premise of centrism itself. Namely, that it represents a popular middle position between the two parties, rather than a right-leaning ideology of specific beliefs that aids Republicans. And too often, it merely refers to Democrats who are secretly softcore Republicans, as well as Republicans who like to please the Beltway pundits. In both cases, they’re similar to regular Republicans, except that their anti-Dem rhetoric is much softer and fine-tuned. Or Republicans who play nice.

But again, that’s not provable to people who have already adopted the basic premises of centrism. But there was thing you can prove: Numbers. And when one of the “centrists” suggested that Joe’s centrism was proven by his win this year, I went to the exit poll data to see how things really worked out. And sure enough, the exit polls show that Joe got a strong majority of Republican voters while being rejected by an equally strong majority of Democrats. Without any doubt, had Republicans supported their own candidate instead of Joe, Lamont would have won instead. And this served to prove the original point, that Lieberman is a Republican in Dem clothing; but that his popularity is dependent solely on his ability to lap-up Republicans who don’t have a better option.

Tale of the Tape

Here’s the exit poll breakdown from CNN:

Democratic Votes:
Lamont - 65%
Lieberman - 33%
Schlesinger - 2%

Republican Votes:
Lamont - 8%
Lieberman - 70%
Schlesinger - 21%

Independent Votes:
Lamont - 35%
Lieberman - 54%
Schlesinger - 10%

And as that makes clear, Lieberman’s strongest support came from Republicans, who preferred him by an even larger margin than Democrats’ support of Lamont. My own calculations based on the poll info shows that a 36.5% of Lieberman’s vote total came from Republicans. In contrast, only 25.2% of Joe’s votes came from Democrats. So where is the centrism? And when one factors-in the centrist-media factor, which had pimped Lamont as an anti-war extremist, as well as the fact that Joe was the more experienced campaigner and the incumbent, there is little to suggest that Joe’s “centrism” was the real winner here. And finally, there can be little doubt that, had Joe officially ran as a Republican, he would have gained Republican votes and lost Democratic votes. And that also would likely have lost him the election.

One Joe supporter suggested that Joe’s votes came from all sources. Yet, these numbers belie that point. Sure, Dems supported Joe; but it was the Republican vote that clearly won things for him. If anything, I suspect these people are suffering from a mind-game, in which Joe’s support from Republicans is so counter-intuitive that this shows how widespread his support is. Somehow, they’ve failed to recognize that this is our very compliant: That Lieberman’s so far to the right that he’s not really a Democrat at all. Sure, it’s lofty to woo people from the other side, but not if it’s at the expense of your own. At some point, you’ve just changed sides, and Lieberman hit that point and kept going.

Real-World Comparisons

Several other “centrists” asserted without any evidence that guys like Ben Nelson, who win Senate seats in states that lean against their party, will show similar numbers to Lieberman’s. IE, that they’ll receive a large percentage of voters from the other party. But that’s obviously false and isn’t even a proper analogy. Because we’re not just talking about people who receive a good size of the opposition, but a large majority of the opposition. And on top of that, losing a large majority of their own party. And finally, in a state that leans against them, as opposed to Lieberman which should lean in his direction. And that’s an entirely silly argument, and a strong sign that these people are the same desperate deceivers as Lieberman himself.

But arguments aren’t the same as numbers, so I crunched a few numbers. Like Nelson, for instance, who several “centrists” said would show similar numbers. But they didn’t. Republicans make up 50% of Nebraska, compared with 27% Dems. Yet Nelson got 96% of Dems and 42% of Republicans. And sure, 42% Republican is high. But not compared with Lieberman’s 70% of Republicans. And the fact that Nelson could get such a high percentage of cross-over votes, yet still retain almost all Democrats doesn’t compare with Lieberman’s pathetic 33% at all. Yet Nelson was running in a heavily Republican state, while Lieberman was running in a Democratic state. So this comparison only serves to embarrass Lieberman further by showing how odd his favoritism by Republicans is.

We see another example in the the Burns-Tester race in Montana. Montana is a Republican leaning state, with a 39% to 32% Republican edge, yet it was won by the Democrat. How? Entirely because he had a huge advantage in independents, as well as strong support from his own party. Tester won 91% of Dems, 11% of Repubs, and 59% of independents. It was his strong support from his party and independents who helped him win. Burns, his opponent, received a similar amount of Dem votes, at 7%, but only got 35% of independents. That made the difference.

For the next comparison, I had to turn to 2004, to the Dorgan-Liffrig race in North Dakota. North Dakata has a 41%-28% Republican advantage, but was won by the Democrat. In that race, the Democrat pulled in 99% of Democratic vote, 37% of Republican vote, and 83% of Independent vote. Needless to say, the Dem crushed his opponent in a Republican state, though he only received 37% of Republicans.

Well how about the other Senator from Connecticut? Did he need Republicans to win in 2004? Of course not. He blew-out his opponent, carrying 93% of Democrats while getting a relatively hefty 26% of Republicans. And again, if there’s any comparison to Lieberman’s numbers, it’s that they did the opposite. That Joe relied heavily on Republicans and barely got the Dems at all. What a centrist!

And finally, in Lieberman’s previous race in 2000, we see that, absent a better alternative in the main race, he pulled in a whopping 100% of Dems and 86% of Republicans. And remember, this was the presidential election year in which Republicans were slamming him as a liberal while he was off gallivanting across the country to be Gore’s number two. Yet still, his Republican opponent could only manage 14% of Republicans against the guy. No wonder he thought he was presidential timber. Of course, that was the Democrat’s pre-9/11 attitude. Amazing the fuss a war can make between friends.

Lemonade Piss

And if there’s one thing that’s obvious in all these cases, it’s that a large majority of Dems went to the Dem, and the Republicans went to the Republican. Except in Lieberman’s case. He got a huge majority of Republicans and a fairly small minority of Democrats in 2006. And sure, he got more Dems than most Republicans did; but that’s not the point. The point is that his numbers look like a moderate Republican’s in a Democratic state, and the reason is simple: He is one.

And the fact that he looks like that in a Democratic state is all the worse. We can excuse this in the case of someone like Nelson, even though he didn’t need to rely on Republicans to win. But in Lieberman’s case it’s just pathetic. The “centrists” have borrowed a page from the media in thinking that if both sides hate you, that you must be doing things right. But in Joe’s case, it’s even worse, because both sides don’t hate him. Only the people of his own party do. But the Republicans clearly loved him, giving him 84% in 2000 and 70% in 2006. So if mutual hatred is a sign of centrism, then Lieberman loses that test as well.

In the end, this is strong evidence that “centrism” is nothing but a political label designed to explain why Lieberman can call himself a Dem while supporting the other side. Some people see this as a sign that Lieberman’s not extremist, but unless they’re suggesting that 70% of Connecticut Republicans are more centrist than 65% of Connecticut Democrats (an argument which itself suggests a strong lean to the right), the facts dispute that argument.

On a final note, the saddest part of all this is that not one “centrist” on that board expressed any kind of surprise when confronted with these numbers. Instead, the few who noticed them attempted to spin them as a win for Joe’s claims of being in the center. Because his numbers were slightly more middle-ground than most other Senators. Somehow, it just didn’t faze them that their hero Joe was heavily preferred by Republicans. It’s as if they’ve already bought into the spin that Republicans are more centrist-oriented than Democrats; and they probably already have.

And I wasn’t looking for some sort of capitulation. But surprise was certainly in order. Or a “yeah, that looks bad but” argument. But somehow they kept trying to spin this as a win for Joe, as if the fact that he did poorly with his own party and good with the opposition is proof that he’s in the center. Instead, it only showed what lying gits the so-called centrists are. Give them a bucket of piss and they’ll call it lemonade. It’s like they’re all destined for that three-way tie for third. It’s ironic that Lieberman always blamed Gore for their loss in 2000, yet that was his best shot for ever getting into the Whitehouse; but only because his own party won’t have him.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Test Driving the President

Something I’m not sure I get and which is quite disturbing is the idea that the presidency is basically a lameduck job after the re-election, and most certainly one after the following mid-term. But why would that be so? If anything, an election should free the president up to do even more, as they’re no longer worried about running for re-election again (which is one good argument against the two-term limit). So this should make them even more powerful. But it doesn’t. It’s as if all the power from the first term is solely derived from the fact that the guy will need to win once again, and then he has no power the second time around. I remember that sort of sentiment in Clinton’s second term, and it’s even more pronounced now.

And even after the second mid-term, it makes no sense that the president becomes powerless. Because there’s always that next election that Congress needs to worry about and so you’d think that would give the Prez political leverage in his last two years. But somehow, things have gotten established as if the new election with a new presidential contender just isn’t related to any previous activities. Or as if the congressional election in the open presidential election year is more a referendum on the two newbie candidates, rather than an election in its own right.

I’m not sure if it’s always been that way, or if it’s the media’s focus on the presidential “horse race” that’s given it that aura. But in either case, it’s gotten to the point that I’m not exactly sure why the Whitehouse doesn’t just start working for the next guy. Picking their successor and setting him (or her) up for the job.

And I was thinking about this while reading Atrios’ post on The McCain Plan of sending 20,000 more troops to Iraq, and how the Whitehouse might be going in that direction. And I was thinking, why not just go whole-hog with the idea of instituting McCain’s ideas? Why not start setting him up to be the next president? I’m not too keen on the idea, but I really think it would make a lot of sense for them; particularly now that their current guy has totally hit lameduck status. Rather than be the cheerleader for his own failed policies, Bush can now start cheering-on Mr. McCain’s.

And I honestly can see this being where this goes next. If the power of the president resides almost entirely with the upcoming elections, why not dub someone the new guy right after the mid-terms, and bring back some power to that once mighty institution? Hell, it’d kind of be the equivalent of a couple living together for a few years before they get married. As a sort of trial presidency. Give him a go for two years. See how he feels.

And if he screws up in the meantime, the current Whitehouse occupant can always dump the guy for someone else’s plans. We wouldn’t give him the speeches or any official power, so the current president would have to act as the mouthpiece for the guy. And that would, in effect, be giving more power to the president, because the incoming guy would need to please the current guy and would be acting at his discretion. I’m not suggesting that this is necessarily a good idea. Merely an inevitable one.

And so maybe that’s what we’re already getting now. Maybe this will be John McCain’s shot at the ring. To give his ideas the trial run that we never really got with Bush. Most presidential contenders are naturally a fairly unknown commodity, at least in terms of how they’d act in the Big Show; but Bush was even more so. And his lack of resume was one of his strongest qualities, as it allowed them the freedom to put anything they wanted into his mouth and there was no solid record to dispute it. But a trial run might have made him put his money where his mouth was and forced him to start screwing-up even earlier.

But I suppose Clinton would never have picked him, so my current theory really wouldn’t have applied anyway. Unless, of course, we went with an opposition Whitehouse too; which would likely be appealing to Republicans as they’re so much better as the opposition than at actually running the show. But like everything else the Republicans like, that would naturally be a disaster.

And as for McCain’s future, it really all just depends on how far to the right he can go on social issues before the media finally realizes that Mr. Straight Talk ain’t the guy they fell in love with in 2000. But they’re likely to believe that his move to the right was merely a trick to woe primary voters and not a reflection of his actual beliefs; which is probably the case anyway. And as we’ve seen from the media so far, they loooove people who use deception and trickery. They’ll bust you for an outright lie, even if you’re not really lying. But they loooove to see someone get away with duping the rubes into believing they’re something that they’re not. After all, it’s what they do best. And really, the only reason I think they bust outright lies isn’t because of the deception, but rather because you flubbed it so obviously. And so in that regard, it might actually be refreshing to see McCain’s plans blow-up before he ever gets a chance at screwing things up fulltime.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Stiff-Arming the Beltway Bullies

And speaking of stiff-arming the Beltway pundits, in that Carpetbagger guest-post I criticized previously, one of the commenters posited his criticism of Pelosi thusly:
Pelosi promoted the Democratic party as anti-corruption and a force for “change.” She may have thought those were nifty campaign slogans, but the GOP and an adversarial MSM is certainly going to try and hold her to her word. It’s unfortunate, but there will be no honeymoon period for Congressional Democrats. Dems should get used to living under a microscope and adjust their MO accordingly.

And as I wrote on that board:
I don’t agree with that at all. The media’s only real influence is on the rest of the media, and the more we worry about what they think, the more power we give them. But most of America isn’t influenced by them at all, and it’s only by allowing the media to trip us up that we get really screwed. Plus, they smell fear and worrying about what they say only makes them hate us more. That’s just human nature. Bullies look for weakness and the more you follow their orders, the more they’ll hate you and bully you. A weak enough person will make even nice people want to slap them.

I agree that there is no honeymoon for us, but that just means that we need to tell them to shove-it. People respect authority and that means we need to act with authority. But the more we ask permission and kowtow, the more we’ll be treated like bitches. That’s how it works, both in Washington and in the real world. The Republicans have been teaching us that for over a decade, and I can’t figure out why Dems haven’t learned it too.

Thus said, I have slight concerns about giving the position to a guy with corruption problems (Hastings). But my question is: How has he screwed us lately? Is he still corrupt or are we worried about old offenses? I don’t want a corrupt guy, but I don’t want to pass on him solely because of how the Beltway gossips might react; particularly as that will only encourage them to hate us more. The Republicans didn’t rule by honeymoon, they ruled by force. I don’t want to emulate much about them, but they sure knew how to get things done. If only they had a reality-based agenda…

Piss in the Punchbowl: Unfinished

My previous unfinished post went so well that I decided to do it again. And just as a clarifier, unfinished doesn’t just mean that I don’t have an ending. Much of this post needs a rewrite, and isn’t nearly at the level that I’d feel happy with. But again, I wrote this last week and just can’t work up the gumption to finish it, so here it is.

Why criticize Pelosi? And I don’t just mean the guest-poster at that link, but all of the more mainstream liberals criticizing her? I mean, sure, they might not think she made the right decision on Murtha. Or maybe they don’t like her choice of Hastings over Harmon. So fucking what? Why make it personal? Why denounce her decision-making instead of focusing solely on the decisions. That’s not to say that they can’t disagree with her, but why make it about her? And why adopt the same smears that the Republicans are using against her?

This is the same triangulating that Republicans used against Clinton, and while it never worked on the average American; it worked gangbusters against the same type of hand-wringing “moderates” who are already getting worked into a lather over Pelosi. Because this once again totally plays into the hands of the Republicans and they’re just eating it up.

That’s not to suggest that I think any of you are doing anything so stupid. After all, you’re my readers, so you clearly have enough commonsense as to avoid doing such a thing. But what’s up with the others? I don’t know if there are a lot of Dems doing that, but it doesn’t take a lot. Just a handful of Dems pissing in the punchbowl is enough to ruin it for everyone.


But it’s not just that it’s Dem-on-Dem action that’s hurting us, but that personality politics is a Republican game. They’re the ones who trump character over policy, and insist that any schmuck with a family and a bible is good enough for public office. Even if he’s cheating on the family and using the bible for target practice.

But Dems are supposed to be different. We’re supposed to be about policy and making government work. It shouldn’t matter who said something, but what they said. And so all criticism should be directed at what the Dems are doing, not about the person doing it. Because all of the criticism I’ve seen so far focused far more on Pelosi’s poor decision, and only used the Murtha and Harmon issues for the backdrop to explain how Pelosi was screwing up. And that’s entirely backwards. Explain the decision, but leave the mind-reading to rightwing hacks like Novak and stop legitimizing it.

But too many Democrats are forgetting that and immediately gunning for Pelosi. Sure, they don’t want to. But they think she’s screwing up and have to bad mouth her for it. Because that’s the form that the initial criticisms were taking, and they don’t see a good defense of this. But rather than repackage the complaints into the right format, they give it a “You’ve gotta admit” air about the whole thing that’s just totally wrong.

And again, that’s an old anti-Clinton trick. They weren’t criticizing Clinton. They were merely unable to defend him and their integrity compelled them to describe their complaints using the same terminology of his enemies. Not that they were trying to. They were just using the parlance of the day, which happened to be invented by Clinton’s Republican attackers. Because they felt the need to distance themselves from Clinton, in order to more firmly establish their objectivity and to prove that they weren't knee-jerk Clinton supporters. And somehow, they failed to register what those words really meant or that the Republicans didn't really give a damn whether they were knee-jerk supporters and would label them as such anyway. And so you had people who didn’t hate Clinton using attacks that fed Clinton-hatred.

And again, it’s fortunate that the typical American doesn’t suffer from that need to use the Republicans framework to criticize Dems, and in fact, usually don’t even notice that kind of thing. As I’ve said before, the Beltway pundits’ biggest influence is on one another and the only way they have a bigger influence is when they goad politicians into screwing up and making the issue have wider resonance.

And the secret is to give a good stiff-arm to the Beltway chatterers while staying on-target with the regular people. Which is what Clinton did quite well, for how much the chatterers were out to get him. But too often,

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Unfinished Racist Post

Dammit, I’m sick of writing posts that I never finish, and this time, I’m drunk enough to post this unfinished. I wrote this a few days ago, and I’ve lost the heart to finish it. You can fill in the blanks.

So I was driving my 14-year-old daughter to school this morning and happened to have it on NPR, and they were talking about Trent Lott and his rise to glory in the Senate. And they were talking about the Strom Thurmond remark that brought him down, but as expected (unless I missed it) they failed to mention exactly why his remark was so offensive. Now, perhaps they thought we already knew the context. But if so, why quote the remark at all? Because all they did was mention that his comment started a “firestorm” and brought him down. Almost as if it was an innocent remark taken out of context by enemies, rather than a clear indicator that Lott is a racist who thought that racism should have remained an institution in America.

And so I felt the need to mention the context to my daughter, because she was slightly interested in the story (or so I’d like to believe). But rather than immediately grasping the problem, she starts going on about how you just can’t get rid of all racism and that therefore you shouldn’t try. And I, not fully grasping her point because she’s not particularly racist, started mentioning how Thurmond’s platform had been primarily against federal laws against segregation and lynchings, and that sort of thing; and I even had to explain what “lynching” meant. And she was like, “well it’s not like they’d ever pass those laws.”

And then I immediately saw the problem: We’ve gotten so far in this country fighting racism that the original dangers aren’t even mentioned anymore. But even worse, the racist rhetoric has become so divorced from reality that my daughter could recite racist rhetoric without having any clue of what she was really saying. That she thought this was about stopping racist thoughts, rather than, you know, actual racists doing bad, bad things. It just hadn’t occurred to her that governments used to help perpetuate racism and discrimination, and that that’s the kind of thing that we’re still talking about. Not necessarily that they could pass those laws now, but that that’s the proper context of this. Not about ending racism, per se, but of refusing to allow the racists to

And even then, I was amazed yesterday when I read what Thurmond’s Dixiecrat platform was, as it too used euphemisms and rhetoric to disguise what they were really talking about. Here’s what I’m talking about:
"We stand for social and economic justice, which, we believe can be guaranteed to all citizens only by a strict adherence to our Constitution and the avoidance of any invasion or destruction of the constitutional rights of the states and individuals. We oppose the totallitaran, centralized bureaucratic government and the police nation called for by the platforms adopted by the Democratic and Republican Conventions."

It then went on regarding the right to discriminate against blacks and opposing anti-discrimination and anti-lynching laws. And it’s as if this was solely about liberty, and the freedom for blacks to be discriminated against and lynched. Even then, they were masking their racism in terms of them having their civil rights infringed upon. And that sort of deception has carried on to today,

And of course, once I explained it to her she was somewhat shocked and changed her tune. Similarly, she was shocked a few weeks back when I explained that, until a few years ago, it was illegal for gays to have sex in Texas, and how many people still think they should be barred from doing so. And she didn’t know any of that at all. Because it’s no longer part of the dialogue. We’ve won our battles and moved on.

Yet this is the context . Racists don’t talk about lynching and being able to discriminate outright, but even the Dixiecrat platform didn’t state that explicitly. It was all about freedom and whatnot. And sure, part of this is deception, but I really think that another part of this is self-deception. That they have to lie to themselves about what they're really doing, as it's too despicable even for them. And

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Bullshitting with James Carville

Why do Dems need to make shit up? Via Atrios, I saw this post from McJoan at Daily Kos:
"So apparently the 50-state strategy was all James Carville's idea, and Howard Dean messed it up."

It then quotes from an article about Carville dissing Dean, saying he should be replaced. McJoan then went on to criticize Carville with pointed questions under the assumption that Carville couldn’t possibly answer them. And that lead into a speculation about how Carville might be working on Rahm Emanuel’s behalf. Towards the end, we read: “But I guess state legislatures and governors' seats don't matter in James Carville's or Rahm Emanuel's world.”

But why? Why assume that Carville was talking out of his ass? And why pretend as if he was claiming the 50-state strategy as his own? And why assume that Carville or Emanuel don’t understand this, rather than that they’re just trying to screw Dean? Because none of this addresses Carville’s actual complaints against Dean, or what he was trying to do. He wasn’t claiming the 50-state strategy, nor was he criticizing it. If you read the article, he just says that Dean didn’t go far enough. That he wimped-out without a good reason and wouldn’t borrow extra money to win more seats.

And maybe he’s right or maybe he’s full of shit. I don’t know. For me, the odd thing isn’t Carville’s criticism, but why he’s doing it. Even if his criticism is valid, it seems like an odd time to do it, and sounds more like a powerplay than a straight-up criticism. That Carville and his buds want a piece of this Democratic power action and want Dean out of the way to do it. Or at a minimum, they just don’t like Dean and want him out of the way. And it’s even possible that Dean had already expressed that he was keeping Carville out of the loop, and that Carville was taking the initiative by dissing Dean publicly; so that it would appear that any bitterness between them was due to Dean’s hurt feelings at Carville’s attacks.

Or whatever. Who knows? I can invent new reasons all day and they’ll all sound good. But what does this have to do with the 50-state strategy at all? Why assume that Carville has a real criticism? Because regardless of whether Dean screwed up, Carville’s timing is clearly suspicious and should be the entire focus of the issue.

Disproving the Obvious

And even if Carville’s criticism of Dean is wrong, McJoan does nothing to clarify it. Nor is there even a hint at the idea that Carville might be right. Or any interest in uncovering it. Instead, we get a fact-free attack on Carville filled with much empty speculation about him doing this on Emanuel’s behalf. As if Chuck Schumer’s opinion somehow proves Carville wrong.

In fact, much of the post is a defense of the strategy that Carville says Dean didn’t go far enough in. It seems as if Carville’s maneuvering is so cryptic to McJoan that a strawman had to be inserted into the equation to make sense of things. And so most of the post was baseless speculation that McJoan clearly knew to be irrelevant, even if it was true.

And this reminds me too much of the typical liberal strategy against Republicans: That even when we know that they’re bullshitting us, we still take their criticism at face value and try to debate them on the merits. It’s like someone who knows a magician isn’t really using magic, but then loudly proclaims to the crowd that magic is impossible and explains why rabbits can’t appear in hats. I mean, if you already know they’re bullshitting you, then you can just work from that point forward. And the longer you waste explaining obvious bullshit, the easier it is for your opponent to continue spewing more.

Wile E. Carville

As I’ve admitted before, I have a soft spot for Carville. And shit, if I had to choose between Carville or Dean as my political consultant, I’d have to go with Carville. He’s a tricky-ass bastard who really knows how to stick it to the other side. But regarding his attack on Dean, I really can’t defend that at all. Even if he’s got some reason for doing it, I’d have to disagree and think he’s making a strategic error. He should have held back and waited for Dean to do something stupid enough to use as ammunition. But I suspect that this was partly done to remove the obvious glow Dean got from the election, so I guess perhaps that couldn’t wait.

But whether or not he should be doing it, he’s doing it well. The political reporters he fed coffee and rolls to reported what he said, and now the McJoans are falling into his trap by futilely trying to refute something that Carville was intentionally vague about. It’s no longer about Dean’s obvious victory. It’s now a matter of debate between Dean’s supporters and his detractors. And Dean’s detractors have more immediate power than his supporters, and that clearly plays into Carville’s strategy. And all he had to do is feed coffee and rolls to some reporters while dishing some juicy dirt.

But no matter what, he’s got his reasons for doing it and trying to mind-read him on this is a fairly futile task. The best option is to quickly laugh at him for his powerplay strategy (which is the extent of Atrios’ coverage of it), and moving on.

Again, if someone’s obviously bullshitting, the worst thing you can do is to take their criticism seriously. Because it does play into Carville’s hands, by making it seem necessary to defend him. And if a defense was necessary, McJoan didn’t give one. So rather than muddy down with Senator Schumer’s opinions and whatnot, a bit of quick mockery would have done far better. And unfortunately, a good guy to have on your side for that kind of thing happens to be James Carville. Damn.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Be Kind

Everyone’s got a story. Everyone’s got a point of view. Even the idiots. Be kind. That’s all most people want anyway. They don’t want to take over America or to make everyone follow them. They just want a little respect. To be understood. We don’t need to give them everything they want to cool them off. We just need for them to know that they’re not under attack. That we don’t hate them, or plan to ruin their lives. They keep being told otherwise, and we’d be fools for giving them any more reason to believe it. No one’s going to agree with you about everything, but most people don’t expect that either. They just want a little respect. They want you to remember that they’ve got a story. But it never hurts to let them know that you’ve got one too.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Republicanism: Reality for Dummies

I’m not trying to be a prick (though I’m sooo good at it), but I have to yet again disagree with Glenn Greenwald.  He wrote yesterday: “our country has been run exclusively by conservatives for virtually all of the last six years.”

But that’s only sorta true.  The real truth is that our country has been run exclusively by Republicans for the last six years, many of whom had been lifelong conservatives who had given up their conservativism in exchange for being on the winning team.  Because we always have to make the distinction between Republicans and conservatives.  Republicans are the assholes who like to win elections while screwing people over, while conservatives are the assholes who just like to screw people over.  

I know, those two options sound depressingly similar, but there’s a huge difference in where their sympathies lie.  Because a Republican will gladly go against the free-market system, enlarge government control, or even raise taxes; if it helps them win elections.  Heck, Nixon himself created the EPA and OSHA; and he’s the chief poohbah for modern Republicans.  For them, the only overriding principle is that they win, and they’d prefer to do so using deceit and treachery and strong-arm tactics.  

But conservatives are different, as they’re totally willing to offend people and believe in a completely unpopular agenda if it helps them feel better about themselves.  They’re extremists who prefer to live in a fantasy world in which they only lose elections due to a biased media and lying, cheating Dems.  Because they “know” that they’ve got commonsense on their side, as well as a big majority of the country.

Oh, and to keep things consistent with what I’ve said in the past, I should emphasize that some Republicans are never conservative.  That would be Karl Rove, who would do or say anything to win; as well as most of the rightwing pundits like Jonah Goldberg and Ann Coulter.  As I’ve argued before, Goldberg in particular doesn’t seem to understand even the basic concepts of being conservative, to the point that he thinks an accurate portrayal of conservatives is a weird strawman invented by Dems to make conservatives look stupid.  William F. Buckley would be rolling in his grave if he had the sense of shame enough to be in one.  

So you should keep in mind that this only applies to conservatives, and not all Republicans.  A longtime conservative can trade-in his ideology for a shot at political victory, but a longtime Republican will never adopt the conservative ideology beyond his political needs.

Realworld Conservatism

And really, I suspect that Republicanism is conservativism in practice.  The place where the rubber hits the road.  Because straightforward conservativism just won’t win elections and has to be decorated up and compromised.  You’ve got to pay people off.  You’ve got to please different groups.  And you’ve got to put a strong enough foot into the real world that you know how the political landscape feels.  It’s all about winning the next election.  But then they quickly hit the point at which they’ve compromised everything, particularly when the original belief system was so theoretical to begin with.  

In the end, conservatives believe what they do as a means to rationalize their selfishness, while Republicans believe what they do because it helps them win.  But neither group has any real hardcore beliefs about anything.  When conservatives rail against Big Government, corruption, and all that other hoohaw, it’s really just a big excuse.  And it all comes down to selfishness and a demand to rearrange the world around their particular needs and desires.  They only oppose Big Government when it doesn’t directly benefit them; and even then, they’ll gladly accept any government benefit, while loudly proclaiming that the government doesn’t help “self-reliant” people like themselves.  How else to explain why red states are far more likely to receive more federal tax dollars than they payout?  Yet they always imagine the opposite to be true.

But in regards to conservatives blaming Republicans for failing the cause, the truth is that every conservative gave-up on their ideology at some point in this debacle, and most of them stayed for almost the full duration.  They all supported policies that were entirely against the conservative ways and just didn’t give a damn.  They just wanted to beat the Democrats.  And each one of them had their breaking point at which they denounced the party and moved back into their comfort zone, using conservativism as a sort of bunker to protect them from the demands of reality.  A place to hideout and snipe, pretending as if they weren’t being repudiated by the Republican failure they had so wholeheartedly signed up for.  And that goes for pre-2004 converts like Andrew Sullivan as much as our more recent turncoats.  They might attack Republicans, but they remain outside the boundaries of the reality-based community.

And so they’ve crawled back into their fantasy universe and continue to take potshots at the people who are stuck living in the real world.  And unfortunately for Bush, the Republican defeat in this recent election has now put him solidly in that category.  They’ve all dashed back into their fortress of fantasy, leaving Bush as the scapegoat for all they did wrong.  As it turns out, being Republican is merely the suit a conservative wears when they want to go out on the town.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Carnival Carnival

Hey nonny-nonny! I’m in two carnivals! Carnival of the Godless have got me here, and here’s yet another write-up in the Carnival of the Liberals. Do the honors never cease?

Tossing Rumsfeld

I was just reading about how upset Republicans are at Bush for not announcing his removal of Rumsfeld until after the election, and I’m sorry, but I don’t see how they’re correct about that. Sure, that’s what Bush said. But he already admitted to having lied about this before the election and there’s no reason to suspect that he’s turned to honesty now. Because I’m fairly positive that Rummy was only removed because the Democrats had gained the ability to investigate the handling of the war and that Rummy’s got a lot of skeletons in his closet. I wouldn’t doubt if he’s secretly lawyering up right now. And there’s almost no way this would have happened had the Republicans won.

Sure, that’s entirely speculative on my part, but I don’t think the other option is likely. I mean, the Bushies acting in a non-partisan fashion before an election? I don’t think so. And it’s even more unlikely that they’d have blundered as badly as they did. I have no doubts that they war-gamed this scenario pretty well and realized that having Rummy around during some potentially brutal investigations was the last thing they wanted. And it’s better to toss him over before the subpoenas start flying than afterwards. But had the GOP won, there would have been no subpoenas or any other form of accountability, and thus no reason to toss Rumsfeld out.

In the end, they kept Rummy because he knew where all the bodies were buried, including the many he hid. And the last thing they’d want was to have a new guy come in and start digging around. Even a loyal Republican was likely to accidentally stumble upon something that the Bushies wouldn’t want known. And as John Dean, Paul O’Neill, and a few other Republican whistleblowers have shown; being Republican is no assurance that a person lacks integrity. Sometimes, a few weeds slip through the cracks, and that wasn’t a chance the Bushies wanted to take.

But now that the Dems are likely to be sniffing around, there’s no point in keeping Rummy anymore and he’s become a big liability. After all, it’s always better to say that a former administration official was under investigation than a current one. And so while it would have been better to replace Rummy before the election, the Bushies were gambling that they wouldn’t have to replace him at all. And as usual, they lost that bet.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Men or Mush

I just read Digby’s take on the Democratic Establishment’s attempt to get rid of Howard Dean, and while he’s close to getting the answer, I suspect he doesn’t quite have it. This isn’t about pissing people off. This is a Rovian-style plan for taking credit for the Democrat’s win and seriously damaging the left’s abilities to get what they want from the incoming Congress. In other words, this is a bare-knuckled powerplay.

They’re trying to put some sort of blame on Dean. After all, if they got rid of him, he obviously wasn’t the solution and doesn’t deserve the credit. And with him gone, they can solidify their hold on the Democratic establishment and totally marginalize the rest of us. Because to them, the netroots really weren’t the solution. Because they’re totally buying into the idea that this wasn’t a win for the Democrats, but a loss for the Republicans. And are upset that this happened to happen at a time when they had allowed rabble-rousers some sort of power.

To them, it’s like they loosened the jar before handing it to us; and perhaps even believe that we made things worse before the jar opened by itself. And the fact is that they were turning the lid in the wrong direction the whole time.

So they really don’t see us as being a legitimate part of the victory. And getting rid of Dean is the perfect symbol for that, as well as being a good way of grabbing the reins. And that is a sure doom for the party. As has been pointed out, the only people who want centrism are the Beltway elite. But most of America is quite liberal, whether they agree with the term or not. Even now, the conservatives and centrists are trying to define the word “conservative” as “winner” and “liberal” as “loser”. But that was a conservative trick from the start; a semantic trick to pull the rug out from under America's true policy goals, which are fairly liberal. Once you got underneath all the rhetoric, people still want a responsible government that takes care of problems that individuals can’t do on their own.

But again, this really is a powerplay, and I’m not so sure we can stop it. The centrists got what they wanted, and now they’re going to try to store us away until the next election. And that’s a huge mistake. Despite their hopes and pipedreams, we ARE the Democratic Party. They’re the minority. And if they’re allowed to firmly grab the reins of power in their own hands, we will be screwed in 2008. These people aren’t powerful and even most Dems don’t like them. What they want is the same thing that the Republicans had: A rabid base that isn’t aware that they’re being used. And somehow, the Democratic Establishment hasn’t yet noticed how that strategy totally screwed-over the Republicans. People aren’t nearly as stupid as they imagine, and eventually notice when they’re being screwed over. And they’re not happy about it.

I was never a Deaniac and don’t think we should pull America to a hard-left progressive agenda (not that Dean was ever a hard-left progressive). But America certainly doesn’t want the centrist’s right-of-center policies which only play into the Republican’s hands. I was never one to throw the “Bush-lite” label around, but that is the exact place the centrists will take us if we can’t do more to stop them. People don’t like pansies and they hate the Beltway pundits. The Democratic Establishment must be reminded of that fact.

Oh, and I am somewhat saddened to see someone like James Carville in on this. He was always the epitome of the Fightin’ Dem to me. Much more so than Dean ever was. And I find it somewhat troubling to see him siding with the milquetoast mush that makes up much of the Democratic Establishment. Nobody likes a loser. Nobody wants appeasement. We all want strong people who stand-up for what they believe. I always put Carville in that category. Now I don’t know what to think.

Removing God from the Ballot

One of the big problems we’ve had with fighting social conservatives is that they’re using the wrong forum to fight their battles. I understand why they want to use the political process to get their point across, because the whole omnipotent god thing really hasn’t been working out so well for them and they want something that actually works. But ultimately, this stuff is supposed to be about governing. We elect people at long-term intervals so that they can have time to do what they were hired to do. But we don’t want them to get too comfortable with the whole thing, lest they forget who their bosses are (namely, us). So we let them stay in office for a given time, but to not overstay their welcome. Just like parents.

But that’s not what the conservatives want this for. Not really, anyway. They don’t want to govern. They want a social referendum every damn day. And every day that their people remain in power, they think that they’re winning the social war. And they think it means that people are supporting them and that they get to tell us how to live our lives. It’s as if they’ve become totally fixated on the popularity contest aspect of democracy, and think that if they can win an election that it shows how they outnumber us; without realizing that many people vote for the same candidate for many different reasons. For them, an election is like a short-term tally of God’s Book of Judgment, to see how many people are on their side.

And so for them, two years is much too long. Because what they’re looking for is a day-by-day referendum; like your basic political poll. They want to know if they’re hot. And were we to hold elections every two weeks, these flakes would have been voted out years ago. It’s only because we can’t boot them out sooner that they weren’t booted out sooner. People keep acting as if their six-year winning streak (which was never particularly strong) is some sign of a long-term dominance. And that sounds so long. But we’re only talking about 3 one-day sample polls out of a six year period. And that’s not particularly damning against us. But again, the problem wasn’t with what we were doing wrong, but with how they were interpreting the results. For them, each day that they remained in office was yet another victory for them.

Of course I’m not suggesting that we go to two-week political terms. Merely that these people need to get out of the political world. Not that they shouldn’t be there, but that it’s really not what they want. I mean, if God’s all about letting evil exist because he’s a big believer in Freewill, then these people must really be pissing him off with all their mandatory laws and whatnot. I mean, there’s really not so much Freewill involved when people keep stopping you from making your own choices.

Overall, religion and Heaven should be about choice and letting people make their own decisions: Right or wrong. You get to pick the wrong god and follow the wrong rules and end up in the wrong afterlife. That’s how it works, even by fundamentalist thinking.

And frankly, I’m not so sure that most of these people even wanted the political power. I think it was their religious leaders who talked them into it, mainly for their own particular purposes. And even then, it was only because they were assured that God wanted them to make these laws. But enforcing morality isn’t the work of the government, and the rest of America will increasingly reject them the more they try this stuff. And that’s not to mention the conflicts that arise when one religious group realizes they didn’t have the same goals, morals, or policies as another. The Republicans were only able to achieve what they did by keeping things as vague as possible; but the longer they stayed in power, the more they were expected to inflict concrete policies on the rest of us. And that’s where it all falls apart.

Sure, it’s fun to play god and everything, but at the end of the day, it’s still blasphemy. And even worse: It’s just annoying.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Eating Joe Crow

Here’s something I hadn’t thought of before, from the DLC’s New Donkey:
The other irony, of course, is that Democratic control of the Senate now depends on Joe Lieberman. Nobody has any reason to think he won't do what he promised and caucus with Democrats, but there may be a little bit of uncomfortable crow-eating among those who have spent months arguing that Lieberman's not a Democrat anymore, and should be stripped of his seniority.

Although I never said anything, I always thought it was a bit silly for folks to demand that the Democratic leadership punish Lieberman.  Sure, I understood the reasoning behind it, but I’ve never been a burn your bridges kind of guy, and Joe could still come in handy for us.  Even worse were the folks who continued to attack my hero, Harry Reid, for not punishing Lieberman.  Because that was entirely misguided and stupid.  And it makes us look as vengefully extremist as the wingnuts we denounce so regularly.  Sure, I like to win; but we should leave punishing disloyalty to jerks like Rove.

And now it certainly looks like we need Joe on our side.  Sure, he’s a putz, and probably worse.  And sure, he’s really a Republican in Dem clothing.  But for me, the individual players were never as important as the institutions they work for.  That’s why I always vote straight ticket, even when I have no idea who the lower-ticket Dems are.  Because the individuals aren’t as important as the letter that follows their name.  I’m not saying I’d vote for Hitler if he was the Dem nominee in a Congressional race; but I’m not saying I wouldn’t.

And in this case, if this means the difference between us having the leadership of the Senate or the dangerous Republicans having it, I’m willing to accept a dangerous putz like Lieberman.  Hell, I’d be willing to take any Republican Senator switching sides to help us.  I mean any.  That’s how important this is.  This isn’t about how any of them will vote.  This is about what bills are allowed to come to a vote, and what is and isn’t added to those bills after they leave their respective houses.  And which judges are nominated.  And who gets to subpoena whom.  And all sorts of other good stuff that goes to the winning team.

Overall, I certainly understand the importance of good policies and good politicians and whatnot, but there is such a thing as strategy.  And sometimes strategy makes you do things that aren’t so good in the short-term, but are in the long run.  I don’t at all agree with the DLC’s ideas that always push political strategy over policy, particularly as their strategies are almost always wrong too.  But there’s a fine-line to walk, and it’s usually best to leave your options open as long as possible.  And it’s never a good idea to punish people that you might still need to rely on.  Maybe we’ll beat Joe next time around, but I’ll happily use him in the meantime if it helps us get what we need.

The Party's Over

Last night’s victory really screwed the Republicans.  As things were, they were always walking a tightrope with tons of peril all around, and there are all sorts of shoes dropping, but one of the bigger ones is that the Rightwing Comedy Show is coming to an abrupt end.  

I hadn’t thought of it until I read Publius’ reprint of an email to Jonah Goldberg, which said “If you gave a s**t, you wouldn't be joking. The Democrats don't when they lose. Oh, for a few Republican leaders with the intensity of the old Newt Gingrich or of Daily Kos.”

But the thing is, that’s all Jonah’s really got.  He’s not a real political guy.  He’s just a feel-good fratguy comedian.  The same for most of the bigtime Republican opinionists.  And sure, just as comedians sometimes breakdown to a serious moment, these people weren’t always jokes.  But that was their main schtick and it worked.  They could say anything they wanted, because they were always a breath away from saying “Just Joking” and attacking their critics for not having a sense of humor.  Plus, the humor really helped in getting people to accept the bullshit they were spewing.

Their readers liked it, because it felt so fun.  And they never really noticed that they were missing any serious discussion, because they were having so much fun.  But it also helped them with the media.  It made them look fun.  Even when they were being hateful and rude and advocating dangerous policies, it always seemed somehow tongue-in-cheek.  That’s how they accepted Ann Coulter; as if they knew what she was saying was wrong, but it was just so much fun.  And except for a very few like George Will and William F. Buckley, almost every Republican pundit fits into that comedy-style routine.  Even the Great Limbaugh is far more an entertainer than a serious thinker.  No matter how serious the discussion was, the main point always was that a good time was had by all.

But now all that’s got to come to an end.  Because they just lost and it was fairly thorough rout.  And things are now only downhill.  And so that’s not when you want your Funtime Sam Fratguy stuff.  Now the rightwing base is upset, and they’re not going to take shit for nothing.  They’ve been lied to about this stuff for awhile, particularly in believing that they actually were the majority that the pundits pretended they were; and they’ll now want some serious mobilization and intensification.  

Imagine them as the hotshot sexist pool player who keeps making wisecracks while playing against a “girl”; only to find himself whooped a few times.  It’s not long before he’s got a whole new gameface on and isn’t joking at all.  And that’s what we’re going to see from the wingnuts.  They never had much of a sense of humor to begin with, and now they’re tired of the charade and want to push matters into a direction that the Bushies always wanted to avoid.

But that’s the exact stuff that will doom them in the mainstream media.  It’s like when the MSM got a load of the Schiavo freaks with taped mouths, and didn’t like what they saw.  Now they’re going to see the real face of the Republican Party and it ain’t pretty.  Yet the more the Goldbergs try to continue their humor schtick, the more they’ll alienate their base.  So they’re screwed.  The more they push for comedy routine, the more disillusioned their supporters will be; and the more they intensify their anger and partisanship, the more they’ll burn their Beltway supporters.  And they’re fairly screwed anyway, as they were always on the wrong side of the equation and used a technique that could only succeed in the short-term.

And that was just one of many tightropes they’ve been walking for years, which we just knocked them off of last night.  Republicans have been running a very elaborate con-game for over six years, and now it was just exposed as being the smoke and mirrors it always was.  They were fools for thinking they could somehow turn it into a permanent structure, and now they’re going to pay hard for their mistake.

Dem Momentum: Winning '08

I was talking to someone tonight who had heard from someone else the idea that, if we won back the Congress tonight, that this would make it more likely that the Republicans would keep the Whitehouse in 2008. And while there could be something to that theory, it’s entirely mistaken. It’s from people who have taken a scenario out of context and think that it applies to every similar scenario.

Because this time around, tonight’s victory will only hurt the GOP’s chances in 2008. Because they’ve lost the momentum. Forward momentum and the air of invincibility were always ace cards for the Bush Republicans, and we’ve totally taken that from them. Now they’ve got reverse momentum and are clearly vincible. And people that had granted them superpowers and supported them because they were winners will clearly rethink that equation; and that includes the media. That’s not to say that they’ll start giving us the handjobs they’ve been doling-out to Republicans for the past six years. But this has put a serious dent into the myth that Republicans are popular and represent America.

And because the Dems have their work cut out for them, it’s most likely that they’ll start cleaning up the mess and pleasing people. And that’ll hurt the Republicans even more. That we could fix what they screwed up. And traditional “centrists” like McCain are going to have to come to us to work on our terms; and that will hurt him with his base and make him look like a pansy to everyone else. Not that he even wants to, but he doesn’t have a choice. It’s just in his personality to be the “maverick” to whoever’s in power. And with Republican Congressmen looking bad and the Whitehouse shooting blanks, that leaves us as the power-brokers to deal with.

I’m not suggesting that the whole world begins today with candy and rose petals, or that this will be a cakewalk at all. I’m just saying that this put a heavily serious dent into any Republican presidential aspirant and that this sets us up for a whole new context to consider Democratic contenders. Hell, we don’t even need right-leaning Hillary anymore, who is already looking somewhat anachronistic. We just need a Democrat who will make other Democrats feel proud. We’ve got the momentum now, and we can use this to roll straight into the Whitehouse in ’08 and complete the job that we’ve started today.

Oh, and as one serious reminder: No longer will Senate-House bill negotiations be between Republican connivers attempting to insert unpopular crap that almost nobody wanted. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg regarding the huge changes that are now afoot. It really is a new day.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Voting Woes

Just drove by my polling place with twenty minutes remaining to vote.  There will be a LOT of people who don’t get to vote today.  The line looks to be at least three times longer than when I voted, and it took me about twenty minutes to get in.  This just isn’t how a modern democracy should function.

I Voted!

First time I ever waited in line to vote, but it only lasted twenty minutes before I was in. So that wasn’t too bad. And the fact that there was a line so early in the morning certainly couldn’t be a bad sign, especially given how totally liberal my neighborhood is. And last Friday, I saw an even longer line for early voting at my local grocery store, so I’m hoping that’s a good sign that people are ready to throw the bums out.

Voted straight-ticket Dem (as usual), which probably means that the machine selected a hardy choice of rightwing extremists ready to ship me to the Gulag early spring. No honestly, I had no problems with the machines (that I know of); which very well might be a reflection of the fact that I live in Texas, where they want to make sure that our votes actually count. After all, Texas is the biggest state that matters, so it just makes sense that we have more influence too. But my biggest problem was that many of the minor races didn’t even have a Dem in it, so I had to individually pick the Libertarian, just to show some sort of opposition to the Republicans. Texas Democrats really need to do something about that, when one of the “third parties” is fielding more candidates than the second one.

Oh, and one piece of great news: I apparently have a real representative in Congress again. Yeah! In case you haven’t noticed, I never blog about local politics, because I don’t really pay attention to them. But ever since Tom DeLay’s gerrymandering hi-jinks, my slice of Austin got redistricted to a longtime San Antonio Congressman 80 miles away, who is your typical pro-torture Republican. So to my surprise, my ballot today had my old congressman Lloyd Doggett on it instead of the pro-torture bum I had been stuck with. Apparently they redistricted again this year, and I once again have a Democrat to represent me in Congress. Woohoo! Miracles never cease.

I guess this is a sign that I should at least do a cursory review of local politics occasionally, as I probably should have known about this before today. To be honest, I had thought there was something wrong with my voting machine, but didn’t complain as I’d rather have an invalid vote for a Democrat than to waste my vote against the Republican. Call me partisan if you want, but you can’t call me stupid…well, except that I didn’t know who I was picking for Congress, which is kind of stupid. But that’s just because I only focus on national politics; you know, for the sake of my loyal readers nationwide.

The Republican Myth

One of the myths of the Republican Phenomenon is that the conservative policy goals are popular. That because people continued to vote Republican, they therefore must also support Republican and conservative goals. Yet that was always an absurdity that even our pundit class knew better of.

Because the real answer was much more obvious: Republicans were just running better campaigns. They were better funded, better organized, had better infrastructure (particularly for propaganda propagation), had a simple and vague feel-good message for certain constituencies, and because they were often so divorced from reality, they could say any damn thing they wanted. Plus, when they aren’t playing dirty, they cheat like hell.

And the Washington elite not only knew all that, but this is a likely reason they liked them. They all thought it was just so classy and cool; as if stealing elections and lying to people was just another fun-loving Animal House prank. I suspect that the real culprit is that most journalists have made the same mental calculus as the Republicans and have concluded that politics and policy are the same thing. So that if you run the better campaign, you’re somehow better for the job. As if the job of a politician is to win office, rather than to actually know what to do. And while that attitude is much better suited for winning office, it’s quite lousy at getting the right people for the job.

But where in this does a policy mandate come in? I mean, why even work at choosing popular policies when sham will get you twice as far? And the answer is simple: That people aren’t nearly as stupid as Republicans think they are. The idea that you can’t fool all of the people all the time is so obvious that it’s cliché; yet the Republicans tried to build a dynasty on the idea. And it looks like this election is set-up to be payback time.

Minority Rules

And I was just thinking about this while reading this article on Abstinence-Only education, and how a huge majority of Americans are against it; with a 82% supporting a comprehensive sex-ed that discusses various methods of birth control, and 50% outright opposing Abstinence-Only programs. Frankly, I’m a bit confused as to how people can support a comprehensive sex-ed plan without being against Abstinence-Only plan, but I’m guessing it’s based on how the question was worded. But to me, Abstinence-Only precludes any other kind of sex-ed; hence the word “only”. But whatever.

And even a firm majority of conservatives support comprehensive sex-ed, at 70%; while 40% totally opposed Abstinence-Only. So where in the hell did anyone get the idea that we should do it? I don’t know about you, but I don’t remember anyone running on that as a platform. Yet they went ahead and did it anyway, even though people didn’t want it and it doesn’t work. So we’re spending $170 million on the program; simply to appease a very small minority of people who don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.

Yet what else should we expect from these bozos? They have no policy mandates. They aren’t supporting a popular agenda. And the few items that they openly push are almost always done through deception. And even then, it’s only done with the idea of helping a particular group for political purposes. When all you’re doing is running on negative campaigns and are still stuck to stealing elections, you really don’t have any choice in the matter. For Republicans, government is little more than a cash-cow used to buy more votes. That’s what they always accused liberals of, and now they’ve made it clear why they always said that.

And eventually, all that deception will come back to bite them in the ass. And we all know that. If only the media establishment would finally own up to that truth and stop pretending as if Republicans have ever had a popular mandate. They win elections, but they certainly aren’t giving the people what they want. And no, winning an election on personality, deception, and dirty tricks is not a mandate for the Free-For-All.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Quote of the Day

Pastor Mark Driscoll of Seattle’s Mars Hills mega-church (via David Goldstein):
"How can we proclaim that we are new creations in Christ if we continually return to lap up the vomit of our old way of life?"

Yeah, that’s why I gave up religion all together.  Sure, I’d like to go to Heaven, but lapping up vomit was just too much to give up.  Sorry, God.  I’ve gots to get my vomit on.

The Choice is Clear: Vote Dem

I recently remarked about a great DCCC flier to Tom DeLay’s old district which complained about one of the Republican write-in candidates being too conservative for that district, even though he wasn’t the GOP-selected candidate to receive the write-in votes. And how it was a bit of reverse psychology, as it appeared to be an attack on the guy, but how the DCCC was really intending for conservatives to vote for him, instead of the person the GOP wanted.

Well, I just got a mailer today from the Republican Party of Texas, and they did the same damn thing; except in a way that really hurts them. Specifically, the flier was intended to target Democrats and show them as being too liberal, but the fact that the idiots sent it to anyone in my zip code shows how little they know of what they’re doing. Because if anything, the whole thing only emphasizes why we should vote Democratic on Tuesday.

On the front, it has a woman and boy holding a flag, with the words “On Nov 7th Your Vote Will…” And on the back, it finishes the sentence, saying “…Decide Whose Values Guide Texas”. It then gives a list of issues, each with a “NO” in the Democrats’ column and a “YES” in the Republicans’ column. But none of these are wedge issues or even moderately appealing to centrists. Here’s the list:

Parental Notification for a minor daughter’s abortion
The Defense of Marriage Act, defining marriage between a man and a woman
Laci Peterson’s Law, which protects pregnant women from violence
A ban on burning the American flag
Judges who will strictly interpret the Constitution

And then on the bottom is says “The Choice is Clear” and is obviously suggesting that I would want to vote Republican because I agree with them on those five issues. Yet I don’t agree with any of those, but rather am totally turned-off by them and find them to be good reasons to vote against Republicans. And sure, many Texans strongly support all of those things. But not necessarily in my town, and certainly not in my zip code. As I’ll show below, they’re more likely to have sent this to liberals than conservatives, and as such, helped the Democrats far more than if they had sent the flier themselves.

Tale of the Tape

I just looked up the voting stats (PDF) for my district, and it shows exactly what I expected: We’re extremely liberal. I’m in district 437, and we had a 64% voter turn-out in 2004. Of those, 83% voted for Kerry, and 13% voted Bush. And I find that Bush even getting 240 votes here somewhat amazing. So what in the hell are they sending this shit to me for? I mean, 41% of us voted straight-ticket Dem in 2004, compared with only 6% straight-ticket Republicans. So why would they want to remind us Kerry voters of how extremist they are?

Interestingly enough, the Libertarian candidate got more votes than Nader in 2004 (39 votes to 16), which I guess might show how burned everyone was on Ralph after 2000. In contrast, Nader got 33% of the vote here in 2000 (PDF), with 483 votes; compared with the Libertarian receiving 1%, or 15 votes. And even then, with Bush’s Governor’s Mansion being right down the street, Gore won 51% of the vote, with Bush still getting that same 13% as in 2004.

Hmm, wait a minute. If we add Gore’s 51% to Nader’s 33%, we get 1% higher than Kerry’s 83%. Hmm. No, it couldn’t be. Because we all know that Nader’s votes all came from newbies who were upset at both sides.

And the previous mid-term election (PDF) was no better for Republicans. Then, only 40% of people voted, and of those, 33% voted straight-ticket Dem, compared with 4% going straight Republican. And for the Senate race, between torture-fanatic John Cronyn and Democrat Ron Kirk, my district went 83% to Kirk, compared with only 11% to Cronyn.

In my district at the time, we didn’t have a Republican running for the House because we were so strongly Democratic, so I can’t compare those stats. But these days, thanks to Tom DeLay’s shenanigans, we’ve got Republican Lamar Smith as our representative in the House, despite the fact that he only got 13% of my district, compared with 81% to the Democrat I had never heard of. Thanks, Tom DeLay. Hope you rot in prison.

Travis County Dems

And even my whole county is majority Democratic. Not by as much as my district (which is one of the most liberal in town), but they really shouldn’t be bothering anyone in the city with this kind of partisan crap. In my county (PDF), we went 56% to Kerry, compared with 42% to Bush in 2004, with Nader getting trounced even by the Libertarians. And in 2002 (PDF), it was 55% to the Democratic Senate candidate and 42% to Cronyn. That seems pretty damn steady.

Oh, yet in 2000 (PDF), Bush actually beat Gore in Travis County, 41% to 47%. And sure, Nader’s 10%, if added to Gore’s, would have put Gore over Bush. But that’s clearly not relevant, because we know that none of those would have voted for Gore. And in any case, it’s obvious that there were more votes for liberal candidates than conservative. Oh, and in case you were wondering, Buchanan got 0.18% of the vote in Travis County. And as a reminder, Bush lived in our county at the time and wasn’t extremely reviled by most Dems. (I, on the other hand, was always on to the bozo.)

And as one final comparison, I looked up Massachusetts’ voting record (PDF), to see how those infamous Massachusetts Liberals stacked up against my own, and see that in 2004, MA went 62% to home-state favorite Kerry, and 37% to Bush. And that’s only a few points more liberal than my whole county and significantly less liberal than my district. The 2000 election wasn’t much different, with 60% going Gore, 33% to Bush, and 6% to Nader. So again, Massachusetts was far less liberal than my district, where the Republicans just sent me a flier bragging about how extremely conservative they are. I wonder how many similar fliers the Republican Party of Massachusetts sent out.

Clueless Republicans

And so all this is pretty obvious that they shouldn’t be sending us this crap. That’s not to say that they shouldn’t even try; though they probably shouldn’t. But why try with this extremist bullshit? Why not try to soften their image when mailing stuff to likely Democrats? Because again, to any Democratic voter in the county, the choice really was clear, and it would be against the Republican. And as the stats above lay clear, only about 13% of our district would vote Republican, so the odds are pretty slim that this mailer hit one of them. And the odds of many of these people being conservative enough to be influenced by the flier are even slimmer.

And lest you get the idea that the Republican Party of Texas is simply not acquainted with my district or county, you should understand that this is where they’re located. Their headquarters are right down the street from me. Many of their workers are likely to drive right through my district every day, on their way to the outskirts, where all the Republicans live. And there’s no way that they couldn’t know that.

So what the hell were they thinking? They know that Austin is the Liberal Bastion of Texas, and they know that my zip code is liberal by even Austin standards. We’re famous for it and have our own bumper stickers and t-shirts. Yet they send us this hardcore conservative flier as if they’re confident that this will persuade us to vote Republican on Election Day.

So all this just goes to show how totally out-of-touch and clueless these people are. The only flier they sent me was far more likely to help the Democrats than anything it could do for the Republicans. Even something from the Democrats wouldn’t have helped them as much, and for the same reason that the DCCC ad I wrote about earlier was so good. It’s one thing to be told to be scared of the enemy, but it’s another thing to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth. They’re warning Austinites what the stakes are next Tuesday, and I hope people take them up on that.

The Pundit Power Myth

I like Glenn Greenwald, so much so that he’s one of the very few bloggers that I get his RSS feed sent directly to my inbox. He’s got some great analysis, and I almost kind of see him as the straight-laced version of myself. You know, if I was a lot more humorless and square, and didn’t have so much fun insulting people. And I don’t mean that in a bad way, as sincerity and squareness can be admirable qualities, in moderation.

But, he’s not one of the infallible bloggers like Josh Marshall and Digby (and myself), and I too often have nits, both small and large, to pick with what he writes. And today (now yesterday, as I took too long writing this) I’ve found one of those nits, and it’s big enough for me to bother writing about.

He was writing about pundits, and starts off saying “More than anything else, I believe political opinion is shaped by what Americans hear from the pundits and so-called "political experts" who pompously parade across their television screens (and, to a lesser extent, their newspaper pages) and opine with such certainty from their perch of elevated wisdom.”

Now, maybe that’s how things look from the ivory towers of his east-coast domain (or wherever he resides), but here in Texas, TV pundits have about as much influence on what regular people think as a bat turd at a monkey convention. And Glenn totally confirms that point by referencing a silly conversation with uber-spinner Dick Morris on Hannity & Colmes regarding the North Korean nuke test, and how it was going to be the issue for the upcoming election; and then says how they were totally wrong and that nobody cared about it.

Flock of Pundits

Specifically, Greenwald writes:
The North Korean story lasted all of 24 hours, if that. Not a single candidate talks about it other than in passing, at most.

Huh? But I thought that pundits like Morris, Hannity, and Fox’s biggest punchline, Colmes were extremely influential and the “backbone of American political dialogue.” So how could all their pimping of the North Korean nuke test not have influenced anything?

Because it never really does. The primary influence that the pundits have is on other pundits, the news media, and through them, our politicians. They’re the ones obsessed with what these dopes say. They’re the ones who repeat what the talkers are saying. Watching the pundits and national media is like watching a flock of birds flying in pattern. They all fly in almost perfect unison behind the lead bird, while occasionally another bird takes the lead position and they all start following him. And yet, none of those birds could influence anything outside their flock to join in. I’ve watched that kind of thing on many occasions, and never once thought to join them; and I feel the same way on the few occasions I’ve watched CNN.

But it’s primarily through the influence of straight-news journalists and the politicians that these people have any influence. This stuff can knock politicians off their stride if reporters keep asking them about it, and get them to focus on issues that nobody but the news establishment cares about, and that kind of stuff can filter down to the people. But almost nobody is really influenced directly by the pundits except the other pundits.

Hell, just recently, our pop-alternative radio station started playing a recorded segment of their lame-ass morning DJ’s making fun of Bush, and I find that to be quite a bit more influential and significant for American politics than what your typical pundit says on CNN or Fox. As they say, all politics are local, and when the watered-down, non-political DJ’s start on an anti-Bush riff that the station feels confident in replaying throughout the day, you know something’s in the air.

Impeachment Politics

And their only real ace is to get a politician to say or do something so incredibly stupid or wrong that it finally filters through to the regular people. It’s not about influencing people, but about influencing the politicians to screw-up, and then busting them. That’s how the impeachments of Nixon and Clinton came about. Few people cared about Nixon’s crimes until the heat kept on enough that Nixon had to start addressing the issue publicly, and stonewalling, and firing attorney generals, and all that. But Nixon made it a national issue that eventually brought him down.

And same with Clinton. He lied about an event that most Americans couldn’t care about, and the Republicans caught him in that lie. And where as most Americans became concerned with Nixon’s abuses, Clinton’s never really did catch-on with people. No matter that the pundits had been against him for years or saw his crimes as being some of the worst in presidential history, the average American didn’t care and supported Clinton.

And that’s not necessarily to second-guess Nixon or Clinton. At the time of their offense, it had to seem like the most sensible policy to continue to cover-up what they had done; and they had both viewed the attacks against them as an unfair witch-hunt by their accusers.

And regardless of the pundits’ influence, Americans couldn’t support Nixon any longer or find huge fault with Clinton. Things came down exactly as they should have, and in the case of Clinton, in spite of the best efforts of the pundit class. They may have been outraged how Clinton had trashed their town, but the rest of America already thought the place was pretty trashy when he got there.

Under the Radar

And with all “scandals” that get these people screeching like monkeys, the best technique is to ignore it as much as possible, defuse what you can, and weather the storm without admitting guilt or fueling it further. And the more it gets under your skin, the more it’s likely to continue heating up and causing you to do something stupid for which you need to resign, be fired, or get impeached. So it’s simply about minimizing the controversy until something bigger finally pops up to distract the monkeys.

But the key is never doing anything that will catch traction with the American people, as that’s when you’re really screwed. Pundits can make journalists ask embarrassing questions, but it’s the voters you need to stay under the radar of. And that’s why Nixon and Bush will generally be reviled by history, while Reagan and Clinton will be seen in much kinder light; despite a general propensity by all four of them of being surrounded by controversy.

Because only the insiders and partisans even really knew what Reagan or Clinton did wrong, and while people will largely stay ignorant of the details of Watergate or the Iraq debacle, the general impression will stay quite negative. Bush had stayed under that radar for awhile (thanks to the complicit pundit class), but he’s now been a top target for a growing number of people since before his re-election. And all regardless of the cover-up by the pundits and Washington press corps for Bush’s failures and deceptions.

How it Works

And frankly, not that many people watch CNN, Fox or the other cable news networks, or read the newspapers; and far fewer are likely to actually be influenced by the opinions they hear on the shows. In a well-timed coincidence for my post, I just saw that Fox News, who is still leading the cable news war, had a total viewership last year of 1.3 million. I’m assuming that’s a daily average or something, I don’t know. But whatever it is, that’s not a particularly high number compared with the adult population of our country. And again, those are the total viewers tuning into Fox, and not necessarily the number of folks influenced by their pundits.

And I think what has a much bigger influence on the real world is what’s actually happening in the real world. Or more specifically, what arguments can be used to explain and debate what’s happening in the real world. Pundits might have some influence on those arguments, but in the end, the arguments have to be there. They have to appeal to people. And they have to be convincing enough to people chatting around their dinner tables, water coolers, church potlucks, and local taverns.

Because that’s where this stuff is won or loss. Not on television or the editorial page, but in people’s daily dealings. And it all comes down to, when you’re in conversation and debate, do you like the position you’re standing on? Do you have a good offensive stance against your regular debate foes? Or if you’re stuck on the defense, do you have a convincing one? Will it sound decent to the less decided spectators? Or do you sound totally full of shit? That’s what this is all about. That’s how this works. It’s all about shoring up your side with a good arsenal of argument points, and keeping your opponent off-guard and unsure. That’s what people want in their political leaders, and what influences them. They want something to be proud of, even if that’s just a negative attack on the other guy.

Inventing Fables

And pundits just can’t invent that stuff. It’s like inventing urban legends, fables, or jokes. Sure, you can do it. But there’s got to be a strain of thought within your audience for it to work. Republicans didn’t give a flip about terrorism in the 90’s, so they didn’t even try those arguments. But after we got attacked on 9/11, they were all-terrorism, all the time; because that’s what sold. That became their overall talking point: About how Republicans were tough against terror and Dems weren’t.

And that fit into things that people already thought. Not that Republicans were tough on terror, but that they were the tough national security people who want to go balls-out to protect people. And so it had a credible beginning and Republicans were deft at adding to that story to further the idea that we needed their help to protect us from an enemy that they never really cared about and still don’t.

And the main point is that pundits and politicians didn’t invent that. They took advantage of it and perhaps did some small part in furthering it, but it was already there. Going back for decades, Republicans were the tough-guy daddies, and Democrats were the coddling mothers. Republicans would fend off the evil, and Democrats would take care of you at home. That’s what people have thought for a long, long time, and no amount of pundit spin could change that. The best they could do is to include it in their talking points and to analyze every situation though those goggles.

And things are only now changing because it’s become so painfully obvious that the Republicans are totally failing to protect us. And every time they run another terrorist-bogeyman commercial, they’re just reminding us of their continued failure. Imagine liberals running ads about welfare queens and how this is evidence that people need us to expand our welfare programs, and you’ll see what I mean.

Wall of Noise

And seriously, have you ever been convinced by a pundit? Of course not. They’re either telling you what you already think (Paul Krugman and James Carville), or you’re shaking your head in disgust (almost every other pundit). And that’s the way it is with almost everyone. People aren’t looking to be influenced. They just want some more talking points to shore up their side, and even that group is a fairly small minority. It might seem like a larger group if the only people you talk politics to are as much politics as most bloggers are.

But for most Americans, television pundits and daily political stories are like living next door to a concert arena. You might hear the loudest snippets of music, but you’re unlikely to catch most of the show. Or perhaps the right analogy is living next door to a bickering couple. But whatever it is, they’re not getting it and they don’t even care. Like with the Kerry "botched joke" thing. The news networks may have gone wall-to-wall with it for a few days, but it really never gained traction with most people, as it was such a totally asinine issue.

And all this is to say that pundits aren’t magicians. They can’t invent arguments. Their spin isn’t omnipotent. And their influence is fairly negligible in the long run, because the people most likely to watch them and be influenced are also most likely to already have fully formed opinions which aren’t likely to shift. Short of an earth-shattering event, like 9/11, or the horrors in Iraq, people who watch the news already care and they know what they care about; and the rest of the people only see the bigger trends that happen to pass through the wall of noise. But the day-to-day events are largely missed, even by people who consider themselves to be politically-minded. And the biggest effect that the blowhard pundits have is in their own minds and wallets.