Thursday, August 7, 2008

Dear Democrats: Care Less

Considering my place of residence, sometimes it is a tad difficult to attain an accurate picture of the nation's electoral mood. So I appreciated this article I read in Newsweek about political currents in the South, written by Christopher Dickey (son of Deliverance author James Dickey).

Around here, most people are puzzled that the election even seems to be close. Perhaps, in a hideous catch-22, it is this very puzzlement that is making it so. In a response to a Slate article titled, "Why nothing the press throws at Obama sticks," a Fray user replied:

"Slate continues to miss the point. The Dems seem oblivious to the true nature of the American voter who will decide our next president. Here in Minnesota, a traditionally blue state, Obama has only a slim lead over McCain and the once-thought-vulnerable senator Norm Coleman is a likely fall winner over a liberal favorite, Al Franken. How is this possible, especially after eight years of dreck from Bush? Because Democrats love to indulge in self-love of the superiority of their candidate and it turns off many pivotal voters. Not those already committed to the Republican, but those who might switch from election to election. Slate, in particular, seems to talk down to these people. Underestimate them at your peril. America is tired of 'true believers' of either stripe."

Hence the McCain campaign's new line of approach, which seems to be something along the lines of, "Wow, look at those Democrats, aren't they so full of themselves?" I suppose it doesn't matter whether or not the Democrats might have actually better ideas, policies, or principles; they're full of themselves, so they're not gettin' my vote, god damn it.

You ever wanted something so badly you ruined your chance of getting it? Such is the irony here. The more Democrats feel like they should be winning, the harder they'll actually be losing.

Apparently not every voter who is unhappy with Bush is also extending that unhappiness to the Republican party in general. The Democrats might want to acknowledge this, or they may run the risk of screaming their way to the bottom of the polls. It is hard, of course, to pretend you're not right when you honestly think that you are. But jumping up and down shouting, "Why aren't you voting for us?! Why aren't you voting for us?!" doesn't actually persuade the undecided.

So you know what I say? Democrats should start realizing that if Obama loses, life will go on. The world will still turn. Hell, Bush was re-elected for crying out loud, and you know what? People (mostly) survived. In a sense, the left has already won, since the Republicans had to pick a rather moderate Republican candidate in order to even have a shot.

But the Democrats, and the so-called "liberal media," may be overestimating Americans' desire for "change." I don't think most Americans are particularly up for all that much change at this
point. I think they should be, if they seriously would rather be living in a better society, but they're not. And you know why? Because they're not suffering enough. They honestly don't think the state of our country is that bad. I mean, as rough as the Bush years have been, things may truly need to grow worse before Americans get over this whole "full of themselves" business once and for all. And I hope I don't sound full of myself when I say that.

In the meantime, Democrats should stop focusing so desperately on the presidency. It's really just one brief chapter in the larger narrative of society as a whole. It's like the baseball team that spends all its money trying to win the World Series while neglecting its own farm system. Sure, with a nice collection of free agents you could win a title or two. But with a solid farm system, you could make the playoffs for decades.


Herr Zrbo said...

New media buzzword this week: "Obama Fatigue"

jason said...

Yeah, I desperately want Obama to win for a lot of different reasons, mostly because I was a big Howard Dean supporter and Obama seems fueled by the same movement (like Dean he raised a fortune mostly through $20 donations).

Plus, the next President gets to pick like 3 Supreme Court justices.

But I definitely see your point. If he loses we still have John McCain, the guy who gave us campaign finance reform, stood up to Clear Channel, challenged Bush on torture, and is more liberal than a lot of Democrats (sadly). Either way we're moving forward from the Bush era. I mean, both candidates actually believes in Global Warming?! What a concept.

Little Earl said...

And McCain is advocating that we should use diplomacy to work with other countries! Holy schnikes. Of course I say the more change the better, but I haven't heard McCain say anything that I honestly thought was all that bad. If Democrats try to paint him as a conservative monster they may have a tough time.

I guess a lot of people feel like the media is pushing them toward Obama and they can sense it and they don't like it. As the Newsweek article says, there isn't much visual enthusiasm for McCain but that doesn't mean that waves of people are ready to support Obama. I think you just have to say it's impressive that Obama is even being considered at this point, and that even if he loses, progress has already been made in some way.

Here are some of the more interesting excerpts from the article, I thought:

But the subtext of old prejudices keeps creeping in even among the very young. Walking down to The Point one morning, a 12-year-old "private" in this particular Confederate unit told me what he'd heard tell in school about the elections. Next to nothing about McCain. But Obama? "There are too many chances we would take if he became president, you know what I mean?" I said I wasn't sure I did. "I don't know if it's a myth or it's true," said the boy, "but they say that they caught him trying to sneak Iraqi soldiers into the United States."

Yet even a third cousin of mine in the mountains of North Carolina, an independent-minded Democrat who voted for Gore in 2000 and Bush in 2004, said he can't bring himself to vote for Obama, either. Why? "Because I believe he is a Muslim," said my cousin. Not so, I said. He was raised a Christian and is a practicing Christian. My cousin shook his head. "I just don't believe him," he said.

Bobby Howard, who was standing on the sidelines of the Moore's Ford re-enactment, has spent more than 40 years looking into the unsolved lynchings, "hoping that we can bring some kind of finality," as he put it. Many people in the area thought they knew the names of the culprits, at least four of whom are still alive, according to Howard. But "turning them in would be like turning in the fathers of the county," said Brian Arrington, managing editor of the local Walton Tribune. "If you walk around, the names of the streets are the names of some of the suspects."

These white, Christian, middle-class Southerners, the core of Republican strength in the region, are as disconcerted as anyone by the country's current economic turmoil. But that doesn't make them any more amenable to change. While they may be unenthusiastic about McCain (in 10 days' traveling I did not see a single bumper sticker with his name on it), they are leery of Obama's liberalism if not his skin color. "They just don't believe him when he says he'll only tax the richest 1 percent," said Merle Black. Perhaps even more important, they belong to an aspiring class whose members imagine, or dream, they might yet make it into that stratospheric bracket. "Southerners," said Black, "don't identify with where they are but where they want to end up."

Too often for these voters' conservative tastes, the Democratic Party comes across as "preachy," according to Black. He cited a recent appearance by Obama in Powder Springs, Ga. A woman in the audience complained about having to deal with immigrants who spoke Spanish but no English. Obama said they'd learn eventually, but she ought to want an educational system that would teach her kids Spanish. Southerners, said Black, really do not like being told what they ought to want.

"I think if there were a better economy more people would take a risk on Obama," said Patricia Murtaugh Wise, a lawyer from Nashville sightseeing with her kids at Atlanta's landmark Varsity Drive-In restaurant. Her friends are blaming Bush more than his party, she said. "I'm not sure people are saying, 'Because Bush got us into this, let's vote for a Democrat.' I think people are saying, 'Let's get a new person in there'."

Carter worked as a TV technician for Sears and devoted himself to his duties as a deacon of the church. Now 80, he is president of the National Baptist Deacons Convention. Perhaps because he had seen so much of the past, had seen so much that had changed, and so much that had not, he was sanguine about the future of a black presidential candidate. "Obama is going to win," he said. And if he does not? "Then he is preparing the way for the next."

yoggoth said...

While I agree that many voters do think this way, I think you are underestimating the damage the Republican party is doing to our Democracy. In my opinion, continued Republican rule in the style of Bush stands a decent chance of eventually destroying our republican form of government. We are one Supreme Court vote away from giving the president the power to imprison US citizens indefinitely without cause. Sure, countries like Russia have found stability through authoritarianism but would you want to live there?

yoggoth said...

Another thing - the conservative media is trying to portray Obama as the favorite of the supposedly liberal media and arouse this backlash you mention.

Don't all of those quotes at the bottom bother you? Blatantly racist rumors are being spread and yet when Obama addresses this he is accused of 'playing the race card.'

Little Earl said...

Sure they bother me but what am I supposed to do? Nobody seems to listen to me anyway. Besides, I think you underestimate the quality of life throughout American history as a whole. We used to imprison US citizens indefinitely without cause all the time. We've probably been doing it less under Bush than we did under Eisenhower. That doesn't mean it's right, of course, but what do you expect?