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Pre-Election Omnibus

I've had a number of things on my mind over the last couple of weeks, but I've been quite busy.  There are several topics that I've wanted to write about.  However, I really won't have the time before Tuesday.  I also doubt that anyone will care as much after that, so I've decided to plow through a few them of them as haphazardly as possible.  Here we go!

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First, a burning question in my mind: Given that John McCain came into the general election with a built in advantage, what happened?  He already had a long-standing and oft-sold narrative about being a very centrist type of politician.  This is the sort of story you want in the general, but all he's done since the conventions is tack harder and harder to the right.  Was that really the way to distance himself from the more right-wing policy blunders of the last eight years?  I'm forced to wonder how much better the McCain of yesteryear might have fared.. unless we're really seeing McCain as he is now.

Also, note to John: The pundits didn't decide you were behind.  The pollsters did.  This might seem like a minor quibble, but I believe that a careful examination of this difference earlier on might also have yielded dividends.  Oh well.. live and learn!

Moving along...

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This one has been bugging me for weeks.  I had intended to write about this much more extensively, but I'm just going to go with the condensed version.

"Hi, I'm a journalist.  Candidate A has issued statement X.  Candidate B has issued statement Y.  Well, having given equal times to both sides of the issue, my work here is done.  See you tomorrow!"

False equivalence has been mighty abundant as of late.  This piece in the WaPo does a fair job of describing some of what it calls "the symmetry of sin."  We've all seen it.  (Personally, Candy Crowley is my favorite player of this game.  She acts as if every election is the same on both sides for as far back as history can recall.)

Much has been said about this topic, but there's another culprit in this game that's been on my mind: The AARP.  They run a national ad campaign called "Divided We Fail", which you've probably seen if you watch any cable news.  The ads all have a similar theme, that being lack of action on the part of the Federal government, and they all place the blame on the same scapegoat: Partisanship.

There's always talk about bipartisanship (or lack thereof) during an election.  Everyone promises to be less partisan, which is amusing at a time when politics are arguably at their most partisan.  Even so, there's a similar sort of false equivalence at play here.

One of the "Divided We Fail" ads deals with the lack of action on health-care, which, par for the course, they blame on partisanship and gridlock.  Of course, there's a problem here.  The ad campaign makes it look as if there's a lack of agreement on how to improve the health-care situation.  The problem is that this isn't the case.  One party doesn't even seem to think there's a problem.

Hopefully you know that I'm referring to the Republican party.  If you think I'm being unfair here, then I would challenge you to show me statements from prominent Republican leadership that indicate that there is a problem with the American system of health-care, what they think the problem or problems are and what, if anything, they are willing to do about it in terms of policy.  I've looked myself, so I'm confident that you won't really be able to find many convincing examples.  By and large, you'll find opposition to programs like SCHIP and even Medicare.  You won't find Republicans who think that a private, for-profit system is fundamentally problematic.  You'll find many who think that the current system of HMOs and private insurance are fine as they are and even some who think that the problem is that privatization isn't extensive enough.

There couldn't be a clearer contrast on this issue when you go to the other side of the aisle.  Nearly every major contender for the nomincation of the Democratic Party proposed some brand of extensive reform to health-care.  You can quibble about the details of implementation, but the consensus was clear.

So, what's with the AARP on this one?  I think it's fair to point out that the AARP is the most well-moneyed lobby in America.  It's also 501(c) tax exempt and therefore cannot engage directly in political activities, such as openly endorsing a candidate.  Even so, why the false equivalency?  The AARP has been criticized in the past for advocating Medicare Part D.  It also engages in the marketing of private health insurance to its members.

Perhaps there's a conflict of interest at play here.  Regardless, if one party says that 2+2=4 and the other that 2+2=5, the solution is not to demand that they compromise on 4.5.

Side note on health care: Back during the primary-that-would-not-end, Barack Obama was criticized on the blogosphere as well as by some prominent supporters of Hillary Clinton, not the least of whom being Paul Krugman, for his supposedly less aggressive proposals on health care reform.  However, there's a very good reason for his proposal: It's what most Americans want.  While nearly two-thirds of Americans support government guarantee of health coverage, they are split on whether it should require it.  The numbers in the article I linked are a year and a half old, but recent data from Pew is consistent.  This shows that Obama has his finger on the pulse of what Americans want in terms of health-care reform: Guarantee, but don't require.  Whether or not you, as an individual, believe that this is the best system, it's what can be achieved.  That's important.

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This has been an historic year in electoral politics by any measure.  I know that I've seen and heard many things that I simply did not expect.  Apparently, the ivory tower of the rich white male is under a bit of siege this year.  That's just fine by me.  There are a lot of things that you couldn't be in Presidential politics before 2008 that just don't seem so radical anymore.

And it looks like we may just elect the first non-white President in United States history next week.  It's an exciting time.  There will be a lot of kids out there that will take the old line about being able to do anything you put your mind to very seriously.  You can be a dark-skinned kid from a single-parent home and still have a realistic aspiration to the highest office in the land.

But there's one thing you still can't be in American electoral politics: An atheist.

If you've been following the Hagan/Dole race at all, then you're seeing a bit of this reality play out right now.  Did Kay Hagan consort with atheists?  Hell no!  She's a good Christian.

And maybe she is and that's fine.  But doesn't the Powell response apply here?  I don't expect to hear it, but shouldn't someone be saying, "So what if she did?"  Atheists are Americans, too.  Despite the protestations of certain cretinous bloviators, America is not a "Christian nation".

I'll repeat that: America is not a Christan nation.

The United States of America is a democratic federal republic.  Christianity, or any other religious affiliation for that matter, is optional.

As an atheist, I'm fine with Obama.  While I'd like to have the option of being represented by someone who sees things as I do, it's not a requirement for me.  What I do require is reciprocity of tolerance.  I've mentioned it before, but Obama hit all the right notes for me in his Call to Renewal speech.  I'm not concerned about him using political power to enforce his personal religious beliefs.  After all, his mother was a non-believer and, as such, he doesn't entertain foolish notions about secular persons lacking morality.

Even so, ask yourself this: Thinking back to when Obama supposedly had a "pastor problem", how much worse would it have been for him if he had a "no pastor problem"?

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It's been a pretty crazy year.  I probably won't have time to write again before then, so I'll just say good luck to all and here's hoping for a big Obama win on Tuesday.

 

Interesting thoughts, DF. i agree with you on the atheist point entirely. I've actually found myself squirming a bit when Obama talks about his own faith, not because I'm agnostic, but because I feel like that is one area where he is being overtly political. I'll have no way of ever really knowing how genuine his Christian beliefs are, I admit, but it's just a hunch I have.

Your feelings on false equivalence has a major flaw with it in my opinion. Public policy decisions rarely enjoy the certainty of mathematical equations. I would say in the vast majority of cases, the optimal solution to difficult problems lie somewhere in between the extremes. That's why I find partisan politics annoying but necessary. It tends to keep the country from tilting too far one way or the other.

As far as AARP is concerned, I don't have many fond feelings for that organization. For too long, this country has avoided dealing with some big, pressing issues because that lobby and the senior voting bloc it represents exert an undue influence on American politics. It's a disgrace, and the fact they are running a 'Divided We Fall' ad campaign strikes me as obnoxiously hypocritical.

There's no doubt that politics is far less scientific than, say, physics.  Even so, there's a difference between a disagreement over approach, or even philosophy, and a refusal to acknowledge obvious realities.  I'm not sure who said it first, but the saying goes something like, "You're entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts."  You can adhere to a philosophy that favors privatization, but you can't deny that the US pays more for less health-care than similar industrialized nations, has higher infant mortality, lower life expentancy, etc.  My problem with the AARP's portrayal is that they act as if both the left and the right recognize the problem, but simply can't agree on how best to solve it.  I don't think that's the case.  The right doesn't seem to see it as the same problem as the left.  That's the disconnect.  Perhaps that's partisan, but where's the evidence to the contrary?

I agree with Deadman on equivalence. I enjoy reading opinionated reporting, but I also value reporting by journalists that are trying as hard as they can not to take sides. Some journalists just take it too far. It's important to distinguish between controversial claims where neutral reporting can be valuable, and absurd claims which should be dismissed. It was interesting watching McCain push at least some journalists over that threshold during this campaign.

I've publically outed myself an atheist, so I guess that I'm disqualified from serving in the Legislature. Dole's attacks disgust me. If you're tolerant of people of various faiths but exclude atheists, you're still a bigot.

Thanks for the Powell moment.

Sorry it took me awhile to comment but I liked this post when I read it two days ago.  I see McCain running the same track Clinton did in the primary against Obama only he was a little more to the right.  They tried the same old tricks and they didn't work.  Yes, I have said this before, but it still amazes me how inept the Clinton and McCain campaigns looked compared to Obama.  Is he really that good?  And I don't see how the MSM was in for Obama.  They let McCain get away with shit until the last month - or until the View ladies took him down.  I think McCain is a piss poor administrator, had crappy republican advisors and the republicans were fighting not only the democrats but the whole 8 years of Bush. The repuliban field was weak anyway.  What would have Clinton/McCain looked like?  I did see Articale mans blog.  I think it would have been a really close race and McCain may have won. 

I agree with you on the atheist bit.  I have had to refain myself too many times this year from actually strangling any person that brings up the christian thing in any form in the middle of a political conversation we are having.  What sends me over the edge is when the little creeps start claiming they have the market on values, morals and patriotism.  When I become Queen of the Universe that gang is first to go!

AARP has become an insurance selling front.  Period. Full stop. Nothing but. END OF STORY.

The United States is the only civilized country in the WORLD without national health care.  Repeat that to yourself several times, let it sink in, let yourself be stunned by that fact.  I don't know what is a sadder commentary on the state of our country - that statement or the fact that Bush was allowed to finish his term in office. 

 

 

 

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