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E-Day Minus Four

Just a quick note tonight on McCain receiving a critical vote of confidence from Virginia\’s Elder Statesman, retiring Senator John Warner. This endorsement is a huge deal considering how widely respected John Warner is in Virginia, especially in spite of the general toxicity of the GOP brand. I myself like the man because he’s the rare republican that actually seems to have good reasons for holding positions I disagree with while knowing when to in turn disagree with the national party and the president. Or it would be were it not for the fact that there remain only 72 hours in the newscycle before E-Day and that’s not nearly enough time for something like this to sink in, especially with Obama up in Virginia to the tune of about 7 points. And Warner’s aforementioned sense of knowing when to break with the overall GOP is evident esp now; he seems to hail from the Colin Powell moderate camp and this has kept him from endorsing either candidate in Virginia’s Senate Race, which is another nail in the coffin for Jim Gilmore, who was already a deficient candidate on a number of levels. If I had to take a guess I’d say this endorsement was timed just so that he could say he endorsed McCain without it actually having much practical effect. This would allow him to still wield credibility and influence should he choose to play a role in the reshaping of the GOP that will follow the election no matter who wins.


E-Day Minus Five
Just a a quick and dirty tonight. My friend Brian over at Saint Superman has decided to enrage his lord and engage in a bit of electoral divination, and while my urge to follow suit is strong, I will forbear, for the following reasons:

The field of battleground states is ever-shifting. Just yesterday Real Clear Politics added Georgia to the tossup column, while several other sites have Arizona as being far too close to be a candidate’s home state. Meanwhile both Montana and North Dakota entered play within the last 7 days, and in this environment of electoral paradigms shifting without a clutch making any kind of prediction is akin to trying to forecast the weather in Virginia 24 hours in advance, a feat that has so far proven largely impossible. And this is to say nothing of the fact that the actual pollsters have far more data at their disposal and therefore a greater understanding of what’s actually driving the numbers, while most political laymen (myself mostly included) have little more to work with than the following tenets:

More Money = More Ads

Obama has 8 metric fucktons of both

Therefore, numbers will move in Obama’s direction.

It’s a crude measure, but so far seems to prove correct on at least the basic levels, and especially in a society as deeply ad-driven as our own. One only has to look as far as my last post for an example of this. But of course there are other, smaller, far more numerous factors doing their part to bump the numbers in various directions, and such minutiae (or at least lack of access to them) prevents us from making anytihng more than a GUESS.

Having said all that I would like to be able to claim a few “I told you so points”, so I’ll say a few words on what the future may hold: I wouldn’t be surprised to see either North Dakota or North Carolina fall into the Obama column, and while I’ll be keeping an eye on Georgia it’s probably gonna stay republican, as much as I might want to forecast aforementioned GOPocalypse. This is even more true in the case of Arizona, which is weakening but won’t flip entirely before E-Day. As the percieved holder of the national zeitgeist, I would also expect Missouri to slide into the Obama column. Ohio and Florida can and will do as they wishes, and will hopefully find themselves far less strategic weapons this time out. Either way I’d rather not touch them with 30 foot poles, but they both have taken on a blue tinge.

But all of this is essentially moot, as we’re no longer really discussing whether Obama will win, but how large the margin will be, which in turn will determine the extent of his mandate.

E-Day Minus Six

Well I couldn’t very well call myself a blogger if I ignored the single largest ad-buy in American political history, so despite a ten hour work day I bring myself before you to summarize the Obama superad.

The thing basically took the form of a string of Obama’s usual two-minute ads in which he goes into specifics on what he wants and how he’ll get/pay for it, peppered with scenes of him giving speeches/talking to avg ppl/tales of struggles of aforementioned everymen/obligatory chorus of praise from notable democrats, mostly governors. I counted Sebelius, Patrick, and Kaine (yay!), as well as Senator McCaskill. Also included were segments about him speaking on his past and present family life, all very uplifting if you’re into that sort of thing. Notable is that one of the “Tales of Everyman” centered on a teacher who is also the mother of a special-needs child, in what is a clear counter-shot to one of Sarah Palin’s big substantive policy pushes. The whole thing was capped off with a 5 minute speech broadcast live from Florida which essentially asked ppl to get out the vote.

As for policy specs, it was pretty much things those who have been following the campaign have already heard several times over, but then they’re not the target audience here. The superad is aimed at undecided voters, who generally ignore the campaign until the final week and then make up their minds several days (or possibly hours) before E-Day. It’s meant to reverse, or at least blunt, the late-decider tendency to break republican. This is critical as while Obama holds a commanding lead in most critical states, these states also have a significant proportion of undecideds remaining, and the leads he’s amassed could be either severely reduced or erased if they move towards McCain in large enough numbers.

For those who missed it, you didn’t miss you probably haven’t heard before if you’re even remotely political already. I myself would have skipped it had I not given myself the task of blogging about it, although I also prefer to view it myself before it moves through the prism of media coverage, and this brings us briefly to the superad’s final main objective: by it’s sheer length and expense it’ll dominate tomorrow’s news coverage even more than today, preventing McCain from gaining a narrative foothold for another day, even as he and Palin attempt to sell another alleged terrorist link to Obama.

And now having done my duty, I’ve been jonesing for a game by the name of Fallout 3, which posits a post-nuclear future that follows a McCain victory (I kid, I kid).

Aside: Seeing footage from Obama’s 04 Convention speech, it’s very noticeable the extent to which he’s aged in the interim.

E-Day Minus Seven

Firstly, in order to keep this thing going while I’m building up readership, I’ve issued myself a challenge: one post a day from now until Judgment Day, with the caveat of tomorrow as I know for a fact my job will be making me its bitch. But I need to keep soldiering on so I don’t get used to not writing.

Today’s topic: the rapidly approaching cataclysm for the Republican Party. Misfortune continues to rain down almost continuously on the GOP, much to the perverse pleasure of many (myself included). Aside from losing 5 senate seats being the best case scenario, along with at least 20 house seats, an atmosphere in the republicans must now contend with the conviction of Ted Stevens on corruption charges, who has decided to remain a candidate in the race for his senate seat despite now being almost certainly doomed. And of course Obama has expanded the playing field to such a degree that the GOP is now playing defense in such far flung reaches as Montana, as well as McCain’s lead in his home state of Arizona having dwindled to the point of hovering in the mid single digits. Let us not at this juncture even discuss what’s going on in Georgia, of all places, but suffice to say that there are few states left that can be described as solidly, unassailably republican.

And yet, in spite of the collapse of the electoral map on all three major fronts, the worst recent news for the GOP is the tales of palace intrigue coming out of the McCain campaign. Palin is apparently (understandably) displeased with the fact that the campaign mishandled her to the extent that her nationwide introduction became a miscarriage. She’s decided to handle herself, with the resulting tensions within the campaign now looking like the drawing of battle lines as Palin seeks to save herself to fight again in 2012. The result is the media on both sides reacting to what appears to be an almost complete implosion of the GOP. While the left now openly masturbates over the probable margins of Obama\’s victory, you can smell the whiskey coming off of the right’s lament of same.

And these are just some of the articles being written on the general topic that I will now broach. Palin is now obviously positioning herself to run in 2012, and the media is heavily speculating over Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee eventually following suit. With the conservative media establishment effectively split into what can roughly be described as pro- and anti-Palin factions, we are witnessing the battle lines being drawn and the early stages of the war for the soul of the republican party. Now, this is something we’ve all known was coming. Since 2006 bush’s poll numbers have only declined and the rest of the party along with him. The question that;s been asked about 2008 ever since has not been whether the republicans will be weakened, but how much? With one week left to go, we have a very clear answer: the result for them is going to range somewhere between disaster and FUBAR. With the public set to decisively repudiate everything the party has stood for for the last 8 years, to the point that there is open speculation about this being a realigning election and that the Reagan era may be dead, a period of soul searching has now become necessary. The question is who will prevail: Palin’s clean government, down home conservatism? Huckabee’s religious social conservatism? Or Romney’s economic conservatism? Some combination thereof? And, to the delight of liberals everywhere, is there a chance the rifts between the three could be so deep as to lead to a major split? These are among the questions that the GOP is going to have to deal with soon, as even in the unlikely event McCain ekes out a narrow victory the congress will still be overwhelmingly democratic.

The Republican Party is now at a critical crossroads. After being led very badly astray by the neoconservatives, it very quickly needs to remake itself into a form that an effective portion of the American electorate would actually be willing to vote for. What this form will be will depend on who prevails in the struggle to lead what now remains of the party, but for the time being one thing is clear: It’s a great time if you’re a democrat.

According to McCain campaign spokesman Nancy Pfotenhauer, while all my friends in Richmond and Charlottesville have been living it up in “real Virginia”, I’ve been living in a lie:

What I resent most here is the implication that all democrats in NoVa just moved down here from DC. I moved down here from New York, dammit! Seriously though, I begin to think the McCain campaign is TRYING to lose. When trying to win votes in a state maligning it’s major center of population is generally considered poor form. Combined with Joe McCain\’s assertion that Arlington and Alexandria are \”Communist Country\” it seems the McCain campaign holds some form of cognitive dissonance wherein the DC suburbs are not in fact part of Virginia but form a separate entity, the People’s Democratic Republic of Virginia, or “North Virginia”, if you will.

It seems that even after 34 years in congress democrat John Murtha has at least momentarily forgotten one of the unbreakable rules of politics: curse not thy voters. It’s doubtful this will create more than a headache for Murtha’s reelection effort at this point in the race. As to it’s effect on the national race, it’ll likely gain as much traction as the trial of Ted Stevens.

Legends have a funny way of shifting if not evaporating outright upon close examination. Turns out there is no Tooth Fairy. Or Santa Claus. And much to the disappointment of the McCain Campaign, the same is true of Joseph Wurzelbacher. The 24 hours following McCain’s attempt at turning “Joe The Plumber” into the poster child for the anticipated failure of Obama’s economic policies have seen the unraveling of many of his earlier assertions, as pointed out in this article from Politico.

Joe the Plumber is not officially a plumber, working under his boss’ certifications, although under Ohio state law he should have at least an apprenticeship liscence himself. He makes less than $250,000, which means he’ll be getting a tax cut from Obama. The plumbing company he wants to buy, Newell Plumbing and Heating Co. of Toledo, according to MSNBC, only has a total annual revenue of about $100,000, and even less taxable income. In his initial encounter with Obama, Joe said the company has an annual income between $250,000-$280,000. Even were this true and Joe’s income became $280,000/year or higher, only the extra $30K would be taxed. Joe himself has, as of 2006, a yearly income of about $40,000.

Now keep in mind all of the preceding hinges on Obama’s economic policies remaining unchanged, a prospect that seems increasingly unlikely as the Reckoning continues to unfold, but is an unpleasant truth neither candidate will own up to at this stage in the race for fear of tanking their poll numbers. Obama may be banking on the nation being more willing to swallow a bitter pill while still in a euphoric post-inauguration haze. How much wisdom there is in beginning to wear out your welcome in the federal city hours after entering it I can’t say, but as the past few weeks have amply demonstrated an election cycle makes rational policymaking a pipe dream.

There is also a bit about Joe owing about $1000 in back taxes, which I can’t really hold against him personally as no one is perfect. But I do mention it simply to reinforce the moral of the story: before attempting to politically canonize someone a bit of vetting would not be inappropriate. *cough*palin*cough*

I would also not be surprised if Joe decided to vote for Obama, if only out of spite for the McCain campaign bringing down the full wrath of the American Media upon his head.

Blogging a debate is a very interesting and new experience for me. Instead of just sitting back I actually paid closer attention and took notes, and consciously tried to set aside my more partisan thought filters to take the experience in. Which served me well in the cause of overcoming CNN’s attempts to bestow ADD on me. The “squiggly lines” tracking live voter reaction, a mechanism I still find vaguely disturbing, were bad enough. At the second debate they threw on live grading from some of their talking heads. Thankfully no further infernal innovations were unveiled, but the overall effect makes it impossible to focus and turns CNN into a classier version of G4. Dear editors of CNN: May I please have 5 minutes in which to form my own opinion before being carpet bombed with ancillary analysis? The screen is so cluttered with various forms of running commentary that drawing coherent information from the people we’ve actually come to watch is nigh impossible.

On to the actual substance of the debate. The first point that really caught my attention was McCain’s claim that he opposed the conduct of the war in Iraq, a claim that seems to ring with something less than truth given how much effort he’s expended both trumpeting the surge and attempting to nail Obama for his opposition of same.

On Bob Scheiffer’s invitation to fisticuffs: I’m not sure how productive dragging the candidates into Mortal Kombat is. Yes its good to make them face up to their attack ads in person, but at the same time it smacks of trying to touch off a bareknuckle boxing match to satisfy the desires of an audience crying out for blood. Once again our media industry hearkens back to ancient Rome, but whether this says more about the state of the Republic or Human Nature can be debated endlessly.

On repetition: It is true that repetition is the core of political messaging and that anything told often enough automatically becomes the truth. However in this context I find the assertions coming from McCain to be far more tiresome. My own biases aside I honestly feel Obama has done a better job of responding to McCain’s most common line of attack, “He’ll Raise Your Taxes”, by explaining (repeating) what his tax plan actually is. While McCain and Bush are indeed two different men and, to a lesser extent, politicians, McCain’s voting record and the sheer degree of policy continuity between the two makes his attempts to refute Obama’s assertions that “He’s 4-8 More Years of Bush” also ring hollow. This is especially true after McCain missed an excellent opportunity, while being questioned about judicial nominations, to remind the public about his instrumental involvement in the bipartisan Gang of 14 that successfully prevented the rewriting of Senate debate rules and was fought over, drumroll please, judicial nominations.

On Education: McCain’s stated position is to use vouchers to encourage competition amongst schools and thereby motivate public schools to shape up. While competition sounds good this way, it is untenable when the implication is that public schools who fail to shape up will perish through lack of adequate funding, especially in a situation where in many areas there are already too few teachers and/or classrooms to go around. If a failing public school is the only option for education in an area the answer is not to plunk down a charter school that will likely only benefit those capable of affording it, vouchers or no, but to improve public schools. Especially in light of the Reckoning, we have already seen how disastrous privitizing social security would have been. Privatized healthcare, at least in its current form, is failing millions of people despite how much we spend on it. Someone needs to explain to me how education is suddenly going to be the model in which privatization is going to work.

Moment of the Evening: After spending 3 debates needling Obama on his position that businesses that fail to provide health care coverage to their employees would be fined, McCain finally received an answer. Obama said there would be no fine, and while I believe this tied into his earlier statement that small businesses would be exempted from certain coverage requirements is still a very big policy hole. however instead of seizing on this to criticize Obama, McCain spent about 10 seconds looking as if he’d been physically slapped.

Moment of Clarity: On the abortion issue, I’m going to take a moment to voice an opinion shared by many of my friends, especially those of the catholic persuasion, and is the cause of much political anguish and frustration for them: the hypocrisy of advocates of a so-called “culture of life” which apparently applies only to the abortion issue. While many pro-life conservatives claim to subscribe to this culture and therefore claim that, in some form or another, those who disagree with them subscribe to a “cult of death” in not opposing abortion, they seem content to allow prisoners on death row to be sent to their fate, sternly if not with an air of active glee. This is what I, and most people I know, resent about this conception of a culture of life: you cannot claim to support all life and then turn and point to prisons and say “except THOSE lives.” This is one of those positions where it truly is all or nothing.

Verdict: Obama wins his third victory of the status quo. Republicans will be more adamant about giving this round to McCain, though this probably has more to do with the amount of the red meat which they’ve been so desperately begging for he’s finally thrown them than actual performance. Regardless, McCain has lost his last chance for a real breakthrough before a live audience of millions. Snap polls are already bearing this out:CNN, CBS, and Politico all have Obama declared the victor to the tune of 58-31, 53-22, and 49-46, respectively. In short, the GOP remains quite doomed.

~We’re all in this Together

The Old Man once said “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” While this may have applied to the nation on the eve of civil war, the inverse is generally true in the context of the mechanism of American governance. Divided government fosters debate and compromise, the steady foundation upon which the Republic rests and is, at least in principle if not always in practice, a good thing.

Unless the president is George Bush.

Now, it is common knowledge among those who know me that I subscribe, along with about 65% of the nation on average, that the Bush presidency has been, if not an unmitigated disaster, a flat failure. The reasons for this are manifest and will not be enumerated at this time. What is material to the current discussion is that the president, and more to the point the neoconservative ideology he embodies, has exerted a warping influence on the workings of the federal government via the accelerated centralization of power in the executive branch. Many will argue that this has been a trend as old as the nation itself, and I do not deny this, I merely assert that this trend has been sped up under Bush to much ill-affect. I give the following example: the Democrats were swept into a congressional majority back in 2006 by effectively if not very skillfully harnessing the american people’s lust for the blood of the president and his party by promising to kick their collective ass, especially on Iraq. Unfortunately the resulting majority was small enough that on most issues Pelosi and Reid proceeded to fold faster than Superman on laundry day, with the resulting effect that congress finally outdid the president in that their approval rating has imploded even more spectacularly.

Now, as much as I love the idea on which divided government rests, I do not believe the results will necessarily be positive following this election cycle. This has as much to do with the candidates as with the current political climate, as I will now attempt to illustrate:

Let’s say McCain wins, despite this being an event that the political high priests, talking heads, and the average rabble have universally declared to be increasingly unlikely, the Bradley Effect aside. Should this occur, the task of effective governance will be made difficult if not impossible. At the moment, McCain is left with increasingly few effective lines of attack. Barring a terrorist attack, a massive screwup from the thus far almost flawlessly run Obama campaign, or President Bush revealing the formula by which water can be converted into gasoline, the GOP ticket is doomed. If the GOP and many of their remaining supporters are to be believed, McCain’s one hope is to enter the shadowlands from which Karl Rove even now beckons and cover Obama in a layer of filth so thick the American people won’t be able to help but turn away in disgust. While this may prove effective, it would violate McCain’s personal code of honor which he even now upholds despite a less than cooperative VP and campaign machine. More to the point, any victory garnered using this strategy would be immediately turned to ashes in the face of the fact that the Democrats are virtually guaranteed to increase their Senate majority by at least 4 seats if not more, thus allowing them to finally find their balls and effectively stonewall the republican president. McCain’s reputation for compromise in legislation having been cast aside in his mad quest for the Incredible Shrinking Republican Base, this scenario is grim to say the least.

In the case of an Obama victory, divided government is impossible due to aforementioned guarantee of Democratic conquest. Why this is a good thing, in my opinion, is that Obama has many policies I would like to see passed, and a healthy senate majority makes his task of governing easier, which is critical in the face of the many challenges we are currently presented with, the economy momentarily foremost among them.

However, make no mistake, there is a limit to my largesse towards the Democratic party. My relationship with them, at least at the congressional level, can currently be described as a marriage of convenience, and there is a significant part of me that wishes to see them gain a stronger majority that the Republicans might at last receive their due punishment of an election cycle or two in the wilderness. That being said, I do not want the Democrats to reach the magic 60 in the senate. For those unfamiliar with this particular golden number, 60 is the number of votes required to override a filibuster, basically allowing the majority party to cut off debate and steamroll the opposition. In fact, were it not for Mark Warner being so excellent and Jim Gilmore being so excellently detestable I might actually vote GOP in Virginia’s senate race. While I do wish to see much of the Democratic Party’s policies enacted, I do not want to give them the horrifying power that a supermajority entails. Having a majority of less than 60 forces the Democrats to work with moderate GOP members to get their work done, and I believe this will temper the more extreme policies they would otherwise see fit to unleash (immediate pullout from Iraq, anyone?). I may be liberal, but let it not be said I give the left free handjobs (and KeMiRo may take this opportunity to shut the hell up :P).

In the short term, I think our interests are best served by united government, a small part of the reason I’ll be voting for Obama. The Republicans, while they shouldn’t be ignored entirely, could use a few years as an actual minority to do some soul searching.

At least until 2010.

~We’re all in this together

It would seem that the Democrats are not immune from the contagion. While I take some comfort in the fact that the crowds who attend these rallies are incredibly partisan to begin with, the trend is nonetheless troubling.

October 2008
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