Sunday, September 21, 2008

It ain't over yet

A lot of Obama supporters are breathing sighs of relief that the polls, reflecting concerns about the bungled economy, are swinging back towards Obama after lurching heavily towards McCain-Palin in the weeks after the Republican convention. But I think we have to stop and think about what this really means. People who are clear in their heads about where they stand politically have known who they are supporting for many months now. The swings in poll numbers reflect the so-called "undecided" voters.

But who are the undecided voters in this election? I hate to say this, but I suspect that in large part they are the stupid, the confused, the gullible, and the ignorant. As I argued in an earlier post, entitled "It's the stupidity, stupid," stupidity is actually a choice in life rather than an inherent quality. Of course, that means it is a choice that can be changed, and the swing to Obama could reflect many people finally getting smart at last. But don't count on it. As Frank Rich points out in an important column in today's New York Times, there are still many ways that McCain-Palin could win. Obama needs a huge lead going into voting day; if the poll numbers are still very close the week before, I would be very worried indeed--not only because of the stupidity factor, but because there are still just too many voters looking for an excuse not to vote for a Black man (the so-called Bradley Effect.)

As I have said before, this election is about the economy, Iraq, women's rights, and a whole host of other issues, but most fundamentally it is about whether Americans are going to get in touch with their inner smart persons at long last.

Things turning frosty for Palin. In Alaska, that is, where many citizens are wondering why the McCain campaign is taking over the state, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The surge won't work in Afghanistan (it didn't work in Iraq either.) These issues are explored by Fred Kaplan in Slate.


Anne Gilbert said...

Well I, for one, am not breathing any sighs of relief re the bounce back for Obama in the polls. Because there'a a lot of work yet to be done. I've offered to do my part a little while down the line. And I'm keeping my fingers firmly crossed till election day.
Anne G

Michael Balter said...

How are things looking in Washington state, Anne?

jqb said...

Someone once wrote "I'm seeing a lot of anxiety out there after the Republican Convention. Is it lack of confidence in the candidate or lack of confidence in the American people? Perhaps some of both, but it ain't healthy."

As I said at the time, that was a bogus criticism; a certain amount of anxiety about the facts is warranted and not unhealthy. What is unhealthy is substituting "confidence" for fact-based rational analysis. It's particularly unhealthy to have any sort of "confidence" in "the American people", which is a large body of diverse people who, as a whole, have sometimes acted in the past in ways that do not inspire "confidence" now. That isn't necessarily because people are "stupid", but many of them have busy lives that don't involve being political junkies, and most of what they "know" of the candidates comes from the MSM's formulaic "balanced" presentation that helps someone like McCain misrepresent his actual positions and policies. The shallowness of their understanding of the consequences of the political choice that faces them is illustrated by the fact the ads about Palin offering a bounty for the limbs of wolves shot from planes has apparently had a significant effect on the polling of "swing voters". That shallowness of understanding is certainly a consequence of choices, but I think it is arrogant and elitist of us (and I have done it to) to dismiss it as a choice to be "stupid". Rather than smugly denigrate people for their choices, we "smart" people have an obligation to reach out to these people and provide them with information and incentives to make them aware of how political choices matter, and how they affect them and the world the live in. And it's not just the "swing voters" in "the middle", but also the Naderistic left, who talk about "the system is broken" and how "they're all the same" -- while these people aren't stupid, what they say certainly is, especially after the last eight years under the *worse* of "two evils". "the lesser of two evils" is an intellectually dishonest way of saying "the better of two choices", and Obama is certainly that (as were Gore and Kerry), regardless of how flawed he may be. Utopia isn't on the ballot, and can't be obtained by writing it in.

-- From your bro, on the road in Chico en route to Lassen.