Commentary Magazine


Posts For: November 5, 2008

Unhistoric Unturnout

After all the hype, the current total vote nationwide is about 118 million. A couple million more votes will be added to the tally over the course of the week. In the end, then, the vote total in 2008 will actually be lower than the vote tally in 2004, which was 123 million. Once again, the vaunted youth-and-new-voter blather was just that.

The story, therefore, is the colossal shift of the electorate away from the GOP’s candidate. The electorate changed its composition rather radically. Obama, it appears, will get 4 million votes more than John Kerry. McCain, by contrast, will get 7 million fewer votes than Bush did in 2004.

After all the hype, the current total vote nationwide is about 118 million. A couple million more votes will be added to the tally over the course of the week. In the end, then, the vote total in 2008 will actually be lower than the vote tally in 2004, which was 123 million. Once again, the vaunted youth-and-new-voter blather was just that.

The story, therefore, is the colossal shift of the electorate away from the GOP’s candidate. The electorate changed its composition rather radically. Obama, it appears, will get 4 million votes more than John Kerry. McCain, by contrast, will get 7 million fewer votes than Bush did in 2004.

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Senate Trio

A trio of Senate Republicans – Coleman, Stevens, and Smith –  are hanging on by their fingertips. If Ted Stevens of Alaska, convicted on felony corruption and bribery charges, ekes it out and his appeal fails, Sarah Palin will appoint his replacement. There’s a twist, given her storied opposition to her own party’s corruption. Gordon Smith of Oregon, who  explicitly allied himself with Obama, may benefit from that cold calculation. And Minnesotans were apparently confounded between the choice between Norm Coleman, a smart, moderate Republican, and a mean clown who didn’t pay his taxes or workers comp bill. (The race is essentially a tie, no small part due to the presence of an Independent who garnered over 400,000 votes).

If these three hold on, the GOP Senate losses are really the lowest one might predict under the circumstances. Combined with more modest House losses than might have been the case, there may be a message in there: change, but not so fast and not so much. Obama coattails? Long, especially in North Carolina; but not that long.

A trio of Senate Republicans – Coleman, Stevens, and Smith –  are hanging on by their fingertips. If Ted Stevens of Alaska, convicted on felony corruption and bribery charges, ekes it out and his appeal fails, Sarah Palin will appoint his replacement. There’s a twist, given her storied opposition to her own party’s corruption. Gordon Smith of Oregon, who  explicitly allied himself with Obama, may benefit from that cold calculation. And Minnesotans were apparently confounded between the choice between Norm Coleman, a smart, moderate Republican, and a mean clown who didn’t pay his taxes or workers comp bill. (The race is essentially a tie, no small part due to the presence of an Independent who garnered over 400,000 votes).

If these three hold on, the GOP Senate losses are really the lowest one might predict under the circumstances. Combined with more modest House losses than might have been the case, there may be a message in there: change, but not so fast and not so much. Obama coattails? Long, especially in North Carolina; but not that long.

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Re: The Risky One

Jen, just as the “risky” argument has proved once more to be a problematic form of political attack,  it is time for politicians to retire the “experience” argument for all time, at least at the presidential level. Four of the past five presidents were all vastly less experienced than their rivals, and their rivals attempted to use it against them to little or no effect. Experience was what Gerald Ford had and Jimmy Carter didn’t; what Jimmy Carter had and Ronald Reagan didn’t; what George H.W. Bush had and Bill Clinton didn’t; what Al Gore had and George W. Bush didn’t. Candidates love to make this case. Arguing that the other guy doesn’t possess the requisite experience is a wildly tempting line for a politician because it offers means of going on the attack that is neither ideological nor personal — the problem is not the other’s ideas or his character but rather something over which the rival has no control. And it makes them feel good, because they get credit for being older and wiser.

Candidates and their consultants will continue to be tempted by the experience argument. But, as my Israeli nephew once said, it don’t working.

It is clear, now, that a relative lack of experience is almost certainly a plus when running for president. It makes the candidate seem fresh, unbloodied by the bruising partisan fights of Washington, and able to come in like Heracles and clean the Augean stables.  the ugliest things one candidate can say about another, because it suggests the election of the other guy has an implicitly murderous component

Jen, just as the “risky” argument has proved once more to be a problematic form of political attack,  it is time for politicians to retire the “experience” argument for all time, at least at the presidential level. Four of the past five presidents were all vastly less experienced than their rivals, and their rivals attempted to use it against them to little or no effect. Experience was what Gerald Ford had and Jimmy Carter didn’t; what Jimmy Carter had and Ronald Reagan didn’t; what George H.W. Bush had and Bill Clinton didn’t; what Al Gore had and George W. Bush didn’t. Candidates love to make this case. Arguing that the other guy doesn’t possess the requisite experience is a wildly tempting line for a politician because it offers means of going on the attack that is neither ideological nor personal — the problem is not the other’s ideas or his character but rather something over which the rival has no control. And it makes them feel good, because they get credit for being older and wiser.

Candidates and their consultants will continue to be tempted by the experience argument. But, as my Israeli nephew once said, it don’t working.

It is clear, now, that a relative lack of experience is almost certainly a plus when running for president. It makes the candidate seem fresh, unbloodied by the bruising partisan fights of Washington, and able to come in like Heracles and clean the Augean stables.  the ugliest things one candidate can say about another, because it suggests the election of the other guy has an implicitly murderous component

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Time For Some Double Crossing

Ruth Marcus has it exactly right: “Obama’s ability to resist, and to dispense available goodies in an orderly fashion, will be key to the success of his presidency.” Will he fill up the van with special interest goodies for all of the Demcoratic interest groups which delivered his win and risk a repeat of 1994? Will he really raise taxes in a recession? Does he intend to make good on Barney Frank’s promise to slash the defense budget?

We have no idea because he has never governed, never legislated “from the center,” and never really been grilled as to his intentions. But we can hope that he is smart and canny enough to dispense with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid as ruthlessly as he did with Reverend Wright, his mentor of two decades. We can hope he simply strung along the good people of Ohio and has no intention of going down the protectionist road.

Yes, yes he ran as the New Politician. But let’s hope he’s enough of an Old Politician to realize he needn’t keep his campaign promises.

Ruth Marcus has it exactly right: “Obama’s ability to resist, and to dispense available goodies in an orderly fashion, will be key to the success of his presidency.” Will he fill up the van with special interest goodies for all of the Demcoratic interest groups which delivered his win and risk a repeat of 1994? Will he really raise taxes in a recession? Does he intend to make good on Barney Frank’s promise to slash the defense budget?

We have no idea because he has never governed, never legislated “from the center,” and never really been grilled as to his intentions. But we can hope that he is smart and canny enough to dispense with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid as ruthlessly as he did with Reverend Wright, his mentor of two decades. We can hope he simply strung along the good people of Ohio and has no intention of going down the protectionist road.

Yes, yes he ran as the New Politician. But let’s hope he’s enough of an Old Politician to realize he needn’t keep his campaign promises.

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The Risky One

The focus of the McCain campaign was to portray Barack Obama as the risky, unacceptable choice in the election. He was too liberal, too inexperienced, and had too much unexplored baggage. That was the argument. But in the two most critical parts of the fall campaign (when people really pay attention) it failed because Obama didn’t seem risky at all.

First came the financial crisis. He didn’t do much of anything. But he met with Paul Volcker and Warren Buffett, suggested much the same sort of things as McCain did to amend the Paulson bailout plan, and avoided the sort of frenetic stunts  McCain engaged in. Second, the debates. He didn’t have a great answer to why he refused to recognize the success of the surge, his tax plan was sheer fantasy, and he flat-out lied about his votes on partial birth abortion. But he seemed rather normal and serious.

In some ways the erratic and irascible McCain was the wrong person to make the “risky” argument. He, after all, was the one who lurched around both on policy and tactics. And because, on top of all that,  he was unwilling to pursue the one association that was perhaps most troubling, Obama’s twenty years with Reverend Wright, he never convinced voters that Obama was too great a risk — or any more of a risk than McCain.

The focus of the McCain campaign was to portray Barack Obama as the risky, unacceptable choice in the election. He was too liberal, too inexperienced, and had too much unexplored baggage. That was the argument. But in the two most critical parts of the fall campaign (when people really pay attention) it failed because Obama didn’t seem risky at all.

First came the financial crisis. He didn’t do much of anything. But he met with Paul Volcker and Warren Buffett, suggested much the same sort of things as McCain did to amend the Paulson bailout plan, and avoided the sort of frenetic stunts  McCain engaged in. Second, the debates. He didn’t have a great answer to why he refused to recognize the success of the surge, his tax plan was sheer fantasy, and he flat-out lied about his votes on partial birth abortion. But he seemed rather normal and serious.

In some ways the erratic and irascible McCain was the wrong person to make the “risky” argument. He, after all, was the one who lurched around both on policy and tactics. And because, on top of all that,  he was unwilling to pursue the one association that was perhaps most troubling, Obama’s twenty years with Reverend Wright, he never convinced voters that Obama was too great a risk — or any more of a risk than McCain.

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Things I Won’t Miss

The end of a two year race comes as a relief to many. For me I certainly won’t miss the non-stop stream of campaign emails and releases touting, rather SHOUTING ABOUT,  this or that gaffe or outrage from the other side. I won’t miss the drumbeat of polls and poll gurus. (By the way, the polls were quite accurate in the end.) I won’t miss the infuriating cheerleading that passed for the MSM’s coverage of the Obama campaign. I won’t miss the sometimes cringe-inducing debate performances — by a number of candidates and moderators. ( The worst was that school marm in the Iowa debates. Fred Thompson, in his finest moment refused to raise his hand and answer “yes” or “no” to one of her imperious questions.)

It is time to move on to the purpose of elections rather than the election itself — to the matter of governing.

The end of a two year race comes as a relief to many. For me I certainly won’t miss the non-stop stream of campaign emails and releases touting, rather SHOUTING ABOUT,  this or that gaffe or outrage from the other side. I won’t miss the drumbeat of polls and poll gurus. (By the way, the polls were quite accurate in the end.) I won’t miss the infuriating cheerleading that passed for the MSM’s coverage of the Obama campaign. I won’t miss the sometimes cringe-inducing debate performances — by a number of candidates and moderators. ( The worst was that school marm in the Iowa debates. Fred Thompson, in his finest moment refused to raise his hand and answer “yes” or “no” to one of her imperious questions.)

It is time to move on to the purpose of elections rather than the election itself — to the matter of governing.

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The Exit Polls Were Off Again

I understand the exit polls had Obama winning by 10 points. It appears the margin will be 5 points.

I understand the exit polls had Obama winning by 10 points. It appears the margin will be 5 points.

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Re: Barack Obama’s Speech

Jen, I couldn’t agree more. He actually sucked the excitement and the passion out of this extraordinary night. I didn’t even get the impression that the historical weight of it all impacted him as much as it did  John McCain. The slogans were pat and cheap; his presence was wafer thin. This really is the night of the hologram.

Jen, I couldn’t agree more. He actually sucked the excitement and the passion out of this extraordinary night. I didn’t even get the impression that the historical weight of it all impacted him as much as it did  John McCain. The slogans were pat and cheap; his presence was wafer thin. This really is the night of the hologram.

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Those Are…

…some cute kids.

…some cute kids.

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The Obama Speech

He concludes by saying: The timeless creed of our people is ‘Yes, we can.’”

I think that is the timely creed of his campaign. The timeless creed of our people is “E pluribus unum,” perhaps, or “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal…”

Slogans are not creedal.

He concludes by saying: The timeless creed of our people is ‘Yes, we can.’”

I think that is the timely creed of his campaign. The timeless creed of our people is “E pluribus unum,” perhaps, or “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal…”

Slogans are not creedal.

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Barack Obama’s Speech

The weight of the country and perhaps of the world descends on him. He doesn’t look elated (strangely unemotional actually), but he looks aware of the enormity of the moment. In the greatest moment of his life and arguably one of the greatest in modern history it is an uneven speech. After a largely political and flat address he pivots when he recognizes the values of the party which he just defeated and promises to be the President of all the people. He will need to take it up a notch from here on out and keep that latter thought firmly fixed in his mind.

He is no longer a candidate but the President Elect. The “Yes We Can” is frankly beneath him at this point. He must be more than a slogan. He must be our President.

The weight of the country and perhaps of the world descends on him. He doesn’t look elated (strangely unemotional actually), but he looks aware of the enormity of the moment. In the greatest moment of his life and arguably one of the greatest in modern history it is an uneven speech. After a largely political and flat address he pivots when he recognizes the values of the party which he just defeated and promises to be the President of all the people. He will need to take it up a notch from here on out and keep that latter thought firmly fixed in his mind.

He is no longer a candidate but the President Elect. The “Yes We Can” is frankly beneath him at this point. He must be more than a slogan. He must be our President.

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