February 28, 2006
Am I Doing It Wrong?
I'm writing a piece on Al Gore and, in one of my Google searches, came across this bit from Bob Somerby:
But the boys and girls at the Prospect, the Monthly, the New Republic, still refuse to tattle about it. Their eyes are set on those big-bucks careers. Krugman, then Digby, showed that truth can be easy. But to these boys and girls, truth is hard.
Heh, yeah man. If there's anything that describes my decision to enter non-profit journalism rather than law-school, it's that my eyes are set on a big-bucks career...
Links of the Day: Gas Tax Edition
It's worth noting that Bush is now at 34 percent approval and Cheney's sunk down to 18.
So I guess that settles it, then. Americans hates America. We have met the enemy, and it is us.
You, Sir, Are No Bode Miller
I can't agree with Tom Watson's Bode Miller-George W. Bush comparison. Miller, after all, is a spectacular talent (albeit quite a jerk) who just endured an ignominious implosion. But he was, then and now, an athlete's athlete, a golden boy who spent enough time on the slopes and hours on the lifts to hone what was god-given into what appeared unbeatable. He took grace and added grit, and even if he lost, it wasn't because he was undeserving of the opportunity. The comparison would be Clinton, had Clinton's personal failures succeeded in destroying, rather than merely impeding, his presidency. But not Bush. Bush was no talent, no hard worker, no Greek tragedy. He's done bad things to the country, sure, but mostly through his own ineptness and ideology, not by exhibiting brilliant promise only to dim before the spotlights. Bush exhibited no talent, failed upwards, and was never punished, because an aptitude for the presidency is not the same as an appetite for the campaign.
No, George W. Bush is no Bode Miller. And more importantly, Bode Miller is no George W. Bush. in this, Miller's hour of defeat and disdain, let's at least leave him that scrap of dignity.
February 27, 2006
I'm With Andy
Canada Middling, America Mediocre
Mahablog did a very good job, but I should probably address the New York Times article on the "deterioration" of the Canadian health care system. For those requiring a refreshed course on how CanadaCare operates, head back to my series on the subject. Here's the summary: Canada has a mediocre health care system that's a bit better than ours (Ranked #30 vs. America's #37). It's fully government run, with no allowance for private care of any sort. And what you get is about what you'd expect when a finite government budget is all that powers the system: average care for all, superb for none.
Think of it this way: America has a bipolar health care system that chooses its mood swings based on income. If you're rich, you can get the best knee transplant in the world, and you can do so about three hours from now. If you're poor, you will never, ever get a knee transplant. Ever. Canada, which doesn't allow for that segregation by class, averages the two out: you have to wait a couple months for your operation, and you can't speed it up by flashing some green. So America is much better for some, much worse for many, and about the same for most. Canada eliminates the variance, ending in mediocrity for all.
Canada, however, is not a good health care system. Not compared to France, to Germany, to Japan or to Sweden. Health care is not a finite resource, so outlawing private dollars from any role in the market is a bit silly. So long as you're gonna make money, I can't think of a much more logical place to spend it than medical treatment. Smarter is the French system, which guarantees floor coverage for everyone, subsidizes further coverage for the poor, and let's the rest of the population decide if they want to pay for the upgrade from Corolla to Corvette. Worst of all, of course, is our system. Canada, you should understand, doesn't actually ration. They elongate, they time. They stretch waits and procedures so everyone can get them, but not instantly. That's annoying. America, however, simply withholds treatments from the poor. It's not that they wait, it's that they go without. To my mind, that's criminal.
Attention Campus Leftists
When the College Republicans have an anti-affirmative-action bake sale, they really want you to complain to the administration. If you do, they will achieve free speech martyrdom. David Horowitz will then admit them to paradise, where they will find 72 virgins who look suspiciously like Ann Coulter. Don't play into their hands. Instead, follow Morbo's advice. (Via Battlepanda.)
February 26, 2006
Bipartisan Maverick Destruction Advice
I think George Allen is a more likely 2008 Republican candidate than John McCain, but it doesn't hurt to have a plan for every possibility. And given my mad Edwards love, I'm itching to put this bit from the latest Marist Poll where everybody can see:
Senator McCain has a strong lead against all the top Democratic presidential contenders except for John Edwards. When posed in hypothetical match-ups against the leading Democrats, John McCain breaks fifty percent against Al Gore, John Kerry, and Hillary Clinton and outpaces each by double-digits. Senator McCain’s lead is fueled by the majority support he receives from independent voters in each of these contests. McCain would face a more competitive race against John Edwards. McCain receives the support of 47% of registered voters compared with 41% for Edwards.
Previous polls have shown similar results, with Edwards outpacing other Democrats against McCain. Gore and Kerry, by the way, each lose by a whopping 17% to McCain in the latest run. And there's reason to think that Edwards would have a particular advantage against McCain in the general election.
A lot of McCain's appeal comes from his image as a bipartisan maverick. It's not just that people like bipartisanship, it's that his lack of an obvious partisan bent allows voters to project their fantasies onto him. Before seeing any specific data about his position on abortion, for example, it's easy to imagine that he's one of those moderate pro-choice Republicans (who don't actually help pro-choicers when the chips are down, but let's set that aside for a moment). As it turns out, he's in favor of banning abortion with no exceptions except rape, incest, and the life of the mother. When you look bipartisan, a big group of voters in the middle find it easy to project their preferences onto you, as long as you can keep quiet about your actual views.
The key to beating McCain is to destroy his bipartisan reputation. This is supported by Ezra's observation that McCain does a lot worse when you call him "John McCain, the Republican" and poll him against someone who you describe as "the Democrat." Polls like this better approximate how McCain will be seen in the heat of an election. It's easy to look like a bipartisan maverick when you're brokering compromises in a congenial Senate, and you have lots of control about which issues you want to address. It's a lot harder when you're actually running for office. It's well-nigh impossible if you've voted against minimum wage increases and other pro-worker measures throughout your career, and you're up against a mill worker's son who can drive the minimum wage issue harder than anyone else. The old stereotype of Republicans as mean old men who don't care about workers will replace McCain's bipartisan reputation.
It's sort of like the way Bush was able to redefine Kerry. Since Bush was seen as a decisive and forceful leader, he was able to easily cast Kerry as indecisive and flip-floppy while reinforcing positive perceptions of himself. Edwards' blue-collar roots allow him to do the same when he casts Republicans as enemies of the working man. Lots of Democrats try this, but it works best when a candidate can first get working-class people to identify with him. For Edwards against McCain, the ethos, pathos, and logos are all in place.
In the comments to my last post, Iron Lungfish was concerned that Edwards' lack of experience in foreign policy would cause him trouble against McCain. My answer, basically, was that I've never heard of an American whose vote in November was determined by experience on any issue. Michael Dukakis showed us that competence doesn't win elections, and what is experience supposed to give you beyond competence? In fact, one could argue that the more experienced candidate has lost the last 30 years of American presidential elections. If you can get people to nod more when you talk about an issue, you win that issue, regardless of how experienced or inexperienced you are. And with McCain's view that we should send even more troops to Iraq, I don't like his chances against Edwards in the nodding game.
And that's how you destroy McCain's biggest asset. Run John Edwards, and shout it from the rooftops -- Republican John McCain is no friend of working people.
RIP Don Knotts
Don Knotts has died at age 81.
He was Barney Fife, he was Ralph Furley, and he was Dubya. But for me, he’ll always be Theodore Ogelvie from The Apple Dumpling Gang.
Don't Feed the Regionalism Monster
Atrios is talking about boycotting South Dakota in light of their near-total ban on abortions. Roxanne and Amanda don't think that's a good idea. I'm with the ladies on this one -- as they point out, a boycott would harm lots of poor hard-working women, and it's very unlikely that it would accomplish anything.
The point I'd like to add here is that one of the least-understood forces causing trouble for progressives everywhere is red-state regionalism. Making the abortion issue look like some kind of battle between left-wing coastal elitists and ordinary Americans from the flyover states will make it even harder for us to fix things in the Dakotas and elsewhere. Here I want to quote one of the best comments from my personal blog, which my Nebraska ex-roommate posted shortly after the 2004 elections:
Red-staters (myself included) have a serious inferiority complex with respect to people on the coasts. Whether easterners consider themselves elite or not is really besides the point. The fact is people in the Midwest (I don't know the South) suspect that easterners think we're just a bunch of ass backwards hicks, and we worry and worry about showing that (i) we're not, and (ii) we don't care what they think anyway. Part of the reason Bush goes over so well in the Midwest is that he's one of "us" -- yeah, yeah, he's privilleged, but he speaks naturally in religious terms, which counts for a lot. Voting for Bush is actually a sort of populist move for many red-staters: it's a way of saying fuck you to the elite easterners who think they know everything and put us down. I actually think the gay marriage results are partly (though certainly not entirely) a reflection of this sentiment.
People in the Mountains, the Midwest, and especially the South are deeper into their regionalism than people on the coasts are, so having a particular position coded as the Midwestern/Southern view makes it politically stronger than having it coded as the NY/DC/California position. (By the way, if you haven't read John Rogers' brilliant post on regionalism and what Democrats can learn from standup comedy, please do. I'm probably going to vote for it as post of the year when the Koufax voting gets on.)
I'd guess that the greater appeal of regionalism in the interior of the country is part of why the predominantly coastal punditocracy tends to underestimate its significance. David Brooks is one of the few pundits who really understand regionalism. Of course, he expresses his understanding not by describing it, but by doing whatever he can to intensify and increase it. Part of his job in the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy is to feed the media caricature machine with pictures of Democrats as sophisticated elitists who sneer at the salt-of-the-earth working folk from the plains, and he does his job well. Elsewhere, you see Bush clearing brush on his Crawford ranch, making sure that years in Washington don't dilute perceptions of him as an ordinary fella from Texas. After eight years and more in DC, Al Gore stopped looking like an ordinary fella from Tennesee, and that was the end of him.
Making the abortion ban into another gay-marriage kind of issue with which red-staters can say "fuck you" to blue state elitists, then, is a very bad idea. So what do we do? I like Amanda's suggestion of using this issue to rally support among unmarried women everywhere, though I don't know the numbers on how many extra votes we can pick up that way. (As she points out, they're already a reliable Democratic bloc.) The other big thing is to defend our values without inciting regionalism by running a pro-choice red-state Democrat with common-man appeal in the next presidential election. You know who I'm thinking of.