Saturday, November 8, 2008
Personally I think the election of Barack Obama was because he won, rather than that John McCain lost. To the extent that the McCain supporters are blaming forces outside McCain's control, I strongly disagree.
The two main "outside" issues bemoaned by Republicans are the economic meltdown, and the "turning" of the press against John McCain. Both views, I think, are easily refuted. Behind each are the actions of John McCain himself.
It's frequently stated that McCain was leading in the polls until Lehman Brothers went under. That's simply not true on its face:
Lehman happened September 13. McCain's fall began a week earlier, as did Obama's rise. Other than right after his convention, McCain was behind pretty much the whole time, exacerbated as Sarah Palin's interviews, first with Charlie Gibson and later with Katie Couric, were broadcast.
What was in fact at work was John McCain's absurd response to the crisis, not the crisis itself. His statement that the "fundamentals" of the economy were strong, followed by his acknowledgment less than a day later that we were in a crisis was pretty revelatory of his out-of-depthitude. As was his silly attempt to explain that by "fundamentals" he meant "workers." Yeah. Walking through an assembly line, saying "How are all you fundamentals doing today?" Or something. The "straight talk" was beginning to develop wrinkles.
Following in short order was his boing-boing behavior: "suspending" his campaign while continuing campaign activity; rushing back to D.C. in a mere twenty-two hours, after first making a couple of political stops. And, most damagingly, revealing that he had neither suggestions nor influence. Taking credit when it looked like the measure had passed, placing blame when it turned out it hadn't. Had he responded in a less vacuous way, had he been less like what we'd been seeing for the last eight years, i.e. atmospherics masquerading as leadership, I think the crisis could have been an opportunity for him to have shown well. Had, of course, he any sort of in-depth understanding of economics. He had a chance to perform well, and he blew it. It didn't blow him. As it were.
[I also happen to think McCain's involvement in the Russia-Georgia conflict was pretty telling as well, even though it came and went pretty fast in the public consciousness. From his histrionic and simplistic "We are all Georgians now," to dispatching his dopplegangers Lieberman and Graham, all president-like, to the region as if on a mission of state, he looked, to me anyway, over-reaching and opportunistic. In fact, recent revelations would tend to confirm that.]
The "turning," the "unfairness" of the press is an even more laughable idea. Having bought into and actively promoted the idea of John McCain as maverick (really, what the hell is that?) and straight-talker for virtually his entire career (after getting past his major scandal), the press had finally, in the face of such mounting evidence, to acknowledge it as the canard that it was. The examples kept on coming, until reporters were forced, reluctantly, to report. What was called "piling on" poor Sarah was nothing more than doing the work to find out who she really was (since he evidently hadn't). The "bridge to nowhere" came tumbling down; her earmark antipathy was in fact a love affair; on and on. And the McCain campaign's distortions were inept and transparent: the "lipstick on a pig" deception, the ad warfare full of, mildly stated, disingenuousness. Even a press as craven and lazy as most of ours is, it turns out, has a point below which it won't go. The selection of Sarah Palin and the efforts that followed, instead of the brilliant stroke it seemed for the first five minutes, turned out to be a proxy for McCain's impulsiveness; for his substitution of scenery for seriousness.
Finally -- and I can only hope it's true -- people may have had their fill of dishonorable and distracting campaigning. William Ayers, Reverend Wright. Terrorist, socialist, communist, America-hating. Real America. Obama's message of common purpose prevailed over theirs of divisiveness. And, of course, Obama, the dreaded and derided community organizer, out-organized the hell out of them.
McCain and Palin, in the end, made their appeal almost entirely to the basest of the base; and in times like these, when it's clear we're ALL in for really bad times, it just didn't work. People sensed it's now or never. Or so one would like to believe. But McPalin's negativity did come at a price, not only to their campaign but to the cause of future coöperation.
In my local paper there was a letter to the editor after the election. The writer claimed to offer support, as an American, to the new president, while promising to do everything he could to see he was defeated in four years. Even before knowing what sort of president he'll be.
So there's that.