Obama's Place in History

Thursday, August 28, 2008


Before I comment, I wanted to get some stuff out of the way.  I don't consider myself a Democrat.  I did go door to door for Mondale back in the early 1980's and have voted for some Democrats over the years, but I mostly lean to the right.  Frustration at where the Republican Party has been moving has caused me take a harder look at Democratic candidates.  While I still don't agree with a good number of their positions, I agree with many and I also think the Republican Party needs to rid themselves of their current leadership and reorganize.

I don't normally watch conventions.  The candidate has already been picked and the speeches are usually of the rah rah, repetitive, get the party faithful fired up variety.  Yesterday seemed different.  Maybe it was the historic aspect of the first black candidate for president.  Maybe it was that the quality of the speeches seemed better.  Maybe it was Obama's surprise appearance.  Most likely, it was a combination of many factors, but it was genuinely exciting when he took the stage with Biden and spoke.  There are plenty of substantive questions and issue that need to be hashed out, but for now, I am content to let the events sink in and enjoy watching the ride.

23 comments:

Smitty 8:25 AM  

By far, Biden's speech was the most disjointed and weakest of the bunch. But that said, he speaks in a way that a lot of peoplke are finding appealing, and he's a Dem not afraid to say God Bless the Troops (at least he better...his son is headed there in a few weeks). Hillary and Michelle both did fantastic work with their speeches, and Slick Willie was as good as he's ever been since leaving office.

That said, the MSM is still trying really hard to play-up some sort of rrift in the Dem party that CLEARLY does not exist at this point. This party is unified and the MSM hates it.

steves 8:46 AM  

This party is unified and the MSM hates it.

I disagree. Disunity makes a better story and there were plenty of frustrated Hillary supporters sporting Nobama buttons. Time will tell how many Hillary supporters will actually vote for McCain (an NBC poll from last week says 1 in 2). The Clintons, up to last night, were rather two-faced in their support for Obama. As for last night, what choice did they have?

Smitty 8:56 AM  

Disunity makes a better story and there were plenty of frustrated Hillary supporters sporting Nobama buttons

No, actually, you and I agree. You made my broader point. Disunity makes a better story, so better to comb the convention floor, scoping for angry Hillary fans than to acknowledge that party leadership is as unified as they're gonna be, like it or not.

steves 9:09 AM  

I don't really understand why a Hillary supporter would vote for McCain, so I agree that they will probably line up behind Obama. There are plenty of Republicans that don't like McCain and I expect them to line up behind him.

I don't think the MSM is being unfair. I am sure they would be going after Republicans if similar things were happening over there, but McCain critics in the party quickly jumped on his bandwagon after it was clear he was going to be the nominee. The Clintons didn't do the same thing, IMO.

Bob 9:17 AM  

Good post steves.

I hope you are typical of right-leaning independents. Time will tell.

As I posted somewhere, it is in the commercial media’s best interest to say the race is close and there is infighting. Without those two issues they would have to actually report on actual issues and positions, which most of them are ill-equipped to do.

I agree with Smitty that Biden's speech was thr weakest. It wasn't bad, but could have been stronger. I have read other people say they liked it, so that is good. Clinton's speech was fine, but basically was more about Bill.

I felt the strongest speeces were Beau Biden's introduction and John Kerry's speech. The sappy father in me liked the Beau's and the liberal political nerd liked the fire in Kerry's.

steves 9:37 AM  

Kerry gave a great speech that made some excellent points. I thought it was one of the better ones. Beau's speech was very good, too and I also like the shots of Joe Biden's mom.

I think the race probably is pretty close. Polling data seems to change all the time, so it is really hard to tell.

Bob 10:09 AM  

"Polling data seems to change all the time, so it is really hard to tell."

Polling data swinging back and forth tells me it is indeed close. The margin of error will have that effect.

That said, if it wasn't close, the news media would still be claiming it was. At one point, Obama would have had a modern day wipeout, but they were still claiming the popular vote was only single digits out of the margin of error, which is really as much as a 10+ point lead and a 100-point electoral college victory.

Smitty 10:49 AM  

I don't think the MSM is being unfair. I am sure they would be going after Republicans

My point is that I think the MSM isn't fair, and that they won't scrutinize the Republican convention nearly as much as the Democratic one. I can't say if that's becaue the MSM is "conservative" and thus predisposed to quietly bash Dems, or "liberal" and thus harder and more demanding of perfection on their party of choice. Either way, I perceive that the MSM helps the republican cause.

would have to actually report on actual issues and positions, which most of them are ill-equipped to do.

Absolutely. For instance, if I hear one more story about Obama needing to strengthen his positions and lend real meat to his agenda, I will scream. His policies, as both steve and bob have pointed out, already have a great level of detail to them. It's just the MSM isn't bothering to simply go to his fucking web site and check it out.

Part of that is the campaign's fault. If the MSM isn't gonna go check out your wonkishly-high level of detail...then you need to say it out loud because God knows The People certainly aren't going to get off their ass to check it out either.

Bob 11:53 AM  

"Part of that is the campaign's fault."

True, but if you can't answer a question in one of two words, it doesn't play on the nightly news.

George 12:30 PM  

There's at least as much Republican disunity as Democratic disunity. The Ron Paul supporters are pissed off, and the evangelicals have never trusted McCain as he isn't one of their own and doesn't even pretend to be. But that gets no play as Paul isn't Hillary.

Mrs. Smitty,  12:33 PM  

That's both a strength and weakness for Obama. He doesn't talk in soundbites, which is a welcomed releif to hear full sentences and connected thoughts. But he doesn't talk in soundbites and that's all the media will replay for the average lazy voter.

B Mac 12:45 PM  

I think the "party disunity" angle will be really tough to play after tonight. Gallup's tracking poll already has Obama up 6, and that only includes polling done BEFORE last night's speeches. My guess; he'll be up 10 in the first post-convention polls.

steves 1:26 PM  

I have participated in dozens of threads on media bias. It is a funny issue in that there are claims from both sides that the media is biased in favor of the opposing side. To some degree, it is a matter of perception. What one person sees as bias, another probably sees as the media getting it right.

I once solidly believed the media was very baised towards the left. I still think it is true to a point, but I am not as convinced as I once was. I think it depends mostly on the issues. I also think they are biased in favor of scandals and turmoil.

For the most part, I am ok with bias as long as it is up front. I don't think it is possible to be 100% objective in reporting and it is up to the recipient to be a critical consumer of news and get their news from a variety of sources, not just the ones that they always agree with. In this age, there are no shortage of news sources and we are not stuck with a handful of media outlets. We have dozens of legitimate and 1000's of semi-legitimate.

For instance, if I hear one more story about Obama needing to strengthen his positions and lend real meat to his agenda, I will scream.

True, though I wonder if they are reacting to accusations that they fawned over him earlier in the campaign? If so, then I wonder if they are reporting on what voters are wondering or are they just manufacturing this whole thing. Either way, someone is lazy.

steves 1:30 PM  

There's at least as much Republican disunity as Democratic disunity. The Ron Paul supporters are pissed off, and the evangelicals have never trusted McCain as he isn't one of their own and doesn't even pretend to be. But that gets no play as Paul isn't Hillary.

I am not so sure, George. I still hang out at a lot of right leaning forums and read some right leaning blogs. There are plenty that are not happy with McCain, but they are even less happy with Obama, so they are lining up behind JM.

Paul has already faded back into irrelevance. He is certainly not Hillary.

Jay 1:50 PM  

I think it depends mostly on the issues. I also think they are biased in favor of scandals and turmoil.

If I can chime in for a moment:

I agree that the media tends to be biased toward turmoil, because they believe and bank on turmoil drawing in viewers/readers. But beyond that, my perception is that the media is most biased toward simplistic viewpoints that can be absorbed by the least common denominator of their viewers/readers. So if one's message is more complex, nuanced, or concerns a grey area, the media coverage is often going to be biased against you.

Rickey Henderson 1:57 PM  

So if one's message is more complex, nuanced, or concerns a grey area, the media coverage is often going to be biased against you

Rickey's not so sure. Remember that awesome speech from Obama in the spring? The speech on race that he delivered in the wake of that stupid Reverend nonsense? The media lapped that up (as well they should have, it was categorically awesome).

Rickey thinks that the media loves neck in neck turmoil more than anything else. And each week, Rickey guarantees, every single network gets together to discuss a "script" for how the news stories will progress. And the align their coverage accordingly.

Jay 2:05 PM  

At the risk of getting into an argument with such an august and experienced blog-persona as Ricky, I would argue that the media response to Obama's speech was much more the exception than the norm. On occasion, yes, the media can latch onto a grey area and cover it with some degree of intelligence. But I think that the majority (and perhaps the vast majority) of media coverage of politics (and most other issues) simplistic to the point of absurdity.

Smitty 3:01 PM  

Jay brings up an excellent point (about absurd simplicity) that I see reflected in every-day "campaign trail" work.

You all receive campaign literature in your mail boxes, and soon it'll be nearly every damn week. Look at what the colorful pieces say: nothing! It is a series of blurbs that every idiot candidate in the world uses in every single race across the state and country.

Why would they spend that kind of money every week if it didn't work? If the stupid slogans and empty phrases didn't have some meaning beyond simply putting the candidate's name in front of your eyeballs (which, for sure, is one of the reqasons they do those stupid pieces).

They wouldn't. It works. Dumb phrases, empty slogans and the parsing-down of a complex platform into 3-word sound bites works well enough that candidates continue to do it.

There is a larger discussion here about campaign slogans and voters disappointed that politicians seem to "lie" or never actually accomplish what they say they will (how can you really, with any honesty, pare-down amazingly complex issues with multiple viewpoints into a series of 4 bullet points on a 4x6 postcard???), but we can do that one later. For now, the point is: 3-word bulleted phrases seem to be the thing that resonates with the piblic, to the detriment of honest political discourse.

Smitty 3:02 PM  

P.S. GREAT post steves. Your posts always seem to bring the heat.

Rickey Henderson 4:00 PM  

jay: as much as Rickey loves being a contrarian, you're probably right about it being the exception rather than the norm. Three word slogans are the way to go apparently. But goddamnit, Rickey's doesn't just want "change he can believe in." Rickey wants change so monumental that he's unable to fathom it!

Jay 5:51 PM  

That is exactly how I feel also, Rickey (and Smitty). Just about all of the major issues can and (I think) should be argued and analyzed by the media and the candidates until they are shades of grey. Then we would have a better chance of determining which of the candidates is better able to make nuanced decisions with complex implications in a chaotic and unpredictable environment. Sadly, slogans like "I can make nuanced decisions in a complex and unpredictable environment" don't win a lot of votes.

Sorry about hijacking the thread Steve. I don't have a lot of hot button issues when it comes to politics, but the point you made about the media above hit one of them.

Jay 5:51 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
steves 6:59 PM  

I welcome thread hijacks, so no problem there.

Just about all of the major issues can and (I think) should be argued and analyzed by the media and the candidates until they are shades of grey.

That would be nice, but would require several improbable things happening:

1. The Candidates (more specifically, their handlers) would have to agree to be grilled by the media and the opposing candidate.

2. The media would have to ask substantive questions and not let the candidates get away with vague answers. There shouldn't be questions about stuff like favorite Bible verses or childhood memories.

The debates, for the most part, seem very planned and choreographed.

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