For Now, 296 > 538

For the last few days, I've been lamenting to friends just how impossible it is for the Dems to deal with the McCain "playbook". In effect, there is none. As Shoefly said, it's like the Obama gang wants to bear down and engage in a chess match, but the Republicans insist every one of their pieces in a queen, or arbitrarily slip into the rules of checkers. They put together an argument, or narrative, and then aribitrarily discard links in the chain. When a lie works, they amplify and amplify it, leaving the initial claim behind and constantly heightening the drama, rather than taking a solid hit as a foundation of sorts. It's post-structural politics. And it fucking sucks, since it's got zero sense of joy, mischief, or ballsiness to it. They're playing it safe by refusing to actually compete. This isn't "brought a gun to a knife fight," it's "brought a pick-axe to Top Design"

As a sports analogy, it is kind of like the Warriors upset of the Mavs, where Golden State's fluid, anti-system was kryptonite to Dallas. Or maybe those legendary Hawks/Celtics contests, where Atlanta went all Palin on Boston, catching them unawares by trotting out a young, unpredictable nucleus that didn't play organized ball and refused to make the game about it. At this point, though, either one of these seems too thoughtful. It's the kind of thing I imagine Don Nelson doing with the Monta-less Warriors, but without any of the same solemnity, duplicity, or implication that this is in the grand tradition of getting the job done. What should read as desperation has somehow become a way of life, random, almost erratic movements morphed into "hold your head up high and conquer" To the ass who called McCain "FreeDarko"—they may be running the most FD campaign in history, if you believe this site's ultimate goal is Hot Sauce for all, or that our idea of revolution style begins and ends in Cambodia. Innovation, however bold, follows from what's come before. Otherwise, it's Sex Pistols-like nihilism, a contrived prank that plays on hysteria, fervor, and anxiety in the service of the few.

Obama is for change, and runs a smarter-than-you campaign. McCain abruptly decides he is, and thus he makes his own rules with the zeal of a tyrant, bully, and narcissist. "Change the game" has some measure of respect for tradition, community, and history built into it. Here, it's just ignorance and insolence given de facto credibility. It's absurd to argue that McCain isn't running a campaign, or pursuing the presidency, but sometimes, I wonder just how much logical sense that statement makes.

Today, it's a choice between Meet the Press and Adrian Peterson. At this point, I'm getting so high-information (about the presidential election, at least), that everything frustrates me, or seems insufficient. So I'll go with the glory of Purple Jesus over more braying Republicans and Dems trying to tell me the clouds will pass. A.D. TAKE ME AWAY!!!!!!!!

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At 9/14/2008 3:34 PM, Blogger Louie Bones said...


At 9/14/2008 5:07 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

I hate the NFL. No Broncos/Chargers broadcast out here because, and I quote from the CBS affiliate's pre-recorded message "because there is a sold-out Seahawks game, we are not showing it." Seahawks game is on FOX. I would understand not doing this to push people to a not sold-out game, or at least make them watch it. But jesus, people are going to watch the Seahawks. And buy the tickets. Throw those of us who could give a fuck less a bone.

At 9/14/2008 6:11 PM, Blogger Tree Frog said...


"Spinney is talking in shorthand here, about a whole theory of conflict in which "mismatches" are a crucial element. If there is a mismatch between what your adversary thinks is happening, and what is actually underway, he is on the path to defeat. So with the mismatch Spinney is referring to here, between the moral standards a combatant professes to uphold and the way he actually behaves. "

Ultimately, campaigns are about attracting people - not so much about destroying the other guy. I think Obama's doing the right thing by not responding and waiting for McCain to come up with something too ridiculous to fly (or he could be the helpless naif you make him out to be).

At 9/14/2008 6:24 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

I don't think Obama (or more accurately, his campaign), is helpless or naive. I think they're facing something we haven't seen in the modern political era: An opponent who isn't only not playing by the rules, or rejecting them, but whose moves are so irrational and weird that it's become impossible to anticipate them, or think ahead and know how a response might be responded to. They have to do something, even if, as the link suggests, it's not doing anything and waiting for McCain's strategy to implode. But there's so little rhyme or reason to McCain at this point, for all we know they could respond to Obama taking the high road by saying he's sexist and out of touch.

It's like how, in wars, you operate under the basic assumption the other side doesn't want to die. Part of what made it so hard to fight the Japanese in World War 2, or the Vietcong, or Islamic extremists, is that this assumptions goes out the window. In politics, you assume the opponent will find something relatively convincing and use it as their angle of attack. But when they change their hook every day, make up things left and right when even Karl Rove is calling them out on it, and refuse to in any situation define what the "right" choice would be, how aren't you, to some degree, at a loss?

At 9/14/2008 7:25 PM, Blogger Tree Frog said...

What you're describing, Shoals, is 4th generation warfare: guerillas and non-networked ideological groups against each other and against states.

Best way to deal with guerillas? Retreat to a real moral high ground, find their centers (attracting voters and money) and hit 'em hard in those centers.

If McCain keeps switching horses this often over the next month, he'll fatigue those following him and any advantage he built by testing and scaling up so quickly will be gone.

Having the other side toss out so many iterations allows Obama the opportunity to hold out a consistent and attractive alternative: his real self. Charlie could adapt very rapidly, but it was the failure of the US to actually be who they said they were that lost the Vietnam War.

At 9/14/2008 7:43 PM, Blogger crazylegsjackson said...

Truly sorry you had to miss that SD/DEN game. It felt big.

At 9/14/2008 10:08 PM, Blogger Brad said...

I have a kinda stupid question...using your analogy, why is it presumed the Dems get to choose that everyone has to play chess?

At 9/14/2008 10:14 PM, Blogger Tom said...

Obama will be back on top of national polls by the end of this week. You can quote me on that. Even conservatives are starting to realize what a rediculous choice Palin was (doing nothing but give the same speech for 2 weeks straight isn't helping that). There's a post over on KOS that gives examples of that.

One thing people should note: Obama has been doing a lot more attacking than many people realize. His campaign has made the tactical decision to stay positive on the national level, while hammering McCain on the local level in swing states. Just this week, they made fun of McCain's computer illiteracy, for example.

Ultimately, Obama will win in November if he gets every American to know the following facts:

-The absurd number of lobbyists that have connections to McCain's campaign
-McCain voted 95% of the time with Gee Dubya
-Sarah Palin wants to ban abortions in cases of rape and incest

At 9/14/2008 10:14 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

I didn't really mean much by it, and I think I might've stolen it from Shoefly. But isn't "chess match" standard nomenclature for a conventional strategic battle?

At 9/14/2008 11:34 PM, Blogger jawaan oldham said...

It is.

I always liked poker as a metaphor a little more, on a strictly personal level. If you'll pardon a rather lowbrow movie reference, the way elections have been going since '00 has been like the scene in Revenge of the Nerds when Booger (the GOP in this analogy) is playing poker with the offensive Japanese stereotype character (the dems); the Japanese kid has a flush, and Booger arbitratily declares that his two sevens beats a flush. When asked, "When do I get to deal," Booger says, "You have to win a hand first."

Anyway, just thought I'd throw that out there.

At 9/15/2008 1:07 AM, Blogger spanish bombs said...

I don't know if anyone has told you this yet, but it is really unhealthy for a moderately intelligent person to pay any attention to presidential campaigns, be it through cable, print, or internet. There are large swaths of people who actually believe that Barack Obama is Muslim, and one of this very site's commenters just stated that McCain had voted with Bush 95% of the time when it has actually been 90%. (I would try to be less partisan with my examples, but let's face it: McCain is, by leaps and bounds, the more duplicitous, and almost cravenly so.)

People who would know these things by reading them in one of the numerous fact-checker sites or stories are not who political ads and coverage are targeting. I'm not sure it's possible to come to grips with this fact if you confront it so much, which is why I think that you should try to become a football fan until Halloween.

At 9/15/2008 2:13 AM, Blogger TheGreatPumpkin said...

Big Obama supporter here, but the ad where he makes fun of McCain for not using the internet is lame. I've read (on conservative blogs, so I won't post the link here lest i get pilloried) links to credible news articles from recent years where McCain says that he doesn't personally type because his war injuries make it difficult to use his arms, but he does read/write emails and websites with help from his wife or his aides.

I do like the image at the start of the video of 1982 McCain, though.

Word verification: "eqtzqs" - Equal time for Zach, Quentin, and Stephon

At 9/15/2008 9:51 AM, Blogger Ian said...

I don't see the McCain campaign as the Warriors or Hawks. Aren't McCain/Palin more along the lines of the guy in a pick up game who travels constantly and calls cheap fouls? Refusing to follow the established ground rules (ie McCain's excessive lying) while complaining that no one else does (charges of sexism, etc)?

At 9/15/2008 10:30 AM, Blogger berts said...

r.i.p. dfw

At 9/15/2008 12:03 PM, Blogger Zeke said...

I was getting worried about the Palin phenomenon, but that is receding for me. Basically, Obama just has to avoid getting into the briar trap of turning this election into a referendum on Sarah Palin as a person. If that happens, then the Democrats lose. She's energized the GOP base and rubbed liberals the wrong way, but the only audience whose opinion that matters is undecided voters. And Obama and his supporters have to accept that it's perfectly okay for middle of the road undecideds to like her personally, but that doesn't mean they're going to vote for her. All of these gotcha arguments about how she did this or that in Alaska won't resonate with voters. The focus has to be on McCain at the top of the ticket.

I'm not worried about the polls right now, because they're still contaminated by the GOP convention and McCain making a big splash with his VP selection. And we're already starting to see McCain's lead in the polls start to recede. It's also worth keeping in mind that Walter Mondale got a big bounce in the polls from his VP selection, and in the end, it didn't do him much good.

My opinion is that Obama still looks likely to win the election, for the following reasons.

1. Obama still isn't behind in polls in a single state that Kerry won in 2004. That means that all he needs to win the election is either Ohio or Florida or a combination of two or three Rocky Mountain states.

2. He's liable to win Ohio because the Democrats are in charge of the election process this time instead of Republicans. That means there won't be eight hour lines in black neighborhoods in Cleveland, won't be 250,000 ballots of (mostly) Democrats that won't get counted, and won't be any Republican hackers manipulated electronic voting machines. He's also liable to win Ohio because the economy there has hit the skids hard. He's also liable to win Ohio for the same reasons that Democrats have taken over the state, namely that Republicans have become the party of Ohio corruption.

3. He's also liable to win several Rocky Mountain states, because John McCain isn't going to win anywhere near 40% of the Hispanic vote, like Bush the Younger did. Indeed, he'll be lucky to win 30%. That will cost him Colorado and Nevada, not just New Mexico. That will be enough for an Obama win even if he loses Ohio. Karl Rove has made the observation that McCain can't win the election without 40% of the Hispanic vote.

4. The same thing that could kill McCain in the Rocky Mountain West could kill him in Florida. While I grant that McCain will do better among Cubans than among the rest of the Hispanic community in the United States, the attitude of Republicans about immigration of Spanish-speaking people may harm him in Florida as well. Considering how close Florida has been in the last two elections, and how much of the Hispanic vote has to go to McCain to keep him competitive, his problem in Florida is more serious than you seem to acknowledge.

5. National poll numbers are deceptive. With the choice of Palin, McCain has assured that the Bush base will vote for him. Thus, his numbers in states like Nebraska or Idaho, Georgia or Mississippi, have gone up substantially. If McCain's rise in the national polls is based on an improvement of his standing in such states, then it is entirely meaningless, since McCain would have had to win those states to be competitive in any event. Whether he wins them by 55% to 45% or by 70% to 30% doesn't make any difference. In 2000, Bush the Younger won even though he lost the popular vote, and in 2004, Kerry would have won the presidency with 200,000 more votes in Ohio even as he lost the national popular vote by 3%. The size of a Republican victory in Texas, like the size of a Democratic victory in California, may affect national poll numbers but don't affect who wins the overall election.

6. John McCain is scheduled for three debates with Barack Obama before the election, only one of which will be conducted in a format that McCain is any good with. The debates killed Richard Nixon in 1960, killed Jimmy Carter in 1980, and will in all likelihood kill John McCain this year. If he could get through the debates just reminding people that he had been tortured, it would be one thing, but he can't.

7. Obama will still have tens of millions more to spend before the election than McCain will have, in all likelihood. If he spends a reasonable portion of it in Ohio and Florida and on Spanish television stations, McCain is screwed.

8. Obama hasn't been particularly concerned about the recent rise of McCain in national polls, and I think I know why. He has been running a professional campaign from the beginning, even as McCain has been running a half-assed campaign from the beginning. Just as Obama's Democratic victory was based on understanding what he had to do in caucus states while Hillary Clinton was out trying to win big-state primaries, Obama's victory in the general election will be based on understanding what he has to do to win the Kerry states plus either Ohio or states with large Hispanic populations (Florida or Rocky Mountains states). Obama is still in an extremely good position. If I had to bet who will win based on polls conducted in the last week, showing McCain ahead for the very first time, I would still be betting on Obama.

The Republicans have failed. They have failed in foreign affairs, they have failed in economic management, they have failed in routine maintenance of things like bridges and levees, they have failed in holding the American people together, and they have failed in addressing our dependence on foreign energy. No doubt they can count on rural and puritan religious voters to stand with them no matter how badly they fail, and no doubt that means they can always get 40% to 45% of the vote. But that doesn't guarantee them this election by any means.

All Obama has to do is hold onto Kerry's states and add Iowa/New Mexico/Colorado to his column. His operation in Iowa has been so impressive that Iowa is now considered a safe Obama state. New Mexico he has consistently led in the polls outside of the margin of error, and he and McCain are in a dead heat in Colorado. By contrast, Pennsylvania and Michigan are not likely to slip into McCain's column, nor have there been any polls showing him in the lead there.

At 9/15/2008 12:11 PM, Blogger Zeke said...

As a sports analogy, it is kind of like the Warriors upset of the Mavs, where Golden State's fluid, anti-system was kryptonite to Dallas.

Shoals, are you finally admitting the Mavericks were the good guys when it came to that debacle? Does the demise of the Mavericks from elite to barely playoff-caliber, along with Dirk's wandering around Australia and prancing around like Richie Tenenbaum make him more FD-like?

At 9/15/2008 12:15 PM, Blogger Zeke said...

I also wouldn't worry too much about the negative campaign McCain is running. I'm surprised he's throwing this shit out in September when the best time to unleash a barrage of negative, misleading garbage would be in the last two weeks when Obama's campaign would be overwhelmed trying to respond on multiple fronts. Between his appearance on the View when he got bitchslapped on the issue by the hosts, Karl Rove himself saying McCain is going to far, and all the editorials in newspapers condemning his false attacks, I think the "McCain is a liar" meme is going to start sinking in. There seems to be signs that it is sinking into the public consciousness.

It's amazing that the mainstream media seems to think that his attacks are working since the polls still reflect his convention bounce and the hoopla his VP selection created.

At 9/16/2008 12:34 PM, Blogger Ben said...

This whole site is full of self-congratulatory, self-righteous bullshit. Why don't you all just start posting YouTubes of yourselves engaged in self-gratification while screaming Obama's name at the climax?
This is just a leftist version of the O'Reilly Factor.
Enjoy the caged deer hunting. See you in December (or maybe not).
I can't believe I supported this site with a Paypal donation. I want my money back.

At 9/16/2008 12:57 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

I'm sorry, what exactly was wrong with the political conversation here? If you're surprised that FD leans left, well, maybe you should try framing it as an issue of intelligence. This is a smart site and we don't like seeing our intelligence insulted.

If you really regret your donation, send your name to the Gmail, and I'll get it, minus Paypal fees, to the McCain campaign.

ALSO, when there's basketball, we'll be all over that again.

At 9/16/2008 1:30 PM, Blogger Ben said...

I was not going to get drawn in, but let me be more explicit, lest I am misunderstood.
I am not surprised FD leans left. I am intolerant of your intolerance. I do not think that leaning left is "an issue of intelligence." While I am of the opinion that the difference between President Obama and President McCain will be negligible (assuming there is not a Supreme Court Justice nomination in the next 4 years), I am willing to accept that other intelligent and reasonable people could come to a different conclusion. I do not dismiss them as idiots or morons for having an opposing view point. But instead engage in an actual analysis (i.e., one that does not begin with an assumed conclusion) of any well-constructed arguments they propound.
In short, I am disappointed. The prose is always top-shelf, but to see the site dedicated to straw men and red herrings is disheartening.
The last post I read before today was the Obama v. McCain as UNC v. Duke. I thought it was a brilliant piece of satire about how neither Obama supporters nor McCain supporters see the other side for what it is because of their ingrained loyalties. I guess the joke is on me.
I hope you all enjoy the Kool-aid.

P.S. Regarding the money, you have called my bluff. I guess that satire is not the only form of humor that is dead here (R.I.P. sarcasm).

At 9/16/2008 1:43 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

We could argue about the "negligible" thing, or your reassurance that the Supreme Court will remain intact. And I'm not averse to civil discussions about politics.

But this recent turn, at least for me, has been set off my raw emotion and frustration over how much outright bullshit I see on the right, that it might work, and how despondent that makes me feel. This post is about the ways in which the McCain campaign has completely gone beyond the pale, at least compared to any 20th century presidential campaign. Yes, it's so easy it might as well be a straw man. The sad thing is, though, that it's taken way too long for it to be treated as such.

The underlying analysis, which is what you're hearing from a lot of people this week, is that eventually this strategy is going to backfire. But will it ever really catch up with them?

And no, I refuse to take Sarah Palin, or the voter taken in by her, seriously, even if "real Americans" do.

At 9/17/2008 12:45 AM, Blogger Tree Frog said...

Ben, what the fuck? Why bring a refund from FD if you didn't actually make a donation?

Actually, the question I really want answered is this one: Why pretend to be something you're not?

Be real. Be yourself and if that's not enough, you've got some earnest living to do.

At 9/17/2008 12:10 PM, Blogger Ben said...

I (gladly) gave money, dumb ass. I do not want it back (I have gotten more than my money's worth from the site).
I cannot believe I ever thought anything as subtle as satire existed here. I am going to have to reexamine how I feel about FD.
By the way. Thanks for the advice on being "real" ... Tree Frog. Opened any other fortune cookies lately?

At 9/17/2008 12:22 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

FD Guide to Satire: whenever Ben thinks we're being satirical, we're being dead serious. Whenever Ben thinks we're being serious, it's totally satirical.

Also, if anyone could tell me about McCain's policy ideas, I would love to hear it. What few there are seem to change weekly.


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