The outcome of this election, just like the last one, was almost a foregone conclusion. In 2008 Obama succeeded marvellously at branding himself as the candidate of hope and change. He framed the messaging so eloquently that there was essentially no way for anyone to run against him. If you were against Obama, you were against hope and change, and who wants to vote against hope and change?
Then the Democratic Party proceeded to shit on its base, delivering almost none of the promised hope and change, and many of the changes delivered weren't changes anyone who voted for them actually wanted. As loathsome as Bush was, he never publicly defended the government's right to assassinate its own citizens. Obama not only has done so, but even after the election has continued to do so. This is after installing what was effectively Bill Clinton's economic team and selecting a series of D.C. insiders to continue enacting D.C. politics as usual.
Sure, we got a health care reform bill. But it's virtually identical to the reform bill proposed by the Republicans in 1994 as a counter to Bill Clinton's failed attempt at reform. Any of a number of useful addenda to the bill with large swaths of public support were thrown out even before negotiations began because, oh no, Joe Lieberman threatened to filibuster it. So no public option (55 to 70% public support), no Medicare buy-ins for people 55 and older (75% support), no government negotiation of drug prices (85% support). Are you fucking kidding?
Wall Street reform was similarly watered down, and so were any of a number of other bills that were purportedly major breakthroughs. We got no repeal of DOMA, the administration still hasn't repealed DADT, and foreign policy remains indistinguishable from that of the previous administration. The problem is simple: When you concede ground to your opponents, who have no interest in negotiating with you, even before negotiation starts, you look insincere. You're not standing up for your convictions; you're not standing up for anything, in fact. If the Republicans had actually been forced to stand up there and filibuster any of a number of points the public supported, it would have cut into their support so massively that people would be raging in town halls against them, not against Obama's health care proposals. But none of that happened, and Obama looked weak.
So the base was dispirited. And it's no surprise that turnout among Obama-leaning independents was low. Polls show that even though more independents who voted for McCain than for Obama showed up, moderates still trended towards the Dems. But the base itself was demoralised and disgruntled, and with a president who ordered the assassination of U.S. citizens badmouthing the left of this country, who could blame them for not wanting to vote for Democrats? People felt betrayed and angry. And unfortunately, the only mass movement offering any sort of outlet for that rage was the Tea Party.
That said, the media narratives about this election have been tremendously overstated. For all the hype about the Tea Party, only around 32% of its candidates won. The Tea Party almost certainly cost the Republicans Senate seats in Alaska, Delaware, Colorado, Nevada and West Virginia, and very likely diverted funding from other races that could have flipped additional seats towards the Republicans' favour.
Along similar lines, much has been noted about the loss of Russ Feingold and Alan Grayson's seats, which are certainly big losses for progressives, but only five percent of the Progressive Caucus failed to win re-election. That's as opposed to fifty-three percent of Blue Dogs who were ousted. Rather than viewing this election as a rejection of liberalism, one would perhaps be better off reading the results as suggesting that Democratic voters can only be motivated to turn up to vote for candidates who actually represent Democratic values. As a consequence, the Progressive Caucus now represents the majority of Democratic representation in the House.
Furthermore, even though voters voted for Republicans, that doesn't mean voters like Republicans. In point of fact, they didn't. Via Kos, we can take away the three following facts about the American electorate (Kos's summary):
Republicans are more unpopular than Democrats, yet they still voted GOP;
35 percent believed Wall Street was to blame for the terrible economy, yet they still voted for the GOP. (56-42, to be exact).
31 percent of voters wanted the new health care law expanded, yet 14 percent of them voted Republican. 30% want the law kept the same as it is now, and 30% of them voted Republican.
The big lesson to be taken away here is that the Democrats failed to distance themselves from the Wall Street bailout. In fact, they failed to deliver much of any message at all. In the 2008 campaign cycle Obama was noted for being a brilliant communicator, but we've barely seen that side of him at all since he came into office. He has a mailing list of millions that he used to engage all the time during the campaign. Since then, nary a word. Obama had plenty of opportunities, and he squandered nearly them all.
Obama has a few options from here. He can try to cooperate with Republicans, but I don't think that's going to work: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is already threatening to make the U.S. default on its debt, and has stated elsewhere that his primary goal is to make Obama a one-term president. As much as D.C. pundits love to masturbate themselves about bipartisanship, it's not going to solve anything. Grover Norquist once said, "Bipartisanship is another name for date rape." And consider the kind of nefarious bullshit that usually results from bipartisanship: illegal occupations of hapless Middle Eastern countries, assassinations of U.S. citizens, "globalisation," welfare "reform," union-busting, immunisation of corporations from prosecution for warrantless wiretapping, Social Security privatisation, list goes on and on. Fuck bipartisanship.
The other option is for him to do what he was elected to do: to fight for the values of the people who elected him. I realise that as a politician he might not actually have any values of his own left anymore, but the least he can do is try to pretend. He did a decent enough job of pretending while he was running for office. I realise it's much easier to be a liberal or a libertarian while in opposition than while in office, but from what most of us out here can see, it looks like he didn't even try. The departure of Rahm Emmanuel is a welcome sign. Maybe this time he'll choose someone with a clue.
One other bright point, already alluded to, is the unexpected defeat of Sharron Angle in Nevada. This occurred partially because Latinos turned out to vote in much larger numbers than expected, but it also occurred partially due to a resurgent union movement which organised to turn out the vote for Harry Reid. In this day of ever-increasing corporatism (after all, individuals have a cap on the amount they can donate to a political campaign, but corporations do not), the resurgence of the labour movement can only be a good thing for America.
There were a bunch of other awesome signs we didn't manage to get photos of, but my cousin wrote many of them down. Unfortunately I don't have them right now. I'll update this entry later.
I had plans to meet up with a bunch of people but all of them fell through due to shitty cell phone service. If I'd thought about it for a moment I would've realised that with that many people gathering in one place reception was bound to be shitty.
Also, make sure you get out and vote, if you haven't already. If only so we can keep the crazies out of Congress.
So I stayed up all night again, even though I have work in slightly over ten hours (I'll be heading off to bed shortly). Mostly this was because I've been editing audio files. I've been going through poorly mastered CDs (which these days seems to be most of them) and correcting the various flaws to the best of my ability. The free audio editor Audacity has a wonderful feature called Clip Fix which is designed to restore dynamic range to records which lost range due to clipping, and you'd be amazed how many records have this. My investigation of major-label releases throughout the past decade has revealed two records that don't have clipping: Muse's Origin of Symmetry and Porcupine Tree's Fear of a Blank Planet. The latter of these was still a victim of the loudness war, although it was less atrociously so than most CDs these days, but there's little I can do with a record that was compressed via other means. At least decent compression sounds a lot better than clipping.
The rest of the major label discs I've examined though? All the other Muse discs, every Mars Volta release, every Moonsorrow release, every Reverend Bizarre disc I've looked at, Porcupine Tree's Deadwing, and quite a few others I'm probably forgetting had clipping on all or most of their tracks. (Though it's worth noting that whether Reverend Bizarre and Moonsorrow count as "major label" acts is a matter of debate, as Spikefarm is owned by a major label but operated independently). Even minor labels' track records aren't that much better these days, unfortunately. So I've been reducing the volume of clipped records and cleaning them up to give them a more natural and organic sound. Unfortunately, Clip Fix seems to overcompensate at times to an extent that makes the bass drum hits overpowered, so I often actually end up putting some compression back. (Compression isn't always used for evil, see). However, it's pretty minimal.
Other than that I've been revamping the wiki on Fool's Gold (which a number of you should probably join or post more at) and working on a number of other projects. There is quite a lot of political news and I plan to comment on some of it, but my attempts at cohering my thoughts on the economy have proven rather unsatisfactory. Briefly put: it's shit, and because neither party seems particularly interested in supporting constructive solutions, there's little chance of it getting better, unless people wake up and start standing up for themselves again. Which obviously isn't going to happen anytime soon. However, there's a lot more to it than that.
I hope everyone had a good Labor Day. I'll be off for now, I guess.
It's amazing how easily people get distracted by completely fact-free hysteria these days. It goes without saying, of course, that the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque" is not at Ground Zero - in fact, it's not even visible from Ground Zero - and it's also not a mosque. It's not even distinguishable from the local surroundings, in fact:
And yet more than half of Americans apparently oppose the constitutional right to exercise one's freedom of religion on private property. This should be a slam-dunk for right-wingers to support property rights (at least Ron Paul gets it). This outrage isn't making us look good on the international stage, either; Newsweek is reporting that the Taliban are using it to recruit new members. They wouldn't have to focus on the Cordoba House, though; between all the terrorism against Muslims lately (actually, not just lately), plus the fact that plenty of mosques nowhere near allegedly "sacred ground" are being protested, they'd have plenty of material with which to convert new recruits.
Obviously the purpose of this completely manufactured controversy is to distract from the fact that the economy is in the shit can and neither Republicans nor Democrats appear to be capable of presenting any substantive ideas on how to improve it. And unfortunately, it's working.
Incidentally, I would be remiss if I failed to link to The Onion in this entry.
I intend to start posting regularly again sometime in the near future. I graduated, and since then have been working close to full-time and doing a bunch of maintenance work for various sites I'm involved with. I intended to write up a long post-electoral analysis, but somehow I never got around to it.
In the mean time I'll leave you with this very well written editorial about Michael Phelps' alleged marijuana use. It's directed at parents specifically, but there's no reason others won't find it interesting and provocative as well.
I'm far too busy as of late to write up an entry of my own, so via vulgarlad:
Final Gallup poll:Obama 53%, McCain 42%...an 11-point margin (among likely voters). Split the undecideds equally and it becomes 55/44, Obama. Give McCain ALL of the undecideds, and it's still Obama by 51%.
Final Wall Street Journal/NBC poll:Obama 51%, McCain McCain 43%. McCain's support among white men & hispanics is significantly lower than that of Dubya's in 2004.
-Seattle people...I've heard that Cupcake Royale is giving out free cupcakes...but I haven't been able to confirm that yet (confirmed! free cupcakes!)
-some Chick-fil-A establishments are giving away free chicken sandwiches. Then again, their food sucks & they're run by creepy uber-zealot christians...so maybe avoid this one...or keep going back and get so many free sandwiches that you bankrupt them. mwahahahaha!
and the best one of all...
-Babeland is giving out free sex toys. Help save the United States AND get off...it's a win-win situation!
I'll resume responding to comments after the election is over.
I may have been wrong about the al-Qaeda story being this election's October Surprise. The Beltway types mostly seem to be ignoring it, despite the McCain camp's tremendously feeble response to it. There's acutally another story which is drawing even more outrage, from Republicans, because it cuts through Sarah Palin's Everywoman persona and reveals actions by the McCain camp which are quite possibly illegal by the very law that bears his name. The details:
Viewer reactions on MSNBC's Morning Joe:
Every time I think I've seen the full extent of the McCain campaign's stupidity, they surprise me. Even with a good campaign, they'd be struggling, but the huge margins Obama has managed to open up aren't entirely due to the tarnished Republican brand.
Don't get complacent, though. Get out and vote. Early voting is open in most states now. I'll be voting on Friday.
The funny thing is that, if McCain had nominated Crist, who was rumoured to be on his shortlist, for VP, the race would probably be a lot closer right now than it is with Palin. Of course, the odds of the Republicans ever nominating an alleged homosexual for anything are pretty much nada, which explains why it didn't happen.
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, Luntz pointed out, correctly I think, that in today's political climate, the last thing most voters want to hear is partisan attacks. Sure, they'll energise the base, but the majority of people want to hear about issues, want to hear reassurances that everything will be okay. In times of trouble, people want more help from the government, not less. Which makes McCain's attacks on Obama as a "socialist" particularly quaint, especially seeing as his party has just effected the biggest nationalisation in our government's history.
I don't think attacks like these are going to stick. Most people are going to see the attacks on Powell for what they are - out-and-out racism. While this will certainly appeal to the base, the base isn't as large as it was four years ago.
However, Greg Palast reports that ten million voters have been purged from the voting rolls. Palast has done reporting on electoral fraud by the GOP in the 2000 and 2004 elections, clearly demonstrating a systematic disenfranchisement of voters that hasn't been reported in the mainstream media, which Palast feels resulted in fraudulent results in both elections (and he presents subsantial amounts of evidence to back up his point). Josh Marshall has more.
The single biggest possible to the GOP would be to hand them a decisive loss even with the inevitable tampering they're trying to enact. Kos has it absoltutely right; crush their spirits. Go out, volunteer for the campaign, donate money, do everything you can to close out the home stretch. It's time to take this country back.
ETA: Apparently the second Powell video doesn't work in Firefox; I had to load it in Explorer. Sorry about that.
to various political campaigns, it's getting close to the point beyond which donations won't make much, if any, difference. Daily Kos has been especially good about drawing attention to races which deserve it, as has MyDD. I know in economically tough times (although the Dow jumped 900 points today, a record, though who knows whether it'll stay there) donating to a political campaign often seems like the last thing on anyone's minds, but on the other hand you can bet corporate interests who have nothing in common with you are going to do their best to funnel in as much cash as they can, as well. Part of the reason politics have been shifting to the left is because the Internet has made people increasingly able to find candidates who are worthy of their cash directly and fund them, and having a filibuster-proof majority (60 seats) in the Senate would be especially nice; a few small campaign donations could make the difference between, for example, having guaranteed health care for all Americans and not, or reforming America's tremendously regressive tax code and not. Seeing as the President needs the approval of Congress to enact legislation, these races are important and could make the difference between whether America gets a new New Deal or languishes in the same "bipartisan" clusterfuck that has resulted in Congress doing nothing the past two years (remember, Grover Norquist referred to bipartisanship as date rape). I've donated around $75 over the last year myself, and will probably be donating a bit more this weekend. If you can't spare the cash, obviously don't worry about it, but if you can, it's the sort of investment that could come back to help you in a big way if it helps get people elected who can help enact progressive legislation.
William F. Buckley's son, Christopher Buckley, endorses Obama wholeheartedly. Read the whole piece; it's superb. (I'm linking to John Cole's blog rather than Buckley's because I can't get Buckley's to load right now; I'm not sure if it's just my connection, but Cole has a link to the original anyway).
In other news, how about that stock market? To their credit, it looks like the government is finally starting to come around to my way of thinking and talking about nationalising part of the banking system. Also, Nouriel Roubini is reporting that Barney Frank and several other members of Congress have actually been trying to bring the Treasury around to this way of thinking since Paulson made his initial proposal, so maybe they deserve somewhat more credit than I've been giving them.
Stock market took another record-setting dive today - the Dow Jones was apparently down 900 points at its worst point, according to CNN when I was eating. Unfortunately I can't find links for this now that I'm back at the Internet, so alas and alack.
With the economy floundering as badly as it is, it's probably a good idea to keep up with the commentary of actual economists. Some helpful resources for me in recent times have been Atrios, Nouriel Roubini, The Economist's View, Brad DeLong, Paul Krugman and EconoSpeak. Dean Baker has been posting a number of informative pieces at TPM Cafe as well. Note, of course, that, as would be expected with any wide variety of sources, these economists do not always agree with one another, and I must once again express my view that economics is still as much an art as it a science, but on the whole, their individual predictions have been accurate over the past eight years far more often than they've been inaccurate, and thus I think it's safe to conclude that they have a reasonably better idea of what they're talking about than most of the talking heads you routinely see on TV.
Am I the only one who finds it interesting that the Weather Underground are being portrayed as America-hating terrorists when they never actually killed anyone and actually went to the trouble of telling people what they were going to attack in advance? For people who are charged of hating America, they sure did a lot to ensure they didn't hurt actual Americans. Or, as Dan Berger argues in his book, Outlaws in America:
The group purposefully and successfully avoided injuring anyone, not just civilians but armed enforcers of the government. Its war against property by definition means that the WUO was not a terrorist organization — it was, indeed, one deeply opposed to the tactic of terrorism.
Meanwhile, Naomi Klein addresses the University of Chicago. You know, the place where Milton Friedman and his whackjob ideas that selfishness is a good thing got their start. I refuse to excerpt because you should read the whole thing.
The Dow plunged 790 points today, a new record. Granted, it recovered to being only 360 points down by closing time, but it pretty substantially undercuts the notion that the bailout (which passed, by the way; I was too shattered to note it this weekend) has helped.
Bearing this in mind, it would be instructive to review the record of the man John McCain has referred to as "a genius" when it comes to the economy, Phil Gramm. Despite his recent conversion to denouncing deregulation (after a career full of championing it), John McCain has refused to rule out the possibility that Gramm will be his Treasury Secretary.
I couldn't bring myself to watch the entire "debate" on Thursday night. If you can even call it a debate; Juan Cole argues that you shouldn't, and he's right. I'm having a hard time imagining a more insipid format for a discussion of politics; the two candidates may as well not have even been in the same room for how little they talked to each other. Palin lied, of course, a lot. Josh Marshall has more; you'll have to scroll down several screens for the debate-relevant material.
Also, Krugman weighs in on what an unmitigated disaster McCain's health care plan would be.
I'd weigh in on the smear campaign McCain is now resorting to, or Obama's responses thereto, but frankly it doesn't interest me particularly much. Virtually every time McCain has gone negative it's backfired on him; the only time it benefited him was immediately after the convention, when they were still riding on the bounce. I have no reason to expect the American public's sentiments to have changed since then. In the midst of an economic crisis, voters want to hear about the economy, not about vague associations candidates had years ago.
so the bailout passed the Senate. Sigh. You can still write your representative and tell them to shoot it down.
Glenn Greenwald has an excellent takedown of Steven Pearlson (and by proxy, everyone else who thinks the bailout needs to be passed immediately) which points out again just how little support there actually is for the idea. Robert Reich has more.
Voters are turning against the Republican Party because on the whole, they get the impression that Republicans simply don't care about the economic problems of common people. Given the Republicans' tendency to give massive subsidies to large corporations who shouldn't need them, they're right. This bailout bill, representing some $700 billion of taxpayers' money, represents the single largest corporate subsidy in history, and contains no provisions to enforce Congressional oversight of that money. Simply put, voting for this bill as a Democrat will undercut the single most important frame working in Democrats' favor this election.
I certainly agree that our economy is in a state of crisis, but acting swiftly is not necessarily the best course of action, especially if it means all options have not been thoroughly debated. The plan currently being voted on in Congress is nothing more than socialism for the rich - and we've had nearly three decades of that as it is. Economic history clearly demonstrates that "trickle-down economics" does not, in any meaningful sense, happen; the Gini coefficient of the United States - one of the most reliable indicators of the gap between rich and poor - has consistently increased the more trickle-down economics has been applied. The best way to protect America's economy is to shore up the lower and middle classes, something that this plan does not, in any meaningful sense, do. I urge you, for the sake of your elected position, to vote it down. If you do not, odds are that you will see a substantial primary challenge from someone who would have.
And here's one for Republicans. They might actually be persuaded to listen because, given poll numbers, they're terrified for their jobs, as they have to run away from the other Republicans in congress, away from Bush, away from McCain, and away from the Democrats. In short, they may well be persuaded to outflank the Democrats from the left, but you have to be careful about how you word yourself or else they'll feel like dirty socialists and will bolt. You'll obviously want to adapt the bit about Florida to your own state, unless of course you also live in Florida.
Voters, including in Florida (which, according to a recent poll, trends Obama by eight points, a staggering margin for a state that went solidly Republican in 2004), have been turning against the Republican Party because on the whole, they get the impression that Republicans simply don't care about the economic problems of common people. This may not necessarily be true, but voting in favor of this bailout is likely only to reinforce the popular perception that Republicans are more likely than Democrats to give massive subsidies to large corporations who, they feel, shouldn't need them. This bailout bill, representing some $700 billion of taxpayers' money, will represent the single largest corporate subsidy in history, and contains no provisions to enforce Congressional oversight of that money. Simply put, voting for this bill as a Republican will reinforce the single most devastating frame being employed against Republicans right now, and almost guarantees an incumbent to be thrown out of office.
I certainly agree that our economy is in a state of crisis, but acting swiftly is not necessarily the best course of action, especially if it means all options have not been thoroughly debated. The plan currently being voted on in Congress is overwhelmingly opposed by the general public and is likely to be perceived as nothing more than socialism for the rich - and the perception seems to be growing that we've had nearly three decades of that as it is. Certainly, the Gini coefficient of the United States - one of the most reliable indicators of the gap between rich and poor - has increased substantially in the past three decades, which supplies substantial grounds for attacks on Republicans; if you vote for this bill, it will only reinforce populist sentiments that Republicans do not care about the problems of common people. This plan does not, in any meaningful sense, shore up the middle and lower classes, nor does it provide a framework for fixing the shattered regulations that, in an overwhelming majority of people's view, enabled the crisis to happen in the first place. I urge you, for the sake of your elected position, to vote this bill down and argue in favor of something more populist. If you do not, odds are that, come the next election, you will find yourself out of a job.