Saturday, October 18, 2008

Political Vortex

I've gotten swept up into electoral politics the past month or so. I'm not entirely sure why, as my own personal political history has been saturated in non-representation since roughly 1972 or so. I was an 11 year old progressive commie pinko socialist then, and now I'm an older one. So my entire political experience of American public life has been as an outsider. One of the finest Republican presidents we've had during that time, Bill Clinton, offered some tiny, slight hope for a few meager ideas to the Left of Center, but to no avail, ultimately.

I went to Political Compass yesterday and tried to answer their fascinating quiz the way I imagined Obama would, the way I imagined McCain might. Then a friend of mine pointed me to the site's own analysis. I scored both candidates as less conservative than the site does, with Obama actually a couple points to the left of center economically and socially. The site has him the other way on both axes.

I'd guess more Americans have beliefs and values in the 2nd (top left)
and 3rd (bottom left) quadrants than we'd imagine, given the Center/
Right domination of national politics. I wonder if the new documentary
about Lee Atwater, _Boogie Man_,
sheds some light on the recent
history of Center/Right rhetoric and tactics. The new robocalls going
out from the McCain camp (created by the same firm that smeared McCain
in 2000) fall into the usual Atwater/Rove strategic category. I'm not
saying that Democrats don't also use appalling tactics to attain and
retain power. I am saying that, in my opinion, the bullying of public
discourse to the Right is a result of Republicans being better at

And what a spectacle it is, McCain picking up on Wurzelbacher and his
"socialistic" line regarding Obama's tax plan, in the midst of the
socialization of capital to the tune of $1 trillion and probably more
advocated by "conservative," "free market" W. But McCain has finally
found a (dishonest) way to talk about the economy yet not talk about
it, hitting his stride. He'll come back in the polls and the election
will be much closer than polls and maps show now, possibly even a
repeat of 2000. Says this Chicken Little Breslin Socialist. (Of
course, Obama is lying on a daily basis as well, as there's no way,
given the current economic picture, that he can implement what he's

It's a success for both Obama and McCain, oddly, that probably most
Americans (including me, apparently, given my guesses on the political
compass test) think of Obama as a "Liberal." McCain finally gets to
harp on ye olde Tax and Spend riff, and Obama gets to blithely deceive
a huge segment of the Democratic Party that is yet again duped into
not being represented on the national stage. Democrats have long
manipulated their own Left constituencies by urging them not to "waste
their votes" on Third Party candidates who much better represent their
views. The whining over Nader and Florida, etc., is appalling. I hope
to see a re-emergence of Left ideas into public view, and a shift to
the Left in the Democratic Party. But this is the last election where
I'll cast a fear vote. I honestly do think Sarah Palin is a "cancer on
the Republican Party," like David Brooks, and have finally found
common ground with Chris Buckley, Peg Noonan, Kathleen Parker et al.
I've been coming to terms with the simple fact that I'm voting against
Palin. Sad but true. Another statistic, another casualty of the
culture wars.

I think it's revealing too that a recent email invited me to a phone
calling party in Scottsdale hosted by MoveOn, the angle for which is
"Help Defeat Sarah Palin." The party features bar-b-q chicken
(probably organic, free range?) and Saturday Night Live Tina Fey
videos. The thought of attending this event makes me want to eat my
own face, but it's fascinating rhetoric. Obama is not "energizing" the
Left base nearly as much as Palin is. The address for the anti-Palin
Party, by the way, is a barren, windswept McMansion quadrant on the
golf course riddled edges of well-watered Phoenix. These are folks
just dying to pay more tax. Or perhaps they are secure in the
knowledge that their expensive tax accountants will buffer them from
Obama's "socialistic" schemes.