Saturday, October 25, 2008

"If Only Those Idiots Treated Our Ideas With Respect"

Mixing common sense with nonsense, Douglas MacKinnon warns, Don’t Count Him Out Yet, "John McCain can still win." Well, no kidding.

In pointing to things that can drag Obama down, MacKinnon presents an interesting exercise in contrasts. Having recently written, GOP unfairly branded racist, lamenting the suggestion that the GOP might play to racial prejudices, he now argues,
Finally, the ugly side of this equation. Race is going to be a factor in this election. How much, no one knows. A New York Times/CBS News poll gave some indication when it found out that “one-third of voters said they knew someone who would not vote for Mr. Obama because he is black.”
It is unfair to assume in advance that a campaign is going to take a particular political low road, even factoring in history, and it's certainly unfair to work from the assumption that most or all GOP supporters are racist or sympathetic to racism. But if you're going to concede that one third of voters aren't going to vote for Obama because he's black, you don't have to spend much time scrutinizing the polls to know where those votes are flowing. The fact that McCain has largely stayed away from race issues does not mean that there aren't people at other levels of the state and local party, or people who enjoy a national audience who informally align themselves with the party, who are doing their utmost to depict Obama as the scary, dark-skinned, supposedly Muslim "other".

I don't happen to think that the election is going to suddenly swing to McCain because voters have a sudden revelation that, <gasp>, Obama's black. I suspect that most of the 1/3 of voters MacKinnon describes have already made up their mind to vote for somebody other than Obama, and advice pollsters accordingly. I doubt that there are more than a tiny number of people who think that they are voting on the issues but will decide, upon entering the voting booth, that they're really part of that 1/3. The rest of us will decide out votes on other issues.

MacKinnon doesn't like unfair stereotypes of Republicans, but....
Beyond today’s experience argument, why do Democrats sometimes lose when all indications are that they will coast to victory? One reason that has gained traction in certain quarters is that the people who control the Republican Party understand and respect their opponents. Republicans think Democrats are wrong, but Democrats think Republicans are stupid, and that’s why Democrats lose.
Oh, really? So if I listen to the speeches McCain and Palin gave at the national convention, I'll hear their deep respect for the Democratic party and its ideas?1 If I flip on talk radio, I'll hear Rush Limbaugh or Michael Savage sensitively analyze the issues of the day with great respect for the positions of Democrats? No, wait, if I listen to the pundits and analysts who pen best sellers directed at Republican readers and read their books, I won't find their ideas exemplified by titles like "Godless: The Church of Liberalism", "Obama Nation" or "Liberal Fascism"? Or "If Democrats Had Any Brains, They'd Be Republicans"?

Spare me.

The leading difference is that the GOP manages to gin up its base with fantasies of a "liberal elite" that is plotting to "take away your rights" (or, in the case of gay marriage, abortion or birth control, give you rights or protect the rights you have), an approach that is perhaps exemplified by MacKinnon's, "They think we're stupid" line.2 But what you're seeing there isn't Democrats condescending to Republican voters or treating them like they're stupid. And it's certainly not a demonstration of Republican respect for the ideas and values of the Democratic Party.
1. Some have suggested that the Republican Party's past anti-intellectual stances are serving to both undermine conservatism and marginalize conservative intellectuals.

2. There are similar caricatures that some Democrats attempt to present to excite their base, but for a variety of reasons they're much more scattershot and much less effective.

1 comment:

  1. "There are similar caricatures that some Democrats attempt to present to excite their base, but for a variety of reasons they're much more scattershot and much less effective." We may only disagree in terms of degree, but I think that this is fairly common on both sides, and neither would do it if it wasn't effective. There is a reason that Obama dipped into the "guns and religion" language when campaigning in SF.