Storyline: Election 2008

(6 entries)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Half past Giuliani time

One unexplained omission from this presidential election cycle has been a New York Magazine cover story written by Rudy Giuliani, entitled “I was such a great mayor”.

I lived in New York City during the entirety of the Rudy years, and so from the get-go I knew he would not be president. It seems pretty obvious, but I guess people have to find things out for themselves. He’s a great example of someone who, the more you know, the less you like. Since that is also the case for most of the other presidential contenders, perhaps he thought he could play the odds.

There is still talk about Rudy’s advanced strategy which involves not winning in any early states. The real strategy seems to be that every time he loses a state, he says it wasn’t part of the strategy. Sort of like how he was going to be senator from New York until he found out he couldn’t win, then suddenly he had to drop out because of cancer. It’s a rare form of cancer indeed that makes you ineligible to run for senate but not president. But I still have my clipping from the Post when the news dropped:

Gonad Shocker: Ball Cancer

So, his last stand is in Florida, where he also won’t win. As you might say in an election ad run in Florida, “Rudy está tostada.”

If I had the chance to ask him one debate question, it would be, “What was it that you DID on September 11, exactly?”

by Jack, 3:00 PM | Link | Comments (2)

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Missouri Compromise of 2008

Now, I know Trouble Sells readers are not necessarily consumers of political narrative, but I feel that my blog should follow national trends and take a wide stance. If you are in love with humanity (but not people, as Edna Millay noted), then you surely can be lovers of political theater. And there’s plenty going on in that area with the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries.

Super Tuesday does not contain many real swing states in it, so it’s hard to extrapolate to the general election. Time and again, it also fails to achieve its purpose: anointing a frontrunner. The first Super Tuesday, in 1988, consisted of a bloc of Southern states that Al Gore (the old, centrist Al) was to sweep. Except Jesse Jackson won just as many, and neither was the nominee in the end. Although Jesse could then say, “I AM Somebody…who kicked Gore’s ass in Georgia.”

But let’s look at 2008, and check out last night’s map. (Yes, I drew a map in here!)

On the Republican side, it’s a hodgepodge, but there’s not much for Democrats to get excited about. McCain did not win many states that could be counted upon to vote Republican in the general. However, that’s actually a sign of his strength; he’ll get those states anyway, even if conservatives stay home in droves.

However, he failed to win Minnesota, which might make our contest there easier. He also failed to win Colorado, which, along with Obama’s win there, is an encouraging development in a rapidly Blue-ing state that will also host the DNC. Perhaps the best news is that McCain received only 1% of the vote in West Virginia in its three-way race, which suggests that state could be persuaded to return to the Democrat column with the right message.

I feel good about our chances against McCain.

The most amazing result in last night’s contest is Missouri. Often called a bellweather state in general elections (and I’ll pass on the history here, because Wolf Blitzer needs to fill some air time later), it was the recipient of much attention. However, on both the Democratic AND Republican sides, the result was within 1%. That’s insane. It also helps Missouri (the “Show Me” state) keep its mystique a bit longer. We have no idea who they like.

Happy political parties are all alike
I don’t want to say I have a preferred candidate on the Democratic side. I don’t get in the middle of Dem-on-Dem beefs. To borrow a phrase from MC Paul Barman, I think LL Cool J and Canibus are both fantastic. To borrow a phrase from VH1 News, the legend and the up-and-coming star are duking it out on the mic. And that’s as it should be. We know drama!

However, a keystone of political drama is spin. The Clinton spin is obvious — she won some big ol’ states, and solidly Democratic ones at that. Certainly, to do less would be failure for someone as well-known, and well-respected by party diehards, as she is. So, good work.

Here’s a possible Obama spin: he won in all sorts of places. He put together a coalition of many kinds of Americans. And, perhaps most interestingly, he did it with big margins. Clinton only won one state (Arkansas) with more than a 30% lead, whereas Obama accomplished that in eight states.

Obama also held down Clinton’s advantage in New York (where she won by 17%) while blowing out Illinois (where he won by 31%), meaning he actually got more delegates in NY + IL than she did. That’s fancy footwork.

And he did all this without the support of the “cultural elite” states that Republicans love to make hay about!

Keeping them in the Union
This leads us into the biggest news, which is the unforeseen Missouri Compromise of 2008. This stipulates that, west of the Mississippi, Hillary Clinton is entitled to all the former “slave states” and Barack Obama to all former “free soil states”. (See map.)

Missouri Compromise of 2008 (map)

(Moreover, in Nevada, the bit south of the parallel is where Clinton won, and the larger but less populous part of the state to the north is where Obama won.)

I’m not entirely sure what this means, but frankly, I find it a little troubling. The tally is this:

Clinton wins:

Obama wins:

Neither story is a slam dunk, but on balance, I’d say Clinton’s is worse. Her map is looking like Samuel J. Tilden’s, when what we need is another Franklin Roosevelt.

But as I believe — as many do — that the Democratic party’s past may be in the South, but its future is in the West, I find the geographic breakdown between these two candidates, the legend and the up-and-coming star, to be remarkable.

by Jack, 11:54 PM | Link | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Blogs don't put food on the table; it takes a president to get it done

It’s cool to want to be president. But the only way to become president is for other people to want you to be, too. Let’s discuss Hillary and Barack.

As far as I can tell, Hillary Clinton’s main campaign strategy was to hope the audacious hope that nobody would dare challenge her. But Barack Obama not only did that, he managed to win and keep winning. The Clintons did not expect this, even though it’s what happens in every election: someone runs against you. So now they’ve got no plan. But they still want to win.

Now, I admire underhandedness, ruthlessness, and Machiavellian dealings. If you can achieve your goals through trickery and deceit, I am in awe, because while I own House of Games on DVD I am not so good at the long con. I am entirely ready for Bill and Hillary Clinton, sophisticated veterans of our national sport, to pull out all the stops and cleverly manipulate their way to the pinnacle. That would be exciting.

But that is nothing at all like what they have done. Instead, they have acted like frustrated children who are not getting their way.

That’s not really the way you want your president to deal with adversity.

Of course, there has already been plenty of coverage of Bill and Hill’s various outbursts, so I don’t need to retell them. But, I believe there is a more troubling trend which hasn’t been adequately discussed.

Hillary Clinton has consistently and increasingly acted as if she is the next president, and Barack Obama is some hayseed, rube, or schlepper who doesn’t understand how the real world works. And yet, it is her campaign which is struggling to find a message, cannot raise money, and has lost a huge early advantage, even in core demographics. So, maybe she’s wrong?

Let’s look at two key examples of this behavior, where she has made absurd distinctions between the two campaigns which end up proving the opposite of what she intends.

Back in January, as has been widely reported, Hillary Clinton said it’s all very well to like Martin Luther King Jr., but after all it wasn’t King who passed civil rights legislation, it was Lyndon Johnson; in her precise words, “it took a president to get it done”. Well, let’s say that is correct; certainly, it is literally true that King did not have the constitutional authority to sign legislation.

But wait a minute, Obama is not running for civil rights leader. Obama and Clinton are both vying to be the president. He wants to be the person to sign those bills, same as her. As president, he would not have fewer presidential powers than she. But according to her, she is the only president in this race.

So what’s her point, exactly? It’s just an attempt at putting someone down by comparing him to Martin Luther King, and building yourself up through a comparison to LBJ — surely, the first time this has been tried.

Now, the latest thing Clinton is onto is how Obama is all talk. During the entire presidential campaign, all he has done is make pretty speeches. This is not the Clinton approach; in contrast, she has solutions.

However, again, she is making a distinction that does not exist.

As far as I know, Clinton is the first politician to make long speeches on how speeches don’t help anything. “Speeches don’t put food on the table” she declares from the podium. I think you can agree that what she has just done is make a speech. She is not standing with us in a checkout line, forking over money to pay for our groceries. She has not performed an action. What politicians do during an election is make speeches.

But Clinton has solutions, right, not just oratory? So why isn’t she implementing these solutions right now? The answer is because she is not yet the president. Before she can implement her solutions, she has to be elected. So instead, she makes speeches about what she’ll do after she gets elected.

How is this different from what Obama, or any other candidate, does? You can’t implement before you’re elected. In other words, “it [takes] a president to get it done”. We are trying to pick that president. Hillary’s mind may already be made up, but this inconvenient process of the election is how the rest of us decide.

But instead, to the point of blindness, Clinton desperately believes that she is the only viable candidate. This is a crippling flaw. Her above arguments use simplistic language and declarations, which I would guess she and her team think is “straight talk”. But the arguments pretend that words mean what they want them to mean, instead of what they do mean. In that way, they are as convincing as adultery hinging on the definition of the word “is”.

That’s not oratory, and it’s not solutions. It’s bullshit.

We endorse Barack Obama for president.

by Jack, 11:11 PM | Link | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Eliot Spitzer is an idiot

He came in with a giant landslide, and a population eager for change, and he turned it into a year of failure. This failure came because he tried to steamroller the state legislature the way he might a defendant in one of his A.G. cases, but that isn’t something the legislature is excited about.

He squandered his first year. And now he has capped it by being discovered to use hookers.

Here’s the thing — if you’re elected governor, and situations dictate that you can’t fuck your wife, just jack off for a while. It’ll be worth it for you. Just jack off for a few years, then when you retire, you can afford even better hookers. But instead, these assholes just have to have everything their way.

I say, good riddance. Spitzer has pissed away his goodwill. He has failed to create anything but scandal in his first year, so he can in no way expect to govern now that he is a criminal under the laws of his state. He must resign.

The good news is Lieutenant Governor David Paterson. I have met him on several occasions, and almost uniquely among politicians, he has a sense of humor. Not merely a “I will now pause in my speech for a joke” sense of humor, but the kind of humor that suggests a sense of perspective, a sense of self, and, unlike Eliot Spitzer, sense.

We endorse David Paterson for governor, by the end of the week.

by Jack, 12:16 AM | Link | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A simple test

If you think you’re on a critical diplomatic mission, there is a simple test. Look to the left, and to the right. If you see Sinbad, be assured: ya’not.

The problem is, Clinton knows her record is weak. But she also knows how great she really is. She’s built up an impressive concept, in her head, about all she could do and be. It’s inconvenient to have to convince people of that bold concept using only the actual facts of her life, however. So, you know, she just makes stuff up that sounds better, instead.

When I was in art school, there were always people talking about their grand plans for the art they were gonna make. These people typically were disappointed with the actual pieces they had completed, and there’s no shame in that — you gotta start somewhere. However, there was a certain kind of art student who tried to draw your attention away from the (unimportant) pieces they’d made so you could focus on the (crucial, world-changing) but as-of-yet notional pieces they were gonna make real soon now. That was how I came to know the one thing I learned in art school:

Your work is not different from what you actually do.

Sinbad, holla!

by Jack, 12:49 AM | Link | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Monster in a Box

For Hillary Clinton, this Democratic primary season has dealt largely with existential issues, of the self contemplating the abyss.

As Beckett said, “I can’t go on. I’ll go on.”

Or, as in the words of Kafka, “There is hope, but not for us.”

by Jack, 8:21 PM | Link | Comments (3)