Friday, September 19, 2008

Of Two Minds

Bummer or beamer? On the one hand, I’m resigned to the reality of President Obama. I believe the election was decided this Monday. God got sick and tired of the Obama campaign’s amateurishness, its lack of principle or ideas – and his persistent refusal actually to be a Democrat – and She just decided to render all of that moot. This week’s crashus ex machina means that any considerations of the individual candidates’ comparative strengths (ha) and weaknesses are more or less irrelevant.

It’s this simple: When the October-in-September Surprise is large-scale and economic, the Democrat wins. (Helped, of course, if the Republican is especially clueless economically. This year, it's the economy, and the stupid.) And all things being approximately equal, when the Surprise is about national security, the Republican wins.

The polls are already on the move. What looked like a probable McCain win a week ago now bids fair to be a rout in the other direction.

So, I’m sitting shiva for the dream of President Hillary Clinton. This is such a painfully missed opportunity, it actually hurts. I continue to believe that Obama will be a failure – but he’ll be renominated in 2012, nonetheless. (After all, Carter was.) And the GOP is such a basket case that he may even be re-elected. (After all, W was.)

On the other hand, on a symbolic and historical level, it is impossible not to be moved by the prospect of an African American President of the United States. The soaring feeling that this is going to give to literally hundreds of millions of people is non-trivial.There is simply nothing about that that isn't wonderful -- even though the individual who is getting to write that chapter in the history books is woefully inadequate to it.

Where's Keats when you need him? We could all use some of that "negative capability."


Gary McGowan said...

First, let no one look to wikipaedia for an understanding of "negative capability." It is disgusting. Read the original short letter by Keats... and then, and only if you have some hours undisturbed in a contemplative frame of mind, Shelley's

A Defence of Poetry

(from which, “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” – the last line, which the essay itself fills with heart and understanding.)

Gary McGowan said...



Senator Clinton on the floor of the Senate Sept. 18, 2008 to lay our her plan for halting the economic meltdown. Video of the entire speech and transcript.

Palomino said...

Historically, bad economic news has tended to favor the Democrats in presidential elections, but I would respectfully submit that (1) many Democrats don't regard Obama as a Democrat and will not be voting for him in any circumstances, (2) many Republicans and independents have no reason to believe that a neophyte should be handed the keys to the White House or the economy, no matter how abysmal the performance of the party already in power, (3) McCain is already starting, as he should, to go after Obama's financial ties to the people who brought us this mess, and (4) almost nothing in this political year has been playing out as expected.

So I'm not automatically buying that the economy is a "game changer," and I think you're walking off the field with a quarter still to go.

And shoot me, I guess, but I'm unable to get terribly worked up over the fact that Obama's father happened to be born in Kenya. Let's elect Cory Booker or Sheila Jackson Lee or even Harold Ford Jr. Then I'll be reaching for my hanky, too.

Falstaff said...

Palomino -- You're not the first person who has told me I'm being precipitous (there are 60 days left, anything can happen, it's a crazy year, etc.)... or even the first to use a football-field metaphor to express that. :) I hear you. I may turn out to be wrong -- we'll see. Happily, I'm not a running back, but a sporadically vocal spectator, perched in the bleachers.

My view is that Obama is the apparently blessed beneficiary of circumstances. Thanks to Hank Paulson, et al., he will become president without actually having had to figure out a thing about what should be done. And once in office, I expect, he will do approximately the right thing, because all other alternatives will have been swept off the table. The Bushies -- the people whose lifelong dream has been to repeal the New Deal -- will have wound up using their time in office to cement the government's involvement in the economy in unprecedented ways.

History, in other words, will wind up recording Obama as a Democrat, despite himself.

And on the final point... as you know, I take no pleasure in the notion of President Obama, qua Obama. He doesn't deserve to make this history. But the history is still pretty historic.