Wednesday, September 26, 2012


So now, after a modest amount of decorous throat-clearing that "nothing is decided yet" -- data to the contrary -- and with predictable (and accurate) grumbling about what a truly terrible candidate Romney has proven to be (except, of course, compared to every single one of the alternatives)... and with the occasional detour into truly sophistic fantasy ("But in Bizarro America, where they don't hold 'elections,' his chances wouldn't be so damn good!")... the commentariat will start wrapping its head around the reality of a second Obama term.. 

The first shot out of the box is from Andrew Sullivan, in full fanboy ecstasy with a piece whose headline and thesis -- "President Obama: The Democrats' Ronald Reagan" -- are what an irony therapist might call overdetermined. Sullivan, the poet laureate of 11-dimensional chess (aka "Obama's long game") is an imaginarium architect of the first water, rearranging the universe around the infallibility of his love object (indeed, constructing a heavenly sphere in which the Father and Son are not just enthroned, but wed).

Inspired by that, let me offer a brief version -- to be elaborated at a later date, if events justify it and I have the energy -- of my own fantasized near future. It involves a president who perhaps has -- thanks in significant part to his opponents on the right (we on the left had little or no effect) -- been turned into an actual Democrat, an actual thinker and an actual leader. 

If the past year has accomplished anything, it has clarified the reality of the political arena. I guess our elections, despite their vacuous and depressing theatricality, do that. Obama has been driven, against his natural instincts, to an actual ideological place -- and it has proven to be much more politically successful. Rhetorically, at least, he has moved left -- or, more precisely, has gelled into something comprehensible. George Lakoff must be gratified that he is, at long last, shaping the dialogue in ways that reflect a comprehensible progressive view. This view is proving effective -- he's winning, and thankfully, he's winning for approximately the right reasons. The country really is rejecting the three Rs -- Romney's plutocratic noblesse oblige, Ryan's Ayn Randian social darwinism, and the Republicans' Grover Norquistian economic mono-thesis-ism: Whatever the question, the answer is, "Cut taxes!" There can be no doubt that the majority view post-election 2012 -- the center of gravity, the Tea Party nothwithstanding -- will be that government has a vital role in society.

If a second Obama term were grounded in nothing more than that, it would be cheering. But I am allowing myself to fantasize that the wet clay of our Precious President might be being shaped into something even better than a Democrat. I am hoping he can become an actual thinker and leader -- which is to say, a systems thinker-and-leader (or, at least, a vessel capable of absorbing and enacting systems thought). Instead of an actor delivering empty paeans to bipartisanship and compromise -- instead of being guided by the narcissistic imperative of looking like the most reasonable person in the room -- perhaps he has been dragged, kicking and pausing, into the role of leader with an actual world view. Maybe he is arriving at a hard-won comprehension of the emerging planetary paradigm and of how America's political dynamics fit into that. Maybe we'll stop obsessing about debt-reduction through "grand bargains," and start lowering actual spending (on our way toward single payer), through, say, a lower Medicare eligibility age. Maybe we'll pump aid back to the states, so that all those laid-off teachers, police and fire fighters can resume pumping money back into the economy. Maybe we'll save Wall St. (and the rest of the economy) from itself, by imposing meaningful regulations that turn banking into a boring utility, and shift innovation to where it belongs in this coming era -- away from financial capital and toward production capital.

Okay, I said this was an exercise in fantasy. But I do, er, hope that he has, er, changed.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Since the Presidential race is now decided... - updated

Yes, I know. I'm giving it a kinehora -- and on Rosh Hashana, yet. So be it. Mitt was already a goner before Moochergate, and now he is unelectable. He has already written the scripts of the debates, and they were his one remaining predictable chance to change the trajectory. Now he's down to hoping for dei ex machina. And since the dysfunction of his campaign has itself become a robust meme, there is now the likelihood of an exponential shift: the meta taking each actual gaffe and lost opportunity to the next power, and so on. Stick a fork in it -- this one is done.

Which means that the Democratic Party, if it has a whit of sechel, should right now be redirecting resources into Senate and House races. As Nate Silver points out, the momentum in the Senate is already favorable to the Dems. It should not be allowed to backslide for lack of money. As for the House, I suspect retaking it is beyond the pale, but a large infusion of advertising across the country could perhaps win back 15-20 seats. I mean ads that do double duty nationally and locally: Show the increasingly toxic Romney and Ryan next to Candidate X, with the headline, "They want to take away your Medicare and give you Vouchercare." For good measure, include a clip from Romney's 47 Percent Dis-solution video.

L'shana tova.

Update: It would be nothing short of astonishing if this election turned into a Dem wave -- after Obama's failures on the economy, after the GOP wave in 2010. And yet, some signs are pointing that way. Witness Nate Silver's latest on the Senate. Money quote -- which would have seemed insane even a week ago:
...if the trend continues, the question may no longer be whether Republicans can win the Senate — but how vulnerable they are to losing the House.
Update 2: More grist. Maybe there's something in the methodology gap between cell-phone-and-live-interview polls and the others that doesn't just favor Dems, but also provides earlier indications of trajectory?

Update 3: Rats, ships, and all that.

Update 4: And the cupboard was bare.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

It could be

Or, at least, here's what I'm permitting myself to hope this morning: That the choice of Paul Ryan will prove as disastrous in its way for the GOP as the choice of Sarah Palin -- more so, in fact, since the outcome of this election is far less certain than was 2008, post-Lehman.

It really is striking, and encouraging, that the MSM -- and even Fox -- have called out Ryan's Pants on Fire acceptance speech. Krugman's cries in the wilderness that he is not only deeply unserious but deeply phony seem less lonely today than they did before the convention. Perhaps marathongate will provide the second data point -- the establishment of a pattern -- necessary for a meme to drop anchor. Meanwhile, nobody is talking about Mitt's failed treacle, thanks to the birth of the Eastwooding meme. Thanks, Clint -- you really did make my day. All in all, these are wonderfully inept political mistakes, because they are so easily remembered. My guess is that there will be little or no convention bounce -- that Nate Silver's prediction will prove correct.

And now, if this piece in the Times is to be believed, there is considerable running-away from the Ryan Budget in Congressional races around the country. We know how it affected the special race in upstate NY a year ago. God willing, it'll do the same nationally in November.

I remain as jaundiced about Obama's failure as ever. But I also deeply fear a takeover by the right-wing radicals. I would definitely celebrate on election night if the Dems managed to reverse 2010.