Thursday, October 30, 2008

FOUAD AJAMI - Obama and the Politics of Crowds/Turnout and Competition on Tuesday

I’m still working on filling out my top (so far 14) reasons why an Obama presidency, particularly in conjunction with a Democrat Congress would do grave and likely permanent damage to America. I need to hurry with only a few days left. But for now I should post this:

Fouad Ajami is an Arab American who sees a familiar phenomenon in the crowds that gather (and the vicarious hordes of media spectators) to revel it the Obama redeemerhood, with the multitudes of Arabs who have persistently vested their hopes in Arab saviors posing but never delivering. I encourage you to look at Hungarian-born Jew Elias Canetti’s “Crowds and Power” to which Ajami refers in this article. Many have recalled Hitler’s mesmerization of the WWI-broken German public. A few days ago, I heard a European journalist who observed the media distortion and public enthrall in America that seemed even to exceed what was common to the establishment of European social democracies. Others have referred to Obama’s presentation of a Rorschack Test. Ajami calls him a “blank slate” that “devotees can project onto him what they wish.”

Actually, I expect his article was written a few days ago when pessimism about averting an Obama election was rife. Today, only a few polls do not reflect a tightening of the race. And frankly, I wonder if the typical Republican showing which substantially outpaces the polls, might not be even greater this year. Many conservatives have said that journalism died this year, with traditional media not merely favoring but fairly fawning and swooning over Barack Obama. It may also turnout that the art of polling will be uncommonly discredited this year. The world is changing. Many no longer have time to trifle with telephone or even exit polls, anymore. They don’t have time and they trust pollsters and media less. I expect it will be close and that one side or both will challenge the results. Republicans will suspect (not without cause, I think) voter fraud, especially in Ohio and Missouri, particularly St. Louis. Democrats will charge voter suppression if Obama loses, in which case the “crowds” will be heartbroken and probably scandalized and infuriated. I hope there would be no violence.

Particularly among African-Americans and as always – will it actually materialize this year? Maybe – the young, turnout for Obama is expected to be intense and high. I expect it will be. But, it better be. I expect a record turnout on both sides. Traditional direct mail campaigns highlight what some fear as the worst elements of the opposition. This is how passions and donations are generated.

For conservatives in terms of turnout, Barack Obama will act as a walking direct mail piece. Had Democrats nominated a relatively moderate Bill Clinton/Mark Warner type candidate (Heck, even Hillary Clinton the heretofore conservative bogey-man…er…woman), they might have fairly waltzed to the presidency. But, no. In a favorably Democrat year, the dogmatic liberals wet themselves and nominated the most liberal member of both The Senate and party history. And, picked another extreme liberal as his running mate.

Upon his nomination, John McCain’s Republican support was dubious and fragmented. Sarah Palin provided some help in that regard, but I think Barack Obama has mostly put that to rest, I’m guessing. Bob Barr and Chuck Baldwin may pull a percent or two. But more than demonstrating purity of some sort, most conservatives will want to STOP OBAMA! Republican turnout will be fervent and high. If the surprise is big enough, McCain could not only win, but unexpectedly comfortably.

Ajami’s article was published today in The Wall Street Journal:

15 comments:

Lee said...

Though I am far from being the kind of expert in politics that Mr. Ajami is, I did take my college training in History and Government, in order to teach it on the high school level, which I did for a number of years. Don't interpret what I am about to say as some kind of support for Obama, because it isn't, but conservatives sometimes have a tendency to be a bit myopic about things, especially when all the signs point to the defeat of their candidate or platform.

I don't deny that Mr. Ajami's perspective is expert and legitimate on one hand. On the other, it might just be a comforting way to downplay the fact that Obama has been drawing unprecedented crowds in states that were fairly comfortably Republican in 2004, and that the size of his audiences, compared to McCain's, especially in the same places, might be an indication that things have changed. Mr. Ajami's article helps keep the anxiety level low until Tuesday.

You can back me up on this, but I have been predicting an Obama win for quite some time now, even before he was the Democratic party's nominee. That's not because I am a supporter, but from observation and the expertise I do have on the subject, I have seen the signs and unlike many partisan voters, I am an independent who doesn't have their myopia. George W. Bush created the circumstances that allowed the Democrats to find the perfect candidate to nominate. Obama is so much the opposite of Bush in so many ways that the anti-Bush voters found him even more attractive than Hillary, and in the long run, he has succeeded in building a Democratic party coalition as powerful as any since that of Franklin Roosevelt.

John McCain's candidacy is also, ironically, the result of voter anger against Bush. Romney was the most similar candidate to Bush among the GOP field in terms of ideology and policy, which is what attracted the religious right leadership, but the rank and file disliked his Mormon faith, and the moderate wing of the party saw the likeness and knew the GOP couldn't win with a Bush clone as a candidate. McCain was the Republican most unlike Bush, but the irony of his voting record, and his going on the record to publicly proclaim having voted with the President 90% of the time doomed his candidacy. His choice of Sarah Palin turned out to be an unfortunate, and unforseen liability. But I don't really think the nominee would have mattered this time around, any Republican would have had an uphill battle in the wake of the Bush presidency which, in spite of all the talk about issues, is the main factor in the presidential race.

Only Fox News, Rasmussen and perhaps one or two other polls, all known to have conservative biases, show the race "tightening." Even conservative Gallup has shown Obama's lead fluctuating between 6 and 12 points over the past month, 9 points today, up from 7 yesterday. What little movement there has been toward McCain has come from undecided voters mostly in states where he's already ahead, and at this point, only 1 to 2% of the likely voters are still undecided. McCain would have to win over 80% of those to make much of a difference, and that's not happening. And even the conservative polls show movement toward Obama in the battleground states. He now leads in Virginia, Colorado and Ohio by more than the margin of error, and has moved into the lead, though slight in some cases, in Florida, North Carolina, Nevada and Missouri, and is within a percentage point in Indiana and North Dakota.

Though it won't happen publicly, Barack Obama can thank George W. Bush for what will be his almost certain victory on Tuesday. John McCain is a nice fellow, a good guy and an American hero. He'll finish out two more years in the senate and retire to Sedona. I'll allow for the fact that I could be wrong, but I will be surprised if Obama wins fewer than 300 electoral votes, and doesn't land at least 52% of the popular vote. We'll see on Tuesday.

Borghesius said...

I am not a political junky, but am just trying to figure out culturally why people are drawn to vote certain ways. The most striking thing this time has been the overwhelming emphasis on looking or acting presidential, not platforms or character or experience. The talk about the issues is vague and stated to cause emotional reactions. The election helps me gauge what is going on in the society, it is not an end in itself. With the ever increasing size of televisions and the internet, I have been thinking more about Fahrenheit 451, and Winston Nobile (the In's) vs. Hughbert Hoag (the out's) if I remember correctly. No time for time wasting thought.
In the private sector, we are looking at young people coming into business, and a substantial number don't really care about doing anything well or accurately. Obsession with feeling and sensual stimulation is way up there, and there is no sense at all of delayed gratification. Discussion (like most blogging) is a mile wide and an inch deep. Am I just turning into an old fuddy-duddy, or is deep thought going bye bye?
Hopefull signs: the kids I do have in catechism are smart, faithful, and have fully developed BS detectors. Of course, many are homeschooled now. I just hope that I and my country will survive until the babyboomers go, and lets prepare the next generation to piece things together.
No overall prediction from me, although I predict McCain will win Ohio, and there will be legal action. No matter what, it will still be one soul at a time for me. See you'all after the election.

Lee said...

borghesius,
You hit the nail on the head. That's well said.

Fortunately, there are still some fields in which the highest standards are expected, medicine comes to mind, and that's probably why most of those in the field, or coming into it, come from different cultures and different parts of the world. Accuracy and accountability are essential. We don't have a public education system in this country that is capable of producing that.

Larry said...

Lee:

You are afflicted with an overwhelming pessimism. I think if Obama wins, he will not get 300 electoral votes. When the economy tremors were at the nadir, my confidence flagged. But, over the last several, I feel better every day.

I've been calling myself an Independent over the last several years, but I'm not ambiguous about being conservative...according to MY de4finition, not yours or anyone else's.

It sounds like you are a little lugubrious about economic conservatism. I'm not. I've been accused of being a "one-issue voter" (abortion obviously) HORSEPUCKY! I was a conservative before Roe v. Wade and before social conservatives existed.

While abortion is dispositive (I would vote for a pro-life Democrat before a "pro-choice" Republican. But, I would do so while disagreeing with said Democrat on EVERYTHING ELSE. I also see the abortion issue as paradigmatic for a critical weakness of character and constitutional aptitude.

You should recall that Mike Huckabee drew the ire of some economic conservatives who fell for politicaly/financially motivated attacks from The Club for Growth, Romney and Thomson. I did not, not because I'm not an economic conservative but because I knew the facts and those charges were simply FALSE.

Speaking of Romney, let's be clear: he's a lot smarter than Bush, but I didn't support him because his supposed economic expertise was in streamlining corporations, not in improving economic potential for everyone in the country, and to me he was a relatively transparent political pragmatist. Anyone who comes to recognize the sanctity of life in his late 50's while running for president is either a soulless pragmatist or a philosophical incompetent or both.

I don't know what in the world you watch on TV (nothing is probably best), but liberals incline to calll FOX News conservative. It isn't. There are plenty of Democrats on FOX news, and most of the relative conservatives are predictably inept at making important points. Bill O'Reilly has some relatively conservative social sensibilities and he recognizes the extreme bias on the left. But, he has the most popular program on cable news, and that fact has inflated his head to the point that he thinks every notion that pops into his head must be gospel. Economically, he says things that are downright silly.

Sean Hannity is a Republican team player, but both he and Alan Comes on the other side mostly just throw jabs at the other side. These guys are not exceptionally reflective.It's true that Bush and the economic difficulty are the most difficult hurdles for Republicans. But 1) it's ironic that people should suppose that their economic fortunes will be made better by Obama. The economy as a whoe will be made weaker and less dynamic and most peoples' fortunes with it, especially those at the middle to low end of the income scale. And 2) I never voted for George W. Bush. John McCain is not especially lucid philosophically, either. But he would not like Bush have collaborated in the steepest growth of spending since The Great Society and we likely would not be sitting in the economic situation that we are. Unfortunately, he has not been clear and consistent in making that point.

If by Monday night I have continued to feel better every day, I will predict a McCain victory. I hope that wouldn't disappoint you. By the way, today's Zogby tracking poll (to be published tomorrow (it's 11:45)actually showed McCain ahead of Obama by 1 point, nearly a 5-point swing from yesterday. I think that reflects a drift toward McCain. But more than that, I think it indicates the unreliability of all of these polls. But based on recent history, it might swing back tomorrow. Today, most people don't respond to them. I think probably especially conservatives.

Anonymous said...

Borghesius:

It certainly willbe one soul at a time. It should always be. But make no mistake: Obama and a Democrat Congress will change our country in ways that will be difficult to undo. Taxing and spending will rise, the economy will contract and unemployment will go up. They might creat relatively unproductive "male work" jobs. But peoples' potential will be constrained.

More importantly, the unrestrained practice of abortion will likely be set in stone for the remainder of my lifetime. I actually don't favor an amendment to the US Constitution, but much documentation including textbooks will have to be changed to accomdate a redefinition of marriage and family. Individually, God's work will go on and Christian faith will continue to prosper around the world. But the prospects for America as a country might not look so good. But, WE HAVEN'T LOST YET AND I'M NOT THROWING IN THE TOWEL BY A LONGSHOT!

Larry said...

I'm not sure how my comment was posted as "anonymous." Must have hit the wrong button.

Borghesius said...

Larry:
Did you mean "male work" or "make work"? It reminds me of what my wife's grandfather thought of Roosevelt's new deal: WPA stood for "We Piddle Around".
I am bracing for the new Obama "Justice Society" to be introduced with the dem congress, which I will push back on locally (friends, family, and collegues) and otherwise; no towel throwing here either, before or after election.
I guess our dream is that various important political figures will tune into our discussion and be so impressed that they will actually be moved to our position. Not too likely, but I will hone my thoughts and arguments, maybe write a thoughful but brief constituent letter or two, and support candidates who agree w/ me with money and voting. Thanks for providing a forum.

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