Friday, September 19, 2008

Blogger Eats Political Comments!

The author of the Enlightened American blog emailed me with irritation:
I replied to your McCain VP post with a long-winded comment but it seems like it was never approved. What gives?
Jaded Consumer never received it :-(.

I notice all the comments Blogger tells me have been offered -- I enabled moderation after getting unreadable posts whose apparent purpose was to create links for commercial products -- and I haven't seen any Palin-related comments. I went back and looked again. I'm not trying to run a political censorship campaign here -- I've even predicted McCain loses the election, though not for the reasons I now suspect will erode interest in the Palin/McCain ticket -- but I didn't get the comment and never got the chance to tell Blogger to put it up.

I think we all benefit from airing the past views and present claims of politicians, and lining these up against genuine analysis of the fields in which they are making claims and policy proposals.
But in any case, I think you do me a disservice by dismissing my viewpointas "partisan" and therefore biased. While I may support Obama, I feel I can still keep some perspective in analyzing the mechanics of the race. As I've mentioned, I used to be a campaign hack (on the local/state level) and so mechanics and tactics are just as interesting as the partisanship of it.
I definitely didn't intend to dismiss the view published EA as illegitimate on the basis of bias. It's the sum of all our biases, after all, that give us an election result we as a culture have claimed is the only source of ligitimacy we have. My comment was specifically about the claim made that Palin's speech was a failure because it was delivered weakly, and failed to persuade Clinton supporters. I took the view that Palin's target audience was not already-committed Obama proponents, and asserted that Palin's speech didn't fail for the reasons outlined at EA. As person with personal experience in politics, EA's author may bring a sophistication or a raised level of expectation that yields a different perspective than might be found in Palin's target audience.
In any case, I don't want to rehash all of my points but just to say ---> I'm not wrong yet!
I definitely wasn't trying to call the election for Palin, and would definitely not try it on the strength of one speech during the first week the nation knew her name. I do think Palin was a net benefit to McCain's campaign, however doomed (the Republicans have serious brand-rebuilding to do in the wake of their failure to deliver the small government Republicans have been preaching for years), and the fact she alone isn't enough to save it doesn't change that she, and her speech, were a net gain for the campaign.
I know you've viewed some of the stock analysis on my site and hopefully, you will notice that I go to great lengths to explore the risks/negatives of my stocks, despite MY BIAS OF HAVING MONEY ON THE LINE.
Having a dog in the fight is very good for one's attention, and this attention hopefully improves the detail-gathering that helps prevent significant things slipping by during analysis. The Jaded Consumer contains scoffing posts railing against service falures at Apple (and things like comical buzz-generation and its seemingly useless cash management, published at a time it was my largest holding. (Currently, it is not: in the aftermath of Ike, and in light of my inability to work from North Texas, and the threat of collapse in the markets, I've lowered my exposure to Apple for the simpe reason that I had lots of capital there at a time I needed to be much more liquid. Unlike EA, I don't try to keep track of my investments publicly, as I have a hard enough time doing it once annually at tax time.) Kicking your own tires is worthwhile, and if you don't appreciate the weakness of a thesis you won't be able to assess it properly.
Also, part of the reason the Palin pick was so risky for McCain is that there are so many fires they have to watch for now. Hence, they put her in a bubble and it's already backfiring.
I don't think anyone believes the choice wasn't risky. But the alternative was to take an arguably worse risk: a runningmate who would not excite anybody, and would leave Obama with all the free celebrity press. The free press Obama has garnered on novelty interest has been worth a fortune, and cannot be bought at any price: genuine buzz yields news stories rather than just paid ads, and the consumers treat these differently. A play to take the "new and different" mantle worked in the near term by putting McCain -- or, rather, Palin -- in the eye of the media.

The fact that politicians can't keep a mantle like "new and different" very long if they do anything -- their action, if any, will line them up with some interest and appear to out them as part of one establishment or another, to the alienation of someone -- ensures that Palin's temporary capture of this buzz can't possibly decide an election as far away as November. However, the Palin announcement has garnered the Republicans some excited free labor from a previously slumbering base (a problem Obama's campaign didn't have) and a great deal of press McCain hasn't been able to obtain for himself (possibly because he's thought to be a known quantity, and therefore unexciting and no good for capturing eyeballs and thus selling advertisements).

I would like to say there's a candidate that makes me optimistic about the next presidential administration, but what I've heard from the campaigns' various mouthpieces has only made my eyes roll. I'm willing to call the election for Obama, but not with any sense of victory. I think the erosion of the Republicans' brand over the last few cycles prevents their victory: the candidates' announced positions are sufficiently similar (with concessions made to the parties' bases) that the marginal votes that decide the election will likely be won not on the basis of prposed policies but mudslinging efforts to depict the opposing candidate as scarier. The idea that candidates "win" by being the lesser of evils is frankly revolting, but in light of the alternatives -- not this election in particular, but generally -- what other basis is plausible?

Elections in this country are so structured that candidates with any hope of really changing things at the national level are long-gone by election day. The behavior of the major parties in advancing their own interests over those of purprted constituents is a betrayal of voters, and there's little at the national level to stop it. The federalization of virtually every field of law has made serious reforms at the local level implausible, as meaningful effort to effect useful change (like universal health coverage in Hawaii and Oregon) is quashed by federal law (Hawaii's program still exists only because of an explicit grandfather clause, the effect of which is to freeze Hawaii's plan in the form in which it existed in 1974, preventing implementation of fixes for decades of observed shortcomings). Frustrated citizens disgusted with the conduct of elected officials can hardly be blamed for concluding that the whole system is so rigged against the public interest that participating in it at all is a surrender to thieves.

However, the solution must come from tha ballot box; the alternative is too terrible to want to imagine. Reform must come. However, like frogs in a slowly warming pot, our fellow-citizens sit still, content to wait until something seems alarming enough to effect systemic improvements. So long as the pot boils slowly enough, the perceived emergency will not be recognized until it is too late to prevent even more serious disaster.

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