Tuesday, September 9, 2008

They're Calling You Stupid

I was fortunate enough to attend Senator Obama's speech on education today (story here, transcript here).  The event was a far cry from the kind of massive campaign rally associated with the Obama campaign (and increasingly with the McCain campaign, but more on that later). Instead, it was a fairly detail-heavy, substantive policy speech. Unsurprisingly, Obama is somewhat less captivating when discussing the details of education policy than he is when talking about the broader political ideals that have guided his campaign. But the details of the speech were enough to keep the crowd happy - even though Obama departed from NEA orthodoxy on a few important issues (namely, merit pay and vouchers). He also took a page out of the conservative playbook by emphasizing the importance of stable households, strong families, and personal responsibility for success in school. Of course, those values are not unique to the right, but they're certainly elements of campaign rhetoric that, up until recently, Democrats had ceded to Republicans. That's not uncommon in politics - I once had a meeting on the Hill with a Republican House staffer who told me that he was ready to get serious about child health, but that finding support within his own party would be difficult. "It's not that we don't care, obviously," he said. "It's just that it's one issue we always cede to the Democrats." 

Obama wasn't the only candidate making a stop in Southern Ohio today - Senator McCain and Governor Palin held a rally in Lebanon. They're continuing to campaign together, which is unusual for a ticket. Usually the VP candidate is dispatched to other competitive areas in order to shore up support for the top of the ticket. My instinct tells me that the McCain campaign isn't ready to do that with Sarah Palin yet, since her embarrassing dearth of knowledge, expertise, or leadership on any major campaign issue is likely to produce a made-for-TV gaffe. But I could be wrong about that - after all, how concerned could they be about gaffes when their VP candidate is repeating flat-out lies like this one:
"I told Congress thanks but no thanks for that Bridge to Nowhere,' Palin said Tuesday in Lebanon, Ohio." (from CNN)
Actually, she supported the Bridge to Nowhere before it became a national joke. From the Wall Street Journal:
Despite significant evidence to the contrary, the McCain campaign continues to assert that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin told the federal government "thanks but no thanks" to the now-famous bridge to an island in her home state. [...] But Gov. Palin's claim comes with a serious caveat. She endorsed the multimillion dollar project during her gubernatorial race in 2006. And while she did take part in stopping the project after it became a national scandal, she did not return the federal money. She just allocated it elsewhere.

"We need to come to the defense of Southeast Alaska when proposals are on the table like the bridge," Gov. Palin said in August 2006, according to the local newspaper, "and not allow the spinmeisters to turn this project or any other into something that's so negative."

And that's not all:

At a rally today, Sen. McCain again asserted that Sen. Obama has requested nearly a billion in earmarks. In fact, the Illinois senator requested $311 million last year, according to the Associated Press, and none this year. In comparison, Gov. Palin has requested $750 million in her two years as governor -- which the AP says is the largest per-capita request in the nation.

The dishonesty alone would be appalling - but the hypocrisy of it is what's really striking. In Slate, Timothy Noah wrote an excellent summary of Palin's record:

The woman who made this complaint about big government taking your money is the governor of Alaska. Please take a moment to look at this U.S. Census chart showing federal-government expenditures, per capita, in the 50 states. You will observe that Alaska receives about $14,000 per citizen from the federal government. That's more than any other state, and a good $4,000 more than every other state except Virginia, Maryland, New Mexico, and North Dakota. The chart is from the Census Bureau's Consolidated Federal Funds Report for Fiscal Year 2005. I skipped over the 2006 report, the most recent one available, because Hurricane Katrina put Louisiana and Mississippi ahead of Alaska that year. But that's an anomaly. Alaska held the per-capita record for sucking on the federal teat in 200420032002,2001, and 2000According to the nonprofit Tax Foundation, Alaska gets back $1.84 for every dollar it pays into the U.S. Treasury—even though Alaska enjoys a higher per-capita income than 34 of the 50 states. This is a state that preaches right-wing libertarianism while it practices middle-class socialism.

I've been trying to figure out why this bothers me so much. Now, I enjoy the game of politics just as much as I enjoy the more serious aspects of it. But for some reason, the "game" aspect of this campaign is really bothering me, and not just because I want to win. I think I've discovered the reason:

The McCain campaign thinks I'm stupid.

And not just me. They think you're stupid too. In fact, if you're a Hillary Clinton supporter, they think you're really stupid. They think that by picking a woman, they'll win the votes of Hillary Clinton supporters, even if Palin's views are anathema to most Democrats. How many Clinton supporters did you meet who wanted to teach creationism and ban abortion in all cases? How many did you meet who didn't believe in man's contribution to global warming? I bet you count them on zero fingers. 

That's how stupid they think Hillary Clinton supporters are.

They think that, while the US is fighting (and not exactly winning) two wars, they can pick a VP candidate with no particular expertise, who is two years removed from the Wasilla city hall, and who, when asked, didn't have an opinion about the surge - and that Republicans will accept it because she's sufficiently conservative on cultural issues. 

That's how stupid they think Republicans are. 

They think McCain and Palin can constantly lie - when McCain says that Obama would rather lose a war than win an election, when Palin says that she was a reformer on earmarks. They think McCain and Palin can make claims that are transparently contradictory - that McCain is both a true maverick and a true conservative, that Palin can both praise her daughter's "choice to keep" her unborn child and declare that the issue is out of bounds for political discussion. 

That's how stupid they think voters are.

And that's why this campaign is becoming so offensive to intellectually honest observers. But even the McCain campaign's profound disregard for the electorate's intelligence isn't the truly awful thing. 

The truly awful thing is that they just might win.

1 comment:

James said...

Ummm...You didn't mention the Triumph the Insult Comic Dog bit.

peace and love.