Saturday, September 6, 2008

The conventions are over, so now what?

I just can't seem to lay off the upcoming presidential election no matter how hard I try.

Such is the case, I suppose, when you happen to hold a bachelor's in political science. Yes, politics fascinate me and I haven't been this excited about an election since Ronald Reagan was running and I was too young to vote.

One thing I've read about quite a bit recently is how both Barack Obama and John McCain were well received at their respective conventions. Of course they were. Conventions are for the true believers.

Yes, John McCain could have stood in front of a swastika and advocated a kinder, gentler fascism and the Republicans attending the convention would have gone nuts. Similarly, Obama could have advocated a full-on embrace of Marxism and the Democrats at his convention would have gotten so excited they would have wet their pants.

In other words, excited convention attendees isn't news. I've learned at least one things about conventions of any kind over the years -- they are held for the benefit of the converted. So, saying Republicans or Democrats were enthusiastic at their respective conventions doesn't matter one whit when it comes to how the rest of us will actually vote.

Of course, we happy Americans tuned in to the Democrat and Republican conventions and the impressions we were left with are what really count. After all of the analysis and the this that and the others, I do believe this election comes down to one man -- George W. Bush.

Most of us hate Bush and both McCain and Obama are doing their best to show voters that they are the ones to deliver us from the Bush years. In spite of all the grand speeches and hubbub, that really is what this particular election is all about.

So, let's take a look at some of the messages and challenges faced by the candidates, huh?

Barack Obama

He's railed against Bush and those mean ol' Republicans since day one. His entire campaign has been built around the idea that Bush has flushed the country down the toilet and we need to change a lot of things to restore America to greatness.

That message has been well received, of course, and Obama has managed to attract a sizable following. It's easy to see why -- Obama is charismatic and persuasive and he does manage to say what people want to hear. He's a decent fellow, too, as evidenced by his declaration that people ought not smear Sarah Palin's pregnant daughter.

Furthermore, this is a year in which political insiders are absolutely mistrusted. Bush's approval rating stinks and Congress' is actually worse -- people blame Washington for everything from gas prices to a rotting housing market and they're ready for something new. Obama, to many, represents a slew of new ideas and people gravitate to his message.

He's not without his flaws, however. One of the flaws that people have harped on -- his inexperience -- is actually a strength. People love to talk about Obama's lack of experience in Washington, but people either see that as an asset or they just don't give a damn.

Want proof? Hillary Clinton spent a lot of time in the Democratic primary talking about Obama's lack of experience and how that would be harmful in today's world where someone with sophisticated, public policy experience is necessary.

What did that get Hillary? She's back in New York looking at the fall pants suit line and dreaming of a run in 2012 while Obama's got a legitimate shot at winning the presidency this year. By the way, thank God for that -- Hillary sucks.

So, some people view a lack of experience as an asset while other folks just don't give a damn. This is the year of the outsider and Obama has positioned himself well in that regard.

Ah, but there are a couple of serious problems Obama faces. First of all, is opinions seem to change weekly or according to which group he's addressing at the time. There are a lot of questions about this guy -- what the hell will he actually do when in office? Some supporters have argued that Obama is very flexible and will change his views from time to time -- a direct contrast to Bush who makes up his mind and refuses to budge in spite of mountains of evidence.

Regardless, Obama comes across to many as indecisive at best and untrustworthy at worst. He was a screaming liberal when running in the primaries against Hillary and has now positioned himself as a moderate. However, one can't help but think that he's truly a screaming liberal and that's not a good thing to be at a time when people just don't trust the government. Some people are nervous that Obama will simply work to expand the government, thus pounding us with more taxes and increasing the size of a government that a lot of us are mad at.

And comments such as the one about us rural folk "clinging to our guns and religion" have done nothing but add to the claims that Obama is an elitest. That's a problem for him. Obama needs to carry a Southern state or two to win the presidency and he tends to shoot himself in the foot when addressing people from this part of the country.

Don't think the South is important? When's the last time a Democrat got in office without carrying a good number of states in the South. Go and look it up if you want, but you know the answer to that, right?

And I'm not sure that choosing Joe Biden for a running mate helped Obama much. Yes, he was chosen because he has the "experience" that Obama lacks. I'm not sure that was a great move because it seems that people are willing to overlook a lack of experience and they absolutely hate Washington insiders. Biden has been in the Senate since 1973 and, as such, is clearly an insider.

He's a hothead, too, and apparently clings to the unfortunate notion that people will believe something is true if he yells it at them at the top of his lungs over and over again. I don't know about you, but the idea of getting yelled at by Biden for four years bothers me.

Obama would have been better off picking someone who was both likeable and an outsider. But, hey, Democrats are good at minimizing their chances at getting in office -- that's why they keep nominating people like Dukakis, Mondale, Gore and Kerry to run for the presidency. It makes sense, then, that they'd take a popular candidate like Obama and chain him to an albatross like Biden.

John McCain

Here's a main with the unenviable job of convincing people that it would be a fine idea to put a Republican in the White House after Bush has made a mess of things. To his credit, McCain has managed to put some distance between himself and Bush by touting his "maverick" credentials and taking some swipes at his own party during the Republican Convention.

McCain, too, has successfully highlighted his ability to work with Democrats to get things done and that's a message that people want to hear at a time when folks are sick of divisive politics. He's also managed to tout his "war hero" status and voters actually do respond well to that.

Oddly, what might actually give McCain the best shot at the presidency has little to do with him. He picked a running mate that, at this point, is actually more popular than either McCain or Obama in some polls. You'd better believe that she'll net a few votes for Johnny. How's that for irony? How many Republicans could care less about McCain but love the idea of setting Palin up for a shot at the White House?

And she's not popular just because she's a woman. Yes, some of the more cynical Democrats would like to claim that choosing Sarah Palin was a ploy to get those disaffected Hillary voters to take a second look at McCain. There may be some truth to that, but the biggest asset she brings to the ticket is that she's as populist as can be.

Remember all those rural voters that Obama has slighted from time to time? They love Palin. She's a middle-class mom with who's done well for herself and people respect that. Hell, they have a romantic, rose-colored view of all that. It's all Mr. Smith Goes to Washington with Palin -- she's a good ol' girl who connects to a lot of people. It's no wonder the Democrats hate her so much -- she's a legitimate threat to Obama's campaign.

Yes, people have taken shots at her lack of experience and there's been a lot of noise about that public safety commissioner she fired. But guess what? No one gives a damn. It's hard to gripe about a lack of experience when Obama has the same problem and people are more than eager to overlook the firing of a commissioner that served at the governor's convenience.

The Democrats run the risk of alienating a lot of voters by engaging in nit picky attacks against the woman. They'll do it anyway, of course, and the voters will respond accordingly.

Well, back to McCain. He's got at least four major problems from what I can tell. First of all, he's a Republican. Raise your hand if you think the Republicans have done a stellar job with the White House over the past eight years. I'm a Republican and even I'm keeping my hand down -- Bush sucks and his father wasn't worth a damn either. McCain has to distance himself from Bush while still keeping in the good graces of the Republican party -- he's got to pull off a tightrope act and one can only guess if he'll manage to pull it off and wind up in office. We'll just have to see.

Second, he's got a credibility problem, too. He's portrayed himself as a maverick, but just a few months ago he was sounding an awful lot like Bush. After the primary, he pulled an Obama by shifting to the center. As with Obama, one must wonder which McCain we'll get if he shows up in office.

Third, he's an insider in a year when people hate insiders and want something different (that's why, really, Obama secured his party's nomination). People like McCain and Biden are regarded in some circles as part of the problem. In short, why on earth would you put McCain in office when he's part of the system that is increasingly unpopular with the American people?

Fourth, there's that war in Iraq. To say that war is unpopular is an understatement and McCain has earned the reputation of being one of the biggest hawks around when it comes to that thing. He'll lose some votes over his stance that the war was a fine idea and is worth fighting.


Yes, this was a quick review of just a few issues involved in both campaigns. I know I've left out a lot of issues ranging from the economy to everything else, but I did that for a reason -- I'm trying to pick up on the issues that I believe a lot of Americans are actually thinking about right now. I could be wrong, of course.


FishHawk said...

Have you ever considered entering politics, my dear TNS Hawg??? You certainly appear to be quite qualified. After all, was it not less than a week ago when you boldly proclaimed that you would not be posting any more political articles for a while??? Enquiring minds want to know.

The Natural State Hawg said...


Can't do it. By my own criteria, I'm ineligible. I've got a law and we've got enough lawyers screwing up things.

Theresa said...

I have a sneaking suspicion that the biggest thing on everyone's mind is the economy/inflation/jobs.

Which brings up a question maybe you can answer: When these politicos say "WE are going to..." drill for oil, come up with alternative energies, yada yada yada, how in the world can "WE" actually do that? It's the Big Oil Men, it's Big Business that is making all the decisions to stay dependent on foreign oil for profits' sake and only profits' sake. What are they going to do - give more tax breaks to entities that already don't pay taxes? Or will they turn a blind eye to the hiring of illegal immigrants that work way outside our workforce protection laws? The only way the government can have any real say in what Big Business does is by nationalizing the industry, and you know that won't happen in our lifetime.

I think that as soon as the government opened our borders to businesses and deregulated, it lost the ability to protect and control business, and in turn lost all ability to actually represent PEOPLE. For that reason, if our government is bigger or smaller, it won't make any difference - it's already as neutered as it can get.

Da Old Man said...

Hawg, I've got to agree with you on one huge thing~~Obama changes his answer to questions based upon who the audience is. I just saw one "town hall" meeting and I can guarantee his answers would have been different if the crowd was not a basically urban one. Yet, everyone appears afraid to point this out because they do not wish to offend anyone.
BTW, his answer suggested the mortgagae crisis was an attack on blacks and latino people. I wonder if any white people were offended by that?

lot 2 learn said...

It is scary to think about what could happen to us and our nation in the next four years. No matter what we get promised, those promises always get lost somewhere on Pennsylvania Ave. Our country needs to unite behind someone, but I'm not sure we have found the right one. Great post today said...

Hawg, whenever you do a post on politics, I stop and read every word.

Keep 'em comin'.

Palin will make the difference in this election. She is the one candidate who the people say to themselves, "She's like us."

Of course, that does not apply to every one, but I truly believe she got into politics to make a difference, not to see how high and how far she can go.

And because of that, many people want her in the White House.