kurt's nightmare

Generally, I post once a week. Topics are randomly selected and depend mostly upon whether it's baseball season or not. Other topics will include sex, politics, old girlfriends, music, and whatever else pops into my little brain. If you'd like to read, or ignore, my blog about China: http://meidabizi.blogspot.com/

Name:
Location: Dayton, OH, Heard & McDonald Islands

I'm an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Dayton. I represent no one but myself, and barely do that. I'm here mostly by accident.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Mencken Lives?

I've been thinking a lot recently about Sarah Palin, the McCain campaign, and such things. I find myself mostly confused, not a condition to which I'm unaccustomed, but it does seem to generate a certain reaction.

McCain cannot win, supposedly, by just winning "the base." Democratic registrations outnumber those of Republicans, and many of those in "the base" are a bit lukewarm about him to begin with. I understand the idea of getting "the base" enthusiastic about the McCain ticket by naming someone "the base" loves—for reasons to be considered—but it seems that the others McCain needs should tend to be turned off by Palin.

Imagine I'm an Independent. From what I understand, I may believe in a lot of things, but some things are fairly clear. The economy is facing some substantial issues, in terms of the housing market, debt and deficit, looming health care costs, and other structural costs that shall arise with the increasing pace of retiring baby boomers. I want to be able to build equity in my house, send my kids to college after receiving as good an education as I can provide for them, not be devastated by illness, and retire at a reasonable age. I want those same kids to live in a sustainable environment, and have their constitutional rights protected. This doesn't seem to be a lot to ask.

McCain used to appeal to me. He was, after all, a "maverick." He had experience with immigration, and thus developed an approach to immigration reform that was comprehensive, nuanced, and actually seemed to regard undocumented workers as human beings. He saw promise in embryonic stem cell research. He was certainly against abortion rights, but saw that reasonable people could—do—disagree, and adopted the view that included some legitimate exceptions to a "no abortions" rule. He recognized that the role of money in politics often resulted in a situation that those with the most money, or access to those with the most money, had significant advantages in elections, and thus sponsored an attempt to respond to this situation, seeming to think that the best ideas aren't necessarily held by those with the most dough. This was the 2000 McCain. This was the McCain who lost to George W. Bush, for, among other reasons, some extraordinarily nasty campaigning, including racist push-polling in the crucial South Carolina primary.

We now have 2008 McCain. He rarely mentions immigration reform, campaign finance reform, any responsibility corporations—including oil companies—have to anyone other than stockholders (if any), abortion, stem cell research, health care, torture, warrantless wiretapping, extreme rendition, or countless other things. Indeed, at the recent Republican convention, his speech was remarkably lacking in content, and certainly didn't refer to anything that actually provided support for his credentials as a maverick. He is now giving this speech, abridged my friends, on the campaign trail. It has even less content, and thus even less support for his insistence that he is a reformer, that he wants "change," or that he is a maverick.

His speech can be summarized pretty easily. "My friends, I fought in Viet Nam and was taken prisoner. 40 years ago I showed great courage. I'm for change. I'm for reform. I'm a maverick."

What has me scratching my head is that this, currently, seems to be working. Palin has generated, additionally, great enthusiasm. I've heard her described as a "model candidate" and as a politician with an "outstanding record of legislation." Republicans, particularly those at the convention, seem absolutely to adore her; I would really like to have heard those who were so enthusiastic about her nomination be interviewed in terms of what she stands for. I can't spend too much time thinking about an audience absolutely enraptured by a speaker, hanging on her every word and breaking into frequent frenzies of applause, making fun of another candidate for having audiences hang on every word who break into frequent frenzies of applause.

Sarah Palin has lied about the "Bridge to Nowhere." She thinks schools should "teach the controversy" about creationism, which is standard language for the "wedge" strategy to treat evolutionary theory as genuinely in serious scientific competition with creationism and intelligent design. She believes that no exceptions should be made for prohibiting abortions. She garnered a vast amount of earmarks, as a mentee of Ted Stevens, for her small town in a state that is already the most subsidized of the 50 states. I don't know a whole lot more about her positions, although I believe she is against civil unions—a fortiori marriage—for gays and lesbians and seems to think that the war in Iraq is almost won. I imagine she has most of the kinds of views held by those who love her the most: evangelical conservative Christians who believe the market solves all problems, we are all on a level playing field, and that our culture is going to hell in a handbasket, mostly because of the "liberal media." I'm happy to plead ignorance about many of her positions. I'm confused by those who love her with such remarkable passion, because I don't think they are much more familiar with her positions than I am.

Imagine, again, that I'm an Independent. I'm told that the candidate designed to convince me to vote for John McCain believes that a woman who has been raped by her father must carry that child to term, even if her physician has reason to believe it will kill her. This candidate believes that the solution to the energy problems facing the US have nothing to do with its consumption of 25% of the world's energy, and everything to do with an unwillingness to drill for oil, regardless of where that oil might be. The candidate believes that Genesis provides a plausible scenario upon which one can teach biology. The candidate is willing to lie, and even when those lies are exposed, repeatedly, she continues to lie. She thinks that gays and lesbians don't deserve civil rights, rights evidently reserved for heterosexuals. She believes that the war in Iraq is close to being won, and, from what I've heard, that this means the war on terror is at least closer to being won, in spite of the fact that the latter is probably not something that can be won, and certainly neither McCain nor Palin has indicated what criteria are being satisfied if it can be.

If I'm that Independent, the only thing I can think is that McCain 2008 has lost virtually all of the features that once attracted people like me. He is willing to abandon, or at least ignore, all of his principles in his desire to become President. He is willing also to ignore simple actuarial statistics, and as a 72 year old who has had cancer, nominate as Vice President someone who is at best a cipher, and at worst an ideologue who shows little respect for either honesty or information, and is happy to repeat talking points and insults, regardless of their merit.

I guess if I were that Independent, I would be insulted. Mencken is famous for having said "no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public." I don't think this has as much to do with intelligence as self-respect. If we have the problems—in economics, in foreign policy, in education, in health care, in culture—I think we do, McCain has offered nothing in response. He has added insult to injury by nominating someone who is divisive, inexperienced, and at best disingenuous. If I have any self-respect, should I vote for someone who thinks I'm willing to vote on the basis of a 40-year old biographical event and a set of slogans?

***********************

CORRECTION: I seem to have misstated Ms. Palin’s views on abortion. She indicates that the “only exception for abortion is if mother's life would end.”

On the Issues

I don’t know if she would distinguish, as I would, and more importantly as a physician would [might?], between “would end” and “might end.”

Maybe someone will ask her during one of her many, many interviews.

14 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny the odd criticism of “audiences in love with the speaker” is said of Obama and Palin. Odd how McCain has chosen a mirror image of the likable political speechmaker to run with. Poor little Sarah is kept under close wraps, no questions from reporters (damned liberal media with their prying questions) Mean while Biden is holding town hall in St. Louis and Colombia with question after question, no stark comparison there. The best politician in America is one nobody knows anything about, after they are interviewed and vetted people hate them just like anybody else wait 2-3 weeks after people find out about her church; speaking in tongues, praying people straight, God’s on our side(not the damned liberals side). So much for winning some independents all the GOP is trying to do is hang on to the base, win the same states as last time, and not suffer a blow out. And if the GOPers fix the elections in Ohio and Florida again they win.
Poor old John he looks even older and more feeble than ever next to Sarah who hops around shaking hands jumping up stairs to wave and shake more hands and old John needs to be pointed which direction the stairs are. If elected he will not serve,… out the term, he won’t live that long. Which scares intelligent people to no end because that would mean the shrill voice would be president. YIKES! Sarah just sounds like a shrill vacuous whiner with deceitful lies screaming dishonest attacks. A screeching crow in the middle of the night.
--cajundude

11:21 AM  
Blogger kmosser said...

Interesting that some people suggested McCain wouldn't pick Bobby Jindal for VP because it would look like he was campaigning with his grandson.

You would think if invading Iraq was God's plan, it would have gone a little more smoothly. Then again, the ways of the Lord passeth all understanding.

11:36 AM  
Blogger Bazarov said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

2:10 PM  
Blogger Bazarov said...

http://www.comedycentral.com/videos/index.jhtml?videoId=184086

4:42 PM  
Anonymous Frog Princess said...

Palin is enjoying a certain star quality that was criticized by Republicans jealous of Obama's crowd drawing speeches. She is being heralded by some as the future of the Republican party. Her star will burn out quickly, though, and she will soon be seen for the underqualified, mean-spirited candidate that she is. No staunch Republican is going to truly want a woman with no experience (or a woman with experience, for that matter) as chief of the armed forces. The love affair will be quick and fleeting. it will have energized the Republicans in time for their convention, but won't keep them strong until the elections. Even they cannot lie to themselves for that long.

11:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your confusion, Mosser, comes from the fact that you are applying logical, intellectual rationales to something that is inherently emotional, where logic has essentially no role. (Kind of like religion). If it is in these people’s interest to believe that 2 +2 =5, they will believe it. You can poke as many holes as you want into their argument, they are still going to believe what they want to believe.

But before you go casting stones, please recall that it wasn’t all that long ago that the tables were turned, that the Hillary-haters (yourself included) were so emotionally invested in Obama and in their hatred for Hillary that logic played little or no role in their, yes, tortuous “reasoning.” Those on the outside could see it clearly in them, just as we can now see it in the Republicans and their McCain/Palin love-fest. But no matter how many flaws in the logic we pointed out, it was to no avail. I suppose it’s not Republican nature to fool one’s self, but human nature. But, as a poster on this blogger once said, I thought we were better than that.

10:20 AM  
Blogger kmosser said...

Good point. I am a slow learner, no doubt.

I might suggest that, logical though it may be, that this inference is not valid:

x prefers Obama to Clinton
therefore
x hates Clinton

particularly if x has stated, more than once, that x would vote for Clinton if she won the nomination, and adding the detail that criticism doesn't entail hatred.

these are, of course, details. Either "hate" gets thrown about a bit too loosely, or i'm failing to get my emotions on this issue worked up enough to qualify as "hating." i could try harder.

i'm currently dealing with other contexts where logic confronts emotion. i'm not doing too well in that one, either.

11:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Criticism doesn’t imply hatred, but illogical criticism suggests intense, judgment-clouding, emotional investment. “Hate” is indeed probably too strong a word for some, though not for all: there is indeed intense Clinton hating going on in this country, and not only from the right. A logical approach, especially given that “x would vote for Clinton if she won the nomination,” would have been to try to boost Obama on his merits, not tear Clinton down. But that is clearly not what happened last Spring. Most Obama supporters (for ex. on MSNBC and on this blog) were intent on tearing her down at any expense, virtually demonizing her. The anger on the left was palpable.

Yet the point stands: your emotions regarding Clinton, regardless of their intensity, are clearly negative, not comparatively less-positive than those for Obama. And these emotions clouded your intellectual logic regarding the Clinton-Obama race, in the same way that the Republican’s McCain/Palin love-fest is clouding theirs.

1:26 PM  
Blogger kmosser said...

Well, I guess if I'm going to make a foray into logic, I want it to be "intellectual logic." Given the alternative and all.

As far as I can tell, I'm accused of being a Clinton hater and not a Clinton hater. I find paraconsistent logic interesting on some level, but I'm sticking with my old-fashioned commitment to rejecting contradictions.

I will also distinguish among what I've said, what Obama's supporters in general have said, what the Obama campaign said, and what the media said. Attributing positions to one of these on the basis of what was said by another of these seems kind of, well, wrong.

11:34 PM  
Anonymous bmackintosh said...

Delighted that you mentioned Mencken, a true maverick.

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