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so what happens now?

Posted by pocochina on June 12, 2008

Possible Outcome: clear McCain victory

Let me be clear. This would be quite terrible, but it is NOT the nightmare scenario. (I am not endorsing a McCain victory. I am saying there is something worse than a Nixon/McGovern style blowout.) It would smart viciously; it would set back race relations twenty years (as if this country needs that); the Supreme Court will resemble nothing so much as a liberal retirement home for four years. McCain will propose “reform” legislation which is suitably classist and pro-business, the Democrats will ham-handedly and spectacularly fail to beat him to the punch, and he will successfully brand Democrats the true party of elitism and corruption. But this will be temporary – the Right, comfortable in its victory, will continue its slide into ridiculousness and idiocy, and in 2012, Our Lady of the Perpetual Pantsuit will step in with nary an “I told you so.”** A McCain blowout would do other things, too. Climate change and evolution would no longer be on the GOP agenda. He’s not a moderate, we all know this,

But Pocochina, how could that possibly happen? McCain is freaking McSame!

Y’all guessed it! Race, Class and Gender Politics!*

First of all, even a broken clock is right twice a day, and the Right’s paranoid moaning about the Booga Booga Liberal Media has actually come true in the bloviating, orange specter of Keith Olbermann. Clinton supporters, particularly women, notoriously turned to Fox for primary coverage, even if they wouldn’t ever vote for McCain in a million years. But this now means that, well, people are getting their news from Fox. The liberal media is now the sexist, willing to eat their own, can’t even be trusted wit their friends liberal media. The Right has the clear opportunity, should they chose to take it (and Turd Blossom ain’t dead yet, you guys, he’s in a bunker somewhere coming up with a Cunning Plan), to manipulate the entire country’s rage at the clear bias of the media into resentment at what they will term a liberal bias. This is no good. This is very, very bad. Because then, to counteract the perception of bias, the media won’t tell the Republicans where to shove it, they’ll keep doing what they’ve been doing for the last decade, and continue to report in a way that’s sympathetic to the Dark Side right wing. The right has brilliantly manipulated the media’s love affair with itself and its own appearance.

I think that the Obama campaign is being very silly to ignore sexism, not just because it could cost him female votes, but because it’s a brilliant avenue of attack for John McCain. And I don’t think it’s because he’s going to peel off too many female voters that would have otherwise gone to Obama – married women tilt slightly conservative; single women tend to be younger and/or well educated, a demographic friendly to Obama even in the primaries – but because of independent, slightly right-leaning men. We liberals, in our feminist bubbles, tend to forget that these men who are so willing to vote against the best interests of women do, in fact, have wives and mothers and daughters. We’re not fighting against reason, here, we’re fighting against Rove. The Republican Daddy machine will brilliantly exploit the feelings of working class and lower middle class patriarchs who care about and want to protect the women in their lives, but are totally squicked by the idea of female sexual autonomy.

There’s also the masculinity issue. Clinton’s exit from the race didn’t signal the end of gender politics in the campaign, just the end of Democrats doing the gender-trashing. In general, candidates for the US presidency have spent a good deal of their careers trying to out-man each other. Think of TR on his horse, Dubya’s flight suit, or Reagan’s cowboy hat. During the primaries, Obama (and Edwards, before his early exit) could play big man on campus by using any one of a million anti-feminist archetypes to beat up on Senator Clinton, and he did so, unreservedly, and for this he has been rightfully taken to task, though not enough, since it kept happening.

He’s not running against Senator Clinton any more, though. He’s running against His Maverickiness, the War Hero McCain.  Testosterone itself isn’t going to be enough, and the GOP has the daddy-market utterly cornered, with their Tough on Terror (TM) and anti-choice credentials totally shored up.  (Expect even more shameless, conservative pandering on women’s reproductive rights now, as well as a radioactive comparative silence on the CA gay marriages.)  The GOP is the party of pretending health problems don’t exist, of victim-blaming, of waving the bloody shirt and calling it respecting the troops.  I wish I had reason to believe Barack Obama won’t try to play those games; he did so throughout the primary when it might not have been necessary (and of course if that’s how you have to win, you don’t deserve to win).

Expect, however, ageism to continue to rear its ugly head.  Barack Obama will continue to enjoy photo ops which emphasize his youth and virility, and more “losing his bearings” comments about McCain.  McCain, for his part, will emphasize Obama’s youth and inexperience.  We’ll see whose nastiness backfires the most – the Youth Vote already swings heavily to Obama, but seniors are a critical swing group.  So we’ll see.

Here’s the thing – why racial justice and gender equalitemy are inextricably bound.  Barack Obama will absolutely not win the masculinity contest against McCain.  Not because he is weak, or because of McCain’s war hero status, but because masculinity is coded as strong and protecting for white cisgender males, but menacing among black males.  It’s not fair.  It’s absolutely racist, and it’s particularly racist because of the ugly history of male sexuality being used as an excuse for terrorism and hate crime towards African-Americans.  There’s a reason Barack Obama exudes intellect, irony, and calm, and it’s not some inborn genetic trait – it’s a fucking It’s inexcusable for McCain to use that particular tool at his disposal.  Will that stop him?  Of course not.  And should Obama speak up, rightfully, about this double standard, he’ll get called a girl.  Even those of us who find him a poor and at times reprehensible politician should speak up against it, because it’s not just about him, it’s about the ways we constrain the capacity of individuals based on arbitrary characteristics such as race and gender.

Possible Outcome: Clear Obama victory

Obviously the lesser of two evils. In policy terms, it’s unclear as to what he would pursue first, though my guess is it will depend on the composition of the Senate.

In the long term, however, a clear Obama victory should trouble committed progressives.  Politicians do what works.  Obama has bought into right-wing frames on abortion, the economy, social security, and single parenthood.  He isn’t showing any leadership on the FISA bill – the nominee of the Democratic party can’t take the initiative to say “hey, telecom immunity is bullshit?”  (See corrente and talk left for much better coverage of this.)  Being too busy running for office to protect the constitution, at a time when you have the clear political capital to do so, doesn’t give me much confidence in your oath to uphold it.

Possible Outcome: Squeaker either way

No, the nightmare scenario, according to all polling data, is now the most likely. The nightmare scenario is another squeaker. I’ve voiced my concerns about a future count-the-votes lawsuit, but even absent the lawsuit, the court of public opinion will be even less kind to the Obama campaign, with the specter of those four Michigan delegates floating in the public consciousness. McCain will use Obama’s own rhetoric of Unity against him. It will be “time to let the healing begin” and “to do the right thing.”

Oh, I’m sorry, you thought only Clinton is susceptible to media push-out treatment? Will he be hurting the party when he fights it? Will he be bothered to fight it? Can he win that fight? Will Congressional Democrats give him the same level of support (i.e. nowhere near enough) that they gave VP Gore? That’s what scared the ever loving crap out of Clinton voters – we have no effing idea. We know she’d go for the jugular and walk away pantsuit intact. Let’s just hope he’s smart enough to let her on his team.

There’s a reason the last couple of elections, against all rational reasons, were squeakers, but there is a very simple reason both of those squeakers went Republican. Part of it is a philosophical issue – Republicans believe in power, Democrats believe(d) in the democratic process. There’s also the issue of numbers and demographics. Democrats, up until recently, have represented constituencies more vulnerable both to voting inconsistencies. Poor people not only have a more difficult time getting to the polls (shift work) but once they get to the polls, those machines are less likely to be up to date. Caretakers, as another example, are likely to be female and working class, and don’t always have the option to vote. Some states don’t count the absentee ballots. This impacts students and expatriate voters – likely to be liberal – and military voters, disproportionately likely to be minorities.

Swing State Shenanigans

Since I started writing this, our Presumptive Nominee and his Fearless Band have come up with this sparkling gem of lunacy. Lambert graciously shares without comment, the Confluence posts with some succinct comments, and I foresee terrible things. Now, it’s not that it’s impossible for a Democrat to win without huge urban states. It’s just that, well, it hasn’t happened in recent history, and there have been no seismic demographic shifts to suggest that that’s about to change. Ohio, for example, is 50/50 between Obama and McCain; and indeed, if the votes had all been counted fairly, and there had been no voter fraud, it would have gone to Kerry in 2004. Ohio’s senators are both Democrats, as is the governor. Obama would actually have very little work to do to convert it into a blue-leaning state like the rest of the Rust Belt – send in some famous populist Dems to chat up universal** health care and stopping the violent flow of lives and resources to Iraq, and Ohio would be Democratic country. Instead of doing that, his most powerful surrogates are cockily informing the press corps that they can’t be bothered to ask for the votes of Ohioans, much like they can’t be bothered to ask for the votes of Clinton supporters. This gives McCain an undeniable rhetorical tool – he does want their votes, very badly, and he’s not afraid to show it. It’s also, along with the write-off of MI and FL, outright scary for downticket races. Independent and undecided voters aren’t the problem the Obama camp seems to think they are, they’re a treasure trove of untapped votes. They’re how you win. With McCain sweeping in, making nice with voters, portraying the standard-bearer of the Democratic party (and, not unfairly, the party itself) as “elitist” (code for “classist but we don’t talk about class because only filthy COMMIES use that word”), voters will be able to see themselves as rejecting GWB but not joining those DFH Democrats and our arugula-munching+ nominee.

No, it’s those damned down-ticket races.  Not just senators and representatives which will go to Washington, but state legislators who will have huge influence right around the time of the next census.  Democratic apathy and Republican energy in those states could have a devastating impact on contested seats.  If an independent voter reluctantly votes against the Bush legacy, said voter hasn’t actually heard tell of why the Democratic vision is good for America (s)he has that much more incentive to go for the Republican.  And unlike the cash-strapped DNC, the RNC (and their endless 527s) have all the cash in the world to convince that voter.  That isn’t a game you play when 15% of the population (yours truly included, Mr. Unity) is undecided.

Demographic Write-Offs

Aside from the vile – and violent – scare tactic of threatening dissatisfied Democrats with the loss Roe, there’s also the desperate silliness of it. A threat is, at its core, an appeal to self-interest. And this is why it is silly. Older women, already demonized as Racist, DINO, Unity-Hating Traitors, no longer have self interest in Roe – so not only are they ignoring male Clinton supporters who are also furious enough to take their ball and go to the Independents, but they are also admitting that their sexist, classist, ageist characterization of Clinton supporters as a group of people who can easily be written off is bunk.

So let’s go with that. They’re targeting women of voting and childbearing age with the vile threat of the loss of our reproductive rights. But….it just ain’t that simple. Women who are in solid and moderately conservative states, who are dependent on Roe for their reproductive freedoms, still won’t be able to turn their states blue – that bloc been voting Democratic for decades to no avail. So that isn’t helping the haters. Ah, but where are you likely to find Clinton voters? Blue and swing states, in the libertarian west and liberal northeast. NY will criminalize abortion over the dead bodies of everyone in Albany – that means you can’t scare women in PA, NJ, and CT either. Married women already tilt slightly conservative, and if they and their families are fed up with MSNBC, they’re watching Fox and stirring the McMaverick Kool-Aid into their WASPy martinis.  You want to rely on the creative class?  We’re the people who can tell you to shove it. This young urban graduate student has news for you – you can’t scare me with Roe, and you can’t bully me with accusations of selfishness.  I voted in the best interests of women’s reproductive justice, and you told me to suck it.  I voted for the person who I thought was best ready to run an efficient diplomatic corps to avoid war, and you told me to choke on it.  I voted for the candidate who’d spent her entire career working for the underprivileged of all colors, and you trolled my journal and called me a racist, not for anything I’d ever said, but for daring to say that she’d faced sexism.  I worked with other women to try and counteract the hate we saw in not just the traditional media, but on the mainstream liberal media, and you stalked them and tormented them and smirched their names.  Don’t lecture me about selfishness, I’m looking at you and learning more than I ever thought I’d need to know.

Will I?  I don’t know yet.  I’m one of those apathetic and undecided.  Oh, I’m not going to vote for McSame, barring some totally batshit crazy unforseen circumstance.  I could be persuaded to vote for Obama, depending on what he tells us with his Veep choice (for the love ‘av all that’s ‘oly, not Jim Webb) and if he and his supporters learn that they’re asking for votes, not at a fucking ballgame somewhere.

This is also, in a nutshell, the problem with Brazile’s blithe statement that it was the “old coalition” that contained women, the elderly, Hispanics and the working poor. Now, I’m not singling out Brazile for an off-the-cuff remark. Obama’s economic advisors are not progressive – there is at least one on his staff who would favor privatizing social security. His Republican anti-universal health care tactics (remember Harry and Louise? Oh, but you do) have not only insulted all of our intelligence because his plan is not universal, they’ve also given working class centrists pause when deciding who they best trust for the economy. Oh, McCain cheerfully claims not to know much about the economy, but in his center-right stance Obama has given up the high ground on the economy, and he’s given the faux-populist Right the red meat for which they live.

But demographically, it’s utterly silly to say you don’t want the votes of (read:  will not represent the interests of) the working class during a freaking recession.  Perhaps it’s an appeal to wishful thinking – vote for Obama, and it’s almost like you’re affluent, even though his policies are written and approved by people who have never done a damned thing to help you before, and he’s “a free-market guy” who doesn’t bother to point out that the American market is anything but free.  It’s another dangerous game, though, with McManlyMaverickiness just joshin’ around with the electorate.

Impact: Party Platforms

And that’s the other thing. This is an unusual election in that everyone is looking long term. Oh, it’s going to be a change election alright, but I don’t think that’s going to be true in the good, Unity Pony type way. Right now, the Democratic platform, while far from perfect or actualized, is coherent. In areas where Democrats differ from Republicans, we are in line with FDR’s four freedoms:

The first is freedom of speech and expression — everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way — everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want — which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants — everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear — which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor– anywhere in the world.

We are for movement towards, if not realization or preservation of those rights for all Americans, against both government and corporations. This is why, for example, full-throated support for LGBTQ rights on the grounds of small government and civil liberties (freedom of expression) logically co-exists with government-run social security (freedom from want). In the purest form, this worldview balances “freedom from” and “freedom to” in a manner that allows for maximum self-determination for the many rather than the few.

Why are those damned conservatives creaming themselves over Obama?

This is where it gets interesting. I think fiscal conservatives have two objectives in backing Senator Obama. No, it’s not that he’s some nefarious corpratofasist, though he is a remarkably pro-business Democrat. The brilliant Apostate thinks that this proves Obama’s conservatism. I’m with her to an extent; he was certainly the most pro-corporate Democrat in the primary. However, I think it can be more accurately characterized as an attempt to shift both parties to the right on business. Their eyes are on what a McCain victory would mean for the Republicans. McCain’s maverick reputation is far, far overblown, but there are some issues on which he genuinely does have a reputation for bucking party trends – still overblown, but in the case of the environment, there is a wee fire under all that smoke. Environmental protection requires government regulation of business, and not just in the form of taxes but also in high in compliance costs (and it should be; you make the mess, you clean it up.)  An Obama victory would punish this bar on industry and endcourage future Republicans to hew the party line on  business.  Likewise, an Obama victory would take working-class-friendly policies off the table – the Democrats are willing to give them up, and the Republicans have never wanted them.  No matter who winss, the two parties will be drawn closer together on major issues; ironically, the balance could swing slightly to the left in event of a Republican win, and to the right in the event of a Democratic win.  I’m not saying McCain is more liberal than Obama, I know better than that.  I’m saying that in the long term, the victory of one or the other will move the political conversation slightly to the left or the right on a particular issue.

I don’t want McCain to win, but I don’t want my party dragged any further to the right.  I want us to be the party that might not agree with your vote, but will defend to the death your right to have it counted.  I want us to be the party that realizes this country has the means to realize FDR’s four freedoms, and that we have not just a political but a moral obligation to do so.  I want desperately to be wrong, but I haven’t seen that in Obama, and believe me folks, I’ve been looking.

*Realizing I’m likely to focus on gender issues because I understand them more, not because they are any more important than, or do not overlap with, race and class. Anything I omit isn’t because I think it’s unimportant, it’s because I don’t wish to misrepresent the work and experiences of others.

**Yeah, it’s a bullshit lie, but it’s the best we’re going to get in this election.

+Fun Fact: When Barack Obama made his fateful arugula remark in Iowa, he was talking to people who grow arugula.  For that ill-considered moment of speaking to people’s actual concerns, he will, of course, get the Hillary treatment, which he was so willing to exploit during the primaries.


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