Posts Tagged ‘election ’08

25
Oct
08

endorsement season

After mailing my absentee ballot, some reflection has left me totally confused as to how someone might still be undecided. With such stark differences between the candidates, it’s hard for me to imagine a state of mind that would result in being an undecided voter. Luckily, it doesn’t seem like we need to wait to find out on what side of the bed some undecided Ohioans wake up Nov. 4.

In case there’s an undecided voter out there who is going to choose based on the opinions pages of the NYT, WashPo, New Yorker, etc (I find it unlikely that there are many undecideds in the audiences of these papers) their editors have come out with their (un)surprising endorsements of Barack. But endorsement season doesn’t stop with the elite, liberal, America-hating media. Any loyal HuffPo reader has surely seen endorsements that range from poor attempts at humor to last minute ship jumping.

I don’t want to entirely minimize the importance of endorsements. Obama’s commanding lead (133-44 among print media) around the country should end the “discussion” about the sufficiency of his experience. I’d also be lying to suggest that I haven’t been following the endorsements closely. The last few weeks have seen some really moving, strongly worded statements of support laden with political and historical significance beyond the immediate choice. Colin Powell’s forceful eloquence on Meet The Press should reassure even conservative voters as to Obama’s capacity to keep the nation safe.

I was particularly impressed with his denouncement of the McCain/Palin/Right Wing attacks; I believe his argument was only stengthened by the obvious insanity of his post-endorsement skewering by racist right wing zealots. Though nothing can ever atone for Powell’s infamous argument for war at the UN, he’s using his immense credibility with the American people for a cause this time. It’s a start.

Continue reading ‘endorsement season’

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22
Oct
08

how do you say “schlep” in wasp?

Today one of The Times‘ election blogs has an interesting post on viral design for the Obama campaign. Shepard Fairey’s designs have emerged as some of the most recognizable images of the two-year-long campaign, providing the visual style for a small industry of copycat productions. The culture gap between the two campaigns – in both meat- and cyber-space – is a result of the pro-Obama movement’s natural tap into the¬†reservoir of decentralized production. When the most lively (i.e. youthful) pro-McCain online space is a production of the candidate’s own daughter, the right can hardly expect to keep up with the enthusiasm of a savvy, left-leaning generation’s first authentic political identification.

Not to take any credit from the geniuses behind the campaign’s sensational success, but the most memorable bits of campaign material came from fans, not staffers. Obama has certainly had to fight many kinds of cross-cutting prejudice in this election and the campaign has worked extraordinarily hard to familiarize the nation with That One. Last weekend, I saw a particularly jarring piece of campaign lit (that of course was produced by a state party and is not endorsed by any candidate or candidate’s committee) making this argument.

I know that this story can’t be told enough both for the cause of electoral success and to help guarantee Obama’s safety beyond the election, but I am quite glad that I didn’t have to stick that in Nashua’s doorjams. It’s straightlaced message is as easily distinguished as the lines in that white grandmother’s face. It’s definitely the northern New England version of Sarah Silverman’s Great Schlep PSA. I might be generationally biased, but I think the viral video is better.

19
Oct
08

Baracking out in the Granite State

Since i’ve never lived in a battleground state, American politics really feels like an internet phenomenon followed from afar. Saturday, I got my first taste of democracy in( )action: canvassing for Obama (and Shaheen and Hodes, but I’ll get to those two in a minute) in Nashua NH. Between the too-early wake up (6.45) and the many folding tables covered in big box store brand rugelach and boxed coffee, I could tell I was in for a treat.

The Obama regional office in Nashua is located along a strip of fast food joints in a low-slung former mattress showroom, which may have fallen victim to the economic slowdown. Volunteers from Little Rhody (including over ninety from Brown), Massachusetts, and Connecticut joined local folks in tight shivering circles sipping apple cider and learning how to use the demographic information in our walk packs. There was enough campaign lit to educate thousands on the need for A New Direction in Washington and enough campaign stickers for people to put them on both the inside and the outside of their jackets. The impressive variety of local campaign posters in the windows – mixed in with handwritten oak tag signs – and the circulating Shaheen volunteers in green hoodies gave the scene a real small town feeling.

Sen. John Kerry speaks from a pickup truck in Nashua

Sen. John Kerry speaks from a pickup truck in Nashua (with Paul Hodes backing him up)

We were assigned to canvass Westgate Village, a charming development southwest of town. The McCain-Palin lawn sign outside our first house, 2 Boulder Circle, made it perhaps the easiest of the day. Zack and I were novice canvassers, so when we got to our next target, Birdy took the lead to show us how it was done. Unfortunately, the middle-aged Republican man who answered the door was not pleased when she asked for someone who lives down the street. It was the first door closed on us, but we coded it as a “not home.” They’ll get another visit later this week.

It was clear that the people in the neighborhood were wise to our little canvassing scheme. The first person to actually talk to us we caught on the way into his house with some groceries. We were at the house next door, and it was clear he was trying to sneak in without being noticed. He (re)informed the campaign, through us, that he is an Obama supporter. It was his fifth time being canvassed this week. Most of the doors we knocked never opened. Most of the driveways were empty, but it definitely felt as if the people of Nashua know not to open their doors late on saturday mornings.

One of the most shocking (and encouraging) aspects of the trip was a real look at how the Obama campaign is overwhelming McCain on the ground. While knocking on several doors, we noticed old Obama “lit” on the stoop. Since we were dropping the same glossy pamphlets, it had probably only been a couple days since the last canvass. But we never saw any vestiges of the McCain campaign; no canvassers, no lit, and only two lawn signs (including a particularly repulsive and contextually ineffectual “Another Democrat for McCain”). We “talked” to several McCain supporters (“you have the wrong house, kids”) but it seemed as if the McCain campaign has given up on a state that is historically red and only recently turned purple.

Our best house was a recently convinced supporter holding her one year old daughter. Since the canvass was officially a joint effort between the Obama and Shaheen campaigns (apparently Hodes was a bit of a free rider on the effort) we tried talking about the senate and house races. It was awkward. I certainly support Shaheen unseating Sununu-R, but I can’t speak convincingly about the race beyond the meek “It’s really important for Barack to have as much legislative support as possible in the senate.”

Back at HQ after an edible Boston Market lunch we joined a little parking lot rally. John Kerry got up on the bed of a green pickup (i forgot to check whether or not it was a domestic model) and gave a rousing little speech about how he thinks McCain is a great guy but would be a terrible president (all i could think of was Jason Sudeikis’ Biden impression from the SNL VP debate). It was great to wave the Obama sign and snap a grainy cell phone picture while cheering at the same talking points we used hours earlier. I was especially impressed by Kerry’s self-effacing discussion of McCain’s flip-flopping combined with a slight jab at himself.

Before yesterday, I had never been to a political rally, never canvassed a battleground state, and never felt as close to American democracy. It was definitely worth missing a few hours of sleep.

12
Sep
08

Fairness or a failure of responsibility?

It could be that I’ve started to perceive the world solely in the bold, red headlines of HuffPo, but I certainly didn’t think the story from Sarah Palin’s ABC interview was that she thinks she’s “ready.” But apparently, The Times’ Jim Rutenberg felt that was pretty crucial, since he spends his first four paragraphs recounting Sarah’s declaration of fitness. Though we hear a bit about her Bush Doctrine “stumble” 200 words in, it’s not until nearly two-thirds of the way through the piece that Rutenberg shares the embarrassing play-by-play.

When I learned about the notorious buried lede, it seemed like a style mistake. But after reading about what the Internet is doing to our brains, this seems like an egregious abdication of responsibility by Rutenberg to orient the story around such a trite part of the interview. The Bush Doctrine is not an obscure piece of foreign policy jargon. Our dear leader’s vacuous statement of purpose has caused untold damage to the world; this is from the new york post, not the journal of foreign affairs. In my reading, Palin’s lack of awareness is bigger than her saber rattling towards Russia, her full-throated support for israel right-or-wrong, and her belief that the Iraq war is a mission from god.

So how do we evaluate The Times’ coverage? I frequently find that The Times’ efforts to balance their coverage devolve into fruitless attempts to lose the designation as a liberal rag. Instead of ideologically evening the ship, Times coverage and news judgement often go too far. Short of a Murdoch purchase, there is little The Times can do to win Bill O’Reilly’s heart. More than ever, the recent spate of outright lies from the McCain camp demand an active, responsible, vigorous fourth estate. The abdication of responsibility from the mainstream media allows this to continue with coverage bland enough to earn headlines like “Campaigns Trade Barbs Over Obama Lipstick Comment.” This isn’t fact checking, it’s score keeping.

MSNBC is in the midst of another struggle for “balance” and ethics in a changing media landscape. No one is sure how to maintain both standards and audiences, how to keep pressure on discourse without facing a boycott, how to serve the public interest while remembering the state of media ownership. I can’t throw my full support behind Olbermann – because a distinction between editorial commentary and news is still important at any news organization – but I can’t help but be grabbed by the audacity of his Special Comments. After years of seething anger belonging to the conservatives in a time when the right has been exposed as thoroughly wrong, Olbermann’s commentary is a televised moment of poitical jouissance. Palin’s stage-managed poise reflects her experience as the second runner-up at the 1984 Miss Alaska Pageant and is a strong, spectacular defense against Charlie Gibson’s energetic examination. The performance makes it difficult to remember that she’s shanking the responses to entry-level foreign policy questions. For the television viewer, this recital of authenticity was a powerful simulacrum that thoroughly veiled her thin biographical experience; proximity to Russia and one intercontinental voyage (in 2007). Youtube and cable news will concentrate¬† the Nixon/Kennedy debate effect, except this time no one’s listening on the radio.

This is why it so important for The Times to shape up. It’s fortunate that McCain played the Nixon to Palin’s Kennedy on The View today. But without a strong, candid voice in print, our only hope might be for the Matthews-Olbermann team to get mad as hell. If they don’t, people are just going to keep taking it.




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