Monday, September 15, 2008

The People are Stupid

















Americans divide pretty equally into Jeffersonians and Hamiltonians.

Thomas Jefferson believed that the people were the ultimate arbiters of wisdom. Only the people could be trusted to make prudent, shrewd decisions concerning their future and the future of the nation. The people were, ultimately, always right.

Alexander Hamilton couldn’t have disagreed more. He believed that the people were dumb, that they were mindless, aimless sheep who needed educated elites to lead and guide them.

I want, with all my heart, to be a Jeffersonian. But I look around me and I can’t help but throw up my arms in frustration and admit that I am, against my better desires, thoroughly Hamiltonian.

The people are stupid.

Case in point: the current campaign for President of the United States.

The people may be stupid but the Republicans sure aren’t. Realizing that the cannot win on the issues, realizing that they cannot win on substance, realizing that they cannot win with honor and integrity, the Republicans have turned the campaign into something as nasty and dirty and outright dishonest as anything we have ever seen.

McCain recently ran an ad claiming Obama favored sex education for kindergartners. The truth? Obama, as an Illinois state senator, voted for legislation that would have taught kindergarteners how to reject advances by sexual predators. Though the press has exposed McCain’s lies, has it made any impact? No.

McCain suggested Obama called Gov. Sarah Palin a pig. While Obama did tell a campaign rally a few days ago that McCain's policies were like “putting lipstick on a pig,” he never used the phrase in connection with Palin. McCain used the exact same colloquial phrase several months ago when talking about Hillary Clinton’s health care initiatives. Though the press has exposed McCain’s lies, has it made any impact? No.

McCain says Obama would raise nearly everyone’s taxes. Yet the truth is that 80 percent of families would get tax cuts instead. In fact, Independent groups like the Tax Policy Center concluded that four out of five U.S. households would receive tax cuts under Obama’s proposals. Though the press has exposed McCain’s lies, has it made any impact? No.

Gov. Sarah Palin loves to talk about how much she deplores earmarks, despite the fact that her special spending projects for 2009 were the highest per capita in the nation. She defended her nearly $200 million in federal pet projects for 2008 even as John McCain told a television audience on “The View” that she had never requested them, completely ignoring the record. Though the press has exposed their lies, has it made any impact? No.

Palin continues to talk about her singularly instrumental part in destroying the “Bridge to Nowhere,” despite the fact that she pulled her support only after the project became a political embarrassment. Though the press has exposed her lies, has it made any impact? No.

McCain is coming under serious criticism by both the media and independent fact-check organizations because of his increasingly dishonest campaign tactics. While all political campaigns are known for stretching the truth, McCain’s actions are being described as “dishonorable,” “disingenuous” and “downright cynical.”

The non partisan FactCheck.org, which does not judge whether one candidate is more misleading than another, has implicated McCain more than twice as often since the start of the political conventions as it has Barack Obama. Even the Army Times came out against McCain recently, claiming he is twisting his rival’s words and making fraudulent claims about Obama’s stance toward the military.

It’s not as though Obama has completely clean hands in this. However, he has been quicker to react to news accounts challenging his accuracy. While politicians usually modify or drop misleading claims when challenged, McCain and his running mate have defiantly soldiered on. McCain obviously learned long ago that so long as you don’t back down, your claims, however erroneous, will lodge in people’s memories as a sort of quasi-fact.

The irony here is that McCain was once the victim of one of the most underhanded campaigns ever — his 2000 bid for the Republican nomination against then governor, George W. Bush. Embroiled in a tight race in South Carolina, McCain’s hopes were undone by a smear campaign claiming he was mentally unstable and had fathered a legitimate black child.

McCain denounced less-than-truthful campaigning after his crushing experience, vowing to live up to his motto of “straight talk.” His image now is of the anti-politician, a statesman who abhors politics as usual and believes in playing fair. He came into the 2008 campaign with the same ideals, promoting himself as a speaker of truth and evenhandedness at any cost. He refused to do unto others what had been done to him.

But then again, he lost the last time, didn’t he.

McCain has succumbed to the very tactics that once crippled him. Winning, after all, is everything. Even if he soils his reputation in the process, McCain seems willing to do whatever it takes to gain victory. His strategy now reflects a new tone, one which shirks the issues and is focused instead on diminishing Barack Obama in the eyes of voters.

You’d expect Obama spokesman Bill Burton to say John McCain is “cynically running the sleaziest and least honorable campaign in modern Presidential campaign history. His discredited ads with disgusting lies are running all over the country today. He runs a campaign not worthy of the office he is seeking.” But Burton is far from the only one.

The man responsible for cutting John McCain’s legs out from under him in 2000 was Karl Rove. So it is with a substantial amount of cosmic irony that Rove appeared on Fox News several days ago and said that John McCain’s attacks against Barack Obama have stretched the truth. Rove said McCain had “gone one step too far, and sort of attributing to Obama things that are, you know, beyond the 100-percent-truth test.”

Rove isn’t the only one.

Don Sipple, a Republican advertising strategist recently said, “I think the predominance of liberty taken with truth and the facts has been more McCain than Obama.” Sipple went on to say that McCain strategy could easily backfire. “Any campaign that is taking liberty with the truth and does it in a serial manner will end up paying for it in the end. But it’s very unbecoming to a political figure like John McCain whose flag was planted long ago in ground that was about ‘straight talk’ and integrity.”

Matthew Dowd, one of President Bush’s chief strategist in the 2004 campaign has said, “I think the McCain folks realize if they can get this thing down in the mud, drag Obama into the mud, that’s where they have the best advantage to win. If they stay up at 10,000 feet, they don’t.”

“Every day not talking about the economy, the war and how to fix a broken system is a victory for McCain,” said John Weaver, a former top McCain strategist.

And why is that? Because if this presidential campaign actually came down to the issues, the bottom drops out from beneath John McCain.

“We recognize it’s not going to be 2000 again,” said McCain spokesman Brian Rogers, “But he lost then. We’re running a campaign to win. And we’re not too concerned about what the media filter tries to say about it. We ran a different kind of campaign and nobody cared about us. They didn’t cover John McCain. So now you’ve got to be forward-leaning in everything.”

Despite the criticism, McCain’s attacks have produced exactly the effect he and his advisors hoped. It, along with the inclusion of Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate, has rejuvenated his flagging campaign and put Obama on the defensive for the first time. With polls showing the race tightening more every day, can we really expect McCain to stop? Can this genie ever be put back into the bottle? No way. McCain and Co. are unapologetic in their attacks and are determined to keep Obama reeling, even if it means they have to hit him below the belt to do it.

Am I mad? Damn right I’m mad. It’s one thing if McCain begins legitimately pulling ahead on the issues. But McCain’s new numbers have nothing to do with the issues. They have everything to do with sleazy, reprehensible, flat-out dishonesty.

All this brings me back to Jefferson and Hamilton.

I don’t know what’s worse — that McCain has embraced one of the most dishonest campaigns in recent political memory, or that the American people are buying it hook, line and sinker, despite the fact that a simple Internet connection would pull down McCain’s entire house of cards.

Yes, Mr. Hamilton, the people are stupid.

8 Comments:

Anonymous POD said...

Jeez Brandon, you sure don't you mask your condescension on those that don't agree with you!

Why didn't you write this last July, when "The People Were Smart"?

This political campaign is no different than any other, and if both camps are culpable of stretching the truth, then they are BOTH EQUALLY guilty.

Obama (and you) are trying to make the point that McCain is being "unfair" and all it does is make you both weak in the process. Obama should let the issues stand for themselves and he (and yourself) shouldn't be on the defensive on the "fairness" factor of this campaign. All if fair in love, war, and politics, right? Ironically, Senator Biden is taking that better approach now by laying low and keeping his critiscism of Palin at a mum, and it is a much wizer approach, because it give him the best chances of trumping Governor Palin when they debate next month.

I know that your writing style has a nod toward sensationalism, and it is (usually) on purpose, but really... "The People Are Stupid"?

You remind me of what Harrison Ford said to George Lucas while he was reading for "Star Wars."

"You can type this shit George, but you can't say it."

6:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What an important series of blogs, Brandon!

The level of dishonesty is extremely disheartening. : (
I am so ashamed that this Palin lady claims the name of Christ and then proves so incredibly untrustworthy and dishonest.
Of course, my atheist, agnostic, Buddhist, etc., friends understand that not every Christian is a hypocrite like Palin and Bush--and, that not every evangelical uses Christianese to wield power over others and manipulate them--but still, it is extremely upsetting and embarrassing.

POD, I don't understand why you are hearing condescension from Brandon toward those disagreeing with him--he is not judging those who may argue from different positions in the realm of politics *because* they are different. No--He is simply saying there's a problem when so many individuals just don't even read basic facts.

Of course it is upsetting (and WRONG) when *anyone* "stretches" the facts, spins things in dishonest ways, etc. Are you actually arguing, though, that *every* instance of spin is equal in its impact or "wrongness"? And do you truly believe that if one campaign is spewing out *constant* untruths--indeed, is building their whole campaign on lies--that this is *equal* to another campaign occasionally saying things that are deceptive?

Since we only ever get to pick between the lesser of two evils in the voting booth...things like that certainly weigh in!

And all is most assuredly NOT fair in love, war, and politics!!--not when people's lives are at stake, no sir!

DB

7:30 PM  
Blogger Reacher said...

Seriously, POD, if you think both campaigns are EQUALLY guilty, then you fit the title of the post. Both are guilty, yes. It's politics. But EQUALLY guilty? All objective evidence points to the contrary.

8:42 AM  
Anonymous Chris said...

Brandon,

This will be my last post on your blog, at least for a long time. I don’t expect to missed. I don’t expect my absence to have any impact on you at all. I have broken a rule that I have long preached. You can’t talk someone out of a cult because their faith is not grounded in reason. This November one of two things will happen; Barrack Obama or John McCain will with the election. If Obama wins, you along with millions of others will severely disenchanted by his inability to live up to all of the campaign promises. If McCain win, you along with millions of others will blame every thing on McCain. You will also call America stupid and raciest for not electing Obama. Either way, I pity you.

Your Friend,

Chris

2:02 PM  
Blogger Brandon said...

But why Chris? Do you feel I insulted you specifically? Neither you nor POD challenged what I wrote in this post (i.e. the veracity of McCain's claims) which, if anything, means you HAVEN'T drunk the proverbial Kool-Aid of which you speak!

3:17 PM  
Blogger Grinth said...

POD:
"Obama should let the issues stand for themselves and he (and yourself) shouldn't be on the defensive on the "fairness" factor of this campaign."

There are so many things wrong with this statement I'm not even sure where to start. But I'll limit myself to this. Ignoring the fact that Obama HAS actually been talking about the issues, please stop insisting Obama should be talking about "the issues" when the very guy your going to vote for, and his campaign, have already admitted "this campaign is not about the issues".

Brandon said:
"But why Chris? "

I think your answer is in his original post. As a christian, its your moral obligation to vote republican, or more to the point vote in accordance to what the church tells you to vote.

You have chosen to disregard that and are therefore the opposition, the enemy. Basically you've sided with "evil". But evil has to be given some sort of qualification, hence people who decide to vote for Obama aren't just average people who like Obama's ideas, stances on issues, or even just people who are so fed up with the status quo that they would vote for whoever wasn't that. No people, like you, who support Obama aren't voters, their part of a cult: The Cult of Obama.

And with your latest post he's finally giving up on convincing you to repent from your ways, leave the cult and return to the republican fold, where all good christians should be.

What I always found fascinating is that Christians are so quick to slap the label of 'cult' on any thing they disagree with. Mormons are not subscribers to a religion, but to a cult.

I say this from a background of attending the same churches as you Brandon and spending my pre-collegiate life being raised in christian schools: If you subscribe to any "organized religion" telling someone else they are a member of a cult is a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black.

6:20 PM  
Blogger Grinth said...

A suggestion for your next post Brandon:

I suggest making your next post specifically about a single issue, in this case the economy, and then let people talk about it.

Where does McCain stand? What is his economic plan? Same for Obama.

That should satisfy the clamoring by those favoring McCain to "talk about the issues" and (you would hope) cut down on the amount of baseless character attacks: you're in a cult, you have no reason, liberals are humorless, your condescending etc etc.

And eliminating that it might lead to a productive conversation between divergent sides rather than incessant merry go-round of mud flinging that accomplishes nothing.

2:39 PM  
Anonymous a stupid american said...

Grinth has a point.

4:56 PM  

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