SCALING MOUNT AMBIVALENCE

It is strange to think back to this time in 2008. I was at a political science convention in Boston just prior to the Republican convention, and it's difficult to describe how much the conference of 7,000 political scientists (normally a shockingly apolitical crowd – something about mixing business and pleasure) was buzzing about the election. It makes sense, as Labor Day and the conventions are the official kickoff of the general election phase of the campaigns. As reflected in the high (for Americans) rate of voter turnout, the level of interest in the 2008 election was both measurably and qualitatively high. People were interested in it. It was exciting.

It is an understatement to point out that the same dynamic is not present in 2012. This presidential election is shaping up as a re-do of 1996: two candidates no one really likes fighting not only to win your vote but also to make you feel like voting at all. The bloom is entirely off the Obama rose – too many broken promises, too much pandering to the right and "moderates", not enough firm resolve until re-election season grew near – and we could spend hours cataloging Romney's problems winning the interest and enthusiasm of his fellow Republicans. Turnout will almost certainly fall, and all of the signs of a pair of candidates desperate to get you to give one or more shits about this election are plain to see.

By now you have probably seen the smug news item about how "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" beat the GOP convention in TV ratings last Wednesday. That might be amusing, but the much more important statistic is that overall viewership of the convention was down a staggering 30-40% from 2008 – and remember that Republican enthusiasm for the nominee was not exactly in the stratosphere back then either. I'd caution everyone not to spend too much time guffawing at the poor ratings received by Romney and Friends; this week's convention may not do much better. How many people could honestly expect to hear anything new from Obama at this point? What audience the conventions do attract at this point is most likely drawn from the Preaching to the Converted pile.

It is possible that I am projecting my own considerable ambivalence and malaise toward this election, although I'm fairly certain that it has some basis in reality. An incumbent with a 45% approval rating is being challenged by a Massachusetts Mormon with no definable position on any major issues. This feels like an election to be tolerated, endured, or trudged through. Even the most zealous partisans appear to be drawing their enthusiasm mostly from hatred of The Other Guy rather than genuine fondness for their own candidate.

There are many problems with the idea that Obama won in 2008 because of a surge of new young and/or minority voters, principally the fact that Obama won every single demographic except white males over 40. While participation among young, black, or Latino voters did rise, he succeeded because he convinced a lot of the people who always vote to vote for him. You don't win Indiana as a Democrat simply by turning out a few more college kids. This is relevant because lower turnout won't necessarily imply bad news for Obama. Instead his problem is that the white lower-class voters that he managed to win in 2008 appear to have gone Full Teabag since then and they're unlikely to support him again.

Attempts at analysis aside, the most outstanding feature of this election so far seems to be how little attention we are paying to it as an electorate. My personal feelings are much closer to "Let's just get this goddamn thing over with" than any genuine curiosity or excitement about the outcome. The faithful of the respective parties are already decided. Undecideds are few and uncertain to the extent that they dislike both candidates. Sprinkle this whole mess with millions (billions?) pf SuperPac dollars that will be blown on annoying, sub-moronic advertising and you've got yourself a fine recipe for a campaign we will all be doing our damnedest to ignore while the candidates and media go through the motions.

(PS: Surely I have matured beyond recognition; I changed the original title, "Scaling Mount Who-Gives-a-Shit")

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57 Responses to “SCALING MOUNT AMBIVALENCE”

  1. FMguru Says:

    "Attempts at analysis aside, the most outstanding feature of this election so far seems to be how little attention we are paying to it as an electorate."

    Probably because there's so little visible linkage between the behavior of the federal government and the day-to-day life of most Americans. The job situation is shitty, and will remain shitty no matter who wins in November, and is probably on its way to becoming permanently broken, as outsourcing, IT technology, consolidation, free trade, and a race-to-the-bottom market for global labor and production wipe out what's left of the middle class. We know what Obama is about, Romney is running to be Dubya 2.0, so what is there really to care about?

    I also think that voters are starting to understand just how irrelevant most of them are in the eyes of the Electoral College. Live in New York, California, Texas, or Illinois? Congratulations, your concerns and hopes and votes just plain fucking don't matter to either candidate because your state has effectively already been awarded to either Romney or Obama. Why should a voter in Houston or Sacramento or Chicago get engaged at any level about casting their vote in November?

  2. Glen.h Says:

    Sorry, but you guy HAVE to give a shit! Sitting on the Internet bitching about politics will not solve or improve anything. Are you seriously in a worse position for bringing real reform than blacks were in 1960? Are you seriously in a worse position than the people of eastern Europe were in the late 1980s? You have to get rid of your wealthy one way or the other- they are destroying your society just as the Communist Party did Russia. Drive them out with taxation, make their lives difficult, humiliate them- just make sure that they know they only exist on the sufferance of the greater society. They have been playing class warfare for years, surely it's time to send a little back at them?

  3. Bill Says:

    IDK, the way it looks to me, it's not that both candidates are so damn obvious/pointless, but rather that it's nearly impossible to give a shit about ANY of it at this point. We are super-duper fucked, and there is really no hope for the future. At all.

    Prove me wrong here. PLEASE.

  4. Forgetful Man Says:

    Last time I voted absentee as an American abroad.
    This time, I'm applying for citizenship abroad.

  5. Drivebyposter Says:

    I can't imagine any situation this fucked where I wouldn't just give up.
    Hell, I wake myself up before dreams get this crappy.

  6. Middle Seaman Says:

    Despite the white flags, the situation is rather simple to fix. Just pour enough money into endless projects that we should have done long ago and unemployment will drop, demand will go up and everything will start upwards.

    Some of us knew as early as the beginning of 2008 that Obama is a con man. Romney was always a rich kid without any vision who is interested only in his ilk. Of course we are somewhat indifferent or scared shitless of Romney/Ryan who make Bush look serious and honest.

    Unless we expected a world dominated by the Chinese in 10 years, 2016 is important and the time to move. Therefore, don't enjoy your indifference.

  7. Number Three Says:

    O-kaaaay. This really is the most important election for at least the next four years, and potentially for much longer than that. Given demographic changes, the "old white guy" GOP has one last chance to stop the USA from becoming more like a decent welfare state . . . and that transformation is almost on autopilot, doesn't require much new legislation at this point. Just requires that Obamacare not be repealed (thank you, Mr. Chief Justice) and that Medicare not be turned into a voucher program and that Medicaid not be slashed . . . . This is the one thing that Paul Ryan knows.

    I agree that the day-to-day is tedium extraordinary. I cannot believe the lies that one party seems to get away with. (But not about the trivial, like a marathon time 20 years ago!)

    I too want this to be over . . . but it's not Tweedle-Dee vs. Tweedle-Dum.

  8. buckyblue Says:

    My only enthusiasm for the election is in the 'lets not let the fascists win' category. Here in Fourth Reich of WI, full repub control has resulted in something closer to opening the camps up north. If you thought Obama was the Messiah four years ago, then you were a fool. Sorry he didn't meet your expectations and walk on water. But if Romney gets elected, the world will be a different place, perhaps irreversibly. If they take the Senate too, we're fucked completely. We can still have Obamacare, but without any money for it. Or they'll repeal it through budget reconciliation. They would be able to do that with all of the major programs, and give President Romney a huge tax break. That's not a roaring endorsement of Obama, who could have done more with a party that had some balls, and a repub party that cared nothing about the country.

  9. Russiannavyblog Says:

    Don't care, huh? Enjoy your apocalyptic war with Iran and pick up a few cans of cat food for grandma after Romney wins, will ya?

  10. c u n d gulag Says:

    If you think there's no difference, or if you're indifferent, you will see what a difference there is between Romney and Obama the hard way. And, unfortunately, so will the rest of us.

    And if Obama hasn't live up to everyone's wet-dreams or exepectations – well, boo-feckin'-hoo, and TOUGH FECKIN' SH*T!!!

    Wake up and grow-up!
    Guess what?
    Every President who's any sort of Liberal icon now – from Jefferson, to Lincoln, to Teddy, to FDR, to LBJ, didn't live-up to everyone's wetdreams in their time either.

    Look at your own lives, and tell me you didn't make any compromises. That, because of the singlularity of your purpose, the purity of your cause, and your willingness to stick to it despite any opposition, that you've conquered all of the assholes in your life who don't agree with you. That you vanquished every foe.
    Show me someone who HASN'T had to compromise – and I'll show you a person who's forgotten to take their med's recently.

    Jayzoos H. Keerist on a teeter-totter – politics IS the art of compromise!

    And Obama spent a couple of years trying TO DO WHAT HE PROMISED – which was to find common ground with Republicans, and start to heal the ever-growing naked partisanship of the last 40+ years.
    And now, in retrospect, I think he finally sees what we all see, what some of us saw from day one – that there is, and was, NO COMMON GROUND anymore – because the Republicans, in ways that would have drawn cries of treason and accusations of being traitors in earlier times, followed a slash and burn policy. And that, even if the country got destroyed in the process, that it was worth it – all to deny Barack Hussein Obama a 2nd term, and to deny Democrats the ability to move anything forwards.
    You can't blame the man for trying. We can blame him for not openly realizing it earlier – but he's supposed to be the President of the UNITED States of America, and not the President of the Blue States, and more Liberal-leaning people, like W was for Red States, and Conservative-leaning people.

    President Obama accomplished, or took us on the path to accomplishing, more Liberal/Progressive objectives in his first 2 years, than Bill Clinton did in 8. And then still eneded DADT, and opened-up a path for the children of illegal aliens to gain citizenship, in the last 2.
    Or, did Lily Ledbetter, ACA, and ending DADT, sign themselves, with no one guiding Congress?

    I know I sound like an Obamabot, but I'm really not – there are a lot, A LOT, of things I didn't, and don't, like about his Presidency.
    But while I'm not even close to being the brightest bulb on Broadway – I'm smart enough to know the difference between 4 more years of an Obama Presidency, than 4 to 8 years of a Romney/Ryan one. I'm a city boy – I wasn't born on a turnip truck.
    Hopefully others of you, from the cities like me, or the suburbs, or the rural towns and farms, weren't born on turnip trucks either.

    Enough of my idiotic word-turds.
    I'll finish by saying, that if we don't work to get out ALL of the voters (votes aren't suppressing themselves, you know – there's a reason for it), and do lose, and wake-up in The Domionist Christian Fascist States of America, don't act all surprised.
    And I think you'll find in Romney and Ryan what you may have wanted in Obama – and hopefully, you'll be secretly pleased that they WON'T compromise.
    That's what people want, isn't it?

    Peace…
    Love…
    And out – later today, making some phone calls for my local Democratic House candidate, and President Barack Hussein Obama – and yes, I STILL get a thrill out of saying that and writing that – it SOOOO pisses off the Conservatives!

  11. anotherbozo Says:

    Today I wanna believe that Ed gave c u n d gulag a great set-up and HE SPIKED IT HARD. Thanks to you both. gulag, you said it for me, thankyouverymuch.

    I am wondering whether the American people, who continually surprise me, will vote for the guy who promises, PROMISES, to reduce HIS taxes, which necessarily WILL RAISE THEIRS. Or lead the country to certain ruin, take your pick. If Romney/Koch Brothers pull this off, it will be interesting to stick around just to see the reaction of the electorate to their policies. Not to mention the reaction of all those women now inclined to Romney after he repeals Roe v. Wade.

    Will they all feign shock? Surprise? Or will the shell game still work, the public ever comatose? On the way to the abattoir, will it be the silence of the lambs?

  12. Tim H. Says:

    Have a thought about what sort of nominees R&R might select for judgeships, and how fast the GOP congresscritters would approve them.

  13. comrade x Says:

    Wasn't Obama given a thumbs up from the Israel lobby for his administration's willingness to back an attack on Iran?
    Wake the fuck up. That war will go ahead as scheduled no matter who is in office.
    The main difference between Republican imperialism and Democratic imperialism is that the Democrats try to put a human face on it.

  14. sluggo Says:

    The central question to me is:

    Would you be better off today if John McCain was elected president in 2008?

    Treading water beats drowning eight days a week.

  15. Both Sides Do It Says:

    Just so Ed has multiple sources of incoming fire to deal with:

    AMBIVALENCE DOES NOT MEAN "NOT GIVING A SHIT"

    someone needs to re-read Brehm and Alvarez before undergraduates start filling their heads with lies

  16. Castello Says:

    I admit to having a fantasy that some secret organization has been spending the last 40 years carefully pulling strings to make sure we get progressively shittier Republican candidates so that eventually the public would realize, 'Huh, my earnings and my future seem to disappear every time I vote for a plutocrat. Weird.'

    It's the only thing I can think of that would explain why Mittens is running for an office bigger than local dogcatcher. At least, it's the only thing that doesn't make me seriously depressed.

  17. Michael Says:

    > Have a thought about what sort of nominees R&R might select for judgeships, and how fast the GOP congresscritters would approve them.

    Since the GOP is not going to have 60 Senators after this election, which apparently has become the new definition of "majority", the only judges that will be appointed in the foreseeable future are those that are eminently satisfactory to a significant number of Democratic Senators. Maybe you should work on getting better Democrats into office?

  18. ladiesbane Says:

    Now might be the perfect time to talk about the polls, as in WTF do they mean, and who is running them, and WTF?

    I understand that a huge part of my bafflement is a lack of technical understanding of polls generally, but the numbers are headline candy (or at least sidebar candy) and I don't want to become so used to my ignorance that I mistake it for actual knowledge.

  19. Barry Says:

    "Instead his problem is that the white lower-class voters that he managed to win in 2008 appear to have gone Full Teabag since then and they're unlikely to support him again. "

    Read Andrew Gelman – lower class white voters vote Democratic. It's middle class white voters in Red/Purple states who vote Republican.

  20. c u n d gulag Says:

    ladiesbane,
    I'd site some actual statistics, but I'm too damn tired from staying up hours past my bedtime watching the Democratic Convention.

    But, most polls aren't worth the bandwidth spent on calling and intertubing, until the week AFTER Labor Day.
    There are still a lot of people on vacation this week. And no one really give a sh*t about politics until after the convention, whether people watch them or not, and their favorite college and pro football teams have kicked-off their seasons.

    So, my advice is to throw away any polling results prior to this, and start to monitor the ones that start coming out next week.

    And then, only pay attention to the broad-based ones, the ones that let you read the questions asked, and the ones that combine BOTH land-line AND cell phones. (In other words, NOT Rasmussen, and rarely Gallup).
    The land-line ones skew older and Conservative, the cell phone ones skew younger and more Liberal.

    I used to call, part-time, for a polling organization a few years ago, before almost a year of calling Republicans and getting the same rote FOX and Rush talking points as answers, drove me to seek another line of work. Sadly, I have yet to find it, and no one's answering my e-mailed resumes, or phone calls asking about work. But I'd rather stick my private parts in a blender and put it on "Frappe," before I poll another Republican asshole on what they "think." I'd have to be damn hungry to have to think about doing THAT again. And, I ain't that hungry yet.

    Btw – The guy who ran that company for over 20 years told me about when to start paying attention.

  21. xynzee Says:

    I think we've mis-read Ed, that he's not stating his personal position on this, but the lack of interest by the electorate in general.

    As I said last week, if I were to show up to one of the *-NC events, I'd have to get myself pretty well trollied to put up with all of the BS.

    For most Americans as long as there's an endless supply of Bud and girls in lingerie, that's all that really matters. The reason that so many are POd right now is that they can barely afford their Bud and the electricity to run their über big screen showing Lingerie Football.

    I'm with CU on this. Though Obama may not be my first choice, he's my only choice, or was there someone running against him in a primary that we didn't hear about?

    I'm sure as hell not going to run a "write-in" campaign for Mickey Mouse, nor am I going to ignore my absentee ballot. So unless we get a parliamentary system (or a system like they have in NZ), this is the horse we've got.

    Given the crazy crap that they've been doing in the states with union busting and suppressing the vote, this election means more than anything. How else do you expect a repeal of C-Unt'd? Imagine if despite the best efforts of Skeletor, Li'l Scotty, PA, MI and Husted still fail to stop Obama from winning. Is that why Willard has taken the week off? Does he know something that we don't that will guarantee him the Office?

    So as Middle said, we need to build up momentum for whoever it is in 2016. If we don't, welcome to the 1st Century baby, because we won't see a free election ever again.

  22. Arslan Says:

    Would we be better off under McCain? Possibly. See McCain talked tough but after eight years of Bush, expanding the war and doing what Obama has done would have been too much, too soon. It would be too obvious that the country is going to the right. That's when the 'left' party steps in to do the things that the other party can't push for. So at least on the issue of new wars and expanded homeland security powers, McCain would have to remain cautious for at least the first four years. Obama on the other hand starts bombing people in several other countries, including US citizens, and it took the anti-war movement a couple years to get off its ass.

  23. Nick Says:

    We "know what Obama is about…"

    We can expect most voters to be ignorant of the political wrangling behind every bill–and I think this speaks to Ed's point better than the idea that Obama lacks resolve on important progressive causes. At the very least, we should be careful to spell out what would count as "resolve" across different issues and political contexts. Same with broken promises.

    I have been shouting at the administration for two years about its refusal to utter the term 'global warming,' among other things. I think this (clearly political) strategy was a blunder. Clean energy loan guarantees and mileage standards are great, but the larger, longer objectives–jobs, GHG mitigation–need a White House that champions the science. Still, while I don't agree with their political calculation, I'll respect it, because I have witnessed forward progress in a nasty political climate. (I really don't mean to use the campaign's slogan, but it's appropriate here.) And in contrast to the GOP's energy future–chile, please…insert ANY GOP future–I'll embrace it, and continue to hold feet to fire.

    On the whole, I like Obama's record. And call me naive, but I perceive a good deal of authenticity in the man. Mann and Ornstein have further convinced me that judging "what Obama is about" by our dreams of single-payer health care, another stimulus, and an energy revolution in his first term is lazy citizenship. And these late overtures to progressive causes–e.g., a jobs bill last fall, DADT, gay marriage, a vehement defense of reproductive health–should help to chip away at the ambivalence among those of who lost the Hope.

    And his foreign policy is more than bombing Americans abroad. Have your beef, but don't eat it raw.

  24. J. Dryden Says:

    There is an allure to passion, passion that is lacking in the modern Democratic party and its voters (of which I am one.) That is dispiriting. There is a fright to passion, passion that the GOP base appears to have in abundance. That is what's motivating me to vote Democratic. Yet I cannot help but be aware that I am voting *against* those who will fuck up this country horribly, rather than *for* people I believe will be able to successfully legislate the principles I share with them. I believe that the Democrats are correct on most issues–I *want* to see their agenda succeed. I do not believe they have the skill to enact it, however. (Mind you, I'm not exactly helping them by, say, volunteering my time. So yeah, I'm part of the problem.)

    But they will always have my vote so long as the Tea Partiers are at the helm.

    It occurred to me (I suspect that I'm not the first to think/write this) that back in the day, the Democrats related to the world not as it was, but as it could be–and the Republicans related to it as it immutably was. Both sides were healthy and sound in some ways, weak and foolish in others, and both needed the other.

    Now, it's the GOP who refuses to deal with the world as it is–who have no relation to reality or consequences (vis, the Debt Ceiling debacle), while the Democrats are trying, with small success, to bring the ship of state back into alignment with the world as it is–people getting sick/old, people needing to eat after being downsized, bridges needing to not collapse in the middle of rush hour, etc.

    The idealists have become miserable, desperate pragmatists, and the pragmatists have become delusional world-wreckers. Hard to get pumped about that choice. Frightened, yes. Motivated, sure. But still–how not to be depressed?

  25. ladiesbane Says:

    @ c u n d gulag: gracias, amigo! I've had major reservations about any questionnaire or interview since my earliest psych classes. I saw a results from slanted questions put to cherry-picked zip codes, answered by people who might not be correct in their self-assessment even if they were being honest — which was not guaranteed.

    I don't assume political polling is as self-serving, but I do wonder about timing and trends and the phrasing of questions. And I still need to hone my understanding of stats.

    P.S.: I'm one of the folks who always looks forward to your comments, even if I'm not part of the Greek chorus. Cheers, mate.

  26. Xecky Gilchrist Says:

    two candidates no one really likes fighting not only to win your vote but also to make you feel like voting at all.

    These would be Romney and Ryan?

  27. c u n d gulag Says:

    ladiesbane,
    Thanks, and I appreciate yours, too.

    What I love about this site, outside of Ed's great take on everything – even when he's not 100% right – IMHO :-) is that pretty much everyone act civilly towards others – even when they disagree.
    Explanation of an opinion, and logic, carry one much further than rudeness and VOLUME.

  28. baldheadeddork Says:

    Yeah, Ed – because butthurt did wonders for everyone in the wake of the 2010 elections.

    If what's happened with reproductive rights and voter disenfranchisement alone doesn't wake liberals right the fuck up and get them off their ass, fuck them and fuck you.

  29. Hank Says:

    Wow, I'm, um, baffled by the comments above. Which isn't a problem, as my point is entirely different:

    From a policy or emotional perspective, I get not being very interested in this election. What would happen if Romney wins? A unified Republican government cuts taxes on the wealthy, tries (and, I think, fails) to amend entitlement programs, and possibly overturns Obama's signature health care law—which is about what the Germans had in 1890. Contrast to what happens if Obama wins—a Democratic executive but the Congress not just in opposition but dominated by its reactionary wing, who spend the next four years convincing themselves that this all could have been avoided if they'd not sold out and nominated a RINO, that the real problem is they're still not conservative enough.

    Yeah. I get people not giving a shit.

    But my poli sci hat's on, and I'm tremendously interested in this election analytically. Everything I would have told you I knew about politics before this year would have led me to believe that:

    A. National GDP growth is stagnant, likely less than 2% annualized after pop'n growth and inflation are subtracted, and unemployment will be persisting above 8% for nearly four years by election day; and
    B. The incumbent president appears to be cruising to an easy reelection, polling consistently a few points above his opponent, with Nate Silver giving him 75% likelihood of an EC win.

    are fundamentally incompatible. I simply would not have believed that prediction, and I would have pointed to all the political science articles from Converse and Fiorina that I had to read, and I would have insisted this was a settled matter, as something academics now knew.

    And that's completely being rewritten this time around. That I find very interesting, and I'm completely at sea as to how to explain it. (Is Democratic party ID just way up? are voters now sufficiently post-modern that they no longer blame the president for congressional actions out of his control? neither is predicted by the available scholarship.) And from an academic perspective, I would think this election to be infinitely more interesting than the last one, which essentially confirmed the dominant model's predictions.

  30. Ed Says:

    There aren't many day on which I'm sorely disappointed in the level of reading comprehension around here. Today is one of those days.

    The disappointment is muted only by the annoyance of learning that some people still consider "DERP DERP THE SUPREME COURT!" and "HURR DURR YOUR GRANNY'S GONNA EAT CAT FOOD" count as insightful commentary.

  31. Arslan Says:

    "and possibly overturns Obama's signature health care law—which is about what the Germans had in 1890."

    Yup, that's the goal now. We no longer care about a new New Deal, we'll settle for Germany in 1890. We do not wish to put others in the shade, but we shall have a place in the sun!

    "Yeah, Ed – because butthurt did wonders for everyone in the wake of the 2010 elections."

    Who caused that "butthurt?" And why didn't Obama use that majority?

    I await your totally predictable reply.

  32. Mo Says:

    The banality of evil, anyone?

    Agreeing with baldheadeddork here when it comes to cynical quitters.

    Time for the merely depressed to turn pro and make a stink. Tax the 1% into trailer camps. Nationalize their banks. Demand a 30 hour week. Affordable health care and insurance. Pump up Social Security. Forced birthers get run out of town on a rail and their religious organizations taxed to the max if they so much as whisper about any political candidate. Put that Overton window on greased rails and send it rocketing to the radical left.

    What is there to lose? Chains or something like that, amirite?

  33. Arslan Says:

    Also, before the avalanche of Obamabot arguments buries this, I want to urge his supporters to exercise caution. You're going to have to answer for this guy from the end of this year to 2016. Are you REALLY sure you want to go all in at this moment?

  34. Townsend Harris Says:

    DERP DERP SCotUS!
    HURR DURR NLRB!
    For this swing state voter, that's more than enough meat and motivation to turn out at the polls. Insight's gravy.

  35. c u n d gulag Says:

    Arslan,
    I'll gladly take the consequences for Obama's Presidency after 2016, if he wins, if you'll accept the consequences for Romney's, should he win.

    Oh, and about that vaunted majority in the Senate, don't forget it included DINO's like Bayh and Nelson, and Lieberman the "Independent," among others, and countless Red Dog's (I call 'em that, 'cause there ain't nothin' blue 'bout 'em) in the House – many of whom lost in '10 DESPITE being DINO Red Dogs.
    Also too – Ted Kennedy died, and after the Republicans defeated a horrible Democratic candidate in MA, Scottie Brown took his place.

    While Pelosi had enough "muscle" to handle the House, Obama's and Reid's Democratic Senate majority was always tenuous – at best. That's why he was always working, and hoping, for one of the two Maine Senate Republicans, or hopefully someone else from the R side of the aisle, would be willing to risk being bipartisan.
    Obama's a logical and thoughtful man, and it took him awhile to realize that the Manichean outlook from Republicans was a feature, not a bug. He kept thinking at least a few of them would see reason, or come to their senses. Hence, he looked weak.

    Look at the 100+ years of Presidents trying to bring some sort of nationalized health care, and if you really thing about it, it's practically a miracle that the ACA passed at all.

    Look, I've got HUGE issues with the drones, and Gitmo, and a whole slew of other things Obama's done.
    But in a lot of cases, somehow or other, he was able to make chicken salad – despite the chicken sh*t the Republicans kept throwing at him.

  36. Death Panel Truck Says:

    "And why didn't Obama use that majority?"

    Jesus H. Christ, how many times do you need to be told? The minority had the power to shut things down, and they used it. They filibustered EVERYTHING. No Congress in the history of the republic has ever done that before, but then this is the first Congress that's had to deal with a blackety- black black man in the White House.

    "Are you REALLY sure you want to go all in at this moment?"

    Well, since the alternative is Romney/Ryan, I'll gladly run that risk.

  37. Ford Prefect Says:

    Um yes, comprehension does seem to be a bit of an issue on this thread. It's understandable, in a way, since true believers can't be told that what they are doing is somehow irrelevant or misguided… which is precisely the way they perceive this post, methinks.

    My own response is that the word "apprehension" is putting it too mildly. I see resignation in people. Even some fatalism on occasion. When people start getting the idea that they're well and truly fucked, even tripling-down on good old fashioned racism can't keep the rubes' eyes glued to the telly. And yes, given all the absurdist hype over these orgies of influence peddling (which is all these conventions are), a 30% drop in ratings should be seen as a big deal.

    I have a couple Republican neighbors I like to try lines on and a couple months ago I tried, "Well, look at it this way: no matter who wins in November, we're all going to lose big time. You'll notice this campaign has nothing to do with us. It's just about their bullshit, so they win and we lose." They agreed. Not for the same reasons I have, exactly, but they agreed.

    As such, perhaps this ambivalence will one day be viewed more as "loss of legitimacy," which strikes me as a more important distinction. I'm probably getting ahead of things, but it seems to me this empire is running low on gas, as far as legitimacy goes.

  38. Arslan Says:

    "Jesus H. Christ, how many times do you need to be told? The minority had the power to shut things down, and they used it. They filibustered EVERYTHING."

    Oh, so this means that it doesn't matter if Romney's in the White House, or even if Democrats no longer have a majority in Congress. They can just use their power to shut things down.

    And if Obama wins, and if the Democrats increase their lead in congress, what is to stop more "blue dogs" from ruining everything?

    "I'll gladly take the consequences for Obama's Presidency after 2016, if he wins, if you'll accept the consequences for Romney's, should he win."

    No, because unlike you supporting Obama I'm not support nor campaigning for Romney.

  39. Arslan Says:

    "Jesus H. Christ, how many times do you need to be told? The minority had the power to shut things down, and they used it. They filibustered EVERYTHING."

    Oh, so this means that it doesn't matter if Romney's in the White House, or even if Democrats no longer have a majority in Congress. They can just use their power to shut things down.

    And if Obama wins, and if the Democrats increase their lead in congress, what is to stop more "blue dogs" from ruining everything?

    "I'll gladly take the consequences for Obama's Presidency after 2016, if he wins, if you'll accept the consequences for Romney's, should he win."

    No, because unlike you supporting Obama I'm not supporting nor campaigning for Romney.

  40. Southern Beale Says:

    Disagree on the "two candidates no one really likes" stuff. I really like Obama and I know a shit-ton of other people who really like Obama. Romney, OTOH, is nobody's idea of a strong candidate. Other than his wife and kids, I can't imagine anyone getting really psyched up for him. And I actually know people who despise him and are voting for that Gary Johnson guy (or so they say, tho I bet they hold their nose and vote Romney just because of Kenya and socialism and whatnot).

    But here's how I really know nobody cares about Romney, or really believes the hyper-twitchy BS about Obama being a secret Muslim who is going to destroy Merka: it's what I call my Yard Sign Metric.

    I've put up a campaign sign for the Democratic ticket in my front yard every presidential election since I moved into this house in 2000. The longest one has lasted without getting stolen is maybe 6 weeks. And as election day nears, they disappear more quickly. By 2004 and 2008 I was volunteering for the campaigns so I basically had a garage full of signs and could replace the stolen ones immediately. But they’d get re-stolen almost as quickly. Finally by the summer of 2008 I had to nail an Obama sign to a tree in my front yard because the suckers didn’t last longer than 3 days. One of my liberal neighbors thought that was hilarious.

    But this year? I've had an Obama-Biden yard sign in my front yard since May and it's been untouched. This is completely unheard of.

    Also, in 2000, I saw a few Bush-Cheney signs on my street as well. None of those neighbors had signs in 2004. One teabagger had a McCain/Palin sign in 2008 — with the McCain sawed off and just the star and Palin’s name. LOL. This year? No Romney signs, not a one. In fact, I have only seen 2 Romney yard signs in all of Nashville (but lots for Bob Corker). So go figure.

    I realize all of this is very unscientific but it tells me the R's aren't that excited. Even my teanut neighbors can’t be bothered to yank up my yard sign.

  41. Southern Beale Says:

    "And why didn't Obama use that majority?"

    Obama had a Democratic majority for at best 4 months and he did use it: to pass "Obamacare." Wouldn't have happened otherwise.

    Funny the GOP forgets the long protracted battle to prevent Al Franken from getting sworn in, not to mention the death of Ted Kennedy. Sillies.

  42. c u n d gulag Says:

    Arslan,
    If Mitt wins, and Republicans keep control the House, and win control of the Senate, the filibuster rule will be eliminated.
    So there will be no way for Democrats to shut things down.

    They will do that so that they can proceed with dismantling of the Civil Rights Acts, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, Roe, and anything else which pleases their tiny hearts, without any pesky little things like holds, or Senators having to actually get up off their fat asses and make some long-assed speech.

    The filibuster isn't written in stone anywhere, and is more of a Senate tradition than anything else.
    It can be eliminated by a simple majority vote at the beginning of a new session. Here's a link:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Filibuster_in_the_United_States_Senate

    Hopefully, to move things along if Obama wins, and Democrats keep enough control of the Senate to guarantee at least 50 votes (Biden, I assume, would be the 51st vote) Reid will be willing to do the same thing.

    Remember that whole "Nuclear Option" fight back about 7 years ago, with "The Gang of 14?" That was a fight over the filibuster on a SC nomination.

    Reid had toyed with eliminating it when the Democrats regained control of the Senate – but didn't.
    Mitch McConnell will not make that same mistake.

    There will be nothing then to prevent any bill passed by the House from being passed by the Senate, on the way to being rubber-stamped by Mitt.
    And the SCOTUS will most probably give it's approval of the laws. And, within a handful of years, with a key replacement or two of the few Centrists on the SC, no matter how stupid or draconian any Conservative law may be, how "Un-American" it may seem, its approval by the SCOTUS will be practically guaranteed.

    That is why lunkheads like me, despite our myriad problems with President Obama and the Democrats, want him, and them, reelected.

    The alternative, with a Mitt and Congressional Republican majority, is unthinkable.

  43. mel in oregon Says:

    what romney will do if elected: expand all fossil fuel & nuclear facilities. sign a bunch of new trade agreements. expand the military budget, & probably invade iran if obama doesn't beat him to it. cut taxes for the wealthy. shrink social security, medicare, medicaid, food stamps & unemployment compensation. all this, & he will balance the budget too. what a fucked up program! he is by far the most dangerous candidate we've ever had running for president. how about obama: well private equity firms are buying up foreclosed homes for pennies on the dollar, there are many websites you can look this up at. not all the equity firms are american, not surprisingly many are asian. meanwhile there will be many american families being foreclosed on in the next five years. any help for them? nope, that would be socialism. obama has put social security, medicare, food stamps & unemployment compensation on the table when talking to boehner & also with his dealings with the simpson-bowles commission. he appointed the former head of general electric who is as anti-american jobs as you can get to head obama's job production program. really what it boils down to is we're fucked no matter who wins. obama's the lesser evil & less dangerous than romney, but both cowtow to wallstreet & the job outsources. as senile old eastwood said, "we own this country". he meant only the very wealthy of course. the 200 million of us who are struggling are headed for the peasantry of 14th century europe. people in their 20s, 30s & 40s will live to see it. older americans will just live long enough to see a rapid accleration in the decline of the american standard of living, & the extinction of the middle class.

  44. mothra Says:

    Yeah…seems like everyone thought this post was titled "Vote? Why Bother?"

    Erm, no, that wasn't the point of the post.

  45. c u n d gulag Says:

    mothera,
    If I misunderstood, or exaggerated – which I might have – since I stayed up far later than my regular bedtime to watch the convention – it's only because I see complacency, or any lack of interest, in THIS election, as very, very, dangerous.

    As the Conservatives, and their wholly-owned subsidiary the Republican Party, are taking this country to late 1920's to early 1930's Germany (sorry Godwin – but go FECK yourself!), and the Democrats are following as if they're spreading bread crumbs for the Democrats to follow, the only chance we have, before the voting rules are permanently changed, and the social safety web totally destroyed, is bide for time with President Obama and the Democrats, until we can affect that party and make it more Liberal and Progressive – which, will probably take decades.

    So, maybe I misunderstood Ed's point – but I still felt the points I made were worth discussing.

  46. lacp Says:

    Fuck all you haters – I'm writing in Honey Boo Boo, and I'm damn proud to do so. Or wasn't that the point of this post?

    Anyhow, here's a 50-year-old chestnut on lesser-evilism. Enjoy!

    http://www.isreview.org/issues/34/draper.shtml

  47. Matt Says:

    @Arslan: "No, because unlike you supporting Obama I'm not supporting nor campaigning for Romney."

    If you're not bailing water, you're supporting the yoyos drilling holes in the bottom of the boat. Claiming that you're actually rooting for the zeppelin to come save everybody doesn't count.

  48. Arslan Says:

    "Arslan,
    If Mitt wins, and Republicans keep control the House, and win control of the Senate, the filibuster rule will be eliminated.
    So there will be no way for Democrats to shut things down."

    So when a party wins the White house, they also automatically get seats in the senate and they don't lose any seats in the House. I'm not familiar with that part of the electoral rule. Why didn't this automatically happen when Obama won? Why will it happen if he wins in November? What are the chances he will be able to do anything with being "shut down" again for the next four years?

    "If you're not bailing water, you're supporting the yoyos drilling holes in the bottom of the boat. Claiming that you're actually rooting for the zeppelin to come save everybody doesn't count."

    The typical childlike false dichotomy that goes a long way to explain why America has such a fucked up political system.

  49. c u n d gulag Says:

    Arslan,
    "So when a party wins the White house, they also automatically get seats in the senate and they don't lose any seats in the House. I'm not familiar with that part of the electoral rule. Why didn't this automatically happen when Obama won? Why will it happen if he wins in November? What are the chances he will be able to do anything with being "shut down" again for the next four years?"

    Yes!
    Why, hasn't it ALWAYS been so?
    To put it nicely – I've been SOOOOOOO punked!
    Your last point proves that you're FAAAAAAAAR too clever smart and clever for me!
    I'm surrendering to your superior intellect, and ability to argue your "point."
    And now, I'm tired.
    I'm done.

    GO NY GIANTS!
    And, go "Big Dawg!!!"

  50. Major Kong Says:

    The most succinct way I can describe it –

    I'm often disappointed and frustrated with the Democrats, but the Republicans scare the living shit out of me.

    No, seriously, they do.

    The thought of these sociopaths with their hands anywhere near the levers of power keeps me awake at night.

  51. Fiddlin' Bill Says:

    TBogg on the subject at hand:

    http://tbogg.firedoglake.com/2012/09/04/pie-in-the-sky-when-you-die/

    The Republicans, in Jan. '09, came up with a fairly successful strategy aimed at thwarting a cautious, reasonable, moderate new Democratic President. Their plan was of course essentially treasonous, but that word's been entirely removed from ordinary speech anyways. The Republicans, and their very powerful media apparatus, are still riding the wave, see. e.g., the last minute and strictly speaking unparliamentary revisions to the Democratic Platform. If Obama does manage a win, expect more and endless dissembling and footdragging and worse from a Republican held Congress. On the fucking other hand, if the Republicans, who are now ChristoFascists, win, expect fewer and worse jobs into the future, expect a repeal of a small chance to repair the broken health care delivery system, expect a continuation of our commitment to fossil fuels for ever and ever, expect a continuation of the very real war on women, and lastly, expect a absolutely devastating war on Iran.

  52. Anonymouse Says:

    Fiddlin' Bill: "treasonous" has been redefined to mean, "a group of teenage girl singers say they don't like a Republican", which is apparently punishable by death threats. Alternately, "treasonous" means "a grieving mother whose only son was killed in a war started to enrich a few wealthy businessmen wears a shirt with the number of American dead on it", which is punishable by being arrested, collarbone broken, and thrown in jail for days.

    A bunch of childish sociopaths deliberately setting out to cripple the USA by acting like obstinate asses? Perfectly okay so long as they're Republicans.

  53. Both Sides Do It Says:

    I've never seen actual arguments defending the "derp derp supreme court" sarcasm.

    Are abortion rights important? Is Citizens United important? Was the Lilly Ledbetter decision important? Are restrictions on police and prosecutor misconduct important? Are the race-based affirmative action cases important? Are the school equality cases important? Will the inevitable gay marriage case be important? Was the ACA case important? Was fucking Bush v. Gore important?

    I really don't get what the argument is supposed to be defending the claim that this stuff doesn't matter.

  54. oiojes Says:

    Don't let Obama's fall from grace blind you to thinking the election is meaningless. Reid says he's going to change filibuster rules if the Dems keep the senate. The Repubs decry this– what? Have the Senate use majority rule? What can you be thinking? But expect a Republican senate to do exactly the same thing the instant it convenes. What? The filibuster is only for Republicans to use.

    Obama and the dems have been a spineless disappointment. Yes. I agree. But up here in Massachusetts we've seen what Romney can do and we prefer not to inflict that on the rest of the country.

    And that was when he was a moderate.

  55. Xynzee Says:

    Arslan,
    We've been down this track before.

    *What* exactly are you proposing? Somebody says they're voting for the Ds/Obama and you immediately label them an Obamabot.

    As I've already said, my choice is Obama or Obama on the "left" and one of several non-choice nutters on the right. Was there an unannounced primary that you knew of that no one else did to get someone other than Obama?

    So because I'm voting for my only perceived choice I'm an Obamabot?

    Given the given state of affairs with the 1.5 party system we have, well at least I'm voting. And until Noe Won is running as a viable Independent I'm voting for the guy who'll at least pack my bum up with creame before shoving his arm in to the elbow with his Imperial signet ring than the one who won't.

    So unless Grand Central is to be your Finland for your Glorious Revolution, kindly put something forth.

  56. Arslan Says:

    Please note that I didn't attack or label anyone simply because they said they're voting for Obama. I am responding some of the arguments that are used to guilt us into voting for Obama. You go and vote all you want.

  57. eau Says:

    Very late to this party, but wanted to put in my 2c.

    1- I hope Ed can find a shit to give, because I believe Presidential election coverage is what he does best. Not that rest isn't good (often great), but this is his wheelhouse.

    2- Was 2008 an aberration in terms of a lot of Americans giving a shit? 1996, 2000, 2004… I may just be on the outside looking in, but it didn't seem like people cared all that much in these years either.

    3- I think a lot of the interest in 2008 was driven by the Dem. primaries as it dawned on people that the next prez would probably be a woman or a black man. Novelty counts for a lot.

    4- I still worry that people not caring in 2000 got us Bush the Younger. That didn't turn out so well for… Well, the USA, humanity, the planet… Like much in life, politics is about the choice between a shit sandwich and shit sandwich with added crushed glass. Neither tastes great, but only one shreds your internal organs.