Wednesday, October 29, 2008

really, Tina?

I think something that's important to remember is the fact that even if someone can articulate a sophisticated or complex argument for something, it can still be, well, bullshit. I think we tend to imagine that if people put enough thought into something, it'll be at least internally consistent and contain some truth. That just isn't the case. I remember in an old Spin magazine Elijah Wood was given space to talk about the music he liked. And he had very sophisticated opinions about music-- he was obviously informed and knew a lot about music history. But his taste in music was still incredibly bad. Just being sophisticated about music wasn't enough to make him like actually good music.

Now, music appreciation is purely subjective, and Frodo's favorite bands is a rather inconsequential topic. Less subject and more important is this election. I think this piece is a good example of how knowing a lot about politics and developing a long argument about the election still can leave you with a truly, embarrassingly horrid article. Let me be simple and plain: the election has been going on for almost 2 years. I've read, certainly, several thousand blog posts, articles and stories about this election. If this isn't the worst... it's close.

When we first met, Obama and I had a nice conversation about speeches and writing, and at the end of the meeting I handed him a pocket-sized bottle of Grey Poupon mustard so he wouldn’t have to ask staff if it was okay to put it on his hamburger. At the bottom of the bottle was the logo for “The South Beach Diet” and he snapped, “Oh so you read People magazine.” He seemed to think that I was commenting on his bathing suit picture.

Ah, the old "he wasn't nice to me" justification for not voting for someone. I continue to be shocked at how many people who have worked inside Washington base their opinion on whether or not someone is the best candidate for office on whether or not that person was nice to them personally. Barack Obama, and every one in a similar position,works with thousands of people. Eventually, he's not going to be perfectly cordial with some of them. Adults understand that. And, by the way, John Edwards, who you seem to have so much affection for? He's done some not very nice things in the past himself.

The final straw came the other week when Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher (a.k.a Joe the Plumber) asked a question about higher taxes for small businesses. Instead of celebrating his aspirations, they were mocked. He wasn’t “a real plumber,” and “They’re fighting for Joe the Hedge-Fund manager,” and the patronizing, “I’ve got nothing but love for Joe the Plumber.”

More than anything, this is a woman with no conception whatsoever that Obama is not synonomous with the media that covers him. I defy you-- I defy anyone-- to find anything remotely negative that Obama had to say about "Joe the Plumber". Can't do it, cause it hasn't happened. Again and again in this piece, she acts as though pretty much anyone in the media is a surrogate for Barack Obama. Why? By what logic? On whose authority? This is a patently juvenile way of looking at the world. What's more, many people (like me) have been critical of the Joe the Plumber media narrative, because it's an insulting distraction. That doesn't mean we're being unfair to Joe the Plumber, beyond the fact that he is clearly grubbing for media attention.

As the nation slouches toward disaster, the level of political discourse is unworthy of this moment in history. We have Republicans raising Ayers and Democrats fostering ageism with “erratic” and jokes about Depends. Sexism. Racism. Ageism and maybe some Socialism have all made their ugly cameos in election 2008. It’s not inspiring. Perhaps this is why I found the initial mocking of Joe so offensive and I realized an old line applied: “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party; the Democratic Party left me.”

See, this is a plain old case of incoherence. What is she saying? Is she saying that the discourse is unworthy because we talk about stupid stuff? She makes it absolutely clear later on that she thinks that sexism is a major issue in this campaign. So how can this be "unworthy discourse"? Surely, if she really thinks that socialism is at issue here, she can't think that's trivial. She seems to contrast "inspiring" issues with these issues, as if only things that are inspiring are relevantly political. And anyway, she says she switches political identities because of these concerns! Isn't that the definition of relevance? And anyway, she criticizes the Ayers talking point! How is that an example of the Democratic Party leaving her? And she doesn't like political issues that aren't inspiring, but she cares about the Joe the Plumber saga, the most trivial, asinine excuse for a political issue imaginable. Gah.

The party I believed in wouldn’t look down on working people under any circumstance. And Joe the Plumber is right. This is the absolutely worst time to raise taxes on anyone: the rich, the middle class, the poor, small businesses and corporations.

Ah, yes. Those working people. Memo, my dear: no working people make $250,000 a year! This is cognitive dissonance that simply can't be believed. Working people are precisely who Barack Obama's tax cuts would benefit. Not Joe the Plumber, because Joe the Plumber isn't working class. Being called Joe and having a culturally-branded working class (but not really working class) occupation doesn't make you working class. Joe makes more money than the vast majority of his fellow citizens.

On the "this is the absolute[] worst time to raise taxes on anyone" front-- oh, but it's a great time to enact a total government spending freeze? That's a workable economic policy in response to recession?

Our economy is in the tank for many complicated reasons, especially because people don’t have enough money. So let them keep it. Let businesses keep it so they can create jobs and stay here and weather this storm. And yet, the Democratic ideology remains the same. Our approach to problems—big government solutions paid for by taxing the rich and big and smaller companies—is just as tired and out of date as trickle down economics.

Uh, trickle down economics is what you're talking about. When you say that more money for businesses will create jobs and profits for everyone, that's trickle down economics. And trickle down economics don't work. Which you seem to understand!

That’s not exactly the philosophy of a Democrat. Not only has this party belittled working people in this campaign from Joe the Plumber to the bitter comments, it has also been part of tearing down two female candidates. At first, certain Democrats and the press called Senator Clinton “dishonest.” They went after her cleavage. They said her experience as First Lady consisted of having tea parties. There was no outrage over “Bros before Hoes” or “Iron My Shirt.” Did Senator Clinton make mistakes? Of course. She’s human.

First of all, I remember quite a bit gnashing of teeth over the treatment of Hilary, thanks. Second of all, again-- why is Barack Obama responsible for "certain Democrats and the press"? How is their opinion dispositive of his campaign's worth? And what if Hilary really is "a liar"? And why does it matter if two female candidates are torn down, if they aren't the best candidates running? If you'd like to make the positive case for Hilary or Palin, make it.

Governor Palin and I don’t agree on a lot of things, mostly social issues. But I have grown to appreciate the Governor. I was one of those initial skeptics and would laugh at the pictures. Not anymore. When someone takes on a corrupt political machine and a sitting governor, that is not done by someone with a low I.Q. or a moral core made of tissue paper.

That would be more impressive if she had actually taken on a corrupt political machine, rather than cozying up to convicted felon Ted Stevens.

When someone fights her way to get scholarships and work her way through college even in a jagged line, that shows determination and humility you can’t learn from reading Reinhold Niebuhr.

Hey, I worked my way through college in a jagged line. I'd like to think it took some determination and humility. I also know lots of people who went through college in a jagged line because they were more interested in smoking weed. I am proud of my public access college diploma, and my great grades. I work hard to prove that my unusual college resume isn't a knock against me. But I don't pretend it's some feather in my cap, either.

When a mother brings her son with special needs onto the national stage with love, honesty, and pride, that gives hope to families like mine as my older brother lives with a mental disability.

Or it causes people like me to recoil at the rank political opportunism of using an infant as a political prop to be used crassly in the service of gaining votes.

Has she made mistakes? Of course, she’s human too. But the attention paid to her mistakes has been unprecedented compared to Senator Obama’s “57 states” remarks or Senator Biden using a version of the Samuel Johnson quote, “There’s nothing like a hanging in the morning to focus a man’s thoughts.”

In other words, you want her to reap all the benefits of positive attention, but not have to withstand the negative attention. Double standards cut both ways, and I encounter this one again and again. When people say they don't want Palin to be judged differently, they mean they don't want her to be judged, period. If Joe Biden had stumbled through interviews like a drunkard, would he have been spared any negativity? Of course not. But Biden wouldn't have stumbled in that way, because Joe Biden is actually qualified to be the Vice President. The idea that we should remove any expectation of accountability from female politicians is the opposite of feminism.

But thank God for election 2008. We can talk about the wardrobe and make-up even though most people don’t understand the details about Senator Obama’s plan with Iraq. When he says, “all combat troops,” he’s not talking about all troops—it leaves a residual force of as large as 55,000 indefinitely. That’s not ending the war; that’s half a war.

Can someone get this woman a book deal? I haven't encountered logic this penetrating since I graded essays for middle school.

I can no longer justify what this party has done and can’t dismiss the treatment of women and working people as just part of the new kind of politics.

it wasn't "the party" who did that, it was a few people, some in the party, some not, and anyway you're exaggerating this nonsense, and anyway, allowing your political affiliation to change because you have such bizarre ideas about message surrogacy is beyond childish and stupid...

It’s wrong and someone has to say that. And also say that the Democratic Party’s talking points—that Senator John McCain is just four more years of the same and that he’s President Bush—are now just hooker lines that fit a very effective and perhaps wave-winning political argument…doesn’t mean they’re true. After all, he is the only one who’s worked in a bipartisan way on big challenges.

That's just asserted garbage. Just totally non-supported nonsense. By his own bragging admission, McCain voted 95% of the time with George Bush. That's the stuff of bipartisanship?

Before I cast my vote, I will correct my party affiliation and change it to No Party or Independent. Then, in the spirit of election 2008, I’ll get a manicure, pedicure, and my hair done. Might as well look pretty when I am unemployed in a city swimming with “D’s.”

Haha, yeah! Cause it's the party critical of a woman whose sole rationale for being the Vice Presidential nominee is that she's good looking that cares too much about appearance. Right?

Whatever inspiration I had in Chapel Hill two years ago is gone. When people say how excited they are about this election, I can now say, “Maybe for you. But I lost my home.”

You know who will benefit from Barack Obama's policies? People who have actually, literally lost their physical homes. You know, people who are more interested in an election based on pragmatic policy concerns, and less on whiny metaphorical bullshit and ham-handed emotionalism? You know, actual working class people? Yeah. They like Barack.

The fact that this woman worked as a speechwriter for major presidential nominees, by the way, puts another nail in the coffin in the "America is a meritocracy" idea.


  1. Actually, she should vote for McCain. She seems to have two reasons to not like Obama.

    1. She thinks that Democrats are being "bad," by using sexist attacks, mocking working class voters, etc. Of course, as she implicitly admits, the Republicans do the same thing, so it is not as if this is a reason to vote for McCain.

    2. She agrees with McCain's economic policies and trusts him more on Iraq. Those are both substantive reasons for her to vote for McCain. It should tell you that she probably isn't a liberal, but so what?

    Where she goes wrong is in claiming that this is a case of the "Democratic Party leaving her." If she supports McCain's economic policies, she's obviously ideologically left the party. And, while I will grant that some of the attacks on Clinton were sexist, it seems crazy to suggest that the Democratic Party is becoming more sexist in a year when a woman came so close to winning the party's Presidential nomination.

    What is absent from her piece is a substantive sense of what it means to be a Democrat.

  2. Her whole the Democrats condescended to Joe the Plummer and they shouldn't do that to working people "argument" betrays a basic bias: she assumes that the media, who may have condescended to Joe, are simply an extension of the Democratic Party. Does she really believe this fiction? The media fixated on Joe because McCain repeatedly cited him as an authentic working class voice, and the media wanted to see how "authentic" he was. All this aside, "really, Tina" is as apt a reaction as possible.

  3. Ummm . . . she believes, not without reason, that the lines for which she blames the media were pushed by the Obama campaign. Bill Clinton himself didn't come out and call Monica Lewinsky trailer trash with a mental disorder and an axe to grind, but his surrogates did, very effectively, and htat was the line the media took.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.