Xark began as a group blog in June 2005 but continues today as founder Dan Conover's primary blog-home. Posts by longtime Xark authors Janet Edens and John Sloop may also appear alongside Dan's here from time to time, depending on whatever.
Sometimes I'm slow on the uptake, but something finally came clear to me just now: The reason so many of us are so constantly befuddled by the behavior of the modern American electorate is that we're simply blinded by the wrong sports analogies.
We think of politics as competition with rules, which is what separates politics from civil war (which, in essence, it replaced). Consequently, we compare it -- consciously or subconsciously -- to sports. Just yesterday I wrote a post in which I compared the Democrats to a baseball team that holds a slight lead in the late innings and hasn't yet gone to its bullpen, while the GOP is swinging for the fences out of desperation. Most elections provoke at least one football analogy from me (typically about "running out the clock" or "throwing a Hail Mary").
You know: Typical American guy horseshit.
Only I just now got it: For a large segment of the American electorate, the correct analogy isn't sports: It's professional wrestling.
There's no shortage of jackleg commentary on the Palin announcement, and this post definitely fits under that category.
But I just can't stay away: It's like riding a high-speed freight train at the moment when you realize the brakes have failed. No mighty crash yet, but you're starting to understand what's just become inevitable.
As my old e-mail address dies off, so too will my subscription to the Media Research Center's daily Times Watch update. There was a day when I tried to give the MRC's claims the benefit of the doubt. That day has passed.
But here's the nub of the thing: Just because you throw shit at somebody shouldn't mean that everybody else has to stop what they're doing and pay serious attention to your shit-throwing. Were that the case the Times could station reporters at the National Zoo and just file live reports from the monkey house.
Headline: Former Chicago Community Activist Knew Sixties Radical. Well duh. And to the extent that the two of them had shared interests in political projects, I'm sure they worked together, were civil and helpful to each other, etc. That's what you do when you're a community activist working at the grass roots with few resources and scant public attention. You cooperate.
But that's not the story the MRC wants to tell. The members of the current conservative ruling class got where they are in large part by running against the Boomers who came of age in the 1960s. It's one of their favorite culture war themes: "While you were off in Vietnam serving your country, these liberal hippies were smoking dope and screwing your girlfriend and laughing at you the whole time. And they still are."
Obama is the first brown-skinned American to win a major party nomination, but he also shares another amazing distinction: He's the first post-Boomer nominee. Like me, Obama is a member of Generation Jones. We survived puberty during the disco age, invented punk, helped fuel the Clinton-era economic expansion and generally settled into middle age without particularly strong ideologies. For most Jonesers, our participation in the Sixties Culture Wars was limited to picking a favorite between Laugh-In and Hee-Haw.
The Republican Noise Machine is working overtime to extend its Us-versus-Them 1960s high-school cafeteria narrative to a Generation Jones candidate who was still watching Scooby Doo at the time. They don't care that the connection is tenuous to the point of absurdity: They just want to tell that story over and over until it sticks. It's the same kind of shit-throwing that we got with the picture of Obama in Kenyan garb, the supposed "madrassa," and that whole "Obama is a Muslim" line. Bullshit? Absolutely. And do the people selling it know it's bullshit? Absolutely.
Tonight Obama will speak, and when he's done, the conservative spinners will say this:
He's just a good speaker who offers no specifics;
People don't trust him because he lacks experience;
He didn't succeed in convincing people that he really loves America;
Everybody knows this, but it's not being reflected publicly because Obama is "The Media's Candidate."
Why do they do this? Because it's all they've got left. They're trying desperately to wish these beliefs into existence, and they're relying on their usual media tools to deliver their product.
Will it work? Well, it's worked before. But a lot of things that used to work have stopped working over the past few years, and people all across America have been waking up to the realization that they've been played by the Swiftboaters and the race-baiters and the Culture Warriors.
How do we create a set of filters that not only catch the bullshit, but explain why it's bullshit? Great question.
Yes, yes, yes: There's lots to be done. The fund-raising pace has to be maintained. The race is close. And every day brings the new possibility that some bullshit smear will change the focus of the campaign unless the Obama people stay ever-vigilant.
But here's what hasn't changed:
The lightning round doesn't start until after Labor Day. Americans are sick of politics right now, so give them a break;
Obama is going to get a nice boost after Denver;
McCain will get one, too, after Minneapolis. Just don't expect it to be as big as ours;
Eventually there are going to be debates, and swing voters are going to eyeball these two men and decide based on all sorts of comparisons, many of which are going to break Obama's way... Besides, I suspect most of the "undecided" voters who aren't going to vote for Obama have pretty much figured that out by now, based on the realization that he's a black guy named BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA. Not exactly John Quincy Adams.
Most of the true undecideds are likely to come our way... so long as we don't screw that up by acting like idiots.
The fundamentals of the Democratic case this year are good -- from the mood of the public to the way the state races are shaping up. Liberals/progressives are going to win offices across the country this year, and I think Obama's going to lead the way.
So really: Chill.
Stop sweating/celebrating every little poll fluctuation. Quit obsessing over the veepstakes. Enough with applying paranoid, loser narratives to every dip and turn.
Too many liberals have forgotten how to be winners. Step No. 1 is, when you take the lead, act like you've been there before.