Saturday, September 27, 2008

Good Points from Fred Kaplan

J-Fave Fred Kaplan of Slate rules in favor of Obama in last night's debate on foreign policy issues. He points out the fantastic -- fantastic in terms of being at utter odds with reality -- portions of McCain's statements and the relatively more informed statements of Sen. Obama. Of course, I still think it was a ridiculously boring debate lacking on important details of any kind, but Kaplan's assessment of McCain's utterly goofy ideas (a League of Democracies that not only might be by definition incapable of meeting its own objectives, but also is not backed by supposed members of a potential league) does show again, at least, that Obama would be the realistically better president (imho), even if he was as politically charmless and substance-free as McCain for the most part last night (again, imho).

Obama avoided any boldness, anything showing how he would fundamentally (not cosmetically) change course (a tax cut for the middle class and under is fine and dandy but hardly revolutionary), and gave a lot of non-answers. I think, at this point, I actually prefer John Kerry's debate performances, purely in terms of content. I often agreed with Kerry, once I deciphered what he meant to say it seemed like a great or challenging idea. When you boil down Obama's "nuanced" responses, they usually came out to something like "we should follow my plan, which is specified in detail elsewhere," or "McCain is wrong about this and I have the vision and ability to be right." That's not all he said, but it's the majority; nuance and substance is one thing, nuance and blather is another. I expected more of him -- though everyone seems to agree, he is a remarkably poor debater simply by dint of how his debating pales in comparison to his oration.

Oh, well. What can you expect from a nation that complains of elitism and punishes people for being or sounding too educated, even among our supposed leaders?

5 comments:

Mpls Ju said...

Hi J,

Nice post. I have been thinking and discussing the last point, particularly, as this election season unfurls. Why *shouldn't* the president be a highly educated expert; why wouldn't we expect someone in these high offices (pres and VP) to be "elite" in their training? This preference for someone relatable, rather than specifically trained for the position, is confounding to me, but this may be an effect of grad school.

A friend with whom I was discussing this made a good point (that I had previously overlooked) regarding this phenomenon, suggesting that voters without much higher education feel disenfranchised from our highly educated professional elected officials. I've never viewed education through this perspective, but through this lens, I can start to understand how one might relate to someone with similar credentials who might increase one's representative values/interests.

Nonetheless, it seems (to me) to be detrimental to the country to elect someone without proper credentials (from either party). However, I don't have a lot of insight regarding how we could easily solve this problem that might not come across as pandering to this fearful-of-the-educated demographic. (I'm also surprised that the McCain/Palin campaign has so thoroughly captured this "small town" values issue, when it would seem to make sense to the average voter to, as Chris Rock pointed out, "vote for the guy with *one* house.") What are your thoughts?

Daktari said...

Interesting points, both of you. Does anyone know exactly when or how the Republican Party hijacked this issue? I remember when the Democratic Party ruled the South and the poor/less educated/average worker supported a compassionate government that supported entitlement programs for the least among us. I think the indoctrination must have been happening at NASCAR races, because it certainly escaped my radar.

J said...

There's a lot to unpack here, but not to point too fine a point on it, D, two words: Southern Strategy. Everyone pretty much agrees that that was when the Dems lost a whole generation of Southern voters, and has never fully recovered. Of course, the modern Republicans hardly invented division across class interests using race, but they're the latest beneficiaries of it, and it's still hotly contested how much at play the legacy of the "Southern Strategy" still is in American politics. That is, people debate how many Southerners the Dems lost by embracing Civil Rights (to some extent, and in some cases only pro forma), and how many still stick with the Repubs because of that.

Myself, I think that racial division is still present to some extent -- let's pretend it can be simplified and say it's 40% of the problem -- and then a lot of it is complicated social factors having to do with political inertia (i.e. the tendency to be politically like those around you and those that raised you), bad luck, propaganda, divisive politics on proxy issues (homosexuality, guns), etc. and you've got yourself a self-perpetuating division that started by being about race and now has morphed into a number of problems.

The interesting thing about that is that people say things like "Things never change," but they do, like the massive realignment of poor white Southern states to the Republicans -- they just don't always happen when or how you want it.
More at some later point.

Daktari said...

Thanks, J. I'll read up. I'm just a bit taxed after my own feeble analysis of the debate last night.

Mpls Ju said...

Another interesting post regarding Obama's intellectual approach from an academic standpoint:

http://science-professor.blogspot.com/2008/09/professorial-reserve.html