Monday, October 15, 2012

Battleground state (of mind)

Well, dear reader(s), excuse my absence during a little anniversary getaway weekend, spent not looking at polling news and gnawing over the dread possibility of a Romney victory as we tromped through sculpture park and wood. Not the best anniversary weekend to be married to me. I'd have been better off canvassing, as I will next weekend. But who'd have thought a few weeks ago that things would look so desperate going into this weekend?

During the working day today I have peeked by degrees into the political news, and it seems that the situation has not further deteriorated (I am choosing not to get too worked up about the Gallup/USA Today poll, with its double-wide spread between likely and registered voters and questionable "battleground subsample" status. In fact, I'm not even going to tax myself with learning what's wrong w/ battleground subsamples). I am therefore free to hold my breath until tomorrow night, which I guess means continuing this unpleasant peek-at-the news-and-brood-about-disaster routine until showtime. Which means, frankly, that I have little to contribute to anyone's understanding of anything at the moment.

For what it's worth, my brooding keeps sending flashes of the mortal combat between Hamlet Sr. and Fortinbras Sr., staged (according to a play cooked up centuries later, in which it's not staged) to dispose of lands desired by both kingdoms.  Just as elections are better alternatives to succession wars, political debates are proxies for such mortal combat. And this one feels pretty mortal. Polls since 10/3 have blown through political scientists' skepticism about the effects of debates -- though some are now highlighting evidence that Obama's lead was shrinking prior to the debates, I don't think anyone is disputing the massive impact of the first round, or the stakes in the next one. I personally cannot even begin to imagine being Obama walking onto that stage.

I don't know what Romney really thinks of Obama -- I suspect he knows that Obama has been far from a disaster, and far from the radical he paints him as, and that the world will not crumble if Obama prevails. Obama, on the other hand, stands plainly to have his entire legacy razed -- and I am sure he believes, as virtually all really politicized Democrats do, that the Republican party has embraced a dangerous extremism and will do worse-than-Bush damage to this country's future prospects if it takes power now, before undergoing an internal correction toward the center.

In other words, it's hard to imagine the stakes in any performance being higher than those facing Obama in this debate.  As if you needed me to tell you that. This evening I'll spend a bit of time more usefully, dialing up voters in Pennsylvania.


  1. I think you're wrong about Romney. I'm growing to believe he sees this as a devine combat; he on the side of his God, Obama, not necessarily the side of evil, but. . . it's not about Obama, it's not about you, or me or the 47% or the 1% or even the 100%, it's about Romney being a prophet. Ordained by higher powers, at least in his own mind. The words don't matter, the changing positions don't matter, the lies don't matter, it's the belief, the faith, that he knows what is right and will do it.

    Sometimes the greatest evils are done by good people, people who think they know what's right; by people who are so blinded by their own good intent they fail to ask what's good for others.

    This is also reflected in his talk, as you've pointed out, it's not 'us,' it's 'me.' It's, "I know what's best," "I have a plan," "I know how to."

    Yet at the end of the day, the president is still just a human. A human in a job to big, too complex, for a single person. A human dependent not on divine guidance, but on a good team around him or her.

    Guess I'll go dial up some voters in New Hampshire later this week. President Obama, through the team of good people working for him, has asked me to do that.

  2. It's not much of a secret that Obama does his best when his back is up against a wall. In sports parlance, he doesn't play well with a lead. We saw that in the primary against Hillary, in the general against McCain and repeatedly during his administration, especially in the case of health care reform. It would have been really easy, after Scott Brown was elected, to give up on comprehensive health care reform and pass some small pieces to get half a loaf, but he continued to fight for what would become "Obamacare."

    The President is a fighter, and he does his best work when the stakes are down (or so I would like to think, though life isn't a movie). So I'm confident heading into tomorrow's debate.

    And regarding Romney, I still think that he's a center-right politician, but one who is a really good shape-shifter (as Jared Bernstein has noted). I think it's irrelevant though to conjecture as to what his "real beliefs" are. George Wallace first ran for office as a racial moderate and found that running as a racist was a sounder electoral strategy. If Romney thinks that kow-towing to the right is a sound electoral strategy, then we'll see him govern as an orthodox conservative.

    I do think the stakes are high going into this last debate, but I think the environment favors Obama (interacting with people comes a bit more natural to him than Romney, though he's no Clinton).