Wednesday, November 28, 2012

If only votes were weighted by net worth...

Okay, this may be a pointless exercise. But Stuart Stevens, chief strategist for the Romney campaign, has just published such a transcendentally stupid, transparently sophistic, willfully delusive campaign post-mortem that I found myself mouthing rebuttals after nearly every sentence. So I thought I'd bottle my indignation. In italics, below, interspersed with Stevens' text.
Over the years, one of the more troubling characteristics of the Democratic Party and the left in general has been a shortage of loyalty and an abundance of self-loathing. It would be a shame if we Republicans took a narrow presidential loss as a signal that those are traits we should emulate.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The benefits of union

An excellent article by the AP's Adam Geller on New York's massive flood protection challenges holds up Houston's Texas Medical Center, which was devastated by Hurricane Allison in 2001, as a shining example of an institution that learned from experience:
A review of the area's flood weaknesses led officials to create a list of 112 projects, including widening the bayou and building culverts that funnel water away from the campus. But many of the projects were based on acknowledging that even if planners couldn't ensure that all the water from a future storm would stay out, they could at least work to limit the damage.

TMC's member hospitals moved their electrical vaults and backup generators out of basements to areas above flood level. They rejiggered the way they used their space, rebuilding and moving facilities like research labs, many of which were destroyed by the flood, to higher floors. Scores of existing buildings were fitted with flood gates, and new buildings were built surrounded by berms. Underground tunnels were outfitted with 100 submarine doors, some 12 feet tall.
 Nice planning, guys!  And who paid?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Notes from the bully pulpit: no one hears you when unemployment is at 10%

As Obama gears up for the fiscal cliff end game, David Corn is out with a timely reminder that the deal Obama struck in December 2010, trading extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy for a payroll tax cut, unemployment benefit extension and other stimulus, was far from the cave-in that liberal allies portrayed it as. Rather, it was a successful a bid to win "something bigger and better: more stimulus to aid the ailing economy."

This was actually obvious at the time, for those with eyes to see. According to Mark Zandi, the Democratic proposals that became part of the deal yielded $336 billion worth of stimulus from 2010-2012.  Even Paul Krugman admitted at the time that the provisions Obama fought for were likely to provide significant help to the economy. In concert with the payroll tax cut and and unemployment benefits extension Obama bludgeoned the GOP into accepting in early 2012, those stimulative measures probably secured his reelection.

While debunking the tax-deal-as-cave-in myth, Corn does subscribe to another narrative that does have some truth to it over the long haul but in my view is also exaggerated:  that Obama was ineffective at communicating his policy.  Here's Corn's read:

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Writhing out of Norquist's embrace, Part V

Here we go again: Senator Saxby Chambliss, R-Georgia, one of the Quixotes of the Senate Gang of Six, is writhing out of Grover Norquist's embrace, almost exactly as in March 2011 when the Gang first got in gear to try to reincarnate, or rather fully incarnate, Bowles-Simpson.*  In this iteration, Chambliss says, "I care more about my country than I do about a 20 year-old pledge"; Norquist shoots back that Chambliss's oath is to the people of Georgia, not to him. Then Norquist revives a nonsense claim from the prior round:
Norquist also highlighted a letter Chambliss signed with fellow Gang of Six members Mike Crapo of Idaho and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma where the three said they hoped for a plan with “lower individual and corporate tax rates for all Americans.”

Friday, November 23, 2012

Post-truth political appreciation

For once, I found myself nodding straight through a David Brooks column. Today he pays tribute both to Lincoln and to the new film by that name:
The movie portrays the nobility of politics in exactly the right way.

It shows that you can do more good in politics than in any other sphere. You can end slavery, open opportunity and fight poverty. But you can achieve these things only if you are willing to stain your own character in order to serve others — if you are willing to bamboozle, trim, compromise and be slippery and hypocritical. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Does the Affordable Care Act "soak the young"?

Avik Roy revives the complaint that formed the emotional core of the legal case against the Affordable Care Act: that the act shafts young adults by forcing them to buy coverage that effectively subsidizes insurance for older adults. Here's the basis of his complaint:
Under free-market conditions—what insurance pros call experience rating—the typical 18-year-old costs one-sixth what it costs to insure the typical 64-year-old.

But Obamacare, in a sop to the AARP, requires that insurers only charge three times as much to their costliest beneficiaries what they charge to their least-costly ones. As the illustration below shows, this increases the cost of insurance for the young by 75 percent, while offering only a modest 13 percent subsidy to older Americans.
Before moving on to the core alleged problem, let's note a couple of sleights of hand at the outset:

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Beautiful speech, but...

I am troubled by my tribalism.

I am susceptible, in case no one has noticed, to Obama's rhetoric.  I see myself, as I once noted, in the self-mocking confession of an old graduate school classmate (I give the provenance, because grad students in the humanities are likely to be of this tribe):
I love Obama...Every time he speaks I emit a small sigh of joy, love and delight.  I know, perhaps my eyes are clouded, but he seems so completely appropriate each time he speaks, that he could be singing the national anthem in Swahili, and I wouldn't care.
So when I read Obama's historic address to the students of the University of Yangon, Burma's principal university, my heart naturally swelled in my breast,  and tears welled up. It was, as you might expect (if you're so susceptible), a beautifully constructed speech -- opening dazzling prospects of freedom and prosperity to the Burmese, applying subtle pressure at all the right points on their leaders (as I heard no less tough a judge than Human Right Watch's Tom Malinowski affirm last night), honoring Burma's dissidents, making a cogent case, as Obama always does, that America's best values are or ought to be universal values, softening the paternalism by acknowledging past American error (i.e., in Foxspeak, "apologizing").

Monday, November 19, 2012

NRO's Jim Geraghty: Romney lost - tis all for the best

I'm not familiar with the thinking of NRO's Jim Geraghty. But this bit of self-contradicting self-consolation, from the NRO "Morning Jolt" email*, struck me as curious:
One other thought, and before I go further, I want to emphasize I wish Romney had won. But I felt a strange sense of relief upon hearing our nominee's post-election remarks:

Sunday, November 18, 2012

David Frum's seductive vision of the Moderate Mitt that might have been

David Frum, as I noted last week, has been a consistent, clear-eyed and constructive critic of today's extremist, dead-end GOP.  His ebook Why Romney Lost is terrific as to diagnosis, though as usual I shake my head at the critique of Obama at the beginning and the rather hasty policy prescriptions at the end. I would take issue, too -- as I think Frum kind of does with himself -- on a perhaps moot point: the degree of responsibility Romney bears for his loss.

The basic premise is incontrovertible: the party forced Romney too far to the right:
In poll after poll, big majorities described the Republican nominee as favoring the wealthy over the middle class. 1 No surprise, therefore, that throughout the spring and summer of 2012, Obama held a multi-point lead.  over Romney, despite the president’s sub-50 percent job-approval rating. Then, in the final month of the election, Romney’s team at last released “Moderate Mitt from Massachusetts” from his six-year seclusion. Abruptly the election tightened (location 34).

Friday, November 16, 2012

In which I cozy up to my GOP governor

Gee, I never would have keyboarded such a letter before Hurricane Sandy -- at least, the tone would have been different. Politics!

Dear Governor Christie:

I urge you to take an active role in establishing New Jersey's health insurance exchange under the Affordable Care Act.  All Americans citizens should have access to affordable care, and the exchange is far likelier to serve the needs of New Jersey citizens effectively if your administration does its utmost to make the exchange work. Indeed, NJ has an effective precursor: when my oldest son was fresh out of college, before the ACA enabled adults under 26 to be covered under their parents' plans, he bought an Amerihealth policy, selecting it from clear information available on a NJ website. It was affordable, adequate coverage. Please help New Jersey take the next step and make more comprehensive insurance available to a wider range of citizens who can't get insurance through their employers.

The GOP needs to end its emotional, knee-jerk, self-serving opposition to a health reform effort modeled on Gov. Romney's successful Massachusetts program. As a party leader, you can  *lead* in this regard. The times they are a-changin for the GOP -- please throw in your lot with its better instincts.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A prophet not without honor save in his own party

How many political prognostications hold up well nearly five years later?  Give Republican Cassandra David Frum credit for seeing the landscape clearly in February 2008:
John Mitchell, Richard Nixon’s attorney-general, predicted in 1970: “This country is going so far right you won’t recognise it.” His prophecy was vindicated. Now its time is up: 2008 is shaping up to be the first decisive Democratic victory since 1964 – a 1980 in reverse...

In 2002, equal numbers of Americans identified as Republicans and Democrats. In the six years since, Republican identification has collapsed back to the level recorded before Ronald Reagan. The decline has been steepest among young voters. If they eat right, exercise and wear seatbelts, today’s 20-somethings will be voting against George W. Bush deep into the 2060s. Most ominously, US polls show an ideological sea change: a desire for a more activist government, a loss of interest in the tax question and a shift to the left on most social issues (although not, interestingly, abortion).

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Obama can't quite keep it simple

[11/15: several updates at bottom]

In response to the first 'fiscal cliff' question in his press conference today, Obama seemed to shut the door on any alternative to letting the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% expire -- that is, to raising the top marginal income tax rate. But there was a little sliver of light along the doorjamb, and when Chuck Todd pushed on it, Obama swung the door open.

First, this seemed all but definitive:
QUESTION: You’ve said that the wealthiest must pay more. Would closing loopholes instead of raising rates for them satisfy you?

OBAMA: I think that there are loopholes that can be closed, and we should look at how we can make the process of deductions, the filing process easier, simpler. But when it comes to the top 2 percent, what I’m not going to do is to extend further a tax cut for folks who don’t need it, which would cost close to a trillion dollars.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Contrast of conservatives: Brooks vs. Bartlett

By coincidence no doubt, the New York Times today showcases two diametrically opposed conservative approaches to fiscal cliff negotiations (in the parallel online/print universes): that of Bruce Bartlett, a genuine old-school deficit hawk, and of David Brooks, a well-meaning unwitting (if intermittent) sap for the current extremist frauds who dictate GOP policy.

Contemplating what Obama has called a "forcing mechanism" to give him his revenue increase -- the leverage afforded by the expiration of the Bush tax cuts -- Brooks urges a fresh bout of conciliation on the president:

Monday, November 12, 2012

Change I still believe in

As both sides gear up for tax-and-spending battles at the edge of the fiscal...slope, and as Obama quite noisily proclaims that public opinion is on his side with regard to raising taxes on the top 2%, I want to repost my best recent attempt to understand Obama's current stated theory of how 'change' gets done. Hint: it's not a matter of trying to sway public opinion -- Obama is as aware as Brendan Nyhan that that's a futile enterprise. It's a matter of deploying public opinion that's already on his side -- as he did with some modest success in 2012.  Here's the argument, engaged (one-sidedly, natch) with Ezra Klein six weeks ago.

Sept. 21, 2012

Ezra Klein, noting that Obama has recently revamped the way he talks about "change," attempts a massive debunk.  Obama is now claiming that he's learned, "you can't change Washington from the inside..you can only change it from the outside. That's how I got elected. That's how the big accomplishments like health care got done."

Nonsense, protests Ezra. All the change that Obama effected was the result of inside baseball -- buying off corporate interests, herding Democratic cats, striving (mostly unsuccessfully) to win opposition buy-in. Obama brought policy change, but not change in the way Washington works. The latter is an impossible goal for a president or any one person.

In my view, Klein is viewing this question too narrowly. Obama is well aware of the limitations of the bully pulpit, and he's got to know better than any person on the planet that presidential advocacy polarizes, entrenching the opposing party in implacable opposition to whatever the president proposes. Yet, in presenting a revamped theory of how the presidency works, he's not just feeding us a line of BS.  And if Obama wins reelection, I believe that we will look back five or ten or twenty years from now and recognize that yes, Obama did change the way Washington works. Or at the very least, he kept the US on a sane policy course in a time of extreme polarization and thus gave (will have given...) the system space to self-correct, as it has in the past.

Let's start with Klein's objection to Obama's characterization of how healthcare reform got done:

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Another silver bullet for election forecasting

My wife's hospital floor (she's a nurse midwife) is staffed by doctors and nurses from all over the world. Politics comes up quite a bit, at least in election season. One Nigerian nurse, whenever my wife expressed anxiety about Obama, would always respond, "Cindy, don't worry. God will take care of him."

As election day hurtled toward us, this nurse told Cindy, "At 10 o'clock on Tuesday, you will be drinking champagne."  Not strictly true, since at 10 that night Cindy was attending a birth (with a woman who pumped her fist and shouted "Obama!" between contractions). And the forecast was of course off by about 75 minutes.  But about as good as Nate Silver, no?

As for me, this "God will take care of him" mantra was relayed to me repeatedly. I did envy this lady her faith.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The real final score: Obama 11, Romney 1

Nate Silver does have a way with data visualization. His analysis of the Democrats' current electoral college edge includes a electoral scorecard that lists the 50 states in order of the margin of victory, beginning with Obama's wins and moving on to Romney's. The close states in the middle reveal a striking fact: Romney won only one state by a margin of less than eight points. Obama won eleven.

Forget for a moment the demographic contest -- one candidate's large advantage among whites vs. the other's larger advantage among all ethnic minorities.  Forget, too, the strategic plusses and minuses of pursuing independents vs. turning out your base. Forget national popular vote margins. The simple fact is that Romney won only one state that any Republican would not have won.  A dozen states were competitive, and Obama won eleven of them -- by margins that were increasing rapidly at the end, and exceeded the final polls. He outperformed on every front --turnout, targeted advertising, and ultimately, the debates. He just kicked Romney's ass across the political field.

Update: it occurs to me that Silver comes to a very different conclusion: that even if Romney had won the national popular vote by two percentage points, Obama still would have won the electoral college. That is, Obama's advantage was structural, and would be shared by any Democrat at present. That assumes, I believe, a proportionality between Obama's margins in the swing states and the popular vote totals. But most of the direct competing was done in the swing states.  The tipping point, in Silver's reckoning, was Colorado: that is, Romney would have had to win Colorado and every other state that Obama won by a lesser margin than Colorado (Virginia, Ohio, Florida) to win the election.  And Obama won Colorado by 4.7 percentage points -- quite a large margin for Romney to have overcome. Does that mean that Obama's advantage was structural, i.e., that no competent Republican could have overcome it this year?  I don't know.  The margin there, and in all the truly competitive swing states, seemed much smaller just a few days before the election.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Obama to his young supporters: Haply I think on thee...

Thanking his young supporters after his reelection victory, Obama reproduced the spirit of a Shakespeare sonnet. Those sonnets are mainly an arduous outpouring of love to a young man spoken by an "old" poet of 40-plus years -- an almost maternal love, as the great Shakespearean C.L. Barber characterized it.

After suggesting to his assembled staff that they all had far more direction and focus and skills than he did as a twenty-something community organizer, Obama, with more than enough pauses and "uhs" to sink him in a debate, came to this peroration:

Fiscal cliff notes: speak however, but wield that stick

Re the fiscal cliff: Obama has promised repeatedly, from the December 2010 press conference in which he announced his Bush-tax-cut-extension-for-payroll-tax-cut-and-unemployment-benefit-extension deal, to the present, that he would not agree to another extension of the Bush marginal rate cuts for the wealthiest 2% this time around.

He gained further leverage when the "sequestered" budget cuts triggered by the failure of the budget supercommittee last November became law -- and Republicans began screaming about the mandated defense cuts far louder than Democrats have protested the domestic cuts.  Once Obama refused to lift a finger to stop the sequester, I began to wonder whether the Budget Control Act of August 2011 wasn't a 60-yard punt.  If so, he is now taking possession.

After coming close to ratifying a truly crappy grand bargain with Boehner in July 2011, has Obama learned to use the leverage he's gathered?  Signs are that he may have. Here's what he told the Des Moines Register a couple of weeks ago:

Thursday, November 08, 2012

How's that "more perfect union" working out?

His high praise of Obama notwithstanding, Adam Gopnik thinks the president is kind of bullshitting us (and himself, perhaps) with his renewed declaration of national unity:
his political intelligence is so keen that he knows when unreality best serves his ends. Political intelligence is as distinct and intuitive a gift as any of the other kinds of intelligence—the situational intelligence of the athlete or the analytic intelligence of the intellectual—and a large component of political intelligence lies in being faithful to your own fictions. The new Spielberg-Kushner-Lewis movie, “Lincoln,” reminds us (or will, once widely released) that Lincoln’s entire conduct in office during the war was based on the fiction that the secession had never happened—that the South was not a rebellious nation but, rather, a bunch of outlaws running around in gang regalia. What you could see had just happened—a bunch of states becoming an alien nation—had not. This fiction of continuity, of an indissoluble union in the face of its rather evident dissolution, was essential to Lincoln’s case and to his credo.

To this list of—what shall we call them?—higher liars (sounds harsh, though it conveys something of the idea) most other great politicians might be added. F.D.R., with his assertion that fear was all there was to fear when there was so much real stuff to be frightened of; and Reagan, for that matter, with his many repeated myths and mantras. By now Obama must know the virtues of fighting and the limits of the invocation of unity, but he knows, too, that a cool man who does not cherish his own warmest rhetoric becomes a mere hot-air artist. If that knowledge can make him seem at times na├»ve, or even willfully perverse—well, after all, he’s the one who’s the phenomenon, not you.
Stimulating, methinks, but not the whole story. No doubt, Obama's "not just red states and blue states" mantra puts forward a national image that's highly, shall we say, idealized -- that is, part bullshit. But only partly, because Obama lays the real beside the ideal, embracing disunity within unity -- as in his victory speech last night:

Psychology of campaign donations: reverse-causation giving

I made my first donation to Obama's reelection campaign more or less when first asked, in February 2011, and doled it out in gradually accelerating dribs and drabs as campaign season kicked into gear, keeping a rough count in my head -- corrected and ratified, starting I think this past August, with occasional emails from the campaign spelling out the total.  I went from about once a month to twice a month to 3x at the end, and I let various moments of personal anxiety or perceived need (almost never induced by the 20 emails a day I was getting) spike it.

As with voting, if you're not a megadonor you know your money won't make a measurable difference -- my $100 won't make a dent in the $10 million Super PAC buy I just read about. So why do it?   The simple answer is you do what you can and hope others will too -- but over time I noticed a slightly magical element to that. It seems I was acting on a kind of reverse causation assumption: that I was part of a kind of herd mind, and that if I decided to donate at a particular moment, it was a good bet that others would too. So I could make it happen by letting it happen.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Obama claims victory for his "United States"

Obama thrilled the country at the 2004 DNC when for the first time on the national stage he decried the division of the country into red states and blue states, asserting "there's not a liberal America and a conservative America; there's the United States of America."  Conversely, when he told the country's citizens at the 2012 DNC  that the election in 2008 "wasn't about me...you were the change," some viewed that as a cop-out of sorts: I failed to change Washington, so you do it. Gone were the promises to bridge the red-blue divide himself with the GOP Congress; he wrote them off as dead-enders, and effectively asked the electorate to change Congress by expression of popular will.

Obama's victory speech last night further elaborated the connection between the national unity he has always asserted and the political "change" he seeks. The heart of it came at the end. After telling the tale of a couple whose daughter's leukemia would have cost them everything had Obamacare not kicked in, he said, describing a crowd listening to the father tell his story:

Annus mirabilis

If I may repeat a thought from September 8, mentally converting the conditional into the indicative as I reread:

With breath held as the billion-dollar Romney air assault kicks into post-convention gear, I am also prepared to be proud.  Step back and contemplate that in the face of 8-plus percent unemployment, and a united opposition that has sabotaged and demonized his every initiative for 44 months, Obama remains at least a slight favorite for reelection.  Renewing our vows would be even more awe-inspiring than electing Obama in the first place.

In the euphoria of 2008, it was possible to think that racism was losing its potency, was not a major factor in our politics. After we lost that innocence, after four years of more and less racially coded attacks, from birtherism to Gingrich's food stamp president to Romney's subtler charge that Obama doesn't understand what makes America unique; after the death panel screams and the debt ceiling debacle; Obama's support has never fully cratered, and is looking more likely than not to carry him over the finish line. His basic competence, and intelligence, and dignity, and concern for the mass of the people, and integrity are manifest enough that a large plurality has always stuck with him.

Pundits moan no end about the stupidity of the electorate. Progressives worry, with reason, about the effects of unprecedented and unaccountable billions flowing into campaign coffers, and an equally unprecedented willingness to base a campaign entirely on lies. And yet, in the face of all, it appears more likely than not that the race-baiting, compromise-ditching, economy-sabotaging, government-gutting, corporate-controlled GOP is going to fail to fool most of the people enough of the time to unseat Obama.

If he prevails again, it will be America's finest hour since the Voting Rights Act.

----

So he has prevailed. And let's pause for a moment to remember -- and, in his triumph, savor -- the rings of fire he has passed through: economic freefall. Implacable disloyal opposition from the day he was elected; sabotage and smear, to the point where the real effects of his economy-saving and built-to-last stimulus bill were erased from the public perception. The heaviest legislative lift since the Voting Rights Act, resulting in the most important addition to the safety net since Medicare. The midterm shellacking, followed by the debt ceiling debacle, out of which he salvaged a debt ceiling-free run to the present and massive leverage at the edge of the fiscal cliff, and after which he learned to hammer an opposition incapable of compromise. Whitewater rafting past the rocks of Supreme Court ruling on the ACA, Israeli threats to set the world afire, and European meltdown.  Hard-won backdoor stimulus in the form of payroll tax cuts and unemployment extensions.

Obama knows how to be president now.  He knows what his opposition is an dhow to deal with it.  He is free to cement the pillars of his legacy, the long-term investments in the future: universal healthcare with evolving cost controls, a new banking regime dependent on rule-writing by an administration serious about curbing the industry's excesses, ongoing investment in alternative energy, moderating the Supreme Court, completing the gay rights revolution, a peaceful resolution to Iran's nuclear development, continued patient, subtle leadership in the continued development of multilateral institutions...the list goes on.

Jonathan Chait recently argued convincingly that Obama has been a great president. Second terms are notorious for setbacks and dissipated energy. More than most presidents, though, Obama has a full plate simply in the hard, essential work of implementing and building on his towering legislative accomplishments. I am confident that he will be a good steward of those works in progress.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Burning off the nerves on election night

I've been first too busy and work and then too keyed up (this evening) to blog for a couple of days, so I thought I'd work off a little nervous energy, not exactly with a live blog, but with a few scattered thoughts and notes.

1) I've been afraid to look at the early tea leaves, so when the Obama campaign texted me at about 8 ET to make some last minute calls, I responded and started calling Colorado an hour before the polls closed. The calls were to people who had requested mail-in ballots, to tell them that if they didn't get the ballot on time they could go to their polling place (provided on-screen) and fill out a provisional ballot. I reached a good handful of people, and they were very nice -- at the end, GOTV is almost all supporters, and a couple calmed me down a bit, as they were chatty and more sanguine than I was feeling.  I also learned something interesting from one guy: that if you didn't mail in your provisional ballot on time you could walk it in today, and it would be counted with conventional votes. So I started leaving that info, along w/ polling places, on voicemail -- all of 45 min to a half hour before closing time. Silly, but as good a way to kill the time as, say, this.

2) Earlier in the evening I had been calling PA voters, and that too offered a bit of reassurance as virtually everyone I talked to was a supporter and virtually all had voted already.  That indicates to me that the GOTV winnowing process was working well.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

The president as champion of the people

I listened last night to a speech that Obama gave in Bristow, Virginia yesterday (Nov. 3), and it included a riff that was new to me. I've found it in a transcript of a speech delivered on the same day, in Dubuque,Iowa. It offers a singular - -and in a sense, conservative -- view of the president's role in our government:
See, the folks at the very top in this country, they don't need a champion in Washington. They'll always have a seat at the table. They'll always have access. They'll always have influence. That's the way things are.

The people who need a champion are you the Americans whose letters I read late at night after I'm done with my work in the office; the men and women I meet on the campaign trail every day; the folks I met that first summer when I was traveling around Iowa, and nobody could pronounce my name.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Obamacare and the End of Days

Canvassing in Allentown, PA today, I met a young white woman coming out of her apartment, lighting up a cigarette. She was listed on the contact sheet as a supporter, and she said she was going to vote, and when I asked for who she said somewhat doubtfully, probably Obama, or I guess Obama, or something like that. I asked whether she had any doubts, and she said several positive things about Obama -- that he came in facing a mess, and had started to turn things around (I wish I could remember the good metaphor she used), that Romney was just for the rich. She seemed neither educated nor politically unaware.  Then she pointed to her forearm and said, "what about that chip?"

I had heard this once before. A Hispanic girl of about 13, translating for her mother who remained far from the door, asked us whether Obama was going to put a chip in everyone's arm through which we could be controlled. I asked one of the district coordinators about this, and she said they had heard the tale occasionally, and thought one of the churches was spreading the rumor (she may have said a Seventh Day Adventist church, or that may be my memory embellishing). 

Friday, November 02, 2012

Capitulate, Chait! Succumb, Drum! Obama's rhetoric is a force for change

Two of the admirers of Obama I'm most attuned to claim a tough-minded immunity to the alleged intoxications of the president's rhetoric. Jonathan Chait, in a truly moving and incisive tribute to Obama's radical pragmatism, protests at the outset, "I never felt his election would change everything about American politics or government...Nothing Obama did or said ever made me well up with tears." Kevin Drum goes him one better:
I simply never took seriously any of Obama's high-flown rhetoric—Hope and change, Yes we can! You are the solution, etc.—dismissing it as nothing more than typical campaign windiness.
To which I must respond: Gentlemen! Tune in, turn on, don't cop out. Listen to what the man has been saying these five-plus years.