People speak of the Bradley effect—more people tell pollsters they will vote for a black candidate than vote for the black candidate. But I have been wondering about the possibility of what may someday be called the Obama effect: You know your neighbors think he's sketchy—unknown, a mystery, "Hussein"—so you don't say you're voting for him, but you are.MEGAN: Ha, well, Peggy need wonder now more! There's actually evidence of that.
“If you call people on the phone today and ask who they will vote for, some will give responses influenced by what may be understood, locally, as the more desirable response. It is easy to suppose that these people are lying to pollsters. I don’t believe that. What I think is they may be undecided and experiencing social pressure which could increase their likelihood of naming the white candidate if their region or state has a history of white dominance. They also might give the name of the Republican if the state is strongly Republican.MOE: Jesus Christ. Honestly? That is totally fascinating. What that says about the country, what that says about how this is THE end of the Reagan era, is remarkable. MEGAN: Especially because it's not just your neighbors being wary about Obama, it's about them feeling completely comfortable voicing a level of hatred for him that scares the crap out of normal people. I mean, holy shit, this blog entry:
If Barack Obama wins...Do we need to worry about conservative whites rioting?MOE: We just broke 8,000. 7,948. God this is amazing. MEGAN: Yeah, I looked my stock up pre-9:30 and it was already down and I was like, well, fuck. Why does it have to keep half its value? I'm sure 25% of its initial value is fine. Oh, and by the way, the whole campaign spin about how McCain and Palin aren't hearing when people shout shit out and whatever, someone points out that McCain's hearing used to be really fucking good and he used to call his supporters out on being assholes. MOE: And all I can say is that, number one, the anger conveyed by that McCain rally is that going to strike readers as overdone, as exaggerated by a contemptuous liberal writer eager for a "take." Not that anyone is listening, but it is not. I know exactly how tired of contempt and weary of exaggeration the media is right now and that story does sadden me. Meanwhile, Peggy is right, Obama has to bring it in that TV address. I was so relieved to hear he was doing it, because as she says, it's striking how small and unworthy of the moment both our candidates seem right now. And to think that just six months ago I was thinking "Wow, an Obama McCain race would be so inspiring, to think after all these years of shitty boring uninspiring uninteresting safe partisan poll-tested politicians to have such interesting men before us…okay and now what. That debate Tuesday was quite possibly the two most fucking deeply boring hours of my life. It's like that trope about how "to turn a good person bad, that takes religion" … there's an equivalent saying about politics I suppose, that was obvious before I was momentarily heartened by the fact that Obama and McCain seemed so not that. Wow, that Slate story, "bloodthirsty." MEGAN: I don't know, I feel like, were the debates ever exciting? I don't remember them being stirring or getting an appreciation for the candidates' differences on issues during them, it was always more of a way to see how they interact and react to scrutiny and shit. So on that level, it was only boring because Obama won't be an asshole but he also can't afford to embody stereotypes about black men, I think. MOE: No I don't believe that. There are so many things either one of them could have done to make it unboring. Don't you watch these things with echoes of inspiring addresses you imagine TR or Churchill might have made to the public ringing in your ears? Didn't you hear all that bullshit about Sarah Palin "cutting out the moderate middlemen and addressing the American public right to their faces" and think why can't Obama just do that already? Because he's exhausted, but also, to an extent, it is hard not to conclude, because he is a little bit of a pussy, and that is disappointing.
Both campaigns, in the closing stretch, seem not fully worthy of the moment. We are in crisis—a once-in-a-century event, as we now say. And what we got from the candidates, in this week's presidential debate, was a bunch of gummy meanderings—smooth, rounded sentences so full of focus-grouped inanities that six minutes in viewers entered a kind of trance in which we almost immediately gave up on trying to wrest meaning from what was being said and instead focused on mere impressions. The look of things. The men on the plane, the pseudo-tough political operatives who surround both candidates, sometimes grouse, in private, that it's all symbols now, all mood, all about the visual. But they have some real responsibility here. They send their candidates out to speak such thin gruel, such spat-out porridge, that we are struck dumb, and left daydreaming about the fact that Mr. Obama's suits are always slate gray and never seem to wrinkle, and Mr. McCain tonight seems like a rabbity forest creature darting amid the hedgerows.God, when she is right she is SO RIGHT. MEGAN: No, I mostly watch these things and think of "I met John F. Kennedy, sir, and you are no John F. Kennedy" and the exchange about Cheney's gay daughter and, most laughably, the part in 2000 where George Bush swore up and down that his administration would never, ever go nation building to try to bring democracy to people that don't even want it. None of which was inspiring at all, but it was impressive in the way it stuck in my head as a good attack. MOE: What about that hilarious moment with Cheney Lieberman where Cheney promised Lieberman he would show him how to go make millions in the private sector? I mean, Cheney Lieberman was great on so many levels, much more than not least of which was that Lieberman was McCain's first choice as a running mate. MEGAN: What about that was inspirational? What about that was any more than a playground attack with no meaning or substance behind it? Name me a debate that inspired you. These aren't speeched, they're deliberately 90 second easily-digestible soundbites. Also, I'm calling bullshit on Peggy here, actually, because what's she's doing is defending her career as a Reagan staffer, as though he debates inspired America. Pish posh, I say. The rules were the same, the answers were the same and the level of boredom was the same. MOE: So Alan Greenspan's legacy has pretty much gone the way of Larry Craig's. No that is not true. We're just young. Have you been watching those Reagan documentaries? Dumbass WAS inspiring. It is inspiring how inspiring he managed to be! MEGAN: Not in the debates. My parents made me watch 'em. He could be inspiring, but not in that format. Also, Greenspan did always manage to get out when the getting was good. MOE: Inspiring and scary. And I just don't buy it! I just DON'T! No one answers the questions, you might as well go off on tangents like Sarah Palin because no one can keep track. I am the first to blame the confines of the structure or the market or the Way Things Are for the Way People Fuck Up, but Obama should be doing better. He should, but I imagine he is too tired. The thing that is true is that the Democrats, as we were discussing from the beginning, do not understand the moral authority they could seize here, maybe because they didn't go into this for reasons of morality, because, you know, who really does. But Obama did. It's one of the things the GOP jumped on. "Michelle acts like it is such a SACRIFICE that he went into the government to SERVE HIS GREAT COUNTRY" when meanwhile they won't trust anyone with the Treasury they can't give a hundred million or so tax break to. MEGAN: I don't know what moral authority they can seize here, nor how he could have done it at the debates. I was arguing about this with a friend. Like, great, you want him to be the Great Jesus and savior of our political system and now our economy — but he can't do shit if he's not elected. That's politics. He's not going to get elected by calling McCain a racist piece of shit on stage because to do so is to call too many Americans that. Look at how many people got offended during the primaries when they were being racist. It's not an effective strategy. And who are you going to inspire in 90 seconds with a soundbite? Nobody, except maybe to anger, which is what Palin is doing right now. MOE: No here is the thing, he cannot do shit when he's elected if he doesn't make the case to the public while 60 million of them are watching. MEGAN: What case? The case for what? He's supposed to be making a case for why he should be elected in 90 seconds or less. Not a case for America or a case for how to fix the financial system. You can't fix it in 90 seconds, you can't answer it in 90 seconds and if you could, you'd be wrong. The problem with Obama is, the problem why his race speech failed, the problem with why his primary tactics almost fell short is that he doesn't inspire with soundbites. He doesn't give answers in soundbites. He doesn't explain in soundbites. And Americans don't listen in anything but. MOE: Ugh, whatever. We will not agree on this I'm afraid. But YES I want him to be Jesus. I want him to fucking TAKE BACK JESUS from those horrid sanctimonious rape victim charging fucks already! Don't let the public forget Larry Craig and Ted Haggard and that guy in Oregon with the abortion and Jake Abramoff and George Fucking Bush. And the race speech "failed" according to whom? What the fuck??? It "failed"???? MEGAN: Did he get a bounce? Did he win every primary after that? Blow Hillary out of the water? Change the game? No, he didn't. MOE: That's precisely the sort of statement I refuse to abide, I straight-up reject. A BOUNCE??? WHY ARE WE TALKING ABOUT BOUNCES, HELLO, CAPITALISM IS COLLAPSING. MEGAN: What's the point of the race speech otherwise? MOE: I can't do this anymore dude. MEGAN: What's the point of politics if not to win? MOE: What is the point, of making a serious heartfelt speech if not for a "bounce." MEGAN: What's the point of making it if McCain ends up President at the end of it? MOE: The difference, my dear, is that "bounces" mean nothing. And victory means a lot more than winning one election. We all know this. What, praytell did Bill Clinton get done with all his poll-tested plurality of the vote? Guess what? All that "unprecedented economic growth and prosperity" nonsense doesn't hold up anymore! MEGAN: I disagree. If Obama doesn't win, if the people yelling "Kill him!" and "Terrorist!" and "Socialist!" and "Off with his head!" win, then nothing will change and that speech will mean less in a year than it did 6 months ago, and nothing a year after that. To the victors go the spoils, and the spoils are the ability to make change, and history.