Saturday, November 22, 2008

Two narratives of the Obama win

Narrative one: There was nothing special about this election, it was determined by large scale phenomena that neither candidate had much control over:
  • Demographic trends are shifting towards the Democrats. The Republican coalition of 2000 and 2004 just doesn't add up to electoral victory anymore
  • When the sitting president is unpopular, the party of that president won't do well.
  • On economic issues, voters favor the Democrats. Economic issues were salient for voters.
  • When economic times are difficult during an election year, the party of the sitting president is at a disadvantage.
Narrative two: This election was the result of highly specific circumstances unique to this particular election and could have gone the other way had the campaigns done things differently:
  • Obama is a once-in-a-lifetime uber-being who has superpowers of rhetoric, organizing, and political manoevering that no one else could possibly equal.
  • John McCain shot himself in the foot so many times: Palin, not knowing how many houses he owned, "the fundamentals of our economy our strong", suspending his campaign, poor debate performance, etc.
  • If only Republicans had stayed true to conservative principles, they would have won!
  • Bush was hugely, spectacularly, singularly unpopular and that hamstrung McCain.
  • The media was in the tank for Obama.
  • People voted for Obama as a way to exorcise racist demons in themselves and in the country.
  • Obama's campaign was run by super-genius demigods like Axelrod and Plouffe whose flawless performance is responsible for the election outcome.
  • The timing of the financial crisis was what did in McCain. Oh, cruel Fate! The injustice!
I think you can tell by the snarky tone which narrative I prefer. I do think there were some specific things that made Obama's victory larger than it might otherwise have been. The campaign was well run. He had much more money. He had a much better ground game. He did better in the debates. He didn't pick a vice-presidential nominee who was completely ignorant about important issues. But I think fundamentals like demographics are far more important.

Part of me hopes that the Republicans subsribe to narrative #2, so they continue to suffer defeats. But I think the contry would be better off with a reality-based opposition party. The Republicans are going to have to figure out how to break out of their demographic death trap. There just aren't enough white, Christian fundamentalist, married, conservative, rural, angry, heterosexual men in Oklahoma and Arkansas to form a winning coalition. (OK, I'm being unfair there; the Republican coalition is larger than that.) I think the Republican party is going to require a major shift in focus: they're going to have to become the party that can offer a comprehensive green energy solution, or universal healthcare, or working class economic populism, or something.

A lot of Republicans seem to believe that if only they could find the right candidate, or the right campaign strategy, they could be victorious again. I disagree. I think it will require a full-scale re-working like the Conservative Party in the UK.

On the other hand, if Obama becomes associated with a huge economic collapse, I think the Republicans could easily come back despite their demographic disadvantages. In this case, the fundamentals would cut against the Democrats. But they'd still have to present bread-and-butter solutions.

3 Comments:

Anonymous bill in minneapolis said...

I agree that demographics are the most powerful force.

However, electing a black man with the name Barack Hussein Obama as President also required an almost perfect candidate and campaign.

Remember that white Protestants voted overwhelmingly for McCain(65%to 34% [NYTimes, 11/9). They make up 42% of all voters.

Since I am one of them, I was totally shocked by this statistic.

8:16 PM, November 22, 2008  
Blogger Superb Jon said...

Obama marks the end of the Burke Maritan Buckley model of conservatism based on collectivist labor unions, police suppression of the Bill of Rights, middle class subsidies for homes and schools under the watchful eye of the Knights of Columbus and Opus D. Every American boom has been caused by an Evangelical Revival and every major Depression by the domination of new Catholic immigrants. See for example George Marlin's history of the conservative party in New York or Paul Johnson's Modern Times, extolling the rise of Carolignianism of Adenauer, de Gaulle, and Gaspieri, forgetting that Hitler, too, was Carolignian and a Catholic altar boy. Carolignian Brzezinski spawned Zia al Haq, Khomeini, and bin Laden - breaks up superpowers via Aztlan and Kosovo as per Joel Garreau's Nine Nations. Brzezinski, Buckley and Buchanan winked anti-Semitic votes for Obama, delivered USA to Pope's feudal basket of Bamana Republics. Michael Pfleger and Joe Biden prove Obama is the Pope's boy. Obama is half a Kearney from County Offaly in Ireland. Talal got Pontifical medal as Fatima mandates Catholic-Muslim union against Jews (Francis Johnson, Great Sign, 1979, p. 126), Catholic Roger Taney wrote Dred Scott decision. John Wilkes Booth, Tammany Hall and Joe McCarthy were Catholics. Now Catholic majority Supreme Court. Catholics Palmisano, Grasso, Damato, Langone, Dioguardi, Palmieri destroyed American industry. Subprime construction mobsters had hookers deliver mortgages to banks. McCain's Keeting started it all. They find American cars too advanced to use or their mechanics to fix. Their slovenly, anti-intellectual work ethic produces vacuous, casuistrous blather and a tangle of contradictory regulations. NYC top drop outs: Hispanic 32%, Black 25%, Italian 20%. NYC top illegals: Ecuadorean, Italian, Polish. Ate glis-glis but blamed plague on others, now lettuce coli. Their bigotry most encouraged terror yet they reap most security funds. Rabbi circumcises lower, Pope upper brain. Tort explosion by glib casuistry. Hollywood Joe Kennedy had Bing Crosby proselytise.Bazelya 1992 case proves PLO-IRA-KLA links. Our enemy is the Peking-Mecca-Vatican Axis and the only answer is alliance with Israel and India.

12:59 AM, April 25, 2009  
Blogger Zachary Drake said...

Um, Superb Jon, you sound like a nut.

9:04 AM, April 25, 2009  

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