Monday, October 13, 2008
Some Introspection On The US Election
It is now only 21 days and less than 7 hours before the appointed date of November 4th, when the entire currently harangued nation goes to the polls – to express the electorate’s choices of candidates, their anger, their partisanship, and for whatever other plausible reasons citizens exercise their patriotic duty of suffrage.
As it stands, most polls, whether non-partisan or not, show the Democratic candidate, Barack Obama, leading comfortably and consistently against John McCain of the Republicans. And this trend started bumping up almost in cadence when the economy started unraveling, commencing with the stock brokerage mess, to the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac dance of death, and consequently with the oozing credit meltdown.
Being with the party of the current administration, it is only being realistic to ascribe to McCain the default blame for the problems of the economy. Fairly or unfairly, administrations thrive or die whichever direction the economy takes, whether a smoking gun can be traced or not. It simply is conventional wisdom to blame or credit the current administration whatever happens in the economy at large.
And the polls reflect that conventional wisdom. Whether truly McCain and the current administration should be blame solely for all the accumulated mess is a very debatable issue. For one, people could mention Democrats, Cong. Barney Frank and Sen. Chris Dodd, and tie them up neatly with the unregulated down spiral of Fannie and Freddie; and even Obama for surprisingly huge contributions received after being in the Senate for barely 3 years and his association with disgraced Fannie head Franklin Raines. But others could argue that that is beside the point. The truism is that whatever happens in the economy will be blamed on the entire party of the current administration. Unless of course, the refuting narrative becomes so compelling as to offset this truism. Are the facts on this case as revealed compelling enough? That remains to be seen – within these crucial 3 weeks, which we are counting down.
That aside, what could be the reasons why the polls are skewed toward the Democrats the way they are? Is the crazed economic situation the whole determinant and reason for this shift, granting that we are in very uncharted grounds when we start analyzing what is happening in the economy? And what we are undergoing partakes of such historic proportions not before experienced in terms of magnitude and global reach, though many knowledgeable economists would opine that they are witnessing similar events as in the 30’s. But the absolute figures are astronomically bigger than those depression years.
It is worth mentioning that prior even to the primaries, most of the pundits on both sides either have acknowledged or been resigned to the fact that the forthcoming election was for the Democrats to win, regardless of which candidate eventually got the party’s nod. The 2006 election presaged that ominous prediction, because it was precisely that election when the Republicans lost both houses and where even its continued hold on the Executive department became very tenuous. Because of the badly-handled wars, the almost indiscriminate increases in spending by both Congress and the Presidency, and throw in there the almost-illogical hatred for this current president –not only by members of the opposing party, the media, the global communities represented in parts of Europe, the Muslim world, and etc., and even by those in the blogosphere who had forum to express in and time to spend, this administration never had any chance to recover from its dismal approval ratings. And it may well be leaving the WH in January with that same dismal number tacked on its back. Though a sour consolation could be that the current congress dominated by the Democrats has an even lower collective approval rating - hovering in the high teens.
Anyway, three weeks before the voting while the expected leader is indeed enjoying that lead, it still is not a done deal. Meaning, victory has not yet been locked in as had been prognosticated what seemed like an eternity ago. It is still a competitive race. The current leader is already declaring an eventual landslide, while at the same time continuing to pour in resources every which way, outspending the competition by something like 4 to 1.
So what could account for the race being still a close call and continues to be hard-fought? At one point, the leader had pre-empted any subsequent loss by claiming that white voters will continue to be hard pressed overall to vote for a black candidate and will thus tend to skew polling by withholding their innately prejudiced choices. The dreaded Bradley effect in US elections, which coming from some quarters could account for as much as 5-6% in the total votes difference.
Again all those put aside, to what could we attribute the results of current polls? What issues propounded by the party or the candidates could possibly be responsible for these results, again putting aside all the qualifying statements above? The personal qualifications of the candidates? The trust and confidence the people have for what they know or have been told about the candidates? The ability to spend more for electioneering? What about the glaring and defiant partisanship of the media?
Let’s start with economic plans, since we are in the midst of a tremendous and all-reaching economic crisis that promises to financially obliterate many of us unless stopped and rectified. Polls suggest that the public has more confidence with Obama rather than the experienced McCain with regard to who could do better with the economy. But what exactly can he do better with the economy beyond the campaign rhetoric, which one is sure has been sifted and gathered together by a formidable cadre of renowned Who’s Who in Economics circles? This particular campaign is not averse to the public knowledge out there that there are at least 300 advisors ready to give advice to Obama. His recorded experience in the field is paper thin.
And many people are having a problem trying to understand a campaign rhetoric that keeps repeated regularly in stump speeches. A tax-cut for 90% of the American people! Taken at face value, it sounds very ambitious but laudable project. But how does it stand the truth test since 40% of the population does not pay income taxes anyway? It is a tax credit, the campaign explains. But anybody filing a tax return knows that a tax credit is a deduction to one’s tax liability, and a deductible is a deduction to either income or expense. If you are not paying income taxes, what is there to do a tax credit to? But you get a check for the amount of your credit anyway, it is further explained. So the truth is it is not a tax cut, but what we normally call welfare payment that will be given out to those who may not have any tax liability but also to those that that do not show any income at all. One can simply imagine the gravity and size of this new type of welfare entitlement.
But this is not to suggest that McCain has a better plan, sifted through and gathered together by his own cadre of advisors. The better issue to bring out is the bitter reality that whoever sits as the new president will not only have his hands full with the problems already festering but his hands will be tied behind his back with all the Federal money now committed and to be thrown into the midst of these economic maladies. So if the people are calling for an economic savior or maybe just a czar, let’s be realistic, neither can deliver the envisioned deliverance.
Personally what ought to count are the personal loads attached to each candidate, or in other words, which one carries less negative baggage to his position. The McCain side has had its yeoman share – the Keating Five connection for which McCain was the only senator exonerated out of the five and the 4 were Democrats, Palin’s unsophisticated ways and working class origins,. But the Obama ticket has more not only to unload but to explain sufficiently to the public. His past continues to be shadowy at best, contrasted with his VP whose over 30 years in the Senate is an open, though quite undistinguished, book. Thus, we need to know more about a good part of Obama’s past – his close associations with unrepentant terrorist William Ayers, what exactly was his role as a member in the church of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, his vaunted community organizing work in Southside Chicago which seemed to appear to come out of the pages of the book of radical Saul Alinsky, etc.
We now know practically everything we need, and more, to know about the homespun life of fellow upstart, Sarah Palin, the media, the opposing campaign, and most of her instant detractors have made sure of that.
So maybe some serious attention by our devoted media can be devoted to learning about Obama, especially because lesser known inquiring sources have met with great resistance digging into that past.
Is that too much to ask? Or should we just raise our hands and with bowed heads move forward the inauguration date of Obama’s presidency?
…to be continued.