(Brian McFadden at the NYTimes)
Andrew O’Hehir at Salon on the modern “phony political convention“:
… It’s exactly the same chatty, up-tempo “process piece” we read every year in the Times and other major media outlets about the Oscar ceremony, and it spins exactly the same narrative: New people have been brought in to revamp this meaningless ritual we’ve all seen dozens of times before, and they’ve come up with a revolutionary new approach that will make the whole thing seem different! It’s the same rhetoric fashion magazines employ, season after season, to assure their readers that last year’s bewildered styles enslaved and oppressed women, while this year’s clear-sighted vision brings liberation.
That Times article launched a chain of associations that sent me to the bookshelf (both literally and virtually) to dig up a copy of Joan Didion’s 1988 essay “Insider Baseball,” which is perhaps the most famous piece of prose about an American presidential campaign that isn’t Hunter S. Thompson’s “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail.” First of all, the breezy, artful constructions of Times reporter Jeremy W. Peters, along with his confident insider manner, serve as a perfect illustration of Didion’s contention that nearly all media discourse on American politics involves a set of “agreements to overlook the observable.”
In this case, almost everyone who reads Peters’ article understands that the effort to wrap Romney in “warmth, approachability and openness” is a more or less sophisticated con, an advertising campaign that has little or no relationship to the actual merits or demerits of the product. But we all agree to wink at each other about this fact and not discuss it openly because we have accepted – far more so than when Didion noticed this 24 years ago – that the election is likely to turn on some mythological population of innocent and un-ironic “swing voters” out there somewhere who possess no ideology and who will choose a candidate in roughly the same way they would choose a golden retriever: by what they can consciously or subconsciously glean about personality and temperament and character…
Didion’s essay seems as distant, and as prescient, as de Tocqueville:
When we talk about the process, then, we are talking, increasingly, not about “the democratic process,” or the general mechanism affording the citizens of a state a voice in its affairs, but the reverse: a mechanism seen as so specialized that access to it is correctly limited to its own professionals, to those who manage policy and those who report on it, to those who run the polls and those who quote them, to those who ask and those who answer the questions on the Sunday shows, to the media consultants, to the columnists, to the issues advisers, to those who give the off-the-record breakfasts and to those who attend them; to that handful of insiders who invent, year in and year out, the narrative of public life. “I didn’t realize you were a political junkie,” Marty Kaplan, the former Washington Post reporter and Mondale speechwriter who is now married to Susan Estrich, the manager of the Dukakis campaign, said when I mentioned that I planned to write about the campaign; the assumption here, that the narrative should be not just written only by its own specialists but also legible only to its own specialists, is why, finally, an American presidential campaign raises questions that go so vertiginously to the heart of the structure.
What strikes one most vividly about such a campaign is precisely its remoteness from the actual life of the country. The figures are well known, and suggest a national indifference usually construed, by those inside the process, as ignorance, or “apathy,” in any case a defect not in themselves but in the clay they have been given to mold. Only slightly more than half of those eligible to vote in the United States did vote in the 1984 presidential election. An average 18.5 percent of what Nielsen Media Research calls the “television households” in the United States tuned into network coverage of the 1988 Republican convention in New Orleans, meaning 81.5 percent did not. An average 20.2 percent of these “television households” tuned into network coverage of the 1988 Democratic convention in Atlanta, meaning 79.8 percent did not. The decision to tune in or out ran along predictable lines: “The demography is good even if the households are low,” a programming executive at Bozell, Jacobs, Kenyon & Eckhardt told The New York Times in July about the agency’s decision to buy “campaign event” time for Merrill Lynch on both CBS and CNN. “The ratings are about 9 percent off 1984,” an NBC marketing vice-president allowed, again to The New York Times, “but the upscale target audience is there.”…
I’m teaching the Didion essay next month to my high school juniors; terrific piece of writing, IMHO.
Meanwhile, Occupy Chicago is planning an event where they burn their voter ID cards in front of Obama’s campaign headquarters:
OT: I’m running some “unofficial” Balloon Juice Fantasy Football leagues. I commissioned one of the official leagues last year, but haven’t been able to contact the gentleman who coordinated the whole thing last year and Cole isn’t answering my emails (he’s obviously very busy with the DNC convention coming up). Let’s have some fun anyway. If a FPer wants to bump this to the front page, feel free.
I’m creating two leagues initially, one Points and one H2H. Choose the one you prefer!
BJFL Wingnut Welfare League
Points Only League
Up to 16 participants
Roster: QB, WR, RB, TE, W/R/T, K, DEF, 4 BN
Draft: Thur Aug 30 10:00pm EDT
Join this league if you prefer points leagues, if you are inexperienced with fantasy football, or if you are not sure you can commit to managing your team week to week.
Please use the name you use in the BJ comments section as your team name.
League ID: 721256
BJFL Four More Years League
Head to Head League
Up to 12 Participants, 2 Divisions
Roster: QB, 2 WR, 2 RB, TE, W/R/T, K, DEF, 4 BN
Draft: Wed Aug 29 10:00pm EDT
Join this league if you prefer head to head leagues, but please be sure to commit to taking care of your team every week so we don’t have unfair matchups against teams with missing active players.
Please use the name you use in the BJ comments section as your team name.
League ID: 721189
Both have the same scoring rules, which are pretty conventional, but with a few minor adjustments and bonuses to try to make all positions somewhat competitive.
If we run out of slots, I’m up to creating more leagues and having more commissioners! Email me if you are interested in being a commissioner. To avoid spam, I’m posting a link to my website’s contact form instead of my email address. :-) http://www.avianwaves.com/contact.aspx
I listened to a few minutes (seemed like hours) of the Ron Paul rally in Tampa. I’m not sure if I’ll gain back the lost IQ points. Apparently it is important to be able to drink raw milk – which you can if you want to take the trouble to find it in that state prior to its entry into the regulated market.
The really big applause lines involved that milk thing, repealing ACA/Sarbanes-Oxley/Dodd-Frank/and I guess anything post 1913.
ot: Willard’s trying to etch-a-sketch and embrace Romneycare.
I say, naw, son, fuck that.
if you don’t intend to occupy a voting booth in November, fuck you.
@rikyrah: Pfft. Voting is for losers. Fight the establishment man!
Wasn’t Sheamus a golden retriever?
I have a theory that if Susan Estrich never existed, guys like me and Our Friendly Blog Proprietor would never have been Republicans. Although that’s probably not laying enough blame on the environment that made her career possible. Anyway, if you want a primer on why Dems lost in the 80s and how the party has changed for the better now, do a YouTube dive on Estrich.
@Nellcote: They are too stupid to live.
#6 I am beginning to believe he may be suffering from loss of memory. Seriously, it could very well be true.
Agreed. Must occupy a voting booth, or STFU!
Meanwhile, for drinking games: shall we sip when we hear anyone speak of George W Bush at the GOP convention? That won’t require an airline mini-bottle.
Recent Kevin Drum thread: Whatever Became of George W Bush?
@Ann Rynd: Irish setter.
Romney and memory loss: I’ve wondered about that.
Look at this stupid article on CNN. It tries to trace the modern GOP to 19th century abolitionists, without ever using the words “Dixiecrats”, “Segregation”, “Liberal” or “Conservative”. Just a ridiculously misleading piece of crap.
And that’s why Mitt has a sad when Obama brings up Akin, rape, and abortion. Why can’t we just all get along? Why do we have to disagree about disagreeable things?
@Nellcote: It’s a pity these assclowns can’t be exiled to an alternate universe where the US is ruled by President Romney, with an all-Republican controlled congress. I guess they’re just too lazy to work at the local and regional level to shift the Democratic Party towards the left.
@Nellcote: I swear, I fucking hate the whole Occupy crowd/ethos/concept more and more every day, because they KEEP GIVING ME NEW REASONS TO.
What a bunch of asshats.
James Fallows took issue with it.
Painful stupidity by CNN. Yet again.
Who writes this crap? Do they not have editors? Or know history?
Love that cartoon.
@sagesource: OWS is way past its sell-by date. It got people to focus on the very real problem of excessive income disparity in the US, but it wasn’t organized enough to take its activities, or its benefit, anywhere beyond that. Now it’s just another blip on the lunatic fringe.
It is indeed assholish to think you should be able to vote “for” someone as opposed to “against.”
As short term political strategy their idea certainly sucks, long term is another question. The long term Democtatic strategy has been to vote against and the results are pretty clear. It is much more fun to call people asshats…
@Nellcote: That’s just stupid. Occupy a voting booth in November or STFU and go away. What good does burning your voters card do? Nothing. Bunch of idiots.
I used to work for a Mormon who hired a bunch of other Mormons. In my experience with them, this is exactly how “disagreeable things” were handled. Don’t discuss, make nice, move along. I have to wonder if some of Mitt’s difficulties with “disagreeable things” comes from his Mormon background. The church leaders just tell you what to do. my boss got told to teach high school kids the Bible/Book of Mormon at 6:00 a.m. every weekday–he was exhausted at work and I asked him how the kids did and he said they could hardly stay awake. But suggesting an alternate time that might work better for everyone wasn’t done (I asked him about it–no go). Don’t disagree, don’t challenge, do as you’re told.
@Chuck Butcher: Weekly I meet the organic farmer. I buy eggs and vegies but my son swears by raw milk which I pick up for him. In GA it’s labeled for pets only. I haven’t seen any Romney stickers on cars and only one Paul and several Obama. Obama is winning this unscientific poll. For me I think Pasteur was a good person.
We don’t have voter ID cards in Illinois.
They are burning their draft notices maybe?
The Thin Black Duke
Those OWS idiots burning their voter ID cards might actually be republicans in disguise. I wish I could say it’s paranoia, but I doubt it. Or maybe they’re just stupid.
There were plenty of Paul posters around here even though it is an area where Paul’s ideas would wreak total havoc. These fuckwits are under the illusion that they are “hardy invidualists.” Most of the things that are screwing up their lives around here would be seriously amplified under a Paulist regime.
@AB: The first line says it all really.
“Some may not realize that the modern Republican Party owes its origin to the fight over slavery nearly two centuries ago.”
Now, why may they not realize that?
Is it? If you’re asked to make a short term sacrifice for a long term gain, it helps if there’s even a shred of a reason to believe the long term gain will happen. If one of these “I’m too noble to vote for Obama” chuckleheads could actually describe the exact mechanism by which that action will lead to having better candidates to vote for, one that doesn’t resemble the Underpants Gnomes’ business plan, I’m all ears. Bonus points if they can show how it’s worth the short AND long-term pain (the worst of which will probably fall on people other than themselves) caused by letting the Republicans get more power in the meantime. Yes, long-term. Does anyone doubt that Romney and Ryan could do damage in 4 or 8 years that would take decades to undo?
I don’t subscribe to “it has to get worse before it gets better” anymore, because the only thing that’s sure in that formulation is that it will get worse, and I don’t have the moral right to help make things worse for other people. The vote is about more than just the personal purity of the one who casts it.
For years my beef came straight from a ranch to the butcher and it had been fed to my desired state. I haven’t been able to use a whole steer in a reasonable time frame for several years now – so it’s Albertson’s for me.
@Chuck Butcher: Hopefully they stay home election day now that Rand Paul’s role has been diminished.
@The Thin Black Duke: I see the OWS calls to create a new system naive; the best way is to improve what we have available to us.
This isn’t clearing out a room preparatory to redecorating. They want to burn down the house and wait for someone to reinvent architecture.
My impression of raw milk is a big meh. I understand that some people think there’s a big taste difference, but my impression is that the biggest taste change comes from homogenization, not pasteurization. And I’m not 100% convinced that I want the full biological value of raw milk, since it’s targeted at baby cows, not humans, so any active proteins that manage to make it into your system may be bad for you rather than good.
It occurred to me that it makes perfect sense for Cardinal Dolan to speak at Romney’s convention. Dolan doesn’t pay taxes either.
Nice one. And where people will live in the meantime isn’t their problem. The important thing is that they got people out of that shabby house.
@Roger Moore: I can get raw milk cheese locally; a definite taste improvement, to me.
Well, I’m a huge advocate of Primaries being where you can choose the direction of a Party – obviously that would require voting.
I don’t know what story this elections will tell, I think the next mid-terms under CU will tell a lot more about whether the “get worse” is actually correct. I will tell you that I don’t think we’re very damn far from that being the prescription – with all its attendant fall-out. Since I’m already on life-support (way past wounded with a limp) there are moments it is pretty damn difficult to feel much empathy with those who say, “it could be a lot worse.”
Shawn in ShowMe
From what I’ve read this is only a faction of Occupy Chicago that is planning this action. You just have to wonder how a a class struggle against the 1% could be hijacked by folks who are miffed that Obama did not deliver the ponies he promised. I’m guessing it’s because most of the serious people already went home.
Well, we do get those little cards in the mail reminding us that we’re registered and where our polling place is. Not an ID card, by any stretch — you can just throw ’em away, as I always do. But not a bad GOTV reminder. Can’t imagine they’re protesting that…
That Didion piece was amazing, and brought back lots of memories of the Democratic convention in Atlanta in 1988. Because of my job, I was able to be part of the audience for several iconic moments: Bill Clinton’s interminable speech* and Jesse Jackson’s electrifying speech and Kitty Dukakis’ brave speech and the nominee’s entirely forgettable speech. I don’t think I was in the hall for Ann Richards (“he was born with a silver foot in his mouth”) but I was doing a lot of running around as part of my job and may not have realized its significance until later.
Thanks for all these good links.
*My favorite memory of that time is actually from a few weeks later when Clinton was a guest on the Tonight Show. “That speech wasn’t exactly your finest hour,” said Johnny Carson. “It wasn’t even my finest two hours,” conceded Clinton. LOL.
@Roger Moore: Son’s problems was due to allergies. He’s convinced that raw milk helps. Sometimes google doesn’t help.
there is a real taste difference with cheese and for that I am willing to pay more.
The Thin Black Duke
@Chuck Butcher: It can always get worse. And as a cancer survivor, I don’t understand how fucking over other people is going to make me feel better.
@Jewish Steel: I live in IL and I have a voter card somewhere, but you don’t need it for ID in order to vote. That’s probably what they are burning.
Edit: I see someone else got there first.
@Chuck Butcher: It’s been my theory that the overlords are actually using this election as an experiment to see just how far their money can go. That is, is money enough to buy an election? It’s a perfect experiment: they have about the worst GOP candidate imaginable; a reasonably popular Democratic incumbent; the Democratic incumbent seems disinclined to rock the boat too much if he wins. The way I see it, if Mittwit wins this election the overlords will figure that they can essentially buy any election they want until the pitchforks come out.
@Chuck Butcher: I keep thinking “Surely, the tide has to turn one of these days. Surely, people — not everyone, but enough people — will wake up to what the Republican Party is and what it wants to do to them.” And it never happens. I hoped that it might be starting in 2008 but I wasn’t really surprised at the way 2010 went, either. Vicious lying and fearmongering backed by bottomless money can sway a lot of elections. I just don’t think that who the Democrats nominate for office is the cause of the rightward lurch of the country. I think it’s an effect. Running the perfect candidate wouldn’t turn the country around; turning the country around will enable us to elect better candidates. Not that I know how to do that except for grassroots activism and people persuading their friends and neighbors, and that feels hopelessly inadequate.
Someone at one of The Hill’s blogs wrote a crap entitled “Ann Romney scares Obama more than anyone.” Based on what? WTF is wrong with these people? The republicans will say something to Politico and that thing becomes a conventional wisdom. A fact. Like – oh, I don’t know, gravity, or the rotation of the planets, or E = MC ^ 2. It’s depressing.
God. Please make it stop.
Yes, there’s some reason to think that raw milk might help with allergies. I’d expect that to be a bigger deal if you’re drinking milk from animals that are allowed to forage, rather than ones that are being fed a prepared diet, and foraging goats would probably be better than foraging cows.
I don’t know as much about it with cheese. I know that even the FDA thinks raw milk is fine in cheese that’s aged over 2 months, and that I generally enjoy those aged raw milk cheeses. I’m less sure about fresh raw milk cheese, because it seems like there’s a real danger of letting pathogenic organisms take over. I also wonder if the taste difference is really because of the raw vs. pasteurized or if it’s because of a difference in the cheesemaker.
@JPL: Yup, me too, only a few miles from you. I see plenty of Obama stickers (and often get some nice waves or high fives from people in other cars who see my stickers) but I’ve seen maybe two or three RR-money TOTAL, and you know I live in a pretty damn conservative part of metro.
Heard an interview on NPR this afternoon on the show “On Being” which featured a Mormon woman. Admittedly it was recorded in late 2011, but I was struck by the fact that she said that in private few Mormons were Romney supporters. Wonder if that’s still true and, if so, how it will play out in November.
@The Thin Black Duke:
The proposal that not voting for someone who sucks is fucking someone else over is a bit foreign to me, you make a moral argument that is entirely one sided and self-referential despite addressing outcomes with two parties each an actor. You are attempting to make one party responsible for the stupid actions of others – that is rather odd.
The social programs and whatever Leftish economic policies that still exist are the outcomes of things having gotten “much worse.” Go ahead and look at history and tell me where you find such changes NOT being rammed down politic’s throat. I still vote and haven’t told anyone not to, but the “moral” highhorse you’ve mounted up on is just some dogfood pony.
Richards, Jordan, Ivins. I miss every one of them more than they could know. What a time they would all be having this year.
Barbara Bush, not so much.
I registered to vote in ’71 and was well left of established Democrats then… I’ve been thinking that for a very long time, now.
Don’t call me Shirley.
Not my fault.
That simply isn’t true. It’s true that social programs are almost always a result of things being bad, but that’s because it’s inherently hard to create expensive, intrusive solutions to problems that don’t exist. But being bad is not the same as getting worse. For example, Medicare was created because the medical situation for older Americans was bad, but you can’t convince me that it was worse in 1965 than it had been a generation earlier. It was enough that the situation was bad and could be fixed.
Yes, it’s true that it’s easier to push through changes when there’s a crisis, but that’s as true of destructive changes as it is of constructive ones. Take a look at Paul Ryan’s plan to destroy Medicare. The justification for it is that Medicare is unsustainable on its current course, so we need to so something to fix it. It doesn’t matter that his proposal would make things much worse; people are willing to consider it because they think there’s a crisis and are looking for any solution. That’s the basic premise of disaster capitalism, and it’s been shown to be effective.
That Clinton 2 hour line was written for him. He needed to reverse the impression that he was a boring blabbermouth.
Both Sides Do It
That Jeremy W. Peters guy is a complete asshat, if I do say so myself. A couple months ago he breathlessly reported that the Turdblossom SuperPAC was using actors in their new ad, quotes the entirety of the ad, does a Masters of the Universe level tongue bath on its creators, and just generally acts like the objective position is adopting a Republican frame.
Romney is running against an angry Black man stereotype.
He’s such a tool and a liar.
Conventions are week-long political infomercial bullshit? What will I learn next, the Electoral College is an outdated relic of the 18th century? That the Senate has a lot of obscure, anti-democratic rules?
Goopers to put a write-in candidate in Missouri? I could see that not working. This shit is hilarious.
Both Sides Do It
@Mark S.: That comes from Mary Matalin whose most recent political job was campaign manager for Fred Thompson. Doesn’t exactly speak for the party. More like a mercenary who’ll do whatever shit she needs to in order to keep herself in garish jewelry.
Her more important and long-term job is to go on those shows and give them a veneer of “insider” cred. Like James Carville. Not a coincidence they’re married.
If you’re still not convinced this is just silly, the only other Republican to float the idea was the Griftbilly herself.
CNN is running a Romney doc/special. I wonder why George Romney was a Repub? Mitt should have switched parties and he wouldn’t have had to lie about all the crap he’s lied about. He would have probably still won the Mass governorship. If Reid can do it, why couldn’t Mitt? He has to have seen how progressively further to the right the Repubs have been going since Reagan.
Not letting them gut public education and not letting them make unions illegal and not letting them disenfranchise large numbers of voters would also help. You know, so that we have a well-informed electorate who are actually allowed to vote. Or, shorter me: first more democrats, then better democrats.
More democrats gets you better democrats, almost automatically.
Living where I do(AZ), I have talked to a several people who’ve gone on Mormon missions. I have yet to talk to somebody who has gone to France. They generally go to third world countries. I talked to one girl who went to Sweden and another who went to Vancouver but as far as men,even older men, they all seem to end up in developing countries. Eastern and Western African countries. The Phillipines, Argentina, Chile, Mexico. He managed to get special treatment even for his mission. I get that they didn’t want to send him to dangerous part of the world but at least send the guy to Mexico.
Actually, history shows that revolutions and reforms happen not when people bottom out, but when they’ve started to have some hope that things are going to change for the better and they can influence the system with their actions.
People who are completely downtrodden don’t revolt, because they have no hope that any of their actions will make any difference. Even the French Revolution happened because there was a reversal of very recent gains, not because they were tired of the way things had always been. The Civil Rights Movement didn’t happen in 1909 when the NAACP was founded, but after several civil rights bills had been passed and gains had been made, etc.
This seems to be yet another of those things conservatives understand but liberals don’t get — if you take away people’s hope that things will improve, you paralyze them.
Depends on your perspective, I guess.
Touché. Or, if you prefer, touchy.
@Maude: Oh, of course. I never thought it was spontaneous, ad lib, unrehearsed, or unscripted. It was still funny, and his timing IIRC was spot on.
Sadly, I think many members of the “You lie!” party would argue that it did. Or what Baud said.
what exactly are you arguing for? Voting is the most basic foundation of a representative democracy. Building a new system would be…what? I’d like to know what political system of group decision making OWS is going to deliver by burning their voting cards and not participating.
Aside from that, voting in an election pretty much entails for most people everywhere, choosing a lesser evil on some level. There will only be a small number of voters who will see any given candidate as matching their own views and desires perfectly. In fact, that number is probably very close to zero. There can always be a better choice than the one offered, but the one offered is all there is on November 6. The notion that giving up yardage is going to lead to a glorious game winning touchdowns is fucking stupid.
Unless of course the goal is some sort of revolution that leads to a new system, which apparently is the goal of OWS. But since this new system has never been clarified or described in any realistic and concrete way…what are we to think? Just smash it all down and hope something new and wonderful emerges from the ashes?
Tony the Wonderhorse
I’ll say it in case people don’t know Elvis, the (they’re so cute) in the title comes from Watching the Detectives
As for the political goals of OWS, they haven’t asked me to speak for them – they are plainly unhappy that even with all of Congress and the Pres being (D) the results were still plutocratic/corporatist. I’d say more and better Ds might, but I’ve been operating from there for a long time now.
The corporate model does have some things to be said for it, their power however is outrageously out of balance. The solution for plutocrats is pretty simple if impossible – make their money not matter (and take some of it).
I don’t know that Mnem. is correct about the hope thing since I haven’t seen its absence here and people in flux seldom know things have bottomed out or are on their way to it. Having to have hope is right.
I could probably lay out some solutions to the distress but getting to them in the face of this electorate is laughable. Fiddling at the edges will just prolong the wait for the smash and we can’t even fiddle.
Proving once again that the Occupy movement is made up of dumbasses. What a joke that movement turned out to be.
@mamayaga: @WaterGirl: I’m sure you guys are right. Reinforces the emptiness of the gesture, no?
A Humble Lurker
Excuse me, but where was I when that happened?