Kevin Drum - November 2008

Dirty Campaigns

| Tue Nov. 4, 2008 12:59 PM PST

DIRTY CAMPAIGNS....Brad DeLong comments on the 2008 campaign:

Yes, John McCain ran a dirty campaign. But it was a less dirty campaign than any Republican has run since... well, since the memory of man runneth (with the possible exception of Ford 1976). The difference this year was that — for some reason — this year a fraction of the mainstream press called them on it rather than ignoring it entirely.

I have my doubts that the media per se was the difference this year. For what it's worth, I think the difference is that in past presidential elections most of the really vile campaigning — not all, but most — was either kept under the radar or left to surrogates. Plausible deniability was maintained for the worst of it. This year, for some reason, the McCain campaign itself was willing to conduct a lot of its sleazy attacks publicly in its own name, and this opened them up to media criticism in a way that previous campaigns managed to avoid. I don't know why they did this. I'm not sure that Brad is right about the relative civility of McCain's campaign in any case, but there's not much question that McCain's eager public embrace of slime made his campaign seem worse than it had to. I don't really have a good theory to explain why they did this.

POSTSCRIPT: I should add that I don't mean to imply this is the whole story. It's true that the media liked Obama and treated him pretty easily. I imagine this was partly because so much of the anti-Obama stuff was so plainly crazy (he's a Muslim, he's a black nationalist, his birth certificate was forged, etc.) and partly because they were being extra careful not to buy into any criticism that seemed even arguably racially motivated. And they were probably harder on McCain than normal because they felt like their hero from 2000 had fallen to earth.

In the end, though, despite constant kvetching from conservatives, the media did report on Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers and Joe the Plumber and all that. And it just didn't stick. Who knows why? For whatever reason, the public just wasn't in the mood for this brand of BS this year.

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Go Vote!

| Tue Nov. 4, 2008 11:30 AM PST

GO VOTE!....I believe I shall take my quadrennial morning constitutional and perform my civic duty now. Back in a bit.

TRIP REPORT: The weather was fine here in Irvine. The line at Springbrook Elementary School was zero people long. Total wait time was approximately 90 seconds. I was assigned voter number 5797. The electronic voting machine was properly programmed and easy to use. Paper ballots were available for anyone who preferred them. The audit trail on the voting machine correctly recorded my votes.

That is all.

Are You Smarter Than a Blogger?

| Tue Nov. 4, 2008 10:57 AM PST

ARE YOU SMARTER THAN A BLOGGER?....Want to amuse yourself while you wait for election results? In 2004 the Guardian entertained us with a campaign quiz on election day, and I blew it, getting only 33 out of 40 correct. Pretty poor for a political blogger, I thought. This year's quiz, however, is way harder, chock full of questions that require specific dates and numerical answers. The final two questions were gimmes, but even so I only got 20 out of 30 right. I guess that means I should turn in my keyboard.

Anyway, the quiz is here. Have fun.

Final Poll Porn

| Tue Nov. 4, 2008 10:20 AM PST

FINAL POLL PORN....Just for the record, here's the final RCP national poll average for the 2008 race. They've got Obama winning the popular vote 52%-44%. FiveThirtyEight.com projects 52%-46% and 346 electoral votes for Obama. Pollster has it at 52%-44% for Obama. Sam Wang, after adding in a cell-phone bias adjustment, projects 53%-46% and 364 electoral votes for Obama.

Cap and Fade

| Tue Nov. 4, 2008 9:10 AM PST

CAP AND FADE....Matt Yglesias on media misconduct:

I don't, for example, think I ever saw a television network or mass-media publication provide a cogent explanation of the differences between Barack Obama's climate change proposal and John McCain's climate change proposal even though the proposals contained some important differences. I have no idea whether this was attributable to "bias" or even how I would know. Nor am I sure which candidate would benefit from exploring this question. I am, however, sure that I've several times seen their plans described as being the same on the grounds that they're both "cap and trade" plans. That's false. Does the habit of saying it reflect bias? And bias toward whom?

The biggest difference between the two cap-and-trade plans, of course, is that Obama seems to actually believe in his proposal whereas McCain pretty plainly doesn't. For him, it's just window dressing that would almost certainly have been forgotten as soon as he got in office.

But how do you get that across? I'm pretty sure I'm right about this, but I certainly can't prove it. And any straight news reporters who took my line would (rightfully) be accused of massive bias. They could work around this by quoting other people on McCain's priorities and making clear that the GOP base hates cap-and-trade and would fight it, and then hoping that readers got the point. But maybe readers would and maybe they wouldn't. And if they didn't, the story would be fundamentally flawed.

But there's also another problem: on policy issues, the media tends to follow the campaigns. And neither campaign talked about cap-and-trade much. In McCain's case, I assume it's because Republicans hate cap-and-trade and he really didn't want to remind them that he supports it. In Obama's case, I assume it's because cap-and-trade would raise the price of energy and that's not exactly a winning campaign plank during a summer in which gasoline prices broke four bucks. So for different reasons they both kept quiet about it, and since they weren't attacking each other over cap-and-trade, the media ignored it too.

Which is kinda too bad because it had all the elements of an epic battle. It really is true that Obama's version of cap-and-trade amounts to a tax increase, and that would have been an issue right in McCain's share-the-wealth-tax-raising-socialist wheelhouse. Conversely, McCain's version of cap-and-trade really would have provided enormous windfall profits to coal plants and other carbon emitters (explanation here), and that would been right in Obama's fat-cat-more-of-the-same wheelhouse. It could have been a great fight.

Instead we got Joe the Plumber and Obama the terrorist lover. Oh well. We'll do better next time, right?

Der Tag

| Tue Nov. 4, 2008 8:36 AM PST

DER TAG....Are the early exit polls out? Have the nets called a winner yet?

No? Well, then, go vote!

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Early Returns

| Tue Nov. 4, 2008 12:04 AM PST

EARLY RETURNS....The fine folks in Dixville Notch, NH, have recorded their usual midnight vote:

Democrat Obama defeated Republican John McCain by a count of 15 to 6 in Dixville Notch, where a loud whoop accompanied the announcement in Tuesday's first minutes. The town of Hart's Location reported 17 votes for Obama, 10 for McCain and two for write-in Ron Paul. Independent Ralph Nader was on both towns' ballots but got no votes.

Looks like a big win for Ron Paul to me. He's probably planning his 2012 campaign already.

Then and Now

| Mon Nov. 3, 2008 6:18 PM PST

THEN AND NOW....In 2004, everyone complained that John Kerry was an old-media plodder who didn't react quickly enough to conservative attacks. What a dunce! In 2008, everyone is praising Barack Obama for keeping his composure and not letting conservative attacks knock him off his message. What a cool customer!

Just curious: Am I the only person amused by this?

Joe Mania

| Mon Nov. 3, 2008 5:05 PM PST

JOE MANIA....A Norfolk station asked John McCain today why he wasn't doing better in Virginia. Here's his answer:

"We're doing much better actually, there's a poll out today that shows we're within about three so we're moving up and moving up fast. And look, Joe the Bomb — uh — Joe the Plumber turned the whole thing around."

The comical part of this is that McCain almost called him "Joe the Bomber." Ha ha. But the genuinely weird part of it is McCain's bizarre embrace of Joe. It's one thing to use the guy as a campaign prop, but to tell the world that it was Joe who "turned the whole thing around"? That Joe is his personal "role model"? You gotta be kidding. Those aren't things you'd want to admit even if they were true, are they?

A Tax Cut Everyone Should Support

| Mon Nov. 3, 2008 12:51 PM PST

A TAX CUT EVERYONE SHOULD SUPPORT....Riffing off a Rachel Maddow segment about stupendously long lines to vote, largely in poor urban precincts, Ezra Klein says:

The poll tax was a sly system of disenfranchisement used in the Jim Crow era to disenfranchise Southern blacks. Aware that the Constitution now assured everyone the "right" to vote, Southern states imposed a voting fee heavy enough that African-Americans would deem it a right too pricey to exercise. The 1964 Civil Rights Act, of course, did away will all that. But as Rachel Maddow says in the clip above, voting lines are just another form of poll tax. They are a time tax. How much is four hours worth to the average voter? How many voters can take four hours off from their job, or their family, to stand at a precinct? We tend to frame long voting lines as an inspiring vision of democracy, but they're quite the opposite: They are disenfranchisement in action. A longer line does not simply mean more people are voting. It means more people are not voting, as they could not afford the time tax.

Just for the record, the poll tax wasn't actually especially "sly." Everyone knew exactly what it was for. But point taken anyway. The flip side, of course, is neighborhoods like mine. I live in an upscale, white, suburban city, and you will be unsurprised to learn that I haven't had to wait more than five minutes to vote since the day I moved here. Quite a coincidence, eh?