Is the African-American/Prop 8 Exit Poll Connection Viable?

There are lies, damned lies, and exit polls. A purported connection between race and homophobia has recently made the rounds, prompting big think pieces from the likes of the Washington Post. We’ve been told that 7 out of 10 African-Americans who went to the California polls voted yes on Proposition 8 — a measure that passed on Tuesday overruling the California Supreme Court judgment that legalized same-sex marriage.

Even more amazing than this is the way this correlation is getting a free pass. The only way you can bring a demographic into election statistics is through the exit poll. But exit polls have problems. Back in 2006, Mark Blumenthal initiated a helpful series of posts summarizing some of the flaws: where the interviewer is standing in relation to the polling place, how well-trained the interviewer is, the tendency for voters who volunteer to participate upon seeing the interviewer with the clipboard, the inclination for the polls to favor Democrats in presidential election since 1988, and so forth. In 2005, the Washington Post reported that interviewing for the 2004 exit polls was “the most inaccurate of any in the past five presidential elections.” Large numbers of Republicans refused to talk with interviewers, and this, in turn, led to an inflated estimate for John Kerry. But despite these problems, exit poll faith is a bit like stubborn fabric softener sticking to a hard wonk’s argyle sweater. In a longass Rolling Stone article, even Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. believed in the gospel, suggesting that exit polling was the first indicator that the 2004 election had been stolen. Political slickster Dick Morris went further, stating that “exit polls are almost never wrong.”

Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International were the team behind the 2004 polling botch, and this dynamic duo also spearheaded this week’s California exit polling. The hard data is not yet available at the Edison/Mitofsky site. But the Associated Press has reported that 2,240 California voters (of these, 765 were absentees interviewed by landline telephone), interviewed in 30 precincts, represented the total number of people that Edison/Mitofsky interviewed. Which means that some percentage of these voters were African-American. Let’s give Edison/Mitofsky 50%. That leaves us with a mere 1,120 voters.

A quick jaunt to the California Secretary of State’s website reveals that there are 25,423 precincts in California and that 10.5 million people turned out on Tuesday. In other words, Edison/Mitofsky is making a major claim based on 0.11% (a little more than one-tenth of 1%) of the total precincts, and a sample of voters smaller than a crab louse dancing in a thorny thatch of hair. Is this really large enough? Exit polls have proved somewhat accurate in relation to simple binary choices, but I’m wondering if it all turns to bunk when it comes to correlation. Perhaps a legion of statistics experts can help explain why Edison/Mitofsky can get away with this. Because I’m tempted to view this as a strange offshoot of the Bradley effect.

I Voted

The New York voting machine is a wonderfully antediluvian monstrosity. It consists of a giant and sprawling white board depicting all known candidates for all open offices — divided in tabular form by party, including the Socialist Workers Party — with a gigantic red lever that, upon sliding quite powerfully to the left, makes you feel as if you’ve put in an order from an Automat menu. Alas, I did not receive a days-old sandwich in a triangular plastic carton. But I was offered a donut. I’ve never been offered a donut while standing in line to vote. So this was certainly a plus.

I informed a chatty but amicable gentleman behind me that there was free ice cream at Ben & Jerry’s and free coffee at Starbuck’s. He thought I wasn’t serious. I told him that I was very serious, and that I was known to temporarily change my dietary habits on Election Day. I told him that I was prone to screaming at 2 AM in the streets while the results came in. Yes, I said, I am a very serious voter. So serious that I will drink the blood of a rat if it will give me extra energy to vote.

He tried to tell me who he was going to vote for, and I told him that this was unethical and that I would make a citizen’s arrest if he continued. He concealed his partisan button and insinuated that he was wearing underwear that included the name of his candidate. I told him that I approved of his right to run around the streets of New York wearing underwear, or indeed nothing at all. We should all experience the fantastic sensation of a gust of wind drifting up our ass crack. But I would still make a citizen’s arrest if he was wearing political underwear within 100 feet of the polling place. He told me that this wouldn’t be a problem, and we then carried on a conversation about the typography of the Dunkin Donuts logo.

I did manage to place my vote. On the way out, I asked one of the election workers if she required a tip. She pointed me to the exit door and told me to get out — thus cementing in my mind the idea of the polling place as a harried diner. I feel very happy about my decision, but I’m still wondering if I should go back to the polling place and ask for a sandwich.

I’m quite happy that I voted. But I am finding that I am experiencing severe proposition withdrawal. You see, back in California, I was accustomed to a considerable number of local and state propositions on the ballot: anywhere from twenty to fifty. If you couldn’t get another person to agree on a candidate, you could always find some middle ground through one of the crazy props. But in New York, I only had one proposition to vote for: a middling measure on veterans benefits. There was nothing on the ballot for gay rights, nothing that involved naming a sewage treatment plant after George Bush. Presumably, either current government policy or the lack of space on the voting machine’s big board hinders numerous proposition options from presenting themselves to the public. I had not anticipated the sacrifice of my propositions upon moving to New York. I don’t know if there’s much I can do to make up for the missing propositions other than to make impassioned pleas at government meetings.

But I did research all the candidates. And I did vote. Barring a major scandal or the almost total capitulation of the public’s senses, the man I voted for will likely be our next President.

The time has come to drink and wait it all out. This will be something of a nailbiter.

Don’t Just Vote. Vote With Your Head.

Recently, I received an email from Colleen Mondor in relation to Blog the Vote, an effort to collect various ruminations from bloggers and writers regarding Tuesday. Colleen has urged me to be “non-partisan.” But being non-partisan about this subject is a bit like sitting in one of those antediluvian non-smoking sections in a restaurant (back when restaurants still allowed smoking). You can sit in a seemingly pristine booth all you want, but the smoke will drift over from the smoking section. It will still get in your hair and clothes, and possibly influence your conversation.

First and foremost, I should point out that I plan to spend Tuesday night with others drinking a considerable amount of alcohol, screaming at the television like a reality show addict waiting for the right people to be kicked off the island, bringing a copy of Gregory Corso’s “Bomb” to recite (just in case), sobbing on sundry shoulders if certain California propositions aren’t defeated, laughing maniacally at all the deserving bastards who go down, and worrying very much about the fate of this nation. (I have decided to not spend Monday worrying, as this is probably better for my blood pressure.) This seems the American thing to do, as no other presidential race in my lifetime has been this important.

And no other presidential race in my lifetime has required such a gonzo approach. Given these circumstances, I do not think clinging to a laptop is a good idea. And I think that I may likewise employ the cautionary measure of disabling my ability to Twitter from my cell phone. (Not that I use the cell much anyway. I have discovered that very often the cell is dead, and that it has been this way for days.) I’ve made these decisions not for my protection, but for yours. The last thing the Internet needs is another jittery crank writing deranged rants in real time. But what the Internet does need, as Colleen rightly points out, are reasons to vote. (Some additional suggestions: I would advise not voting and drinking, given the unreliability of some of the machines. I would also advise not drinking as you are determining who to vote for, as you may begin confusing candidates and regretting who you vote for. I would advise drinking after you vote, no matter when the hour. But gather with friends. Don’t be alone. This is not a night to be alone.)

Let us put such trivial matters as this nation’s trajectory over the next thirty years under one of two administrations, and look upon the situation from a purely mercenary standpoint. On Tuesday, Ben & Jerry’s is offering free ice cream. My neighborhood cafe is serving free coffee to those who’ve voted. Starbuck’s is doing something similar. I’ve even heard of delis offering free heroes. I never expected so many freebies. It’s better than cutting coupons in the Sunday newspaper. Alas, it’s also better than the number of specials you can claim on your birthday. And I feel tremendously sorry for anyone in the position of blowing out cake candles on Tuesday. It’s a bit like having a birthday on Xmas, and having to endure all the assholes who give you a present for both Xmas and your birthday. For those who aren’t celebrating a birthday on November 5, you have everything to gain. But should you have a Scorpio friend in this predicament, do try and allocate some of the perks to your Scorpio friends. That way, they’ll have an added incentive to vote. Also, invite them to your election parties, and offer an option to celebrate their birthdays on a different day.

Here’s where I start to get slightly partisan. I do worry tremendously about the stunning and uncritical pass that the Man With Hope (as opposed to the Man from Hope; let us not forget that hope has been in political vogue now for nearly two decades) is getting from his supporters. In a recent essay for the New Yorker, David Sedaris wrote about the undecided voter, with a hypothetical flight attendant asking, “Can I interest you in the chicken? Or would you prefer the platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it?” This is, I think, regrettable reductionism. So let’s take it further, because suggesting that the American political system is broken has become strangely unfashionable.

Is not just about any politician a platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it? Has there ever been a politician in the past sixty years that’s been anywhere nearly as good as Sam Rayburn? (Rayburn, among other things, set up the SEC, the FCC, and traveled only on his own dime. He didn’t take money. He didn’t cater to special interests. He told everybody that he was not for sale. Perhaps he was the last politician who could get away with this.)

I point this out not to flaunt cynicism, but to point out that Beltway politics is an environment in which the participants are spending much of their time bending over and confusing an act of submission with compromise. I point this out because it is the successful politician’s job to look as good as he can before the cameras.

Why then would anyone want to vote given these realities? Well, because, change happens gradually over time. And if change is slow on the national level, then it is certainly swift on the state and local levels. I may be a realist, but I’m also an optimist. Nevertheless, it remains your responsibility not only to consider the candidate who best serves your position, but to likewise question the candidate you’re voting for. If you are voting for your candidate out of blind faith, almost exclusively out of “hope” or “country first,” then take the time to really think about why you’re really voting for an advertising slogan. Take the time to understand just what your candidate will do well, and what your candidate will not do well. The point here is not to find an ideal candidate, but to find the right candidate for the position. The best-suited candidate for the job. Warts and all. The guy who will fill the slot in best.

If, after months of all this, you still haven’t figured it out, then what you need to do is go to your most intelligent friend and ask her how to vote. You really need to do this, particularly if you live in Ohio or one of the swing states. Let your friend make all the decisions, vote for all the local measures, and, above all, select the presidential candidate. Then you’re off the hook. And you can still enjoy all the ice cream.

The important thing to consider here is that everyone can vote, but not everyone can vote with a clear head. It’s important that you don’t blow this. It’s important to think everything out in the time you have available. It’s important to make calls or look things up if you don’t quite understand something. It’s important not to let anyone get in the way of a decision you’ve made by thinking everything out. And it’s damn important to be flexible enough to change your mind at the last minute. That’s what a good thinker does. And you’re a good thinker. So go to the polls tomorrow and think! Then you can tell everyone you’ve really voted, and you can enjoy your ice cream without ideological consequence.

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Obama, the Medicare “Doughnut Hole,” and the Working Poor

Last night, on Twitter, I got into a lively exchange relating to last night’s Obama infomercial. I had initially watched ten minutes of this broadcast, and I grew increasingly upset by the manner in which basic realities about health care and the working poor have been severely overlooked in this presidential race. Upon being pressed, I watched the whole thing from the beginning. “Those weren’t the working poor in that video? The 72 year old guy working at WalMart not poor enough?” argued Seth Harwood. While retired railroad man Larry Stewart putting on his Wal-Mart badge and taking out a loan on his house to help his ailing wife is indeed a crushing story (beginning at 7:30 in the Obama video), at least the Stuarts have a house to take a loan on. What of the doughnut hole created by a Republican-led Congress through the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003? What of those trapped in Medicare with chronic conditions who skip out on vital medications because they don’t have the money? The situation is this: Under the Medicare Part D prescription drug program, if a senior has more than $2,250, but less than $5,100 in annual drug costs, the senior is required to pay these costs out of pocket.

Now consider the case of 65-year-old Frances Acanfora. Thanks to the MMA, this retired school lunchroom aide saw her drug costs jump up from $58 to $1,294 courtesy of the doughnut hole. She even had to temporarily stop taking her drugs after talking with her doctor. Did Acanfora have a partner or a home to fall back on? We know that she had a credit card. But is she still alive? One wishes that the Washington Post would conduct a followup story. Meanwhile, other seniors have stopped taking their drugs altogether. They couldn’t afford it.

While it is true that Obama advocates the federal government negotiating with the drug companies to reduce prices under the Medicare Part D drug program (similar to what the Department of Veteran Affairs now gets), permitting citizens to purchase prescription drugs from outside of the United States, and closing the doughnut hole, let’s consider why this policy was effected in the first place. The MMA came into being because of rising costs in prescription drugs and the inability of the federal government to allocate enough funds to pay for it. What we have here is a scenario in which the pharmaceutical companies hold all the cards. The companies set the prices. The generic drugs that were supposed to save people money have proven to be more costly thanks to the MMA. The companies claim that the drug prices are high because the companies need to spend this money on R&D. And, of course, the drug companies have lobbyists.

And if the drug companies hold such power, how can there possibly be negotiation? I can see the conversation going something like this:

Government: We need you to lower the costs of drugs. Now we’ll be happy to take them all off your hands, guaranteeing X number of drugs over the next five years, if you’ll lower the prices.

Drug Companies: You’re already going to be getting X number of drugs over the next five years from us. With all due respect, what’s changing here? We’re your supplier. And wait a minute. I thought we agreed back in 2003 that we wouldn’t be negotiating.

Or as Robert Laszewski put it, “If you go to a car dealer and tell him you’re going to buy his car no matter what, and then try to negotiate, you’re not going to get a very good deal.”

Which puts the government in the awkward position of going overseas to import its drugs for Medicare. But if Medicare’s chief drug source comes from another country, how then can the FDA provide the essential oversight for the drugs? This leaves the government coming back to the pharmaceutical companies with its tail between its legs. I’ve looked around numerous places, but Obama has not specified how he can “negotiate” with these draconian realities in place. But to his credit, he did issue a press release last year condemning the Senate’s failure to consider legislation permitting Medicare negotiation.

Let’s return to the issue of Larry Stewart and Frances Acanfora. The rhetoric in this presidential race has involved speaking to Main Street and the middle-class, who we are told increasingly are having to “tighten their belts” to make ends meet. But what is not really being talked about by either camp are the 29.4 million Americans — up 4.7 million from 2002 to 2006 — living below the national poverty line. Tayari helpfully directed me to this Democracy Now! segment from a few days ago, which goes into this issue at some length. And indeed why should either candidate talk about low-wage workers when Obama leads 2 to 1 over McCain? (Incidentally, a majority of low-wage workers polled in this article indicated that their personal finances were unlikely to change — even with an Obama presidency.)

When you consider Medicare’s reliance upon pharmaceutical companies and this regrettable framing emphasis away from the working poor, what Obama essentially presented to us last night was comfort food for the middle-class. (So flexible is the term “middle-class” that one can make a six figure salary and still remain lodged within an income bracket that likewise includes someone making $20,000 a year.) But none of this takes away from the fact that nearly 30 million Americans are impoverished, and that 47 million Americans are without health care. What this nation needs more than “hope” is a concrete and realistic plan. We need something more than promises to “negotiate” in nonnegotiable situations. Something that returns us to the dialogue kickstarted by John Edwards last year. Something that ensures that the dread P word spelling out our poverty will return to our national dialogue with neither shame nor flash, but with the maturity and grace that Obama has built his campaign image upon.

“My Friends”

Back in September, Paul Collins was ahead of the curve. Writing in Slate, Collins investigated McCain’s odd catchphrase, deployed quite liberally on Tuesday night during the second presidential debate. Collins tracked these mad dollops to William Jennings Bryan’s Cross of Gold speech from 1896. Bryan, as you may recall, died in his sleep five days after the Scopes Monkey Trial decision.

If McCain appears to be on the verge of losing this race, the least he can do is to consider the sponsorship opportunities. Let’s say that McCain were to replace “friends” with “space” and charge MySpace $50 for every unfurling of the phrase. Not only would McCain stand to make well over a grand from Tuesday’s appearance, but he would, at long last, demonstrate some familiarity with the Internet at the last minute. (Okay, so he’d be a little behind the curve here, because he’s not exactly aware of Facebook. But we expect some unfamiliarity with the social network of choice among our old geezers.)

Alternatively, I’d like to see John McCain sing “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” in answer to a question if he can’t come up with a cogent answer.

“Hard” Questions

The above interview, which involved Campbell Brown questioning McCain campaign manager Tucker Bounds, caused McCain to cancel a planned interview with Larry King. The reason cited by McCain’s camp? “A relentless refusal by certain on-air reporters to come to terms with John McCain’s selection of Alaska’s sitting governor as our party’s nominee for vice president.” But the interview sees Brown simply trying to find out about Sarah Palin, while Bounds repeatedly declares that she has as much experience as the competition. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. And here, questioned by Brown, Bounds cannot produce a single example to support his claim. And he’s their manager! The “relentless refusal” here doesn’t come from Bounds, but from McCain’s people. If they cannot be bothered to prove their argument, then they have no business presenting their impudent claims before the American people.

Barack Obama, by contrast, will be appearing this Thursday on FOX News’s The O’Reilly Factor.

So here we have one presidential candidate incapable of answering the most basic of questions and the other quite willing to appear on a talk show that is biased against him. While McCain certainly showed courage as a POW, it is quite evident that he is unwilling to evince one scintilla of this same valor in the present day. And if McCain truly believes that talking to Larry King, one of the most softball interviewers on television, represents a difficulty, then how can he be seriously expected to deal with the considerably greater challenges that may await him in the White House?

Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! Producers, AP Photographer Arrested

The Washington Post is reporting that Democracy Now! radio host Amy Goodman was arrested in St. Paul after inquiring with the police over the arrest of two Democracy Now! producers Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar. Goodman and her producers were in St. Paul to report on the Republican National Convention. Goodman was held in custody for three hours, and Goodman has claimed the Secret Service ripped off her press credentials to get on the floor of the Republican National Convention. Meanwhile, the two producers are still being held in custody. (An audio file of the arrest can be found here. In addition, The Uptake has a camera view from another angle.)

Also arrested (in a separate incident) was Associated Press photographer Matt Rourke. While the charges against Goodman, Kouddous, and Salazar are uncertain, Rourke was charged with a gross misdemeanor riot charge.

Glenn Greenwald has more, writing:

Beginning last night, St. Paul was the most militarized I have ever seen an American city be, even more so than Manhattan in the week of 9/11 — with troops of federal, state and local law enforcement agents marching around with riot gear, machine guns, and tear gas cannisters, shouting military chants and marching in military formations. Humvees and law enforcement officers with rifles were posted on various buildings and balconies. Numerous protesters and observers were tear gassed and injured.

Let us be clear on this. This goes well beyond Josh Wolf refusing to turn over evidence. Journalists who had the decency and the effrontery to ask hardball questions were prevented from conducting their work. None of these people were causing a riot. They were in St. Paul doing their jobs. They were there talking to people and reporting the news. Their collective right to be there, which was confirmed by their press credentials, is protected by the First Amendment. If the St. Paul Police Department does not come clean with details and specific allegations, then it is up to the American public to ensure that the police who arrested these journalists are levied with the appropriate penalties.

[UPDATE: Democracy Now has issued a press release indicating that Kouddous and Salazar have been released. Goodman was charged with obstruction. According to the press release, Kouddous and Salazar were charged with felony riot charges.]

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Gustav, Republicans, and American Amnesia

As Gustav’s mad whorl whirls north to the Louisiana coast, the current chatter has less to do with New Orleans’s numb carcass, the rebuilt homes and levee systems that will almost certainly be annihilated, and the wave of destruction that Bourbon Street hipsters will guzzle down with dutiful debauchery. All eyes are now focused upon the political hurricane. Three years ago, the President of the United States played his guitar as New Orleans transmuted into a mute and miserable milieu, as more than a thousand people lost their lives and thousands more were unsecured in their homeland, and as those who fled to the Superdome saw their improvised sanctuary transformed into a madhouse of rape, murder, and suicide.

Lest anyone forget (and if we are urged by the elephants not to forget September 11th, then certainly we should not forget Katrina), this irresponsible bunch demonstrated gross incompetence and negligence on an unprecedented level. FEMA, the American branch of government set up in 1979, showed a dot com startup’s ineptitude after being absorbed into the Department of Homeland Security. One of 2005’s most popular catchphrases did not come from a sitcom or a movie. It came from President Bush telling the incompetent FEMA head Michael Brown that he was doing “a heck of a job.” Brown’s “heck of a job” involved waiting until the last possible minute, putting Katrina victims in trailers with toxic levels of formaldehyde, and preventing bottled water and other supplies from getting to the victims. Most recently, in 2007, FEMA took it upon itself to stage a fake news conference in response to the California wildfires.

Under the Bush administration, FEMA has had more success with this propaganda, placing it above the expected salve of proper relief.

Will the Republicans acknowledge any of this in Minneapolis this week? Or will we see the same lies and moral grandstanding? It could involve another variation on Reagan’s disingenuous pitch to the American people when he ran for President. In the eyes of these bungling opportunists, the question of whether the American public is better off than it was four years ago doesn’t matter nearly as much as the preordained answer. To these wild turkeys, it will be better off under them. Because four years from now, you’re not going to remember what they did before.

To be fair, the incompetence wasn’t just limited to FEMA. The American Red Cross, which had raised more than $2 billion in funds for Katrina, saw its efforts excoriated by international organizations. Funds earmarked for Katrina went to other places. The British Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross had both sent experts to the Gulf Coast, discovering inexperienced amateurs in key roles of responsibility and supplies that were not being shipped to their proper places. The official response of the Red Cross? From Devorah Goldburg:

“It’s frustrating to our thousands of volunteers out there every day, away from their families, helping people. We never said we were perfect — we’re trying to do our best under extraordinary circumstances.”

Instead of Goldburg telling reporters what the Red Cross planned to do in response to these inadequacies, she delivered the same “heck of a job” nonsense that Bush had slapped Brownie on the back for. Helping other people was no longer about being professional. It was about simply being there. Jerzy Kosinski (or the ghostwriters who actually wrote the novel) was decades ahead of his time.

In other words, competence and getting results is no longer part of the American equation. What is important is that those in charge have labored in some sense. Never mind that the quality of that labor was severely lacking, or that those who were incompetent could not be held to any basic level of accountability. Forget the fact that the labor itself resulted in deaths, lives being lost, limitless property damage, and endless consequences for those hit hard by Katrina.

And rest assured, as we receive more horrible images from Gustav’s wrath this week, they will spin you the same lies. They will try once again to tell you that they have done their jobs simply by being there. But they will not dare reveal their inadequacies. And even if they did somehow do this, why should they? It’s not as if you’ll be bothered to remember.

[UPDATE: Thankfully, Gustav did not decimate New Orleans. But while I am immensely relieved that there were no casualties and minimal property damage, I still stand by many of the observations that I made within this post concerning the American attitude towards responsibility, which isn’t nearly as socialist an idea as it seems. This hasn’t stopped one guy from calling me a liberal brown shirt. Which comes with the territory, seeing as how others have called me over the years a Republican, a Christian, a Buddhist, a nihilist, a Quaker, an anarchist, a socialist, a craven capitalist, and numerous other epithets which amuse me to no end. So sorry that, once again, I don’t quite fit into your neat ideological rubber stamp. But of course, my great plan to kick in the teeth of any person I disagree with should go off without a hitch. That little red book I keep hidden up my ass crack has worked wonders over the years.]

Let the Games Begin

If this interview represents how McCain responds to questions — real questions, not the Leno softball variety, not the questions that result in the old coot offering his trademark “I served as a POW” answer without a followup — I simply cannot wait for the presidential debates to begin. Pass the popcorn and pop open the beer. These debates will feature material more hilarious than Bush’s “Internets” gaffe or his entreaties for us to remember Poland. The man will be flayed alive — should be, if Obama truly wants to win — with almost little to no effort.

But with the presidential race now neck-to-neck, and Obama’s people offering an aesthetic disaster in response to the elitist charges, will the American people continue to believe in this man? The cynic inside me says yes. The optimist insides me says no. And the pragmatist remembering that dark November morning four years ago is somewhere on the fence, likely to trot over his legs upon enunciating the trusted mantra, “The Democrats will fuck this up.”

Obama-Biden

Joe Biden is Obama’s VP. From a graphic design standpoint, it will be much easier to get the words “Obama-Biden” on a bumper sticker than “Gore-Lieberman.” Obama wisely decided on a VP candidate with two syllables. And I suspect that the natural third B (“Oh-ba-ma-bi”) that comes with that phrase was also a marketing consideration. Of course, should Biden decide to plagiarize again, at least he’d be copying from Obama’s team.

Why Don’t You Throw In a boo.com Account and a Sock Puppet As Well?

Mark Penn: “I CAN BE PRESIDENT. This idea has potential for a viral campaign among moms — it is about your sons and daughters believing that they too can be president. Your success paves the way for them. It is about the emotional connection between you and their dreams for the kids, especially their daughters. We are making a video with celebrities saying what they would do if president. The launch of this has good potential to catch on.”

If you’re fond of observing political implosions, there’s a big article in this month’s Atlantic (and a hearty list of memos) chronicling the rise and fall of the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign. It amazes me just how out of touch some people are about the Web in 2008. (via Ghost in the Machine)

What Obama Must Do

There are two fascinating developments that have arisen with Barack Obama’s move to the center. Newsweek reports that Obama is leading McCain by only three points: 44% to 41%. Compare this with last month’s poll in which Obama led McCain 51% to 36%. It would appear that Obama supporters not only flocked to McCain, but, more importantly, preferred not to support either candidate. The Washington Post also reports that Obama is now having difficulties not only courting former Clinton supporters with deep pockets, but raising money in general. The activist base that Obama built up in the first six months of 2008 appears to have stopped sending along money. And who can blame them really? When your shining knight becomes a garden-variety opportunist, it’s probably better to spend the money on liquor.

There was an animated discussion here a few days ago over whether Obama’s shift to the center represented political realities that were necessary to take in or this represented the ultimate betrayal. I still feel that Obama has betrayed his base of supporters with his unpardonable trifecta of FISA flip-flopping, faith-based initiative, and the capitulation of public financing. But the best thing that Obama can probably do at this point is to tell the American people that he may have made a bad political decision, stop playing the “consistency” card (Obama pledged to filibuster any FISA bill with telecom immunity, but of course caved this week), and demonstrate in a big way that he actually gives a damn about the Fourth Amendment. He was able to pull out of the Reverend Wright scandal with his “A More Perfect Union” speech, presenting a complex and unexpected statement on a major national problem. Of course, back in March, he also had dwindling poll numbers in Pennsylvania. Thus, I’m wondering what would happen if Obama ran his campaign with the same “come from behind” tactic that has led him to frequently awe his supporters. Unfortunately, Obama’s recent actions have demonstrated that he is uninterested in taking risks now that he has the Democratic nomination in the bag. That may very well be the stuff of presidential material. But after two terms of Bush, I believe the American people are tired of presidential candidates who have sunk to the lowest common denominator. If Obama wishes to preach “consistency,” he has a responsibility to live up to the message of hope that he began his campaign with. And if he continues to demonstrate a desire to piss on the Constitution and to insult the intelligence of those who have endorsed him, he deserves to be raked across the coals without mercy.