Thinking About the Unthinkable

Time and Newsweek have come out with polls that show Bush, who has been trailing Kerry in most polls since the Democratic convention, suddenly has a 10-point lead.

Now, maybe that’s just post-convention bounce. The campaign is really just getting started. Kerry had that rough window between the conventions when he couldn’t match Bush’s ad spending. And so on.

But maybe it’s real. Maybe this is the middle portion of the electorate, having watched both candidates at their conventions, deciding that, when you get right down to it, they like Bush better.

Publius of the Legal Fiction weblog offers his take: Quick thoughts on the convention.

While I think that Democrats are (as usual) hitting the panic button a little too quickly, there’s no denying that Bush is in a very strong position to win in the fall. You know, I could go through and analyze the speech and talk about the lack of specifics, the cheap sentimentality, and all that. But none of it really matters. It all comes down to a pretty simple truth – Bush is more likeable than Kerry, in terms of perceived personalities. Yes, one’s personality has exactly zero relevance to policy and the challenges we face, but it’s what many people base their vote on in the TV age.

Bush’s speech was thus effective in that sense. The vagueness and amnesia are irrelevant. Bush gave a speech that made people like him, and projected a personality that people associate with “strong leader” – even though the projection, again, has almost zero relation to the real world. He spoke of his family, his children, and praised the military. He peppered his speech with folksy sayings and warm smiles. He played to people’s emotions. From a strictly politial perspective, it was good stuff. And by good, I mean that it appealed to people’s juvenile, irrational bases for voting for one candidate over another.

Let’s face it – Kerry simply is not a great candidate for the TV age. He would be one million times better as a president in terms of domestic and foreign policy, but he’s not considered “warm.” Yes, that’s absurd and insane, but unfortunately, it’s reality. And I simply have no idea how Kerry’s advisors can get around it. People like Bush. People liked Reagan and Clinton – and they won. People didn’t like Daddy Bush and Gore – and they lost. I suppose I’m simplifying things, but I don’t think modern politics is much more than getting people to like you personally. That’s what the culture wars and the Swift Boat Vets ads were all about – making you dislike someone – or some party – on a personal level.

For some time now I’ve been fairly confident that the electorate, faced with Bush’s record of serial failure in every area, but especially in Iraq, would decide to switch horses. But for the last day or so that faith has been shaken.

It really is quite early in the contest to be losing hope. But two months from now I’ll be living in an America that has delivered its judgement. What story will I be telling myself about that judgement? Will it be:

  • You can fool some of the people some of the time, but even in the age of televsion, there’s a point beyond which you can’t successfully bullshit your way to victory. The American electorate, given time and facts, has the common sense to know when it’s being lied to.

Or will it be:

  • The Democrats screwed up when they torpedoed the “too hot for TV” Howard Dean in favor of the “safe, electable” John Kerry. Connecting with voters on a personal level is what matters in the age of TV. Dean was able to do that, because his commonsense delivery of the facts about Bush came across as being heartfelt and true. On TV, Kerry feels like a cautious, calculating politician. And it turns out that that’s just not good enough.

If that latter lesson is the one I end up learning, I’m not sure where it will take me. I really don’t want to think about Four More Years. I don’t want to think what it means about the future of my country that someone so destructive of democratic principles could game the country into electing him — even after he’d amply demonstrated his incompetence. I don’t want to think about how much worse things could actually get, or what shreds of compensation there might be in a second Bush term (better material for the Daily Show! Yeah!).

I don’t want to think those things. But that’s what I’m thinking.

6 Responses to “Thinking About the Unthinkable”

  1. John F. Says:

    BTW — those Newsweek and Time polls are tainted.

    You know how many Republicans are going to vote Kerry? Not many at all. Or how many democrats are going to vote Bush?

    The Polls from newsweek and time, instead of being a fair toss up, have more republcians than democrats polled. Something like 20 percent more if I do recall…

    Rasmussen has a new national poll and it’s supposed to show only a one percent lead for Bush. In the end, it will come down to turnout at the polls…

  2. Eric Lee Says:

    I believe Atrios and Kos have a bit to say about that poll:

    (be sure to check out the Kos link in that post)

  3. TE Williams Says:

    Four More Years of Bush means its time for us grassroots to stop wishing and complaining, and instead truly organize ourselves into a force which can direct the Democratic Party in a new direction. Turn it into a party that says what it means and won’t play the other team’s games unless it can win them.

    Get ready to organize, people. And we may need to turn that nonviolent resistance massively on our OWN “LEADERS.” The chaos that ensues may not mean victory in the 2008 Whitehouse contest, but who cares? If Bush gets back in, we’ll have much deeper, longer problems to worry about. And its about time we started finding solutions, rather than playing defense.

  4. Larry G. Says:

    Four more years ? We are going to go thru 4 more years, no matter WHO sits at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. For me, I’d rather take my middle class tax bracket, refunds and all, and support Bush than flip flop thru 4 years of indecision, higher taxes and “possibly” higher terror threats. Do we really need support from France and Germany ? When I have to make a major decision in my house, I don’t go ask my neighbors who may or may not agree with me. I’m paying the way…I make the rules. In 1972 , many young people like myself sloshed our way thru the Vietnam jungles without the luxery of a film crew watching our every step. Many received purple hearts, and had to endure 15-18 months tour of duty to get them. A four month tour…wow, that was tough.
    I’m sorry. The great thing about being an American is that we can disagree without fear of prison or violence. If Mr. Kerry wins the race, then I, as an American, should support him. I may not agree with him, but I’ll pray for him daily and stand behind the office. But given the choice, I’ll vote for Bush and pray for America. Either way, GOD is going to have to fix the problems that we have created. We sure can’t.

  5. IXLNXS Says:

    Lets say for an instance that Bush was planned and destined to win long ago.

    That his brother Jeb was slated to run on the 2008 ticket. Already being groomed for the position through PR guys and a total cleansing of records. To top it off lucky him has been given not one but three huricanes to show what a great leader during tragedy he is. Please expect this public relations campaign to be started as soon as needed.

    Expect a new war to take place further destabalizing the middle east and the transafghanistan pipeline to go through unnoticed supplying Asian market places.

    Not long after watch for a push from Saudi Arabia, that will be met with severe response from America, Britain, and Israel. Much of the rest of the world will turn a blind eye thanks to the cheap oil their countries are afforded.

    Or not. But check back and see how close I come to the mark.

  6. middle class family Says:

    Larry G,

    Are you really middle class? According to the Congressional Budget Office, Bush’s tax cuts have shifted federal tax payments from the richest Americans to middle-class families.

    “the wealthiest 20 percent, whose incomes averaged $182,700 in 2001, saw their share of federal taxes drop from 64.4 percent of total tax payments in 2001 to 63.5 percent this year. The top 1 percent, earning $1.1 million, saw their share fall to 20.1 percent of the total, from 22.2 percent.

    Over that same period, taxpayers with incomes from around $51,500 to around $75,600 saw their share of federal tax payments increase. Households earning around $75,600 saw their tax burden jump the most, from 18.7 percent of all taxes to 19.5 percent.”

    And here you have, according to the US Census Bureau:
    Change, real mediam household income

    Bush II: -$1,535
    Clinton: +$5,489
    Bush I: -$1,314

    Change, number in poverty

    Bush II: +4,280,000
    Clinton: -6,433,000
    Bush I: +6,269,000

    And if you want flip flops, here you have some:

    # Bush is against campaign finance reform; then he’s for it.
    # Bush is against a Homeland Security Department; then he’s for it.
    # Bush is against a 9/11 commission; then he’s for it.
    # Bush is against an Iraq WMD investigation; then he’s for it.
    # Bush is against nation building; then he’s for it.
    # Bush is against deficits; then he’s for them.
    # Bush is for free trade; then he’s for tariffs on steel; then he’s against them again.
    # Bush is against the U.S. taking a role in the Israeli Palestinian conflict; then he pushes for a “road map” and a Palestinian State.
    # Bush is for states right to decide on gay marriage, then he is for changing the constitution.
    was his advance team.

    More here

    Why do facts hate the Bush Company?

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