Msnowe's Blog

and the winner is…………find out after the break…………………

Posted in Clinton, McCain, media, Obama, primaries, reality TV, super tuesday by m.snowe on February 6, 2008

So the super duper Tuesday is over, as long as you don’t count the states and congressional districts that don’t have their vote-counting acts together. Despite the well-intentioned, but ultimately overly optimistic hopes for an inspirational victory for somebody in the Democratic party, the only real surprise was Huckabee’s capture of a few Southern states, taking even more air out of Romney’s already slashed and deflated campaign tires. For two democratic candidates so obsessed with bringing about change, it would make sense that many are a little disappointed that no change has really resulted from a twenty-two state primary day. And all the media hype didn’t help either. Many, this blogger included, admit to being in raptures of delight at the prospect of Super Tuesday (I believe there were illusions to Christmas Eve made?). But going in, we knew that this would probably be a wash – it seems like both candidates, Obama and Clinton, do just enough to either stay in contention, or stay out of the definite lead. Clinton got NJ, NY and CA, keeping her delegate count up, but Obama pulled out a CT win, shaking the Clinton campaign up a bit. And the problem (or good thing) with the Democratic primaries is that many of them are not “winner take all” states, like many of the Republican primaries – so delegates are split, and when races are as close as they were yesterday, it means that most splits were pretty even, so the winner of a state might still end up with the same amount of delegates as the person who came in second.

The other problem with Tuesday was that no matter where you turned, NY news stations and public broadcasting media of all sorts were reporting the primaries, even before there were results to officially report. There were three-hour specials on cable and non-cable channels, and radio stations and news websites were aglow with fancy (or at the other side of the spectrum, incredibly low-tech) icons and graphics to try and make people understand the votes, or become incredibly confused. While reporting of yesterday’s primaries was vital, it was overdone. And similar to Giuliani’s campaign advisers reporting his popularity, media execs reports of the public’s true enthusiasm for Tuesday were widely exaggerated.

This brings up another slightly disturbing trend within the political campaigning and media coverage community. Let’s call it the “popularization of politics.” Let’s preamble this by first qualifying that politics should be open and understandable to all people. But now, politics is being increasingly absorbed into the media’s pop culture juggernaut, in a push to popularize politics with an appeal none-too-different from that of rag mags (a.k.a. tabloids). Politics is not being reported as it is – it is now being morphed into some popularized game where the people vote off candidates as if it was a game of Survivor or Project Runway. This type of reality television atmosphere is dispiriting to the intellectually-savvy political follower, quite frankly. You disagree this is happening in the mainstream, well-established media? Well, one look at the coverage on MSNBC, and in the middle of a serious news story on the GOP turnout, here is the poll that breaks between paragraph text: “Vote: Super Tuesday’s biggest loser?” To some, that might seem innocuous enough, but anyone with faint knowledge of the Tuesday-night NBC line up would recognize that unclever illusion to NBC’s show, which features obese people publicly humiliated on scales while the audience watches, in inappropriate mystification.

Super Tuesday, to the networks, was another way to use the best-known reality television hook- the extended pause before the big reveal. We’ve seen it on American Idol, Deal or No Deal, Dancing with the Stars, etc. The shtick is often framed like this: “…..well, and the winner is………….. [Or let’s open the case, or etc.] …………………we’ll find out, after the break!” which is followed by a strangely harmonious audience grown and cries of well-intentioned outrage. As much as the respective hosts like to play with their power to conceal and reveal results, the audience takes a semi-masochistic pleasure in being denied the information until after they are shown a few ads about erectile dysfunction or feminine itch cream. The networks broadcasting the Tuesday primary results were in their glory because they didn’t even have to manufacture the result withholding – it was all done for them by slow counting states and three different time zones. And for the Democratic results, we’re still watching the commercials, and probably will be right up until the Convention. The writer’s strike has made it easy to take the reality of political campaigns, and turn it into reality television which, anyone can assure you, is farther from actual reality than Bush’s promises of peace between Israel and Arabs, or Ann Coulter’s promise to endorse Clinton should McCain become the GOP nominee. Think about it – you’ve got the crazy contestant with possible drug abuse issues (Kucinich), the guy too old to be the evangelist virgin that he is (Huckabee), the rebel who says the weirdest things but still makes sense to you (Paul), the controlling bitch with a heart of gold (Clinton), the token black guy who overcomes his token status (Obama) and the old cranky spitfire (McCain). Could you imagine them all in the surreal political life? As McCain might start with, “my friends,”– the longer the production execs hold out against the writers, the more we’re in for an interesting, and almost completely media-generated, political narrative. Start your office pools now.

Caution: Voters Thinking

Posted in Ageism, Clinton, McCain, Obama, Primary, Stump by m.snowe on February 5, 2008

It’s not Christmas Eve, but some candidates will be waking up tomorrow morning to find either electoral presents or pieces of coal in their campaign stockings. Some candidates might find nothing, and be puzzled what exactly it means. Remember back a year ago when everyone thought that those early primaries were unfairly frontloading their power in order to swing the primaries and skew the overall results for the rest of the country? Well, last laugh’s with the later states. This truly is a long distance run – not a sprint. (If it was a sprint, McCain would still be in last place, left panting by the opening post last November.) So obviously the long distance has done the McCain camp good, and it all but looks like he’s got the Republican nomination in the bag, unless by some weird happenstance Romney pulls out some big wins, like say, California (however unlikely). But the real question is how to predict the super duper effects today will have on the Democrats, if that effect will be anything.

It could go a number of ways; three to be exact: Outright Clinton win, Outright Obama win, or a draw, with each candidate taking enough primary votes to still be in contention all the way up until the Democratic convention. No matter what happens, it’s a “historical” primary. That’s a stupid designation if you think about it – isn’t everything that happens in every single campaign “historical”… i.e. it happens in “history”? A more apt term would be historically revolutionary, or something that implies a paradigm shift in the way we look at politics and political leaders — it’s no turkey on white campaigning. But just who of the two democratic contenders looks especially ready to claim the Tuesday prize?

Obama was able, in the first primaries, to go out and stump like a crazy political lumberjack. There wasn’t a tree in the entire state of Iowa that he probably didn’t pass by on the campaign trail. And that benefited him greatly. The more people he can personally effect by giving a speech or attending an event, the better. People are generally moved by Obama when they see him in person, so the longer he gets to roam the primary state, and meet people, the better his turnout will be. He’s obviously a recognized name right now, but often it takes that personal bump to get people energized for Obama. The problem this creates for him is that with over twenty states in one day, the opportunities for primary state face time with the voters is minute. Clinton, on the other hand, is not a candidate that gets voters to support her by seeing her speak. She may pick up supporters that way, and in comparison to someone like Giuliani, her speeches certainly don’t deter voters from her campaign, but the stump for her is not her primary method of garnering primary votes. Her political savvy and demonstrated intellectual heft are more essential to her campaign (not saying Obama doesn’t have this either, it just she uses it in a different way). While Obama thrives on the medium of lofty, inspirational speeches, Clinton gains support by showing her strength and explaining her policies more in depth or concretely. Obviously, this has the negative possibility of getting her into more trouble, but in some respects it’s more real than what Obama is doing. So Clinton has a slight (very slight) edge over Obama at this point in the race. We’ll see what happens tonight

Supporters of Clinton find it hard to be open with their support. The problem is her opposition, while not a huge or overwhelming majority, is vicious. No other candidate has had such mainstream malice shoved onto her shoulders. The words ‘bitch,’ ‘cunt’, you name a derogatory name for a female sex organ, and it’s been printed on a t-shirt under Clinton’s face and name. And it’s completely allowed in society. While some might cringe at the t-shirt, no one says much about it. However, you can bet that if someone printed a t-shirt with a dergoritory term for an African American on it along with Obama’s name and face, the country would be in an uproar, and rightly so. But what makes the harassment and continued denigration of women such an excepted practice, even among women? Why is it merely laughable when even women participate in their own destruction, and down Clinton on sexist terms, or even contribute slightly to encouraging the unfair practices by doing the smallest things such as having bumper stickers that declare: “Caution: Blonde Thinking”? As an independent in NY, this blogger has no say in the primaries (you can bet it’s depressing). But that doesn’t mean we’re not excited to see who makes it. It’s hard to believe, but this primary, it’s not about the lesser of two evils, but the greater of two applicable (and hopefully electable) rivals. It’s good to see that both Democratic candidates are becoming friendlier, and hopefully once a clear national candidate appears, they will continue that trend for the good of the party and the country. The key will be to pick up the other’s voters, and some Republicans, and those elusive independents that sometimes trend towards McCain. Perhaps they’re reminded of their great-great-great grandfathers when they hear him speak. Think of it this way (and yes, this is an ageist argument). Would you trust your grandfather running, well, anything? The average life span of a white American male is 72. Now, McCain is known for his “youthful vigor” – but this is one slightly irregular argument that just shouldn’t be bought, no matter what the political discount. Yeah, Reagan did it old, and Eisenhower was no spring chick filet, but in an era when current stories are increasingly important, it might be better to have candidates that weren’t middle aged during the Cold War. That kind of politics, and outlook on life, while fine, does us no good now. Either way, it’s time to trend towards a change, a globalized outlook, out of glasses with an anti-imperialistic, unprejudiced, non-sexist tint.

The Problem with Nice

Posted in Clinton, detente, Giuliani, McCain, nice, Obama, primaries by m.snowe on February 1, 2008

It’s almost frightening, the copiousness of detente that’s spreading through both party’s campaigns right now — you would think that all the politicians were holding their debates in Helsinki. The absolute worst display of disgustingly genial showmanship occurs between John McCain and Rudy Giuliani. To be fair, in all disclosure, McCain has never been glaring in his reproach of Giuliani while campaigning (probably due to Rudy’s low poll numbers), but he hasn’t been overly laudatory either, and all rightly so, considering they were running against each other. But Rudy’s quick shift is disturbing, and the animosity that overnight turned into a man crush between two extremely straight men shows how disingenuous and ridiculous it is. Rudy practically coos over McCain, and yesterday, on a late night show that both men would have had to cross picketing lines of striking writers to get to, they appeared next to one another as if they had just arrived after a leisurely evening of heavy petting… each other’s egos. McCain, who was all but dead a few months ago, has pulled out the smelling salts. As Miracle Max would say, McCain was only “mostly dead”, which means he was still “partly alive” — and he’s found something worth living for. Plus, McCain is able to do something that Giuliani couldn’t do alone – and that is use Giuliani’s strengths. Giuliani discovered through the course of his campaign that what he did for New York didn’t travel nearly as far across the country as he assumed – it’s common for certain New Yorkers, Giuliani among them, to suffer from the delusion that everyone outside New York understands and is up-to-date on the microcosm of the NYC universe. The only time that claim is true is with certain moments in history, like 9/11. Unless you’ve been to Times Square pre- and post- Giuliani, you don’t really get a sense of the actual “clean-up” he inspired. And of course, if you do know a bit about Giuliani, that can also be bad for his campaign as well – some of his questionable practices have been well publicized. But the brilliance of McCain using Giuliani as a kind of pseudo attache is that McCain can keep all his prior experience, his renown as a war hero, and whatever other favors he might have, and also cling to the 9/11 message that Giuliani, unsuccessfully based his campaign on. What ailed Giuliani was the fact that the 9/11 management was really his only universally recognized positive, and it was not enough to sustain an entire campaign. But McCain, with Rudy’s endorsement, can buy that extra morsel of post-apocalyptic hope, and wrap it up with a little bow and serve it on his stump speeches to each audience member, hungry for not only McCain’s current policy, but added assurance he could get the job done. “Giuliani light” is decidedly better than the blown up, cross-dressing, wife cheating full-calorie version. It’s easier on the digestion for a fractured Republican party. And Giuliani is no dummy – he’s getting something from this deal, though it’s a reluctant prediction to think he would accept an offer as McCain’s running mate. We’ll see, but if that does happen, it would be one fearsome political creature to behold. Of course, every Republican machine is pretty fear-inducing these days.

Remember what happened to the last officially dubbed “Queen of Nice?” Sprint, or jog, your memory while we recap the latest Democratic debate. Obama and Clinton were talking nice, as if only sunshine and quaint democratic sentiment shines out their bums. Obama could get some more traction from being nicer to Clinton, because his audacious message of hope, while running a mostly positive campaign, has taken exceptions when it comes to Clinton-bashing, and his comment a month or so ago at one of the earlier debates that Clinton was only “Likable Enough” actually didn’t fair well for him at all. Despite his universally recognized flair for charisma, Obama just isn’t up to snuff when compared to Clinton’s debating ability. He comes off more like the snarky showoff who pedals in all directions whereas Clinton always has a witty retort and is well-versed in debate, her main flaw being the forcefulness in her delivery that appears jarring to some. But lately, Clinton has been nicer too. Her well-placed snipets of humor are reinvigorating what could’ve turned into a bleak campaign, and all this news coverage of a supposedly “angry” Bill leave her with the trouble of running damage-duty. Her well-chosen weaphon of choice: the well-placed quip. For instance, when asked about the possibility of history recording Presidents in the following order: Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton; Hillary Clinton remarked “it may take a Clinton to clean up after a second Bush.”

So what do all these niceties mean? Perhaps this is the eye of the storm – the outer winds and wreckage from the huge field of players has dwindled down to basically two major candidates still standing on both sides. One thing is for sure, it’s going to get ugly again before this thing moves out after the nominations. We can only guess how, and afterwards assess the destruction. But Democrats need to be wary- both Clinton and Obama would agree that the only thing worse than losing the primary nomination is losing the presidential election to a Republican because of an electorate dissatisfied with a quibbling Democratic party. Democrats are historically known as the slightly more disorganized party, one without a completely solid platform — either that or the platform just never seems to dry like the harsh concrete Republicans like to stomp on all campaign season. So we can see why killing the voters with kindness might be the best method…for now.