Obama certainly doesn't sound like a populist, outraged at our economic crisis.I didn't watch or listen to the debate last night partly because I was coming down with something (Um, anyone I was emailing last night, sorry for the incoherence, I really felt like shit) and partly because my own mind is made up about these two clowns.
Persecuted Comrade Anonymouse - commenter on Calculated Risk
Instead, I wandered over to Calculated Risk and read the live blog window and (when CR shut down the window) the Haloscan comment thread. The reason I did this was to get away from the opinions of the political blogosphere, which have settled into their respective camps and cliches, and observe what an audience of swing voters had to say.
The readers and commenters on the economics blogs, which I also follow, is much more like the profile of the typical independent voter that each side needs to swing over to win the election - predominantly white, male, libertarian-leaning, anti-political, of varying levels of economic expertise but thinking they are the bomb when it comes to such matters. Here are some quotes I transcribed from the live blog, which was shut down within 20 minutes for lack of substantive discussion of economic issues by the candidates:
- Both of these guys should be thrown out.
- Neither looking presidential
- Turning it off now
- Shady Property Obama and Seven Houses McCain
- Who is less prepared?
- This is a train wreck
- They both lose my vote
In the regular comment thread, I was struck by the quote I used at the start of this post, and by this one: Obama: "Quite [sic] calling me a liberal." That was in response to this answer from Obama, taken from the CNN transcript of the debate (Thanks to Lambert for finding it for me):
Tom -- or John mentioned me being wildly liberal. Mostly that's just me opposing George Bush's wrong headed policies since I've been in Congress but I think it is that it is also important to recognize I work with Tom Coburn, the most conservative, one of the most conservative Republicans who John already mentioned to set up what we call a Google for government saying we'll list every dollar of federal spending to make sure that the taxpayer can take a look and see who, in fact, is promoting some of these spending projects that John's been railing about.
Quit calling me a liberal. Lack of outrage. They both lose my vote. Obama protesting against being called a liberal and finger pointing
(as well as sounding like a moron - set up what we call a Google? No, you may call it that, but "we" say "set up a Google search".) (I misunderstood the context - correction h/t Swift Loris) that the other guys spend money, too.
McCain was at least somewhat true to the bastardized Republican legacy of opposing expansion of the Federal government by talking about tax cuts, reduced spending and less government (except for more military), even as it is the absolutely wrong way to go given our national condition. No one expects McCain to say anything different or do any better. What I observed was a keen sense of disappointment that Obama wasn't stronger, more direct, with better responses, offering something concrete on any of the topics discussed.
The consensus in the discussion thread was that the candidates were both crappy, out of touch and mostly incoherent, but that McCain was more successful with his attacks on Obama than the other way around. A number of people commented that if this was the best that Obama could do after intense coaching for the debate, it did not speak well of the candidate. Least prepared presidential debate ever was also said in one form or another several times.
Here's the problem. Why isn't the Democratic candidate prepared to go in there swinging? It's more than just that Obama the individual is not inspiring or prepared (though it is true on both counts). It is that he is a perfect representative of the Unity Democrats' political philosophy. This is not just him up there being a milquetoast whiner. He is as much a reflection of his faction in the Democratic Party as McCain is of the dominant strands in the Republican Party.
What we should have seen was in fact someone who was outraged, who was "wildly liberal" in substance and style, who did not count it among his successes that he worked with extreme conservatives to set up a nickle and dime watch list to try to judge Congress critters on dollar amounts, and instead would blast McCain on the substance of their respective politics.
But that's kind of the problem, isn't it? There isn't that much daylight between the way the Unity Pony types are willing to allow the government to operate and the the way Movement Conservatives want to run it - privatizing risk of all kinds (physical, economic, medical) for individuals and socializing protection for the elite at the top. Think of all those campaign contributions and kick-backs, mmm-mmm good!
If you fundamentally believe things are OK in this country, if you don't diverge that much from the substance of your opponent's political approach and think that the real problem is some partisan troublemakers who need to be more argeeable, this is what your politics will look like.
Me, I could do with somone who is wildly liberal.