Paul Krugman: The Resentment Strategy.
The first few paragraphs give you a sense of how far the convention
Republicans have gone to stir up resentment against the Democratic
ticket. There is, after all, little more than they can run on, but
it's also been in their blood, as far back as Richard Nixon, who
brought the Republicans back to power with his "silent majority"
coalition of big business, racists, militarists, and old-fashioned
individualists. The more they rule, the more they screw up; hence,
the more dependent they are on stoking the rage that brought them
together in the first place.
By selecting Barack Obama as their nominee, the Democrats may have
given Republicans an opening: the very qualities that inspire many
fervent Obama supporters -- the candidate's high-flown eloquence, his
coolness factor -- have also laid him open to a Nixonian
backlash. Unlike many observers, I wasn't surprised at the
effectiveness of the McCain "celebrity" ad. It didn't make much sense
intellectually, but it skillfully exploited the resentment some voters
feel toward Mr. Obama's star quality.
But the Republicans would be doing this to anyone. They can't,
after all, run on their own record.
Matthew Yglesias: A Partisan in Maverick's Clothing.
McCain still has two months to run away from the Republican Party,
but judging from the convention, he's stuck there, and couldn't get
far even if he wanted to. Yglesias points out many cases where McCain
has surrendered his independent judgment to the will of the party.
He could have gone further in exploring the extent to which the GOP
has become a hideous thought control machine.
Billmon: Really Proud.
While Krugman is still worrying about that the resentment campaign
may work against Obama, Billmon -- who on average is a hell of a
lot more critical of the Democrats -- takes some pride in what has
happened this year:
But there are loyalties that go deeper than policies, deeper than
ideas, deeper, even, than folly and cowardice. When I turn on the TV
and see the crowd at a Democratic National Convention -- black and
white and every shade in between, Anglo and Hispanic, gay and
straight, old and young, Jew and gentile, I know somewhere deep down
in my gut that those are my people, the Americans that I want to be my
That's a variant on what I've been feeling. I hate the very idea
of identity politics, but despite voluminous policy differences that's
what this election is coming down to: in part because that's the way
the Republicans want to fight it, but also because a lot of Democrats
this year don't feel like ducking that fight -- especially after seeing
the Republican convention.
Billmon: The Great White Hope.
A backgrounder on McCain, posted back on July 31 -- long time ago,
but as history it's still valid. Back in the 1980s, after he parlayed
his POW record into a Senate seat:
If John McCain had a problem with the way lobbying (i.e. legalized
prostitution) was being done in Washington, you definitely won't find
it in the record of the Keating investigation. McCain's fit of Puritan
self-righteousness (or political calculation, depending on your view)
came after the fact, once he'd already been caught. And yet, from that
single Senate speech sprang the shoot that eventually grew into the
sturdy tree of John McCain's media image.
You have to admit it was a neat trick: Happily accepting the
naughty goodies while they were being handed out, but then winning
brownie points for admitting he took them -- after the world had
already found out he took them. But that's precisely what McCain
did. He's never looked back since.
The lesson he learned, I think, is that pseudo-candor (truthiness)
usually trumps the genuine article (McCain was way ahead of his time
on this) And so he hasn't hesitated to flip and flop shamelessly if
(and these are the key points) it is in his interest and he thinks he
can get away with it.
On to 2000, when he ran for president:
As the outsider, one of a number of outsiders, running against the
GOP establishment favorite, McCain desperately needed -- and knew he
needed -- independents and Democrats to turn out for him in the
primaries where they were allowed to do so. But his record and his
positions on most issues defined him as a fairly conventional GOP
conservative -- what's more, one whose primary passion, national
security hawkishness, was way out of fashion. So, McCain and his
political advisors used his personal biography (not least his
post-Keating Five contrition) to fashion a new political persona that
would appeal to independents and/or moderates: McCain 2.0. To
demonstrate his bona fides, he even took a totally gratuitous (if
entirely accurate) public shot at the religious right, defining them
as "the agents of intolerance."
It worked well initially -- well enough to put the fear into Karl
Rove and George W. Bush, not to mention the entire GOP
establishment. But conservative, hardcore Republican South Carolina
turned into the make-or-break primary state, and McCain's supposed
appeal to veterans turned out to be much less tangible than the Bush
machine's tight connections to the fundamentalist Taliban. So suddenly
John McCain, the supposed straight talker, was ducking and weaving
around the perennially important issue of whether the Confederate flag
should continue to wave over the cradle of the Civil War.
He lost anyway, of course -- but here again, as during the Keating
Five scandal, McCain managed to make political vice look like virtue,
at least in the media's eyes. In late April, he gave a speech
announcing he'd been wrong not to denounce the Stars and Bars. "I
chose to compromise my principles," he confessed, and "broke my
promise to always tell the truth" in order to win in South
With Bush the nominee, McCain waited on the sidelines.
Like Achilles, McCain largely withdrew to his tent for the 2000
general election campaign -- sulking after his defeat, it was said;
although, in hindsight, hedging his bets might be a more accurate
description. But after the Florida debacle, with the Cheney
Administration off to a rocky start and Shrub looking like a possible
one-term failed nominal president, McCain re-emerged to re-define
himself legislatively as a "maverick" Republican -- opposing tax cuts,
slamming the tobacco lobby, embracing campaign finance reform,
But then 9/11 reshuffled the political cards once again. With Bush
transformed into the GOP's Maximum Leader, McCain reinvented himself
AGAIN as a loyal foot soldier in the war on terrorism -- but managed
to keep just enough daylight between himself and the Cheney
Administration (on the conduct of the war in Iraq, the use of torture,
etc.) to give himself an out if thing went South.
In 2004 McCain flirted with Kerry, but wound up embracing Bush.
He got back into the forefront of the neocon war in Iraq, surging
even before Bush did. And he started mending his fences with GOP
baseheads like Jerry Falwell. Through the primaries he was more
unapologetically aligned with Bush than any other candidate, even
though it meant backtracking on everything from taxes to Armageddon.
And now, with the nomination sewed up, all those GOP aparatchiks
who supposedly hated him in his "maverick" days are lined up right
behind him: the ultimate party hack.
The poll projections at
Obama up by 3.1% today, his biggest lead that I can remember, with
Ohio and Virginia in the blue column, and Nevada teetering. Doesn't
seem like McCain got any convention bounce, but it may take a while
to work through the algorithms.