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Some Ruminations on the Exit Polls:

Looking at the exit polls for a random assortment of swing states that went for Obama--Indiana, Virginia, Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, and Nevada--is interesting and has implications, I think, for how Obama should govern.

First, it seems pretty clear that whatever this election was, it does not look like a mandate for an aggressive liberal agenda. In Indiana, for instance, voters identified themselves as follows: 44% Moderate, 36% Conservative, 20% Liberal. Virginia was 46% Moderate, 33% Conservative, and 21% Liberal. Florida was 47%M, 35%C, and 19%L. Ohio was 45M-35C-20L. Pennsylvania was 50M-27C-23L. Nevada was 44M-34C-22L. Obama won basically because he won the moderates (he even collected a few conservatives here and there).

By definition, I would think that a winning coalition predicated on moderates will expect Obama to govern as a moderate and a pragmatist, not a hard-core liberal. In every one of these swing states, the center of gravity in the state appears to be basically center-right. Unless Obama governs more like Clinton than Carter, he is going to run into problems four years from now.

Of course, one reason we are having this discussion is that I don't think anybody knows for sure what Obama actually intends to do. I was watching election returns last night and Fred Barnes and Juan Williams got into a heated discussion about whether Obama "really" supports card-check. I don't think anyone seriously believes that Obama intends to cut taxes as much as he says or to sit down and go through the budget "line by line, page by page" to cut wasteful programs. What will he do? I don't think we really know.

Or as one commentator put it last night--"Will he govern the way he has voted and acted his whole life (very liberal) or on what he says he'll do (pragmatic moderate)?" To a large extent this probably depends on his sense of political self-survival. Every policy instinct he has is extremely liberal. But obviously he is smart enough and enough of a cold-blooded political calculator to understand something about political survival. The ease in which he turned on a dime and flip-flopped on several positions between the primaries and general election suggests a minimal commitment to any political principle when confronted with political expediency. One commentator last night mentioned that Obama told her that his "rhetoric on NAFTA in the primaries" was somewhat exaggerated, which she took as suggesting that his protectionist rhetoric was purely political. Ditto, of course, for his commitment to accepting public financing for his campaign. So he seems to have some degree of "flexibility" in his commitment to political principle.

On the other hand, relations with the Democrats in Congress could be a challenging issue. Talking to friends who work as staffers on the Hill, they say there are two basic elements to Obama: (1) he is "really, really liberal," and (2) "he is incredibly indecisive." (This latter tendency is summarized a bit, I think, in the much-referenced unusually high tendency for Obama to vote "present" during his time in the state legislature). And the latter attribute is the one that will challenge him, both domestically and in foreign policy. His lack of executive experience is going to be a substantial problem for him when it comes time for him to actually make decisions. His entire career he has been able to avoid making and taking responsibilities for decisions. This is exactly what has allowed him to float above the fray and not get pinned down on anything. His strength is that he uses great consideration and collects information in making a decision; his weakness is that he never actually makes any decision.

Indecisiveness is an obvious problem in foreign affairs. But my concern is that it may be a problem in domestic policy as well. I have some concern about Obama's ability to stand up to the old bulls in Congress--Frank, Durbin, Byrd, Schumer, etc. Obama's great attractiveness as a politician is his expressed desire and perhaps ability is to bring people together to try to form a consensus (I say "perhaps ability" because I'm not sure that there is any evidence that he has actually done this, as opposed to saying he is going to do it). But one has to wonder whether he actually has it in him to say "No" to the Congressional Democrats. Again, he has never been an executive. He has never had to say "No" or seriously think about tradeoffs. How does he form consensus among those who aren't interested in consensus?

My fear is that Congress is just going to roll right over him. And that his desire to form consensus and avoid conflict could turn out to be little more than a perception of weakness by congressional and foreign leaders. Consensus and agreement is not a good thing if you elevate that over everything else, and are willing to give away almost anything in order to get agreement.

So that even if he desires to govern as a moderate, he is still going to have to demonstrate the ability to stand up to members of Congress and interest groups who are going to want to push him to the left. I hope he can do that--but it is not obvious that there is anything in his experience or skill set to suggest optimism that he can stand up to these politically savvy and strong-willed congressional leaders who have decades more experience than he does (not to mention some of the ruthless characters on the international scene).

Second, a nonsystematic flip through the exit polls suggests that one major story of this election is that it appears that the Baby Boomers may have succeeded in replicating themselves through their children. Assuming this holds up to more systematica scrutiny, it looks like the two most pro-Obama cohorts were the under-29 group and the 50-64 group.

If last night is any indication, then the "Millenials" may be a replication of their parents. On the other hand, perhaps this is just a passing phase of youth. But, on the other hand, it may be that these two groups are uniquely receptive to the sort of messianic and rhetorical style of politics suggested by Obama. My casual impression of the Millenials is that in many ways their style of politics is reminscent of the Baby Boomers--personal, symbolic, emotional, utopian, and expressive, rather than substantive and pragmatic. Or, if you prefer, unconstrained vision instead of constrained vision.

If that is so, then my earlier hope for a more healthy post-Boomer political system may be unfounded. If this is so, then I confess that this is more than a little dismaying to me, simply from the perspective that I was looking forward to the day when all the Boomers would ride off into the sunset and leave us alone.

Third, the exit polls generally suggest that voters thought that McCain unfairly attacked Obama more than the other way around. In Ohio, 71% of voters said McCain attacked Obama unfairly and only 53% said that of Obama. In Florida it was 64% to 48%. In Virginia it was 69-47. In Nevada, it was 70-53. In Indiana, it was 66-53.

Now, I don't think anyone would seriously suggest that overall there were more "unfair attacks" against Obama than against McCain--and especially against Sarah Palin. By voters' perception that there were more unfair attacks by McCain than by Obama more than vice-versa does not seem unreasonable to me. The problem is not that--the problem is that McCain and especially Palin were attacked unfairly a lot, and a lot more than Obama was attacked. But it wasn't by Obama because the media did the job for him. That is a major systematic tilting of the playing field, especially when a candidate is trying to run the sort of campaign McCain ran, focused on bipartisanship.

This reflects, I think, and underappreciated aspect of the media bias in this election. Clearly it affected the substance of the election in multiple ways. But is also affected the process of the election as well in a way that I think affected the outcome. Because the media was so aggressive in attacking McCain and puffing up Obama, this had two crucial effects. First, it enabled Obama again to stay largely above the fray and look like the "good guy" because the media was doing all his dirty work. Second, because the media wouldn't criticize Obama, it meant that McCain had to (although I still think that the whole "radical associations" line of attack was distracting and silly). Which in turn exposed McCain to the criticism--by the media--that he was attacking unfairly.

This is a problem that the Republicans are going to have to figure out how to address in future elections, because I think it is reasonable to conclude that the mainstream media is not going to change, and if anything, they will be emboldened by this experience. I suspect that the McCain campaign simply underestimated the viciousness with which the media would go after Palin and was simply unprepared for that onslaught. McCain saw a young, successful, charismatic, competent governor; the media saw the second coming of Clarence Thomas, just on a larger stage. McCain's team can be faulted for not anticipating what the meanstream media would try to do to Palin. On the other hand, the ferociousness of the media's onslaught and the degree of bias in this campaign surprised even me, who was about as hardened skeptic about the MSM as can be imagined.

Republicans have got to do a better job anticipating this hostile terrain in the future--I'm not sure how, but it really changed the entire dynamics of this election.

Thus, I think the impact on the political system of media bias runs even deeper than just the substance of the election. But it changed the whole dynamic of the election and the process of the election by allowing Obama to remain above the fray while McCain and Palin had to do their own dirty work.

Justin (mail):
Aren't you assuming facts not in evidence? Mainly that voters who identify themselves as moderate want Obama to behave as President as you believe is moderate? I see no reason to think this is true, particularly given the overwhelming numbers in the exit polls that voters wanted the government to do more to help their problems.

On top of that, I feel like rather than engaging in Republican groupthink, maybe you should wait for him to govern before you start judging him based on what your Republican friends in DC think of him.
11.5.2008 4:30pm
Rock On:
Pretty thin there, Professor Zywicki. I don't know that Obama is "really really liberal." I think the evidence of that is about as strong as the evidence that McCain is "really really conservative." We'll see though.

On the media point, McCain dug his own grave when he decided to antagonize the press. McCain was pretty much getting the kid gloves treatment from the media, right up until he decided to start antagonizing them. This isn't to say that responding to that antagonism by changing the tone of the coverage was necessarily proper, but it certainly shouldn't have been unexpected. And I don't know how you could possibly call what happened to Palin "unfair" given the fact that she bombed multiple interviews with fairly easy questions.
11.5.2008 4:32pm
Rock On:
To draw a parallel, regarding the Palin coverage, would you say it would be "unfair" to label a job interview candidate unqualified for the position if she bombed two of her interviews?
11.5.2008 4:34pm
JohnK (mail):
"To draw a parallel, regarding the Palin coverage, would you say it would be "unfair" to label a job interview candidate unqualified for the position if she bombed two of her interviews?"

That would be a good point if they had said the same things about Biden who bombed every interview and honestly may not have a tripple digit IQ.
11.5.2008 4:40pm
ronbailey (www):
Wait a minute - you guys just spent three months telling us that the guy we elected was a swarthy liberal-Muslim-Marxist-Maoist who was going to rape our women and turn the country over to the terrorists. Now you want me to think we elected him because we wanted a moderate?

This post is so full of shit that my laptop started to smell as I tried to read it over. You might want to delete this post, think things over awhile, and maybe rewrite it once you come up with a semi-coherent argument.
11.5.2008 4:40pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
Your team said Obama was a the single most liberal senator, a socialist, a Marxist, and—from one of your re-elected clowns—arguably anti-American. Now you wanna tell me his victory isn't for a liberal agenda? OK, maybe the electorate concluded (correctly) that the GOP characterization of Obama was a pack of lies, but I would think active McCain supporters are estopped from making such a claim.
11.5.2008 4:41pm
Frank M Howland (mail):
I wonder how Todd feels about the decisive mandates that Bush and Cheney believed they got in the previous two much closer elections.

Todd seems to live in some sort of alternative universe when it comes to discussing the fairness of attacks on the two candidates. Or maybe both Obama partisans like myself and McCain partisans like Tood are both living in alternate universes.
11.5.2008 4:46pm
Constantin:
I don't understand this mandate stuff. Look, I guarantee you there aren't too many people in America less enthusiastic than I am about Obama as our president. But he won, so he gets to do what he wants within the system we have. Doesn't matter if he won by seven votes or seven million.
11.5.2008 4:46pm
A Berman (mail):
Second, a nonsystematic flip through the exit polls suggests that one major story of this election is that it appears that the Baby Boomers may have succeeded in replicating themselves through their children. Assuming this holds up to more systematica scrutiny, it looks like the two most pro-Obama cohorts were the under-29 group and the 50-64 group

To support this thesis, you'd have to know how the Baby Boomers would have voted when they were that age. It could be that they would have been even *more* leftist than today's 18-29 year olds.

Furthermore, most of the 18-29 year olds have had all of their adult lives with President Bush. In other words, no real positive Conservative role models. No Ronald Reagan, no Rudy Guiliani in his heyday (1994-98). And they've also had no real negative Liberal role models: No Jimmy Carter, No Bella Abzug. So give them time, they're young and there's a reasonable chance they'll mature.
11.5.2008 4:47pm
josh:
"Now, I don't think anyone would seriously suggest that overall there were more "unfair attacks" against Obama than against McCain--and especially against Sarah Palin."

I would.

And as to exit-polled "moderates" showing Obama shouldn't govern to the left, I'm not so sure. I think one of the big problems we have in this country (often evidenced on this site) is that we have our labels all mixed up. If someone identifies themselves as a "moderate" and supports Obama's return to the pre-2000 tax rates, is Obama moving inappropriately left by in fact changing the rates to the pre-200 levels?

If the same "moderate" wants out of Iraq (as 70% or so of all Americans do), is Obama moving too far left by getting out of Iraq?

Or isn't it just that "moderates" may view Obama's "liberal" policy preferences as being the correct fixes for the time?
11.5.2008 4:48pm
Donny:
What AJL said. Either the electorate thought the Republicans were liars, or that they wanted an uberliberal. Either way, hard for you to spin that one, Mr. Zywicki.
11.5.2008 4:48pm
Constantin:
That said, you're entirely right about the media's role. We see today constant references to the mistake-free campaign Obama ran. Well geez, it's not that hard to do when nobody (that includes your opponent in the general election most of the time, and the media all of the time) really challenges you on your weaknesses.

At this point, I wonder if the GOP would be better served by just bailing on the MSM altogether. Don't even try to contest it. Don't go on Katie Couric, nothing. Treat them the same way the Dems treat Fox News. It's either than or get some conservative to buy one of the three networks or the NYT. Because the media coverage was a complete abortion.
11.5.2008 4:51pm
Anon21:
Prof. Zywicki, you've taken a major detour into hack country. Exit polls suggest that the public supports Obama's agenda on taxes, the environment, the economy, the courts, and almost all other major issues. They are expecting a liberal President. Whether that's what they get is another issue, but the digging on the part of conservative pundits to come up with tortured interpretations of this election that support their favorite "center-right country" thesis is a bit painful to watch.

And yeah, I'm sorry, but the "media favors Obama" storyline isn't playing well outside the wingnutosphere either. My sense is that you guys were really lulled by the all-out attack that the media launched against Gore in 2000, and came to see that as somehow normal and unbiased press coverage. When the press decides to call out GOP distortions and policy failures, you see it as evidence of liberal bias. If there is any substantial bias in "mainstream" media coverage, it is a bias for broad narratives at the expense of policy details. I suppose you could argue that that favored one candidate or the other this time around, but it's not ideological either way.
11.5.2008 4:54pm
DDG:
Obama was the most liberal Senator by voting record, and may very well be the most liberal, even socialist, by ideological inclination. But that does not mean that he would govern as a liberal. Bill Clinton had liberal inclinations but generally governed as a moderate, particularly after his first two years. He said, famously,
<blockquote>
I hope you're all aware we're all Eisenhower Republicans. We're Eisenhower Republicans here, and we are fighting the Reagan Republicans. We stand for lower deficits and free trade and the bond market. Isn't that great?
</blockquote>

The moderate Obama we saw in the general election campaign could sign on to most of that. The liberal Obama we saw on primary campaign could not, nor could the liberal Obama of the Senate. So who shows up as President? That's the question.
11.5.2008 4:54pm
GMUSOL05:

First, it seems pretty clear that whatever this election was, it does not look like a mandate for an aggressive liberal agenda.


Strange, because here I was led to believe that Barack Obama is a gun-stealing Marxist liberal socialist and the furthest-left candidate for major elected office in U.S. history, who will force income redistribution upon us all. Are you suggesting that's NOT true, and that his policies do not represent the socialist Armageddon that his critics and opponents have long insisted will result from his election?
11.5.2008 4:57pm
Loophole1998 (mail):
What makes you think Mr. McCain was trying to run a campaign focused on "bipartisanship"?
11.5.2008 4:58pm
Snaphappy:
Whatever makes you feel better, Todd.
11.5.2008 5:00pm
von Neumann (mail):





Why would they be estopped? These arguments are for different purposes meant to address different questions.

One is meant to address the question: For whom should I vote? The other addresses the question: What did the electorate think they were doing? One is personal, one is cultural. Where does estoppel come in?
11.5.2008 5:02pm
Patrick216:
Few comments:

1. Re: Media Bias

With respect, I think you have slightly missed the mark on media bias by emphasizing on voter judgments about who unfairly attacked whom. Truth is, McCain did run an extremely negative campaign. His entire message was "don't elect Obama, he's untested, unready, and a little kooky." McCain did a bad job weaving together a narrative to fit the attack; his attacks were very haphazard, with many of the attacks being telegraphed to the media many days in advance. While Obama was very negative, too, he headlined his campaign by talking about "hope and change," which inoculated him against some of those charges.

The real media bias was, in my view, evident in the fact that neither Obama nor Biden were ever challenged or seriously vetted during the general election campaign. The press fawned over them and minimized Biden's many gaffes on the campaign trail and during the debates. The one time the press did go after Obama was the Jeremiah Wright stuff. And, honestly, Fox News was the media outlet that really drove the story. (The MSM covered it and then tried to cover it up by focusing on the "negativity" of Hillary and the Republicans for talking about it.)

They did not afford the same treatment to the Republican side. While I think Palin contributed to her own demise by being insufficiently prepared both in style and substance, as you rightfully suggest, she was subject to the WORST thrashing of a general election candidate for VP or Pres in the 15 years I've been following politics.

Bottom line is that the Republicans need to devise a comprehensive media strategy and need to learn, QUICKLY, how to properly deal with a generally hostile press. Bush tried to ignore the media, and is now the President w/ the lowest approval ratings in history. McCain/Palin had no competence for dealing with them either.

2. Younger Voters

I think a lot of younger voters went with Obama because they just didn't trust or identify with McCain. It was pretty obvious that McCain was just flailing around and was simply reacting to Obama. Obama, by contrast, had a ton of message discipline and tied his programs and proposed policies back to a central message -- "common sense change to put the middle class first." It made him look thoughtful and on top of his game, and made McCain look erratic by contrast.

I think it's difficult to conclude that young voters have become permanent liberal activitsts in the same way the Baby Boomers were. We'll know more in 2012, I suppose.
11.5.2008 5:02pm
Constantin:
Anon21, a few recent polls (including a Rasmussen one today) show that over half the electorate thinks the the media was in the tank for Obama, with only seven percent saying the tilt was for McCain and the rest seeing neutrality or having no opinin. That's a sentiment held by more than the VRWC. I'm pretty sure that a majority in the press itself wouldn't argue against pro-Obama bias, though they'd either (1) justify it, like the Politico guys last week, or (2) claim they individually weren't in on it, it was "the other guys".
11.5.2008 5:07pm
Constantin:
Patrick216, yours is an excellent post from top to bottom. I'd add that Obama's race was as much of a shield as his message. Neither McCain nor the media wanted to be seen as racist, a fact the Obama campaign exploited to its fullest.
11.5.2008 5:09pm
Tony Tutins (mail):

Your team said Obama was a the single most liberal senator, a socialist, a Marxist,

I agree. Right now, the only problem I have is deciding which means of production to seize, come January.

The sharp contrast in attack ads: Obama was attacked for who he associated with, even though respectable establishment figures associated with the same sketchy people. And the Rezko buying the lot next door scandal never really took off.

Obama was also attacked for his inexperience, even though the difference between 24 years as a Senator and 4 years as a Senator would be quantitative, not qualitative. Later, McCain in effect said 18 months as Governor was sufficient, leaving voters to say "Huh?"
11.5.2008 5:11pm
Suzy (mail):
First, why are we taking exit polls seriously as evidence for anything? They are notoriously lousy, unrepresentative samples.

Second, I agree that the media should have given more serious scrutiny to Obama's policy proposals. However, I see no fault whatsoever in the serious scrutiny they gave to Gov. Palin's shortcomings, which were many and terrifying. Should the media somehow have treated her more gingerly?
11.5.2008 5:19pm
Anon21:
Constantin: I'll grant that there was more positive coverage of Obama than McCain this cycle. I submit, however, that this is just the latest example of "reality has a well-known liberal bias." The truth is that McCain's campaign was slip-shod and poorly run by any standard, and that process stories essentially had to point that out in order to be truthful. Obama's campaign, by contrast, was a tightly-regulated operation: few leaks, internal dissension was not allowed to spill over into public view, and a lot of message discipline. Basically, the Obamaites played the media game a lot better than did the McCainiacs, but it had nothing to do with some sort of liberal media bias, but rather had everything to do with systemic characteristics of the media, primarily its focus on style and personal characteristics over policy substance. Bush and Obama both recognized that and used it effectively; McCain perhaps recognized it, but the personal attacks he chose to launch (primarily on Obama's choices in political associates) failed to land with the public. It's not as if the Wright and Ayers stuff wasn't reported, it's just that Obama and his staff handled those controversies better than their opponents did.
11.5.2008 5:25pm
Kevin R (mail):
So, are VC comment sections going to continue to be full of trolls for awhile, then?
11.5.2008 5:27pm
TyWebb:
First, it seems pretty clear that whatever this election was, it does not look like voters have positive feelings about the word "liberal," whatever their policy positions may be.

/fixed.
11.5.2008 5:29pm
Steve:
In Indiana, for instance, voters identified themselves as follows: 44% Moderate, 36% Conservative, 20% Liberal.

But these are just labels. If you want to know whether voters support, for example, universal health care, and you're not content to simply look at whether they voted for a candidate who supports universal health care, then at least look at how they respond to questions on the subject. You can't just say "well, universal health care is a liberal idea, so obviously only 20% of Indiana voters want Obama to do it."

Now, I don't think anyone would seriously suggest that overall there were more "unfair attacks" against Obama than against McCain--and especially against Sarah Palin.

This is absurd. Of course there are people who would seriously suggest that. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but let's at least try not to be hopelessly partisan about it.
11.5.2008 5:33pm
SSFC (www):
Speaking as a libertarian who generally votes for major parties in the presidential race, this year I voted for Barr because McCain didn't even try to sell me on his product. He just disparaged the competition. Fine. If the competition sucks (I already thought it did) but you don't have anything good to say about yourself, I'll buy the off-label brand. So I threw away my vote to make a point. And I voted in North Carolina, one of the few large states where a few thousand votes could have changed the victor.

The only bright spot in McCain's campaign was the rollout of Palin during the convention, and she managed that by herself. Though I find her scary in some ways, I still like her more than any of the other three. Fortunately in 2012 I can vote for Bobby Jindal, who doesn't scare me in the slightest. I look forward to an Obama/Jindal race.

The sad thing for McCain is that he has so many virtues to go with his flaws, but barely pushed them at all. He has a great sense of humor, he has almost always been right about foreign policy and the war, and he's one of the most honorable men ever to serve in a dishonorable legislature. But he waited until Saturday to release the humor, and he assumed everyone knew about the character and his differences with the administration when it mattered. He didn't sell himself. Instead he ran a negative campaign, and yet still pulled his punches.

He ran an awful, disorganized mess of a campaign, and he deserved to lose. Obama may not have executive experience, but neither does McCain. Neither has run anything larger than a Presidential campaign. Based on that scant evidence alone Obama ran his like a master while McCain ran his like a chump.

I agree about the media bias, but reporters were joking in 2000, after New Hampshire, that it would be a shame that they'd have to turn against McCain once he won the nomination.

Again, McCain is a great man, but so was Henry Clay, whose most enduring quote is "I'd rather be right than President." McCain ran a Henry Clay campaign.
11.5.2008 5:37pm
NaG (mail):
I hesitate to add any comments here, given the mood, but...

It seems to me that a lot of people voted for Obama for one of the following reasons:

1. He is black, and the idea of electing the first black President is something worth rooting for.

2. He is the opposite of George W. Bush.

3. He represents "hope" and "change."

The fact that he's also a pretty bright and scholarly guy with a calm and reasoned demeanor further bolstered these three reasons. People who might otherwise worry about his thin resume were won over by his personality and packaging, and were scared off by the "experienced" bunch like Cheney and Rumsfeld who generally made a mess of things.

What strikes me about these reasons that many non-ideological voters had for voting for Obama is that none of them are policy-related. I think many Obama voters were not swayed by his policy positions or proposals as much as they were swayed by him as a person. In that way, I think he is tracking much like the Left's answer to Reagan -- a perceived lightweight who suddenly captured the American imagination by speaking to us at a deeper level than just how much money we should spend on some program.

Given that Obama's win is not largely due to his policies, I think he will face more resistance, even from those who voted for him, if he heads strongly Left-ward. But my guess is as good as anyone's at this point.
11.5.2008 5:49pm
Ken Arromdee:
Strange, because here I was led to believe that Barack Obama is a gun-stealing Marxist liberal socialist and the furthest-left candidate for major elected office in U.S. history, who will force income redistribution upon us all. Are you suggesting that's NOT true, and that his policies do not represent the socialist Armageddon that his critics and opponents have long insisted will result from his election?

No, it just means that his policies don't have the justification of being mandates.
11.5.2008 5:56pm
Cheaper Trolls, Ltd:
So, are VC comment sections going to continue to be full of trolls for awhile, then?

Yes.

Next question, please?

 

 

©2008 Cheaper Trolls™
11.5.2008 5:57pm
Thomas_Holsinger:
I completely agree with this comment by Professor Zywicki (my emphasis):

"Indecisiveness is an obvious problem in foreign affairs. But my concern is that it may be a problem in domestic policy as well. I have some concern about Obama's ability to stand up to the old bulls in Congress--Frank, Durbin, Byrd, Schumer, etc. Obama's great attractiveness as a politician is his expressed desire and perhaps ability is to bring people together to try to form a consensus (I say "perhaps ability" because I'm not sure that there is any evidence that he has actually done this, as opposed to saying he is going to do it). But one has to wonder whether he actually has it in him to say "No" to the Congressional Democrats. Again, he has never been an executive. He has never had to say "No" or seriously think about tradeoffs. How does he form consensus among those who aren't interested in consensus?

My fear is that Congress is just going to roll right over him.
And that his desire to form consensus and avoid conflict could turn out to be little more than a perception of weakness by congressional and foreign leaders. Consensus and agreement is not a good thing if you elevate that over everything else, and are willing to give away almost anything in order to get agreement.

So that even if he desires to govern as a moderate, he is still going to have to demonstrate the ability to stand up to members of Congress and interest groups who are going to want to push him to the left. I hope he can do that--but it is not obvious that there is anything in his experience or skill set to suggest optimism that he can stand up to these politically savvy and strong-willed congressional leaders who have decades more experience than he does (not to mention some of the ruthless characters on the international scene)."
11.5.2008 6:04pm
Floridan:
I'm just not sure that the MSM (major newspapers and networks)treated Palin unfairly. What would you have them not report on?

In the blogosphere there was plenty of irresponsible attacks on all candidates, but that's a different story.

Face it, the American people rejected the scare tactics put out by the right-wingers. They are not stupid; they know that Obama is not a terrorist, or a thug, or trying to rig the election, or the son of Malcolm X, etc.

History has turned the page, and if the Republicans hope to avoid becoming a diminishing regional party, they better wake up.
11.5.2008 6:09pm
byomtov (mail):
I don't think anyone would seriously suggest that overall there were more "unfair attacks" against Obama than against McCain--and especially against Sarah Palin.

Add me to the list of those who would suggest just that.
11.5.2008 6:20pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
I would be honored if the Society of More Unfair Attacks on Obama than Palin would accept me as a member.
11.5.2008 6:28pm
Nunzio:
In defense of McCain, since he was running from behind the last 6 weeks or so of the campaign and had a lot less cash, it wasn't unreasonable of him to go negative to get Obama's approval ratings down.

He still could have run a much better campaign, but he still would have lost, so what's the big deal.

As far as conservative, moderate, and liberal labels, I agree it's not helpful for specific proposals. Is supporting universal healthcare liberal? I don't know.

I do know that if we have universal health insurance, we'll probably have 8% unemployment or greater. Higher taxes means higher unemployment. It's a trade-off.

Whether there's a mandate or not, I don't know either. Obama was elected by pretty much the same electorate that re-elected W. just 4 years ago. If the economy is stagnant and Afghanistan is a quagmire, it could swing back the other way just as easily in 4 years. 20 years ago, George Bush beat Dukakis more handily than Obama beat McCain and he was a one-term President.
11.5.2008 7:06pm
Public_Defender (mail):
McCain and Palin relentlessly attacked Obama and his "elite" supporters merely for being big city educated professionals for being big city educated professionals. So is it so surprising that big city educated professionals (and students who want to become big city educated professionals and suburban professionals) turn away?

Too many Democrats have attacked conservative Christians that way, with obvious electoral consequences. Obama figured that out, and was careful not to repeat that mistake.
11.5.2008 7:25pm
Gene Vilensky (mail) (www):
I don't think that the attacks in the media on Palin were particularly unfair. She is incompetent and inexperienced. But, there were essentially no stories on Biden who is equally incompetent, but with more experience (which leads me to ask, what's his excuse?). The fact that the Obama campaign wouldn't let him speak for more than 15 minutes in the last few weeks, while a smart move given Biden's capacity for saying absolute nonsense, was never really covered by the media (I heard it mentioned once on MSNBC and once on CNN), yet somehow, Palin's lack of availability to reporters was a crisis of state. The attacks on Palin were perfectly fair, but not in comparison to Biden. Biden was portrayed as a supposed foreign policy expert, but most of his foreign policy proposals are absolutely nutty -- drunk idiot muttering to himself at a bar, nutty.

It's not that the attacks on McCain by the media were somehow unfair or undeserved. He ran an absolutely incompetent campaign and displayed a lack of knowledge of the issues that was so apparent by his fumbling of them, that it was amazing. But, Obama was also poorly versed in the issues, the consensus of economists, or the history of various subjects, but he talked better, prettier and so the media rarely hit him for it.

One perfect example is the meme promoted by Obama that deregulation by Phil Gramm led to the current financial crisis. It was so bad that Laura Tyson, one of his economic gurus (who was Clinton's CEA head) even repeated it on MSNBC. She should know better that that is nonsense (especially since Clinton signed and supported the deregulation, with much backing from his economic team). But yet, the media ran with it, even repeating it themselves.

I think it's pretty telling when people like Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann were part of CNBC's election coverage team. It's as if Fox News had Sean Hannity on their election coverage pannels.

And I didn't even vote for McCain!
11.5.2008 7:32pm
Gene Vilensky (mail) (www):
By CNBC, I mean MSNBC.
11.5.2008 7:33pm
The Media:
I love Obama!
11.5.2008 8:29pm
Sarcastro (www):
Take it from the horse's mouth, people! It's not bias, it's love!

I also think that McCain running an entirely negative ad campaign for the final weeks shouldn't have mad people perceive him as unfairly attacking Obama. It's proof that this election is no fair and we should get a do-over with better reffs!
11.5.2008 8:46pm
Eli Rabett (www):
NaG has a good point, have Cheney and Rumsfeld, et al. ruined experience as being desirable?
11.5.2008 9:44pm
Jay Ballou (mail):
Now, I don't think anyone would seriously suggest that overall there were more "unfair attacks" against Obama than against McCain--and especially against Sarah Palin.

Good lord but you're an idiot. Even you cannot believe that no one seriously suggests that with which you disagree (against all evidence). And that's not the least of the stupid claims in this piece.
11.5.2008 9:50pm
Jay Ballou (mail):
In defense of McCain, since he was running from behind the last 6 weeks or so of the campaign and had a lot less cash, it wasn't unreasonable of him to go negative to get Obama's approval ratings down.

In the same way that one can defend poor thieves, I suppose, ethics be damned.
11.5.2008 9:55pm
Jay Ballou (mail):
Face it, the American people rejected the scare tactics put out by the right-wingers. They are not stupid

Unlike Todd, who thinks the attacks were fair.
11.5.2008 9:59pm
Jay Ballou (mail):
No, it just means that his policies don't have the justification of being mandates.

You seem to have missed the point about whether the charges were fair, moron.
11.5.2008 10:01pm
Jay Ballou (mail):
It seems to me that a lot of people voted for Obama for one of the following reasons:


If "a lot" is more than you can count on your fingers.
11.5.2008 10:04pm
Jay Ballou (mail):
You can't just say "well, universal health care is a liberal idea, so obviously only 20% of Indiana voters want Obama to do it."


Todd can, because he's a blithering idiot.
11.5.2008 10:07pm
Jay Ballou (mail):
So, are VC comment sections going to continue to be full of trolls for awhile, then?

Trolls being people not as stupid as yourself, apparently.
11.5.2008 10:09pm
Jay Ballou (mail):
I'd add that Obama's race was as much of a shield as his message. Neither McCain nor the media wanted to be seen as racist, a fact the Obama campaign exploited to its fullest.

Right, the Obama campaign exploited the fact that he's black to shield him from McCain or the media attacking him on the basis of his race. Got it.
11.5.2008 10:13pm
Jay Ballou (mail):
a few recent polls (including a Rasmussen one today) show that over half the electorate thinks the the media was in the tank for Obama

Consensus gentium is no longer a fallacy?
11.5.2008 10:15pm
Jay Ballou (mail):
Obama was the most liberal Senator by voting record

Funny how both he and Kerry were when they were candidates. Funny how that only holds during the campaign. Funny how Roll Call has explained that it's an artifact of busy candidates only voting on high profile, contentious issues. Funny how McCain has been among the 10 most conservative Senators throughout his career but no one hears about that.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha.
11.5.2008 10:20pm
Jay Ballou (mail):
I've heard that there are intelligent conservatives at VC. Perhaps they are, but a hack partisan idiot like Todd Zywicki is just an embarrassment.

Ta ta.
11.5.2008 10:24pm
byomtov (mail):
I don't think anyone would seriously suggest that overall there were more "unfair attacks" against Obama than against McCain--and especially against Sarah Palin.

According to Fox News, no less, she didn't know that Africa is a continent, and not a single country.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MWZHTJsR4Bc
11.5.2008 10:54pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
BYomtov:

But she winked at them.
11.5.2008 11:45pm
Suzy (mail):
Yet people on this site have been insisting for two months now (including today) that she's perfectly intelligent! Merely rough about the edges, a little unsophisticated or "uneducated", but not "unintelligent".

Seriously, is this the corner you want to paint yourself into? Having to defend this woman's intelligence, because you cannot bear to admit that incredibly poor judgment was shown in nominating her? The sooner the conservatives can get over this problem, the better. Amazing to me that the political opponents of affirmative action will bend over backwards to defend a total idiot like this. Whatever happened to high standards? Quality?
11.6.2008 12:20am
David Warner:
TZ,

You really need to read Generations by Strauss and Howe. They predicted all this 20 years ago. Note: the Millenials will share Boomer politics, but not Boomer incompetence. Think the Social Gospelers and the Greatest Generation.

Now is the time to start accentuating the difference between Left and Liberal, and hard. Those are the two options, and the latter needs all the help it can get (judging by Obama's acceptance speech and lots of other hints, he's on "our" team, as most intelligent people who've experienced the left up close and personal are). Remember, the 60's were a lot more libertarian in many ways than the 50's. That strain is there in Boomer politics, but it needs support.
11.6.2008 12:51am
Thrasymachus (mail):
Voters not only elected Barack Obama, but also increased the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate. Democrats won the 2006 Congressional elections, and improved their positions in state elections in both 2006 and 2008. All of this suggests that Obama's victory is not an isolated event but rather the expression of a leftward shift in public opinion.
11.6.2008 12:51am
David Warner:
Suzy,

"Seriously, is this the corner you want to paint yourself into? Having to defend this woman's intelligence, because you cannot bear to admit that incredibly poor judgment was shown in nominating her?"

Seems to me that you're nursing an underestimation of her intelligence just to hang on to a talking point against a guy you've already defeated. Move on, Suzy, move on.
11.6.2008 12:54am
David Warner:
Public_Defender,

"Too many Democrats have attacked conservative Christians that way, with obvious electoral consequences. Obama figured that out, and was careful not to repeat that mistake."

Good point. Hope some of his supporters get the memo.
11.6.2008 12:59am
David Warner:
Thrasymachus,

"All of this suggests that Obama's victory is not an isolated event but rather the expression of a leftward shift in public opinion."

Away from Bush is not necessarily left.
11.6.2008 1:03am
Thrasymachus (mail):
"Away from Bush is not necessarily left."

Are you suggesting that the electorate in 2006 and 2008 favored MORE conservative policies than those Bush pursued?
11.6.2008 1:16am
HarleyMC (mail):
I'm not an American and therefore a non voter but I had a two observations.
Both presidential candidates campaigned on a change / reform Washington agenda. It could therefore be argued that votes for both Presidential candidates could be counted towards a mandate for change.
McCain as bipartisan? I watched one of his stump speeches to the party faithful during the last weeks of campaigning. The general tenor of the speech was that Americans fight their enemies and that the fight was going on right up until election day. It is clear the Democrats were being described as the enemies of America.
This turned my stomach. An opponent in a democratic contest is not an enemy of the nation. Enemies of the U.S. would include the Taliban, Al quaeda, North Korea and even possibly separatist state movements. Strangely enough differences in opinion are vital to a functioning democracy.

Pax
11.6.2008 1:38am
pm24601 (mail) (www):
Lets say it loud and clear (I will also type slooooooow so Todd can keep up)

Bush 2004 -

Elections have consequences. I have political capital that I intend to use squander.


Obama 2008: bigger win + bigger majority = bigger mandate.

Any day you want to leave the country, feel free. I understand Putin is looking for some help.
11.6.2008 1:48am
David Warner:
Thras,

"Are you suggesting that the electorate in 2006 and 2008 favored MORE conservative policies than those Bush pursued?"

Does that make sense to you? Me neither. Think harder.
11.6.2008 1:54am
Ryan Waxx (mail):
And yeah, I'm sorry, but the "media favors Obama" storyline isn't playing well outside the wingnutosphere either.


For a person whose post is all about polls that you don't care to provide links to, one might think that you'd actually pay attention to what EVERY poll has been saying with regards to plummeting trust in the media.

But that would require critical thinking.
11.6.2008 8:00am
eddie (mail):
The hidden assumption in all of this is the location of the mythical middle. Whatever one might want to say, the middle was dragged kicking and screaming over the last two decades far to the right. A ridiculous reaction to the "profligracy" of the 60's. How ironic that the ultimate conservative boomer response to the hippies is GWB.

But please spare us all any claims that this was not a clear mandate for change. If those of a libertarian or conservative bent feel more comfortable talking about ruling from the center, that's all well and good; but spare me from any revisionist ranting that imply the middle was not completely hijacked and ignored by Reagan, Newt and GWB.
11.6.2008 12:12pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
I'd sure like to see a comparison of the ink on Palin's supposed inadequacies and Biden. Not on his supposed inadequacies but in total. Everything. Even his dentist.
But, as I say, considering that a veep's brainpower is important is stupid, considering who won.
11.6.2008 12:31pm
NickM (mail) (www):
I'd like to congratulate Jay Ballou on tying the record set by MKDP by posting 11 consecutive comments to the same thread.

Stay classy.

And in response to Todd's worry, standing up to Frank, Schumer, et al. is just what Rahm Emanuel was hired to do.

Nick
11.6.2008 5:57pm
John Skookum (mail):
According to Fox News, no less, she didn't know that Africa is a continent, and not a single country.


According to one reporter, quoting one unnamed source, with unknown motivations, in an unknown context.

From what I have heard since, it was actually a mixup of the country of "South Africa" and the region of "southern Africa", and in a situation where brief confusion was understandable. It may have been nothing more than a garbled or mis-heard statement by someone else that elicited an erroneous response from Gov. Palin. We simply don't know.

I do know that if she ever runs for office again, her supposed lack of knowledge of African geography will be prominently mentioned in every single news story for the first week, and quite frequently thereafter. It will also be one of the four or five most common sneering putdowns from insufferable liberals for the duration of the campaign.

I would dearly love to see a sourced, authoritative elucidation of this alleged statement. It would be illustrative to compare it to the national media's (lack of) response to Joe Biden's confabulations about Lebanon in the debate.
11.6.2008 10:27pm
DiversityHire:
If that is so, then my earlier hope for a more healthy post-Boomer political system may be unfounded. If this is so, then I confess that this is more than a little dismaying to me, simply from the perspective that I was looking forward to the day when all the Boomers would ride off into the sunset and leave us alone.

I'm imagining them driving to the polls together in the family Prius with Blowin' in the Wind playing through the iPod adaptor... The non-clone millenials may have just stayed home, if only to avoid sharing a car ride with their parents to the polls. I'm crossing my fingers.
11.7.2008 9:33am
byomtov (mail):
I don't think anyone would seriously suggest that overall there were more "unfair attacks" against Obama than against McCain--and especially against Sarah Palin.

You know, I'm starting to change my mind on this. If you count post-election attacks on Palin by McCain staffers, Zywicki might be right.

These guys apparently don't know how to do anything else.
11.7.2008 1:20pm