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October 15, 2008
Greyhawk's Quick Guide to Election '08By Greyhawk
Conventional wisdom/generally accepted truth: To secure a party's nomination, a candidate has to appeal to "The Base" throughout the primaries. BUT - part of that appeal must be a perceived ability to appeal to a significant majority of the independent center in the general election. (At least this is true of any candidate who isn't an incumbent.)
Here's how that played out in 2008.
Republicans nominated a Senator with a long history of "centrist" politics (or at least a long history of compromise with those to his left, often to the extreme consternation of those to his right). Democrats nominated a guy with relatively no history on the national stage - at least, the shortest record of any of his opponents in the primary. (I consider Washington "experience" neither a plus or minus - I prefer focus on the candidate and issues.)
And the general election is on. The race, of course, is to the center. It always has been and always will be. One would think Obama would be at a disadvantage - McCain could merely point out that he'd been standing in the center for years and hadn't noticed Barack Obama there before. It's a double win for McCain - it emphasizes both Obama's relative inexperience and that he is decidedly left of center. But "I'm a centrist" doesn't endear McCain to the Republican "base", and instead he uses "I've served my country for my entire life, as a Navy Officer who was once a POW and then in the House and Senate" as his theme.
Team Obama's response is that being a POW doesn't qualify you to be President of the United States (in fact, it's cause for concern...). Obama's campaign theme is "hope" and "change" and declarations of support of "working Americans" and "the middle class". The remainder of his strategy has been "McCain is Bush". This too is an "appeal to the center", or at least an attempt not to alienate (or appear threatening to) the center while simultaneously keeping "the base" on board. (They can nudge-wink one another about what he really meant...)
Enter Sarah Palin and Joe Biden. McCain's VP pick is a good one - she appeals to conservatives (that base McCain has rattled repeatedly before and after he secured the nomination) and isn't another "old white guy". But many Republicans aren't happy with McCain's VP choice because they had hoped he would make Obama's lack of experience the central point of his campaign (rather than his own depth of experience). Biden, on the other hand, is also a good pick - he's reassuring to old white guys that Obama has nothing against them (oddly, the media doesn't pick up on that in their coverage of McCain's transparent attempt to lure Hillary voters who he obviously thinks are too stupid to vote based on anything other than their uterus...)
From this point, the Presidential candidates themselves stay "above the fray" and let others make the argument that the opposition is nowhere near the center. The attacks on Palin are immediate and in many cases extreme. Perhaps amazingly, team Obama focuses their official attacks on Palin's lack of experience. The unofficial attacks are among the most disgusting in the history of American politics. But the focus of each and every one of them can be boiled down to this message to the independent center: "she's not like us". In fact, she might be dangerous - and McCain's choice demonstrates his poor judgement. A unprecedentedly large team of campaign workers and reporters heads to Alaska to see what they can discover about this right wing nut job.
The McCain camp responds - but only after McCain's response to financial crisis alienates his base yet again and his poll numbers begin to tumble. Palin becomes the standard bearer on the attack (a traditional VP candidate role) and uses Bill Ayers as the first shot. The goal, of course, is to demonstrate that Obama's association with Ayers demonstrates he's not part of the independent center (he's not like us and might be dangerous and demonstrates poor judgement...).
[Meanwhile, though not picked up by major news outlets or touted by the McCain campaign, disturbing videos of Obama supporters begin to appear on the web. Children singing praise, young men marching and chanting...]
But team Obama responds to the Palin "attack" ("attack" in this case is the term the media used): her implication that Obama is "not like us" is clearly a racist attack. The Great Independent American Center isn't racist (she's not like us - there are a lot of racists out there who are a threat and she is one of them). Suddenly, people yelling at McCain/Palin rallies are newsworthy (never mind that voter registration cards weren't checked at the door...) and equally suddenly Obama - the Obama in the newspapers and on TV - is a victim of ugly attack politics, and crowds at McCain/Palin events are getting out of control...
Meanwhile, in the wake of McCain's response to the financial crisis a significant sector of the actual conservative American right becomes completely dispirited by the realization that they have a choice between a centrist and a leftist. They aren't impressed with attempts by team McCain to portray Obama as a guy significantly to the left of center because they know very well that Obama is exactly that.
And Obama reaches a point in the polls where he can tell a plumber to his face that he's going to raise his taxes to give the money to others without fear of alienating the Great Independent American Center.
And that brings us to tonight's debate. Some of my fellow milbloggers and I will be liveblogging it, and you can join in. Hope to see you there.
By the way, I should add that this distinguished liveblog panel is also composed almost entirely of two-time winners of Time Magazine's Person of the Year award (2003: "The American Soldier" and 2006: "You" - online content providers) but we aren't elitists, and welcome all those who've only won once to join in.
Posted by Greyhawk / October 15, 2008 9:48 PM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
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