Wednesday, November 5, 2008

What It All Means

Of course, there's plenty of "Monday morning quarterback"-ing going on.

(You fellow pale folk who never go in the sun or have interest in sports, that phrase refers to football fans' "expert" opinions and critiques on the weekends' football performances. It's slightly derogatory, like an "armchair" anything, "armchair philosopher," etc.)

Discerning people know that the next few years cannot be prophesied. The wise among us will dissect the downfall of McCain - there are some quite good dissections at National Review online.

Here are a few thoughts, headlines, results, newsworthy stories, and a general trick or treater's plastic pumpkin carrier of leftover Halloween candy thoughts.

1) This marks the end of the Karl Rove era. I can't say I'm crying too many tears over that. That he engineered two Bush wins, fine. It's the way he did it so often, that I think put people off to his strategies. As my grandma used to say about Gene Keady, one-time basketball coach at Purdue, and rival of Bobby Knight at IU, "he's mean." Mark my words: this election was less a referendum on Bush, no matter what anybody says, and more a referendum on party leadership, chief among them, Karl Rove. Or, as one usually conservative friend-turned-Obama-Republican said, "it's about showing them [Republicans] that this [Obama] is the kind of candidate we want." Is it a generational thing? Partly. But notice that both parties had an outside-the-beltway appeal: McCain tried to emphasize his "maverick" status, no one could argue that Alaskan Palin wasn't a part of Washington insiders, and even Obama managed to inherently make this argument via his "change" slogan - he's ultimately a Chicagoan, with little real Washington experience.

2. Branding matters. This is best shown in this Wall Street Journal piece, a fantastic piece of journalism. In particular, note that at one point, after five hours of debate, McCain's top five advisors couldn't come up with a campaign focus, or answer the question, "Why John McCain?" Now, (clear throat) it should be noted that all five were men, and one wonders if perhaps some women should have been in the discussion. At any rate, marketing matters, especially with the iPod crowd of voters.

But Obama? I can tell you right now what his brand is. #1, "Change." #2, "Yes We Can." There was even a great New York Times story several months ago on his choice of font for his campaign signs. And he utilized the old-fashioned call and response method: his message was change; the crowd response was "yes we can." Go to any black church on a Sunday, and you'll see call and response in action.

But what was McCain's brand? "Nation First." But I had to stop and think about it for several seconds before I could come up with it. Why? Partly because he had several different points he utilized instead of marketing one theme - "peace," "prosperity" and some other key words on signs. But you know, I can't help think that "nation first" was a terrible slogan to begin with. It's fine to be patriotic. But who do you know who's worried about "the nation"? Now, who do you know who's worried about their pensions, retirement, 401k, and so on? One is personal, the other is abstract. Personal beats abstract every time. And besides, many in his base wouldn't have said "nation first." They would've said "family first" or "faith first." He needed some fresh, inventive advisors, instead of the old guard, who didn't "get" his constituents.

3. Author Michael Crichton died unexpectedly. This has nothing to do with the election. It just made me sad. Michael Crichton wrote the phenomenally best-selling "Jurassic Park," as well as creating the show "E.R." and penning a book blasting the political use of scientific data, that is, the pandemic of global warming paranoia. You can read his Caltech speech, "Aliens Cause Global Warming," here.

4. Proposition 8 passed in California. Yes, most of us voted for people yesterday, but a few people voted on specific issues and referendums. Proposition 8 bans same-sex marriage, and passed in California yesterday. In the continual ping-pong match in that state (now it's legal, now it's not), voters have yet again voiced their opinions. What the courts will do next, who knows. If you watch the "Ellen" show, this will probably get mentioned. (I think Ellen is hilarious, and she usually doesn't engage in too much politics, but she has lately with the election.) Ellen DeGeneres recently "married" her partner, Portia de Rossi, in California.

[Aside: I use quotes around married, not to be pejorative, but simply to assert my belief that the state is not a giver or taker of sacraments, individuals are, as they are administered by the church. Because I believe marriage is sacramental, I don't think that the state, as such, has the ability to perform a "marriage." States legalize unions, churches marry. I know that's probably more esoteric than most people prefer, but it's the best way I know to describe my perspective on the issue. The debate, then, should be whether the state should sanction civil unions for same-sex couples. But most people use "marriage" and "civil union" as synonymous, which I acknowledge; and most people fighting for same-sex "civil unions" don't just want something the state sanctions; they want the more religiously tinged term, "marriage."]

5. Voters in Washington approved assisted suicide. You can read the story here. You need to know that for me, this is the most sobering news I've heard coming out of yesterday's voting. Washington is the second state to pass this kind of legislation, following Oregon. In my opinion, it is more troubling than any other thing I've seen. I wish that voters were half as concerned about this as they were about Proposition 8. Perhaps at some point I'll delve a little deeper into my reflections on life, death, and theology. For now, all I can say is that this should be fought at every level of government, state and federal, with the realization that how we treat life at the beginning and end of living defines us as a people.

6. There is a national schizophrenia. I don't say this to slam NAMI or mental illness, I say it to make the point that there were a lot of internal inconsistencies on ballots yesterday.

Voters wielded their ballots to vote in Barack Obama, but not to give Democrats their coveted 60 seats in the Senate; they voted in some states to ban same-sex marriage, but in others, to allow assisted suicide; red states predicted to be poached by Obama remained red; but swing states swung heavily in his favor, including Pennsylvania, who forgave the "cling to religion and guns" gaffe, as well as Murtha's "racist" and "redneck" comments about his own constituents. Missouri, usually a litmus of the national scene, is still too close to call, modeling nicely the fact that while Obama wiped the floor with electoral votes, the popular vote was considerably closer. Some Hillary supporters migrated to the Palin half of the Republican ticket, and some Republicans became "Obama Republicans" to Reagan's "Reagan Democrats."

Since I have declared the Era of Karl Rove dead, and given this national voter schizophrenia, I think it's obvious to state that the Republican Party Has Its Work Cut Out For It. Because it has four years to reformulate party leadership, come to grips with the new mood of the nation, and identify those conservatives who might be the next American Idol, I mean president.

If I had to bet today, I'd bet that Sarah Palin isn't done on the national scene.. I'd also bet we'll be seeing more of Bobby Jindal (I hope). Some veterans have exited the scene: Elizabeth Dole's disastrous ad against her opponent cooked her goose, and so we have another dynasty passing away.

If anything is clear, it's that we need Republican Party leadership with emotional intelligence.


Grad3 said...

Wow- I agree with so much of what you said and yet would have never been able to find the words. Thank you!!

Carrie said...

Great post! You hit the nail on the head!

Kimberly said...

Good thoughts! Hoping great things for Jindal!