Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Frustration does not equal Conversion

I like to consider myself pretty open-minded. By which I mean that though I have some deeply held opinions when it comes to things like religion or politics, I try to be open to other points of view, if only to understand where folks are coming from (this could be related to why I spend so much time reading Orthodox blogs or why most presents I buy for my wife are memoirs of people growing up in eclectic religious groups).

So it's been interesting during this electoral cycle to hear the Republican party and its mouthpieces going on about how many of their elusive voter demographics they're supposedly going to bag this time.

I won't lie, as a liberal late 20-something I have plenty of reasons to not be very happy with Obama-- there are social, military and foreign policy areas where he's made promises he hasn't kept, the economy still isn't very good, and perhaps most galling to the youth vote, has proven himself to be just as corruptible by the game of politics as anyone else.

So yes, young people, especially those still politically engaged, are definitely annoyed, which is where folks like JustNew Productions come in. The company, run by two quasi-recent college graduates, has gotten a lot of attention for a Gotye parody video focusing on the various ways Obama has disappointed them.

I watched the video and couldn't fault them for their opinions, in fact I share a lot of them. However what's curious about cases like the "Obama that I used to Know" video is how fundamentally Republicans seem to be misreading it.

In this clip, a Fox News lady tries to present the filmmakers not only as deeply dissatisfied but also a symptom of how youth voters are so fed up with Obama they're potentially ready to go run to join the Republicans. However if you look at the lyrics of their song (or watch the interview, where they seem bemused by the tone of the questions and framing by the news anchor), their big problem seems to be not only that Obama isn't doing enough to help them economically, but also that he hasn't lived up to the image he presented to young, mostly liberal voters. These kids are annoyed with Obama's hypocrisy about not closing Guantanamo and discomfited by the fact that he is simultaneously a Nobel Peace Prize winner and has been using predator drones for assassinations. They want to relax drug laws and enforcement, and seem to not be fans of Sarah Palin. They're mad about a lack of results in the economy, but also that Obama hasn't lived up to the foreign and domestic policy he promised them. That's a far cry from wanting to go over to the Republican party-- they don't want to elect Romney, they want Obama of 2012 to start acting like the Obama of 2008! The Republicans can't-- or won't-- comprehend that these kids, and many more like them, aren't disaffected moderates whose votes are "in play," they're pissed off liberals who want Democrats to start living up to the values they keep campaigning on.

Furthermore, by misreading people like the filmmakers, the Republicans are demonstrating that they don't seem to understand what makes people become Democrats. No matter how much the Republican party tries to rebrand itself, no matter how many open-minded college students claim that they don't care about social issues anymore and they want a big tent, when the rubber hits the road, the present-day GOP still has a social platform, and on many issues, it is in stark contrast to many young people's positions. Reporters have described Romney's pick of Ryan as "reframing" the election along ideological lines; the reality is that for people paying attention, it has always been about ideological lines-- specifically, red lines. No matter how much people may dislike behavior by members or leaders of their party, absent better choices, they will probably stick with them rather than vote for a person-- or a party-- who they disagree with even more. That's just human nature.

While young people may have economic opinions (and certainly are affected by economic policy, as they're discovering), my impression is that economic issues alone don't drive many people's votes-- young or old. It's the constellation of other issues, foreign, domestic, and social, that people have more emotional and visceral  investment in. Unless the GOP becomes a radically different party within my lifetime, I am fairly confident that I will never vote for a Republican candidate-- because even if I agreed with them on certain issues, the social values of their party are so fundamentally opposed to my own that it would be a betrayal of my other principles to do so.

In my opinion, this same phenomenon can be applied to the Jewish vote. Republicans (especially Republican Jews) don't like to hear it, but long as a majority of American Jews still believe in liberal politics, especially on social issues, there's no way the Republicans will get the Jewish vote. That may change over time as shifting demographics alter the political landscape, but until most Jews are right-wing Orthodox, it's not going to happen.

Whether you attribute it to naiveté, personality, life experience, or something else, if people believe in liberal values, the fact that liberals aren't living up to their names isn't going to make them vote Republican. It may disappoint them enough that they stop voting entirely (which I suppose is a net win for the other side), but more likely they will hold their nose and cast their vote for what, in their mind, is the lesser of two evils-- like everyone else has been doing for a long time.

Pundits can argue and campaigns can spin all they want; if Republicans think frustrated liberals (not moderates) are going to come out and vote for Romney, they're the ones who are naive.


Antigonos said...

The funny thing is, once upon a time, I was a registered Democrat. Nixon always made me want to puke; I remember the "Checkers" speech very well, and my father's remark afterward: "That man is evil". The cartoonist Herblock used to draw him wearing a "Nixon" mask over his own face, and he was forever Tricky Dicky to me.

Then it began to get complicated. Jimmy Carter was, IMO, a jerk, and it now appears he's an anti-Semitic jerk as well. I could never hear Reagan's voice without thinking of all the B movies he made, even though he seemed quite intelligent at times. Clinton is a smart guy; although not smart enough to keep his pants buttoned -- jeez, did he really think he'd get away with screwing Monica? At least he left the country in good economic shape.
Bush Sr. made no impression on me; I'm ambivalent about Bush Jr. I think he may be dyslexic, davka, and I didn't like Cheney one bit.

I have two major problems with Obama. One, and you are much too young to understand this, he ran a campaign which was a total imitation of JFK's. [No wonder it appealed to those who hadn't been around in 1960; they'd never heard it before]. Since we now know a lot more about JFK, and Camelot is long gone, for the geriatric crowd, the rhetoric didn't go down well at all. And secondly, he had absolutely NO experience of government. He floated in on a raft of unfulfillable promises, some zingy catchwords like "Change!" and "Hope!", and political correctness; his color was pushed to the full; on one list I was flamed as a racist when I queried his lack of experience.

He didn't create the recession, but he has done squat to fix it; he "leads from behind" [synonym for either cowardice or indifference] and I think his world view is somewhere in outer space. His sense of reality is seriously weird.

I don't think I've left the Democratic Party; I think it's left ME.

I haven't voted since the 1976 election; I think it is a bit immoral, as an Israeli citizen to do so, but I am registering to vote by absentee ballot this time, and I'm voting Republican. The US, as well as Israel, can't afford 4 more years of Obama.

Friar Yid said...

I don't think I've left the Democratic Party; I think it's left ME.

As my grandmother would say, "You're entitled!" Though it's probably not the correct political approach, I don't have a problem with people voting their consciences-- though I may personally wish they'd change their positions!

I think part of the reason why I don't get super worked up about politics is that I'm not threatened or angered by people having different opinions than me, and in fact don't mind debating or even arguing about different issues (as people who follow my blog or comments elsewhere may have noticed). My parents and their conservative relatives, on the other hand, usually can't get past the, "You voted for X? You support Y? What's wrong with you/How could you/ What are you, a Z?," which is not only not very fun, but also quickly disintegrates into a misinformed, emotionally-based insult-fest.

As you said, I wasn't around for JFK, but I definitely appreciate the parallels you draw-- Clinton, IIRC, was also compared to him quite a bit. I'm not specifically clear on what makes a politician "Kennedy-esque" as opposed to just running on an optimistic/naive platform, but I think I get what you're saying. And yes, there's no question that lots of people, particularly young folks, will respond to that-- and when politicians don't live up to their promises, it can often be one of several triggers that turn people, especially youngsters, off the political process. (Perhaps it was a function of being in my early twenties rather than late teens, but I was optimistic enough to hope Obama would follow through on his promises, while cynical enough not to expect that much. I've been rather pleasantly surprised by some of the things he's gotten done on the social front, actually.)

I do think that experience is a big issue (as we saw with, for instance, Herman Cain), but I remain undecided on whether I merely think it's probably a very good idea, or if more experience translates to more effectiveness while in office. I haven't been politically aware for that many Presidencies and I don't know what the data would show if you really dug into it. Still, as someone who has major ideological issues with much of the Republican platform, for me the candidate themselves is relatively unimportant-- not because I feel such supreme loyalty to the Democratic party, but because of the perception that the alternative is essentially a total non-starter.

The issue of Obama's psyche is (as with the other Presidents) rather fascinating; I read one article (which I now can't find, of course) that because of his intellectual bent, he may be more of an "executive Executive" and less inclined towards looking for advise or consensus from an inner circle, as compared to, say, Bush II who seemed to rely on advisers much more. I'm not sure how much I buy this argument but it seems to make some sense. Bill O'Reilly had a comment back in July about Obama's economic worldview which seems over-the-top but perhaps also not very far from the truth, either (though to be fair I also found much in his claims about Obama that I believe in to some extent or another).

The US, as well as Israel, can't afford 4 more years of Obama.

I find the inclusion of Israel in here very interesting. My impression is that both candidates have stated and demonstrated quite clearly that they intend to support Israel. Can you explain how you think they differ?

Antigonos said...

1] JFK's mantra was "The New Frontier", and the "Peace Corps", and of course, especially after his death, the whole "Camelot" shtick. He was of course, at the time, the youngest man who had run for President. "Ask not what your country,"etc. The fervor of the young was quite unbelievable, who'd had 8 years of duffer [and golfer], bland Eisenhower, a relic of WWII. And in those days, Truman had still to be "rehabilitated" as a good President; he was seen as a stopgap after FDR's death -- you've got to remember that a whole generation grew up with FDR [the first time my parents voted was in the 1932 election].

[2] As for experience, Obama had -- and has -- no power base at all on Capitol Hill from years of wheeling and dealing because he wasn't on Capitol Hill in either House for even a full term. LBJ, for all his uncouthness, and his bad judgement on Vietnam, did, and no matter what the theory, the reality is that if you haven't got moxie you ain't going NOWHERE in the US govt.--and he got JFK's programs through [alive, JFK could do little]. The Great Society was LBJ, not JFK. The real civil rights achievements were during LBJ's tenure, too. Obama simply does not have any of that; the veterans in Congress think he's not only a novice, he's a lightweight, and he hasn't got a record of favors given he can call in. Remember Don Corleone. That may not be the way one thinks of the US from high school civics, but I assure you, as a native of DC, the real power in the US is all behind the scenes and not in front of the cameras.

Obama, I'm sorry to say, does not, IMO, like Jews. Or he likes them, but in their place. Brash and not deferent, as Israelis tend to be, rub him the wrong way. He'll say the right things to get the US Jewish vote, but the experience so far is that he fulfills as little as he can get away with -- the past 4 years it has been Congress which supports Israel, not the President. And in a second term, I think he will become brutal. I think he is willing to sacrifice Israel to curry favor with Muslim countries -- with absolutely no idea of what Islamic goals really are. Obama wants Israel to be dependent on him, to do what he wants. Israel needs a partnership, not a inferior/superior relationship. Much is made of the US aid Israel gets but the reality is that very little money actually reaches Israel. The money Congress votes Israel goes [1] for loan repayment, and [2] contracts with the US defense industry, to wit, American workers. The fact that he could not bring himself to even visit the country for a couple of days during his term says a lot. The way he treated Bibi was a scandal. The way he sucks up to Turkey's Erdogan, who's trying to rebuild the Ottoman Empire, is a disgrace, and Putin has written him off as a joke and feels he has a free hand in Russia. Obama is a total amateur in a job that is tough even for a professional these days.

BTW, I can't stand Fox News. They are a bunch of jerks there.

Friar Yid said...

So, to circle back to the main thrust of the post, why do you think Romney will be any better?

Antigonos said...

I'll respond on my blog; hopefully before Shabbat, but don't hold your breath.

Anonymous said...

Come on, Friar Yid, don't you realize the point of this campaign? It's not to get "young voters" to vote for Romney, it's to get them to stay home and NOT vote for Obama. (or any of the down-ticket Dems.)

Of course Obama has disappointed us liberals. I could have told you in January 2009 that it was going to happen. Welcome to the real world. The way the American political system is set up, your choice is binary, and it rarely is for someone who will enact all of the policies you believe to be beneficial. What the voter needs to do is decide which one is the least worse of the two. In this election, despite our disappointment, it's not even any kind of contest.


Antigonos said...

Actually, a low voter turnout helps Obama in key states with lots of electoral college votes, which tend to be the liberal states like NY, Florida, CA. If we want Obama out, and we do, I think, then the GOP needs to not only get the vote out for the Presidential race, but for Congress as well.

There are really 4 scenarios: [1]Romney/Ryan win, party distribution in both Houses of Congress remain much the same. [2] Romney/Ryan win, GOP controls both Houses. [3] Obama wins, but Congress remains the same or the Democrats lose even more seats, and [4] Obama wins, and the Democrats control one or both Houses.

Obviously, Obama wants [4]. I personally think -- fear -- that it will be [3]. I think [1] is more likely than [2], but not as likely as [3].

The reason I don't want Obama in the White House for 4 more years but Congress in the hands of the GOP is that means total paralysis of government. While voting down Democratic bills, Congress cannot get such a large majority to overturn an Obama veto, and he would definitely veto most GOP legislation.

Sorry I haven't yet blogged. In Israel, all childcare facilities go on vacation for almost the entire month of August, and I'm taking care of my 1 1/2 year old the evening, I haven't got any energy left.

Anonymous said...

Actually, a low voter turnout helps Obama in key states with lots of electoral college votes,

What are you talking about? I was talking about Republican voter suppression of voters likely to vote for Obama (i.e. young people, blacks, Latinos, etc.) You Israelis are clueless about the United States of America, which is sort of a problem for you, as your very existence depends on the support you get from the USA.

Actually, there's another scenario that's very possible -- Obama wins and the Republicans keep control of the House, but with a reduced margin, and a lot of the "tea party"congrescritters from the class of 2010 won't be returning the Washington. In this case, the adults will finally get back in control, and the House leadership will be able to make reasonable compromises withe the Senate and the President, and the worst of th nuttiness will subside. It won't be paradise for us liberals, but at least the collapse of civilization will be held off for a few more years.