Monday, 20 October 2003

HaleyWatch Day 5

Today is the second day with nothing new in the mainstream media about the Haley Barbour/Council of Conservative Citizens flap. (Today’s Clarion-Ledger pieces on the campaign both focus on voters’ lack of interest in the campaigns’ attack ads: see here and here.)

Bloggers like Kevin Drum and Atrios who jumped on the story early no longer seem interested in giving it any traction, probably because “their guy” looks about as bad as Barbour does. I can’t really blame them—after all, since it’s not about a party but rather about a whole state political elite that lends groups like the CofCC credibility, there’s no real “story” any more, if by “story” you mean “something to beat over the head of Republicans.” Moderates indeed.

The message is clear: those Mississippians who care that an avowedly racist organization is actively involved in the campaigns of both major parties in our state will receive no support in trying to get rid of this cancer from other folks—whether in the mainstream media or the blogosphere—unless there’s some partisan “win” involved. Thanks. We appreciate it.

Elsewhere in the blogosphere:

My earlier posts are here.

Sunday, 5 September 2004

Pondering the bounce

I’ll admit I was about the last person who would have predicted a large convention bounce for the incumbent—heck, I’m on record predicting a narrow Kerry victory, and that was largely predicated on Bush receiving about the same bounce (i.e. zero) that Kerry did due to a polarized electorate.

As Robert Garcia Tagorda notes this evening, the Democratic postmortem—and perhaps the recriminations—have begun. Robert argues that the DNC’s singleminded focus on Kerry’s military record as a qualification for office created the media frame for the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth to have an open line of attack on the challenger.

I suspect there may be a separate dynamic at work as well. All party conventions (aside, perhaps, from the Communists’) wrap themselves in the flag and try to emphasize their party’s “big tent” nature. Of course, these frames don’t work as well for some as for others; attempts to paint the Republicans as an open-minded party committed to diversity (however defined) result—often with some basis—in snickering and eye-rolling from anyone with a modicum of knowledge of American politics, while Democrats’ wrapping themselves in the flag leads many observers (including myself, in my more cynical moments) to ponder that many of the party’s adherents would rather burn the flag than use it as a cloak. Thus, parties also have to do something else at a convention to make it a worthwhile exercise.

The trouble for the Democrats is that essentially all they did at the convention was a “gung ho,” flag-waving exercise that nobody bought—the leftist base found it offensive, while a lot of other people found the whole exercise downright implausible. Contrast the Republicans, who—despite the cringe-inducing emphasis on the “big tent”—managed also to articulate a message on national security that is so effective against Kerry that the Democrats have had to resort to smearing Zell Miller as a racist (if, by “racist,” you mean “any politician who ever was elected to public office in a Southern state”—I can draw the same lines between many prominent “real” Democrats and bigots, but apparently Democrats don’t want to talk about the sheets in “their guys’” closets) and both Dick Cheney and George Bush as relapsed alcoholics.

Dirty, filthy tricks and party cohesion

James Joyner and Steven Taylor ponder the cognitive dissonance (or perceptual screens) that allow partisans to think their party never resorts to “dirty tricks” while the other does so routinely. Helpfully, Steven Bainbridge produces an incomplete catalog of Democratic offenses, perhaps as evidence of both sides of this phenomenon.

Bainbridge’s post is in reaction to a post by Kevin Drum that argues liberals “still aren’t as dedicated to [their] cause as conservatives are to theirs.” Pondering this point over breakfast (about 50 feet east of where I’m sitting in the Palmer House), I concluded liberals (or, rather, Democrats) aren’t as committed as Republicans because the Democrats are more fractured into multiple interests who often have diametrically-opposed values on important dimensions—consider, for example, the strong religious faith of most African Americans versus the highly secularized, mostly-white “professional” left, or the divergent interests of organized labor (who favor a cartelized labor market) and the working (and non-working) poor. Obviously this isn’t an especially keen insight, but it may go some ways toward another explanation of why the DNC failed to rally support for Kerry/Edwards in the way the RNC did for Bush/Cheney.

More here.