More On Brooks

I can’t believe I forgot to include this, but perhaps the most perplexing part of Brooks’ column is this quote:

If I were McCain, I’d make the divided government argument explicit. The Republicans are intellectually unfit to govern right now, but balancing with Democrats, they might be able to do some good. I’d have McCain tell the country that he looks forward to working with Congressional Democrats, that he is confident they can achieve great things together.

First, I’m not entirely sure how well this message resonates. Secondly, why instead of criticizing Obama for becoming “more policy-specific and more orthodox” even though Brooks feels this is “more responsible” change and Republicans are “unfit to govern right now”, doesn’t he hammer away at McCain for proposing (by implication) less responsible policy and running a campaign based essentially on changing the aesthetics of governance?

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ZOMG Politics Exist!!!

David Brooks writes today about the “weirdness” of the current race, noting that Obama has become the candidate of “policy change” and McCain has assumed the mantle of “systematic change”, apparently referring to McCain’s desire to balance the a $400 billion deficit by reducing pork-barrel spending. But as Brooks even points out in his own column, Obama was once the agent of “systematic change” (though he doesn’t mention that McCain was previously the “experience” candidate). But who cares? This, as Brooks points out briefly and then ignores, is the point.

The Obama change is more responsible and specific, but it has all the weirdness of a Brookings Institution report. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) The McCain promise of change is comprehensive and vehement, though it’s hard to know how it would actually work in office.

I’m not sure if it’s always been this way — and maybe its part of some self-sustaining survivalism on behalf of the punditry — but the whole point of government is to govern, so it’s frustrating to see people who know better waste their time fetishizing the aesthetics of governance. Politics are the means through which government runs, but politics are not in themselves the end. So long as democracy demands politicians are held accountable to popular opinion, there will always be a need to cater and shape public perception. No amount of blustering about cutting pork-barrel spending will change this basic tenet of democracy, and more importantly, these symbolic gestures are mostly just that: symbolic.

The simple fact of the McCain campaign, as Brooks seems to note but not particularly lament, is that McCain’s posturing is purely political. As Brooks also notes, but does lament (as early as June), Obama’s policies have always been steadfastly liberal, even if his rhetoric assumed some aspects of post-partisanship. Why is it that leading intellectuals like David Brooks decry the politics required to implement “responsible and specific” change, while lauding those who advocate essentially unsubstantiated, and more importantly, impossible to implement “systemic change?” The politics aren’t the point, the policies are. Grow up.

More Polls

These CBS poll results show the race at dead even and allow for some cautioned optimism in the argument I outlined in the below post; namely that if McCain tries to make the election about change, it will benefit Obama, who by all metrics is the substantive candidate of change. I’ll just quote Marc Ambinder.

Is the election still about change? A whopping 65% of registered voters see the Obama-Biden ticket as the force of change, compared to just 47% who associate the word with McCain-Palin…

…Obama still leads on most domestic issues, still leads on the “who shares your values” question, and still understands voters’ needs and problems better, these voters say.

And on the press side of things…

Working the ref works: more than half of men and women say the media has treated Gov. Palin too harshly.

If this is an election of change and issues, it should still probably go Obama’s way.

Message Battlefield

One thing that occurred to me when I saw McCain’s new ad pushing the Maverick/change/reform theme is that this will push the debate back towards issues, and even the most cursory glance will reveal that the change McCain offers is one some cases merely symbolic like balancing the budget by cutting pork (roughly $19B out of a projected $482B deficit for 2009) or in other cases, exaggerations of Bush policies. I honestly hope this is the case, but with press essentially unwilling to highlight the difference between 2000 vintage McCain and his current incarnation, informing the uninformed voter might be a difficult task.

More Taste, Less Filling

I’m pretty sure that Rudy Giuliani just gave an entire speech explaining why voters should elect John McCain because he won’t be more of the same, he’ll bring about change. By my count:

  • Lower taxes
  • Reduce government to strengthen the dollar (?)
  • Reduce energy independence by drilling

In what way are these not Bush’s policies? Am I on crazy pills?

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