Presidential election heats up
I am 8 years old. Some of my friends say if you hear it on a talk show, or from a big political pundit on TV, it must be so. They say their parents are certain who'll win the election because the other side is so awful it will destroy America if they win. Can this election be predicted and is the survival of the America my parents and I know at risk?
968 Hydrolic Street
P.S. Why can't the candidates be as cute as Justin Beiber?
Virginia, your little friends and their parents are wrong.
America throughout its proud history has experienced overheated, demonizing political rhetoric, and somehow our country survived presidents from each party -- as incompetent as many of them may have been. But it's true that hatred seemingly drives our politics more than ever. Today's raw hatred is certainly a true example of transparency in politics.
Forget talk show hosts for anything but preaching to choirs. Some on the right and left have become (cracked) mirror images of each other.
On the right, Rush Limbaugh has removed his last fig leaf (a dreadful image) to reveal pure personal hatred of Barack Obama. Limbaugh now says it's clear who "hates this country." On the left, talker Mike Malloy showed equal blinding partisan hatred with his contemptible on-the-air "interview" with Satan to ask how dead conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart is doing in "in hell." Many talk show listeners barf up their favorite host's riffs into blog posts, Facebook postings and conversation. Talk show hosts give partisan choirs new music to sing.
Some pundits and hosts on conservative Fox News and liberal MSNBC are actually political entertainers who name-call and push specific candidates. They're not serious analysts. The media create a conventional wisdom that changes on a dime. Only weeks ago, President Barack Obama seemed on the ropes due to an ailing economy, bad polling numbers on whether voters feel the country is on the right track, and statements from surrogates who contradicted talking points. And today?
The National Journal's Charlie Cook writes: "The strategic decision by the Romney campaign not to define him personally -- not to inoculate him from inevitable attacks -- seems a perverse one. ... The election is still more than three months away, and yet it has a different feel than it did just a month ago. Just as some Democrats in mid-June were starting to sound as if they were giving Obama up for dead, Republicans are now despairing. We have to remind ourselves that this election still has a long way to go."
Many analysts note that history suggests Obama will lose. But others note that Obama has often ignored and defied history -- and history's guideposts may be more complicated than pundits say.
In his masterful book, "The Candidate: What it Takes to Win -- and Hold -- the White House," University of California Political Scientist Samuel Poplin says a challenger's campaign must be like a nimble speedboat and adapt quickly, while an incumbent's is like a battleship, slower to course-correct. Romney's campaign today seems the battleship, and Obama's the speedboat. In recent weeks Obama has taken several actions that move him closer to Poplin's specific, historical criteria for winning incumbents.
Attorney and Moderate Voice blogger Patrick Edaburn analyzed American University political science professor Allan Lichtman's reliable "keys to the White House" and found Democrats have 10 of 8 needed to win. In an interview with a liberal blogger, Lichtman --who has successfully predicted every Presidential winner since Ronald Reagan's 1984's re-election, -- said the Democrats have three more keys needed to win.
So, yes, Virginia, there are some things to watch. But you still can't assume anything. Remember the old saying: "Assume makes an 'ass' out of 'u' and 'me'."
Which is why if you listen closely to pundits, partisan talkers and bloggers this election year, you'll be sure to hear a lot of braying.
PS: It's true that neither candidate looks like Justin Beiber. But both have sung in public. Obama wasn't bad, but admirers of the musical scale are thinking of suing Mitt Romney for abuse.
Joe Gandelman is a veteran journalist who wrote for newspapers overseas and in the United States. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.