Saturday, October 25, 2008

Lightening Up the 2008 Elections

In 2004 the Presidential race between John Kerry and George W. Bush was suddenly more light-hearted when the relatively unknown folks at Jib-Jab produced this internet sensation.

After it was released, Jib-Jab had to shut down their server temporarily because of the massive number of people viewing this video.

In 2008 the demand for political humor is just as high. The Daily Show and the Colbert Report offer nightly highlights of the Presidential race while Saturday Night Live is becoming popular again.

The internet has once again provided Americans with the humor to get through this long election cycle. Take this You Tube video released before the Pennsylvania Democratic Primary.

And just like the Rocky movie, there had to be a sequel.

But the most successful video has come from SNL. This skit, following the selection of Sarah Palin, has been watched more online than it was on television.

Now here is a new one, featuring an impressive Obama-McCain Dance Off.

Who still thinks young people are not interested in politics?

Some might argue these videos trivialize the democratic process, but it is more likely that they strengthen it. As Americans become weary of the drama surrounding the presidential race, comic relief helps people avoid complete political cynicism.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Voter Fraud Delusion

At the last Presidential Debate, Sen. John McCain claimed that the Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now (ACORN) "is now on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy."

But independent Fact Check organizations have come to different conclusions. According to there is "no evidence" of such a conspiracy.

Several ACORN canvassers have been found guilty of faking registration forms and others are being investigated. But the evidence that has surfaced so far shows they faked forms to get paid for work they didn't do, not to stuff ballot boxes.

While the higher-ups at ACORN are certainly guilty of hiring the wrong people to register voters, they simply have not conspired to steal this election.

But conservatives have been relentless in their criticism - many even making racially charged remarks and threatening the organization's employees with violence. Emails to ACORN offices from angry individuals include "you're going to have your life ended", "corrupt ni**er Muslims", and "you blue gums are not going to steal the election. All of you porch monkeys need to go back to Africa."

The voicemail messages to the organization are just as bad. Fortunately, some upset with ACORN have a better sense of humor.

But voter fraud is extremely rare. A nonpartisan report in 2005 found that it is statistically more likely for an individual to be hit by lightning than to commit voter fraud.

One complaint was that registration forms handed in by ACORN included the name "Mickey Mouse" - but is a poll worker honestly going to let someone vote as Mickey Mouse?

In fact, after ineligible names are handed in to election officials by ACORN, the officials will inspect the forms to make sure no fraud takes place.

In the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Wednesday, associate editorial page editor Ernst Ulrich Franzen wrote a terrific summary of the controversy.

We are seeing monsters in this election. And it goes beyond the oft-heard “our opponents are the spawns of Satan” stuff the country has experienced throughout its history. No, this goes to the heart of the process. The left sees a massive voter suppression effort aimed at minorities and the poor. The right sees massive voter fraud. Come Election Day, no matter who wins, I fear there will be loud cries that the election somehow was stolen. And then what happens?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Running Yesterday's Campaign - by Thomas Mills, Political Consultant

The McCain campaign is imploding. This week they may well have squandered whatever chance they had of changing the dynamic in the race. Instead of focusing on serious issues facing the country, they chose to overreach with accusations that are more reminiscent of 1958 or '68 than 2008.

Sarah Palin began the week by accusing Obama, his supporters and even whole states as being "un-American" or "anti-American." Next, McCain laid into Obama for having "socialist" policies. Republicans had to reach deep into their toolbox for this language—past the "liberal" label of the 1980s and 90s, past the "people like us" of the '60s and '70s, all the way to the McCarthy Era of the 1950s Cold War. While these tactics may fire up the base, they alienate a more moderate electorate that is looking for unity and leadership in a time of crisis.

Republicans have long used fear to divide and conquer. What's different this year is who is saying it. In both Bush campaigns and in the 1990s, Republican candidates have let third parties make the most personal or outrageous attacks to give themselves plausible deniability. This year, McCain and Palin are the messengers which means McCain has to own these statements—and they don't sound very presidential.

With McCain and Palin setting the tone, the wing-nuts of the Republican party feel emboldened to say what they think. Congresswoman Michelle Bachman (R-MN) called on the media to investigate Congress to determine which members were pro-American and which are anti-American. Congressman Robin Hayes (R-NC) introduced McCain at rally with "Liberals hate real Americans that work and accomplish and achieve and believe in God." At this time in history, Americans are looking for someone who can bring the country together and they don't want, or need, this type of rhetoric.

McCain had a huge opportunity to look like a leader and refocus the race. Shortly before the third debate, the media was dumping on both campaigns for misleading attacks. McCain could have used the debate as forum to say, "Enough is enough. We'll pull all of our negative ads if Obama will do the same and make this race about the issues facing Americans." Instead, he chose to defend the Bill Ayers attack, another throwback to a time gone by, and to make himself look more out of sync with the conversation taking place across the country.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The "Real" America

Over the past week the McCain campaign has come under more and more scrutiny over comments made by Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

At a fundraiser in North Carolina, Palin referred to small towns as "real America" and commented on how much she appreciated being in "pro-America" parts of the country - which, by implication, meant that there are anti-America parts of the country as well.

According to Jonathan Martin of Politico today, Palin has now apologized for that implication on CNN.

But the damage has already been done, as the GOP base did its best to stay on message with Palin. Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) accused Obama and his associates of being anti-American and asked the media to uncover anti-American Congresspersons in her now famous interview with Chris Matthews.

Meanwhile, Rep. Robin Hayes (R-NC) said "liberals hate real Americans that work and accomplish and achieve and believe in God" at a rally in Concord, NC this past weekend.

The implications have all along been that it is liberals that don't represent "real America", but only with the Hayes comment did it become explicit.

If Republican House members still fail to explain that point, then perhaps a representative from the McCain campaign can clarify things.

According to the McCain surrogate, even though northern Virginians pay Virginia taxes and adhere to Virginia laws, they are not part of "real Virginia" because they are metropolitan liberals.

The rhetoric, however, is not helping the GOP. Bachmann's re-election is now in question and Hayes's opponent is capitalizing on the Republican's remarks.

While staying on message is typically prudent, this controversy demonstrates that there are exceptions to that rule.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Decision '08: Shifting the Frontlines of Prejudice

Throughout most of the presidential race this year, media pundits have asked whether America was ready for a black president. Many have alluded to the Bradley Effect, which kept the black Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley from becoming Governor of California in 1982. The theory is that, despite what the polls show leading up to Election Day, many white voters will be unable to cast their vote for an African American.

But as Politico reported yesterday, the lines of racial prejudices are being blurred. Charles Franklin, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin, has found that many whites who hold general negative feelings about blacks prefer Obama this year. "Racial feelings are not as cut and dried — not as black and white — as people often say," according to Franklin.

The poll asked voters whether they agreed with the statement that "African-Americans often use race as an excuse to justify wrongdoing." About a fifth of white voters said they "strongly agreed." Yet among those who agreed, 23 percent said they'd be supporting Obama.

"This result is reasonable if you believe that race is not as monolithic an effect as we might easily assume," Franklin said, noting that 22 percent of those who "strongly disagreed" said they'd be supporting McCain.

Individual reports seem to confirm this trend.

"I wouldn't want a mixed marriage for my daughter, but I'm voting for Obama," the wife of a retired Virginia coal miner, Sharon Fleming, told the Los Angeles Times recently.

One Obama volunteer told Politico after canvassing the working-class white Philadelphia neighborhood of Fishtown recently, "I was blown away by the outright racism, but these folks are … undecided. They would call him a [racial epithet] and mention how they don't know what to do because of the economy."

Democrats are not the only ones witnessing changes in racial attitudes, however. While the racist and Islamophobic subconscious of many McCain supporters has come to light recently at the Republican's rallies (see yesterday's post by Adam Nashban) other McCain supporters have taken it upon themselves to dismiss the regressive outbursts.

This comes after John McCain himself had to calm down particularly concerned supporters that Barack Obama might be a closet Muslim, telling them they “shouldn’t be scared” and that Obama is a good “family man”.

But despite the calls for civility, and the uncovering of the man behind the Muslim rumors, the emails connecting him to black radicalism and Islam continue to spread - even more rapidly - and Obama has slowly slipped in the October polls.

Throughout the year, many pundits and bloggers have noted that the Bradley Effect might not be applicable to 2008, as the voting population has become more progressive towards race since 1982. Senator Obama has long asserted that the people who vote against him because of his skin color would probably vote against him for his policies anyway. Whether this is true or not will only be realized after November 4th.


The Pew Research Center released a report that examines voters’ beliefs and attitudes to Obama’s race and religion - among other concerns - earlier today.

On page 18 of the report, a Pew survey finds that Democrats supporting Obama are more likely to say they know someone who will not vote for Obama because he is black.

Far more Obama supporters than McCain supporters say they personally know someone who will not vote for Obama because he is black (27% vs. 10%). More Democrats (29%) and independents (24%) than Republicans (10%) say they know someone who will not vote for Obama because of his race.

In another survey on page 19, 12% of respondents continue to believe that Obama is a Muslim, while only 55% of respondents can correctly identify him as a Christian.

Most surprisingly, 8% of Obama supporters believe he practices Islam.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Shame on Both Your Houses - By Adam Nashban, Political Consultant

If you heard people say, ”those people,” “I don’t trust black people,” “ain’t voting for a n****r,” would you think it is the 1960s or would you be amazed to think that it is 2008? Unfortunately, comments like these can be heard at inside and outside McCain-Palin rallies around the country. You may have already heard about this and think it is old news but I think it is important for us to keep this issue front and center.

There are two important questions to ask about who is to blame for this: First is a chicken or the egg question, did the supporters always feel this way about Obama or did the rhetoric of the McCain campaign open the door to this kind of language? Secondly, where is the so called mainstream media in reporting this? I will get to both of these questions, but first here are a few outlets and bloggers that have tackled this issue:

This first source of insight into their rallies is from a foreign news source:

This is from the Daily Show I put the whole show in here but start at about one minute in and watch until the first commercial:

Finally, from a blogger outside the rallies interviewing more attendees:

So how did these comments at political rallies start? We need to look at the types of racism that people partake in the overt and covert. Overt racists are comfortable acting in a racist way publicly, covert would only discuss it in the safety of their house or with other friends who feel the same way. Are most of the people we see in these videos usually overt or covert?

One would suggest that they are probably covert, probably have some menacing thoughts at times but their neighbors and friends would probably never know how they really feel. It is not until they think they have a venue in which it is safe to speak out this way will they actually become overt racists. Here is the proof, we did not start hearing these kinds of comments until the McCain campaign began publicly calling Obama a terrorist and questioning his patriotism. It was McCain’s inflammatory language that prompted his supporters to feel safe to act out this way. Give people an inch and they will take a mile.

Above you have seen three media outlets documenting this kind of behavior foreign media, Comedy Central and a blogger. Where is CNN, NBC, CBS, ABC and dare I say Fox in all of this? Yes we may have seen bits here and there about these rallies, but this is a news story that should expand further than the twenty-four hour news cycle. Obviously, in order to stay competitive and up to date during the “you tube” era of politics, mainstream media has to find stories to keep the news fresh. Who loses, Americans who have common sense and would actually like to think and digest what is being flashed across them on the screen. Maybe that is why we chose to hear our news from “alternative” news sources such as blogs like this, you tube, Comedy Central and even Wonkette.

The actions by some of McCain’s supporters brings back images of the 1960’s when there were other prominent African Americans trying to bring about change and equality and the backlash that created in their detractors. It is important that these actions are condemned early- which has not happened- to let people know that comments like these are not acceptable in politics or in the coffee shop. Instead, the fact that McCain has not condemned these comments or the mainstream media has not shown people saying these comments on nightly news; they have only become more empowered.

Shame on the McCain campaign and the mainstream media for allowing these people a platform to spread hateful racist remarks. Country first, sounds more like campaign first.