Saturday, April 12, 2008

RISING STARS (PART ONE)

I’d like to devote this, and my next, blog post, to two different individuals. If they were stocks, I’d definitely say “buy.” One is a bit more of a long shot than the other, but in both cases, the trajectory is upward and the speed is rapid.

Let’s begin with someone who is no stranger to this part of cyberspace – Mr. Novick. His bid for the United States Senate started out as the longest of long shots. He had never been elected to anything, you see, and he has virtually no money. As a result, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee felt the need to practically beg someone else to compete with him. But what do you know? By hook, if not by crook, Novick has turned this competition into a dogfight. If he wins that nomination – and he’s ahead now in every poll I’ve seen – he would then be rolling in DSCC dough and have an excellent chance of upsetting the incumbent, who sits precariously as the only Republican senator from a West Coast state.

Since Novick is currently ahead in the polls, does that mean he’s favored to win the nomination? Not by me. He gets a lot of lovin’ now because he’s the superior talent in the race. But remember, while his opponent Jeff Merkley may be a wooden presence on stage, Merkley has the backing of Democratic officialdom. That might not have worked so well for Hillary Clinton in her race against Barack Obama, but in a local contest, it essentially guarantees a big fundraising advantage. And that fundraising advantage may indeed be enough to help Merkley eke out a victory in May.

Right now, everyone agrees that we’ve got a dead heat on our hands. I urge all of you to follow the competition closely. You’ve presumably already watched Novick’s commercials (if not, go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2UesvrH-cs and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QFX1TCK_PS8&NR=1), which have received accolades from all over the country as some of the most creative political ads in years. (By contrast, Merkley’s ads could help cure insomnia.) You may not know that one of Novick’s commercials – the one in which he opens up a guy’s beer with his left “arm” (a metallic hook) – has given rise to a new product: Left Hook Lager. That’s right, this campaign has spawned an official beer. It is only available in Oregon, but if any of you know Oregonians, they should be able to get this beer, and if they do, I’d love a report on how the stuff tastes.

How cool is that, by the way – a beer brewed specifically for a local political campaign? The only thing cooler would be for that campaign to trot out several big name rock stars who’ve endorse the candidate.

Well … now that’s happened too. This week, the Novick campaign announced the endorsements of Colin Meloy of The Decemberists, Thomas Lauderdale of Pink Martini, Stone Gossard of Pearl Jam, Michael Stipe of R.E.M., Britt Daniel of Spoon, Chris Walla of Death Cab for Cutie, Krist Novoselic of Nirvana and Flipper, Dave Dederer of The Presidents of the United States, Corin Tucker of Sleater-Kinney, and Rufus Wainwright. My own personal favorite from that list is Michael Stipe, with Stone Gossard a close second. I guess Stone couldn’t find a “Better Man,” Stipe agreed, and now they are both “Shiny Happy People.” (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

The Merkley folks were getting frustrated before this latest round of endorsements, for Steve had previously been endorsed by the state’s leading teacher’s union and such Oregon heroes as former Governor John Kitzhaber and former Congressman Les AuCoin. Now, however, the Merkleyites are getting downright cranky. Just check out the Blue Oregon traffic at http://www.blueoregon.com/2008/04/top-10.html and you’ll see how much animosity this race is generating. That animosity was probably quite predictable. After all, Merkley, the solid politico who serves as the State’s Speaker of the House, was the anointed one. He was supposed to take the money raised by Chuck Schumer and the boys from D.C. and BUY the shot to take on Senator Gordon Smith in the fall. But then again, Hill was supposed to BUY the shot to take on the GOP at the Presidential level. Now, far from getting the opportunity to fight the Republicans, she is relegated to propping them up ("I think that I have a lifetime of experience that I will bring to the White House. I know Senator McCain has a lifetime of experience to the White House. And Senator Obama has a speech he gave in 2002."). Similarly, after reading the polls, Merkley has stopped firing his ammunition at Gordon Smith and is now forced to unleash the dogs against Mr. Novick with a series of petty attacks.

You know what they say: Hell hath no fury like an overdog-politician scorned.

Those of you who are politically progressive, and have a soft spot in your heart for extremely authentic, honest, funny, knowledgeable, intelligent and maverick politicians, please find yourself an Oregon blog – Loaded Orygun is a pro-Novick blog, Blue Oregon (lately, it’s been singing the blues) is a pro Merkley bog – and GET INVOLVED.

Novick in the U.S. Senate is a once in a generation opportunity for us all. Let’s not blow it.

7 comments:

YoungMan said...

St. Barry Does It Again

small town Pennsylvania voters, bitter over their ecomic circumstances "cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them".

Way to go Punahou Barry. Further marginalize yourself....go bowl another 36.

I know comments like that will endear him in San Francisco (where delivered), in and around Danny's Beloved Beltway, lower Manhattan, Hollywood and Harvard Yard. that comment gives expression to what most Obama voters really think...not to mention their condescending derision of America...

This is 10x worse than Rev, Wright.

Good judgement Barry...you are such Roadkill...maybe a few Pensylvannians who cant afford the Wal-Mart grocery will have you and your cult for Dinner like the Clampetts.

But Dan, back on point, even if Novick agrees with this in his soul..I kmow, from my brief encounters with him, that he has enough common sense not to say it in public.

Daniel Spiro said...

Well, the Obama comment to which you refer was a mountain in a molehill. And once again, you have used it to take the opportunity to treat people in D.C., NY, LA, Boston and SF like they're not real Americans. (I dealt with that kind of B.S. in my post on the anniversary of MLK Jr.'s death.)

But hey ... why should I emphasize the negative. I do appreciate your backhanded compliment of Novick. He is a guy with good common sense. And I'll leave it at that.

Night Stranger said...

For the life of me I can't understand why anyone would take offense at what Obama said. I just don't see anything to take issue with. Elitist? Huh?

Apparently the word "bitter" is offensive to some people. This is news to me. Others say the really big mistake was the word "cling." I can't imagine that anybody really believes this. Again, Hillary is jumping on anything to take the focus off the truly obnoxious things her husband is saying, even about her.

It will be interesting to see if any of this sticks next Tuesday.

Daniel Spiro said...

Barack didn't say anything wrong. This is just the rightwingers -- I'm including Hillary, who's a chameleon -- trying to screw his reputation anyway they can.

It's the same old saw: progressives are elitist and out of touch. People who live on the coasts and study disciplines like philosophy or sociology aren't real Americans.

Yawn.

YoungMan said...

Dan Please Post this one...I'd love to see how you "dismiss" this well written comment which at least has the form of an intellectual imperative. I really want to read a rebuttal of this from your pen....especially the "four things that follow".

It's not a "mountain in a mole hill" though u wish it so. It may be the "same old saw" but agin you're on the short end of the stick. Alas, you'll probably dismiss Will because he's an Orioles fan.

April 15, 2008
Candidate on a High Horse
By George Will

WASHINGTON -- Barack Obama may be exactly what his supporters suppose him to be. Not, however, for reasons most Americans will celebrate.

Obama may be the fulfillment of modern liberalism. Explaining why many working class voters are "bitter," he said they "cling" to guns, religion and "antipathy to people who aren't like them" because of "frustrations." His implication was that their primitivism, superstition and bigotry are balm for resentments they feel because of America's grinding injustice.

By so speaking, Obama does fulfill liberalism's transformation since Franklin Roosevelt. What had been under FDR a celebration of America and the values of its working people has become a doctrine of condescension toward those people and the supposedly coarse and vulgar country that pleases them.

When a supporter told Adlai Stevenson, the losing Democratic presidential nominee in 1952 and 1956, that thinking people supported him, Stevenson said, "Yes, but I need to win a majority." When another supporter told Stevenson, "You educated the people through your campaign," Stevenson replied, "But a lot of people flunked the course." Michael Barone, in "Our Country: The Shaping of America From Roosevelt to Reagan," wrote: "It is unthinkable that Roosevelt would ever have said those things or that such thoughts ever would have crossed his mind." Barone added: "Stevenson was the first leading Democratic politician to become a critic rather than a celebrator of middle-class American culture -- the prototype of the liberal Democrat who would judge ordinary Americans by an abstract standard and find them wanting."

Stevenson, like Obama, energized young, educated professionals for whom, Barone wrote, "what was attractive was not his platform but his attitude." They sought from Stevenson "not so much changes in public policy as validation of their own cultural stance." They especially rejected "American exceptionalism, the notion that the United States was specially good and decent," rather than -- in Michelle Obama's words -- "just downright mean."

The emblematic book of the new liberalism was "The Affluent Society" by Harvard economist John Kenneth Galbraith. He argued that the power of advertising to manipulate the bovine public is so powerful that the law of supply and demand has been vitiated. Manufacturers can manufacture in the American herd whatever demand the manufacturers want to supply. Because the manipulable masses are easily given a "false consciousness" (another category, like religion as the "opiate" of the suffering masses, that liberalism appropriated from Marxism), four things follow:

First, the consent of the governed, when their behavior is governed by their false consciousnesses, is unimportant. Second, the public requires the supervision of a progressive elite which, somehow emancipated from false consciousness, can engineer true consciousness. Third, because consciousness is a reflection of social conditions, true consciousness is engineered by progressive social reforms. Fourth, because people in the grip of false consciousness cannot be expected to demand or even consent to such reforms, those reforms usually must be imposed, for example, by judicial fiats.

The iconic public intellectual of liberal condescension was Columbia University historian Richard Hofstadter, who died in 1970 but whose spirit still permeated that school when Obama matriculated there in 1981. Hofstadter pioneered the rhetorical tactic that Obama has revived with his diagnosis of working-class Democrats as victims -- the indispensable category in liberal theory. The tactic is to dismiss rather than refute those with whom you disagree.

Obama's dismissal is: Americans, especially working-class conservatives, are unable, because of their false consciousness, to deconstruct their social context and embrace the liberal program. Today that program is to elect Obama, thereby making his wife at long last proud of America.

Hofstadter dismissed conservatives as victims of character flaws and psychological disorders -- a "paranoid style" of politics rooted in "status anxiety," etc. Conservatism rose on a tide of votes cast by people irritated by the liberalism of condescension.

Obama voiced such liberalism with his "bitterness" remarks to an audience of affluent San Franciscans. Perfect.

When Democrats convened in San Francisco in 1984, en route to losing 49 states, Jeane Kirkpatrick -- a former FDR Democrat then serving in the Cabinet of another such, Ronald Reagan -- said "San Francisco Democrats" are people who "blame America first." Today, they blame Americans for America being "downright mean."

Obama's apology for his embittering sociology of "bitterness" -- "I didn't say it as well as I could have" -- occurred in Muncie, Ind. Perfect.

In 1929 and 1937 Robert and Helen Lynd published two seminal books of American sociology. They were sympathetic studies of a medium-sized manufacturing city they called "Middletown," coping -- reasonably successfully, optimistically and harmoniously -- with life's vicissitudes. "Middletown" was in fact Muncie, Ind.

georgewill@washpost.com
Copyright 2008, Washington Post Writers Group

Daniel Spiro said...

Youngman,

I believe you want me to respond to this strawman Will has created by defending it. In fact, if you read The Creed Room (which I'm sure your opposed to doing for some sort of emotional reason), you'll note that I am a believer in the free and open marketplace of ideas, and the value of forming as close to a consensus as possible on major issues, a consensus that INCLUDES the business community. You'll also note that oppose extreme tampering with the laws of supply and demand, as are reflected in the capitalist economy.

In short, I am not the socialist that you claim I am, nor am I one to suggest that we should be treating "the masses" like stupid puppets. Quite the contrary, we need to support education and encourage as many people as possible to become educated, thoughtful voters ... and active participants in the political process. That's why, for example, in Purim, I hailed the grass roots destruction of the immigration bill, even though I wanted the bill to be passed.

As for Barack, he is simply the most talented and inspired politician since RFK Jr., in my opinion, and infinitely more of a "man of the people" than certain pompous Op-Ed writers who still wish we were part of the British Empire.

(There's my strawman response.)

YoungMan said...

What's wrong with the British Empire?

Its greatest im,perialist exponent was its Hebrew Prime Minister of the Late 1870s. And your kibbutzim visit would have been to Guyana (if you would have any at all) lest for the Balfour Declaration.....