If John McCain had run his entire campaign with the dignity and power of this final speech, this would have been a much different election. I don’t know that he would have won—but it might have been a lot closer.
He would have won, IMO*. Pick Mitt Romney—someone who has more experience in creating wealth in the corporate sector than either candidate on the Dems’ ticket—and the financial calamity that broke in September would have been an asset, not a liability, to Republicans.
And agreed on the concession speech. It was great to hear him tell his more-radical supporters to basically shut the hell up.
(Update) * I should be reasonable here. The margin would have been slim. By no means am I suggesting Obama’s campaign wouldn’t have been equipped to respond swiftly and effectively. The margins would have been tighter and voters would have had one fewer reason to vote against McCain/Palin.
Barring voter suppression of ridiculous proportions, Barack Obama will become President-elect tonight. So to all his fellow supporters, I offer this piece of advice:
Don’t fuck this up.
There’s no time for celebrating, reflecting, or gloating. We need to get to work.
If you’re employed, continue to do good work, spend some of your money, and invest the rest. If you’re a student, study what you’re interested in and volunteer some of your free time. If you’re too young to vote, stay in school and try not to make babies.
If you’re poor, tell us what you need. We want to help. If you’re middle-class, keep doing what you’re doing. You’ll pull us out of recession. If you’re rich, get out your fucking wallet. Access to United States capitalism now costs money, and if you think you can make the same returns without it, then go ahead and try.
But to any supporter who spends time reveling in this victory instead of contemplating their role in this opportunity: Go screw yourself. Seriously. This is where the hard part begins, not ends.
The McCain/Palin ticket has made John McCain’s military record a large part of its case for the White House, so it’s fair to ask how McCain feels about diplomacy with Vietnam and other emerging markets like China. This is important because some observers think Vietnam is the most-emerging market. (China’s importance, at this point, doesn’t need explaining.)
How would McCain, as president, treat a country that, decades ago, tortured him to such a point that he still can’t even put on a sweater by himself? How would he treat countries that emerged economically with a similar ethos?
No one should question McCain’s service to the country or belittle what he went through as a prisoner of war. No one should question the value of that service to society, and the ridiculousness of me sitting here blogging about it isn’t lost on me. But this is a really important question because the United States can’t afford to pick and choose which emerging markets it’s going to partner with to create domestic wealth and which ones it’s going to isolate. It just can’t.
Sarah Palin’s speech on energy policy this morning focused on clean coal technology and nuclear power development. Not surprisingly, she wants to ramp up both.
And also not surprisingly, this approach to energy policy would do far more harm than good.
Clean coal is a huge misnomer. Despite what lobbyists and advertisers would like voters to believe, it doesn’t currently exist and is borderline unrealistic to develop. Production facilities burn coal in order to capture the energy that resides within, emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in the process. Carbon, of course, belongs in the ground. That’s a problem. These facilities, ten years down the road, could use systems to capture the carbon and sequester it back underground before it hits the atmosphere. But concentrating this much carbon in a relatively small area could cause catastrophes like earthquakes. That’s also a problem.
Carbon capture and sequestration systems are, like many emerging technologies, currently far too expensive to be practical solutions.
A sensible domestic energy policy would encourage generating supply from the cheapest sources (including the eventual environmental degradation that coal and oil would cause), and it’s true that nuclear power is a low-cost means of production — before accounting for the cost of waste disposal. The U.S. has more than 100,000 megawatts of nuclear power capacity, far more than anyplace else in the world, and storing the hazardous byproducts of this production is still an area of debate. There is one troubling certainty: it will cost, at the least, about $1 billion per reactor, according to documents released by the Department of Energy.
And this repository was supposed to be operational in 1981.
Nuclear power is not immune to the fluctuation of commodity prices; the plants generate power from uranium. When many of the nuclear power plants in the United States came online, uranium was between $5 and $10 per pound; today, it exceeds $60. Nuclear power, though it’s clean and relatively free from carbon emission, is still fixed on a natural resource that can be depleted.
At 14 cents per kilowatt hour, nuclear power is also expensive when compared to wind or solar capacity.
Wind farms are where lawmakers’ attention should be. Wind farms can generate enormous capacity at the rate of about seven cents per kilowatt hour and could displace natural gas out of homes and into the auto industry, massively reducing dependence on foreign oil. (No one would debate the initial cost of natural gas infrastructure, but it would be money well spent.)
When Palin said that “America” – I assume she meant the United States and not North America and/or South America – has more coal than Saudi Arabia has oil, she had a decent point, save for it being factually incorrect. The United States does have enough coal to generate enormous capacity for the foreseeable future. But the flatlands in the Midwest are, for lack of a better term, the Saudi Arabia of wind energy. Recent research suggests wind energy could power the world alone if 20 percent of its potential capacity were captured. This is unrealistic, of course, because the infrastructure to make it work (like national power grids) just don’t exist, but it’s no more shortsighted than Palin’s clumsily-made coal comparison.
Barack Obama’s ticket has not talked about energy to this extent, probably because it has not purported to be an energy expert. But one of its policy ideas stands out as notably good: the creation of a $150-billion government-run investment fund to nurture energy technology. When I first heard about this, it sounded like needless meddling into the private sector, which I don’t support. But since then, lawmakers have seized AIG to create what I’ve been calling the United States Department of Insurance; a state-run private equity portfolio would, in my view, be less invasive to free-market dynamics.
Palin did say that Americans need to use less energy and conserve more. This is also a good point – as I’ve written before, conservation is akin to the cheapest form of new energy available.
But her focus on two means of generation that are clearly counter to voters’ best interests, however, is troubling, and one has to fear the policy she would support if, heaven forbid, voters elect her ticket next Tuesday.
It’s a useless reduction to write that voters’ internal narratives, and not the choices they’re presented with, decide elections. But that doesn’t make it any less true.
In elections, there are very few known variables compared to all of those unknown. Take taxation, an area of policy both candidates are campaigning on rabidly, as an example. Voters can observe that the United States tax code structures different income levels with different tax rates (Which tax bracket do you fall into?), and already, for lack of a better description, “spreads the wealth around.” Many taxpayers can also observe the senseless complexity of the tax code. Lawmakers can’t even agree on how long the code and its associated regulations are. Exponentially longer than War & Peace seems appropriate.
Realistically, the only taxpayers who are maximizing the code are wealthy taxpayers who can spend tens of thousands of dollars on a tax attorney to minimize their exposure. The rest of us go to H&R Block or do it ourselves.
Thus the important question: Which candidates are spending time talking about simplifying the tax code? Voters don’t have a good way of knowing; instead of seeing it for themselves, voters are left to deduce their best guess from the policies candidates are laying out. Just trust us; we’ll get it done.
Umm, no. There’s plenty explained but very little shown.
This is a problem that some progressive residents of our representative democracy need to solve.
The solution: Let voters see things for themselves. Less messaging; fewer talking points; more chaos. Let voters into candidates’ strategy sessions and give them access to your plans and documentation. Pin a damn FlipVid to your campaign support and your nominees. Live-blog your rallies. Share everything online. Replace your opaque web site with a wiki and crowd-source policy ideas. Even though you’ll use none of them wholesale, their existence will become an important part of your platform.
This, not Town-Hall-style meetings, is how to take the temperature of voters. Admittedly, it all sounds very reality-showish. But it’s the exact opposite of what voters resent: being talked down to and not knowing who’s talking about the issues and who’s just talking about how to get elected.
It’s what observers have taken to calling how the sausage gets made. How does the writer prepare to write? What makes the dancer dance? Some cable news networks wheel the camera into the assignment meetings and air footage of editors talking to producers talking to photographers talking to anchors as they collectively decide what to cover and how to cover it. How the sausage gets made: You wouldn’t like the final product if you knew what went on behind the scenes. Except sometimes, you would.
It’s like that, and it might be the future of political campaigning. Or at least a neat direction to think about.
Background: A Pittsburg College Republicans member and McCain/Palin volunteer Ashley Todd lied about being beat up by an Obama/Biden supporter (a “black guy, maybe homeless”) and having a letter “B” carved into her face. Thankfully, in fabricating a crime that didn’t happen, Todd has herself committed a crime. One only wishes that fabricating a hate crime were itself a hate crime too.
John McCain’s campaign has very recently
enacted a ramped up its “guilty by association” character assault on Barack Obama. So why shouldn’t Obama supporters point out that this domestic terrorist, arrested yesterday, is an ardent McCain supporter?
The answer, of course, is that serving on a committee with a former political dissenter, living in the same neighborhood as a former political dissenter, or being supported politically by a very obvious racist waste of space are completely irrelevant to these candidates’ worldviews, judgment, and ability to lead.
During last night’s second televised presidential debate, viewers saw ads for Chevron and ExxonMobile. What they did not see was an ad that takes on the same oil and coal lobbying firms who make these companies impenetrable. That’s not for one group’s lack of trying.
We Can Solve It, an alternative-energy advocate that’s funded by the Alliance for Climate Protection, tried to run a new ad in its Repower America series that would contend that the marketing spend of oil and coal companies have contributed to lawmakers’ inability to push through effective alternative-energy legislation and consumers’ reluctance to curb energy consumption on their own. ABC had none of it.
Cathy Zoi, CEO of the group, wrote in an e-mail to supporters: “As oil and coal backed groups outspend even major party committees in this political year, it’s outrageous that ABC would deny our ad.”
Spending money on advertising about spending money on advertising seems needlessly meta, but it’s unlikely anything about energy efficiency could be as loaded and factually inaccurate as a lot of the campaign ads running during this cycle.