Barack Obama, John McCain, Liars Lies and Lying, Neocons, News and Current Events, People, Politics, Sarah Palin, Truth

One Reason McCain Might Win

Shortly after Obama completed his tour of the Middle East and Europe a few weeks ago, I was chatting with a European friend who at one point made a curious statement.

He said,  “I don’t see a chance Obama will loose the election”.

Instantly, I was struck by his confidence, for nowadays the last thing on my mind — and the minds of all my offline friends — is the notion Obama has the election in his pocket. I cannot think of even one person with whom I’ve discussed it who deeply believes Obama has much more than a even chance of winning.  Those of us who support Obama are at best “cautiously optimistic”.

Of course, I am only speaking of my circle of friends here.  I’m sure there are many Americans — somewhere there must certainly be many Americans — who think like my European friend that Obama can’t loose.  But I don’t know those people.  The only people I myself know are at best guarded in their optimism.

So, I explained a bit of that to my friend, which prompted him to demand what was going on with us Americans.  Was it really possible we could vote for McCain?  Could McCain actually win? My god, were we a nation of idiots?

I’m afraid I was forced to concede the short answer was “yes”.  There are quite a few Americans — even quite intelligent Americans — who, when it comes to politics, are de facto idiots.

Come November 4th, Americans will vote for McCain in the millions.  To be sure, some of us who will vote for McCain on that date will have sound reasons to vote for him.  But many — so very many of us — will vote against our own values and interests when voting for him.  So, yes, if a “political idiot” is someone who votes against his or her own values and interests, then indeed America is full of political idiots.

Now, the hard part, it turns out, is explaining why that’s the way things are in America.  Simply put, there are numerous causes for it.  Some of those causes are present not only in America, but I assume, are present everywhere in the world — since fundamental human nature is everywhere the same.  But I decided to tell my friend about just one cause — and that cause is arguably more in force in America than in most other places.

I think anyone who has not lived in America, and yet who wishes to understand American politics, needs to take into serious consideration the role the traditional American media plays in systematically turning Americans into political idiots.  I’ve heard the traditional media in most Western European countries is independent, insightful, and diverse.   But that’s not how any knowledgeable person is most likely to describe the traditional American media.

On the contrary, in America, it is only a myth the traditional media is independent, insightful, and diverse.  Instead of being independent, most of the traditional media is owned by a mere half dozen or so large corporations.  Instead of being insightful, most of the traditional media is factually wrong on important political issues.  And instead of being diverse, most of the traditional media is right of center by world standards.  All of that has been amply documented.

Of course, I cannot do the subject justice in a brief blog post, but there you have the problem in a nutshell.  Or, at least, you have the surface of the problem in a nutshell.  One of the major causes of political idiocy in the United States is the traditional media’s systematic — and largely unchallenged — distortion of truth.

To take a minor example:  The media has been portraying Obama as moving towards the center of the political spectrum in recent weeks.  But by world standards, Obama even at his most liberal was in many ways center right.   So, by world standards, he has not been moving towards the middle in recent weeks — he’s been moving further right.  Yet, the American media portrays Obama as a leftist, and sometimes a dangerous leftist.

It turns out that is a systematic distortion on the part of the media.  Real leftists get almost no coverage or exposure in the traditional media.  Consequently, they are almost invisible to the majority of Americans who rely on the traditional media for most or all of their news.  Instead, the media pretends the center is the left; the center right is the center; and the far right is the right.

Through what amounts to a con, a whole segment of the political spectrum has been marginalized in America and it’s positions deemed too radical to be politically viable.

Moreover, given that distorted view of the political spectrum, John McCain can plausibly claim to be a moderate.  By world standards, he is of course far right, and his vice-presidential pick, Sarah Palin, is radical right.  Yet, because the media distorts the political spectrum in this country, McCain can not only plausibly claim to be a moderate, but he can plausibly claim Barak Obama is a leftist.  “Leftist” is almost a dirty word here, and so that claim can have a great impact on many voters.

Now, all this talk of left, right, and center is just a comparatively trivial example of how the traditional American media systematically misleads the American people.  The point, however, is the traditional media systematically misleads voters in such numerous and meaningful ways that quite many Americans will vote against their own values and interests come November.  They will only think they are voting for someone who represents their values and interests.

The irony in all this is it’s arguable Americans are more frustrated today with the way things are going than they have been in many decades.  And yet, millions of those frustrated Americans will vote for more of the same.

There seem to be many reasons why that will happen.  But surely one of those reasons is the traditional media’s systematic distortion of facts.  So, I reckon I’d answer my European friend with this:  Yes, you can see Americans as political idiots, if you wish, but would not any people anywhere be political idiots if they had been as systematically and cunningly lied to by their media as Americans have been?  Put differently, if you give someone a false road map, can you really blame him or her for getting lost?

12 thoughts on “One Reason McCain Might Win”

  1. I’ve been saying since the beginning that McCain will win. National elections are about fear and McCain/Palin will use social issues such as abortion, gay marriage and sex-ed to whip up the base against those ‘evil liberals’ bent on destroying the family. Therefore by their logic, America needs more Big Government and more laws to restrict personal freedom even more.

    Obama/Biden must attack back and get dirty to win.

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  2. Excellent post! I must admit that as a Canadian I often thought that the population itself was “righter” but I think you have the better explanation via the media bias. As a leftie, I would characterize your media problems as symptomatic of the capitalism that is overvalued in your country.

    I have a friend who is a professor in Las Cruces. Once we were part of the same social circle, and he was our token right winger among a group of moderate lefties. He said a few years ago that the same views that had him branded right up here had him classified as a near communist down there.

    But I think that as long as capitalism holds the position it does in American culture that right wing politics will remain dominant. Unlike knowledge, a little bit of capitalism is a good thing but there comes a point where it begins to erode human rights in favour of the corporate, and also erode common happiness by fetishizing consumerism.

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  3. Brian (really, this time!): “I’ve been saying since the beginning that McCain will win. National elections are about fear…”

    More than that, national elections – especially the presidential election – have always been popularity contests, and often (usually?) have nothing to do with the issues of the time. For an explanation of this, see “Assume the Position: 201” with Robert Wuhl.

    Regardless of his political positions, McCain has always been, and remains, a considerably charismatic figure. Of all the Rep. candidates, he’s the one who saw the value of making regular visits to “The Daily Show,” and has even had the chutzpah to make a guest appearance on “Ellen.”

    And Palin… is pretty. You may not want to admit it, it may be politically incorrect to bring this up, but it will have an effect.

    – M. \”/

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  4. Great post Paul. I think you’re onto something. During Canada’s last elections I was talking to a friend who had recently returned from living in the US for a few years – I was fretting about the Harper, who is a radical right-wing nutcase on an unprecedented scale for Canadian politics (anti-gay, anti-abortion, pro-war, anti-women’s rights, anti-environment, pro-legislating religious morality, pro-industry etc – like a miniature Cheney but more clever). Anyway my friend said “it could be worse – even our most frighteningly fanatical right-wing politicians are miles to the left of America’s entire political spectrum.” (Well he didn’t say that exactly – he said something french.)

    On the other hand, the concentration of media ownership and the level of intentional distortion is as bad or worse in Canada, what with the neo-con Asper family controlling all the local dailies, and for some reason we are only mildly politically retarded. (After all, Harper did win that election – but for the most part he hasn’t been able to get his agenda off the ground due to public mumbling and lively parliamentary debate).

    I agree with aos’ point that America’s almost religious worship of capitalism also contributes to their political stupidity. I don’t think this comes from today’s media as much as from a long history of anti-communist propaganda and ideological persecution during the cold war. The word “socialism” seems to trigger an irrational tirade from Americans of all political persuasions. Outside the US, I think it is better understood that any genuinely democratic government is socialist by definition – ie. the taxation of private wealth for the provision of public services is “socialist”. Whether it’s by schools, roads, sewers, levees, medicine, water, disaster relief, defence or welfare, the health of a democratic government is measured by its success in essentially socialist ventures: providing things we all need and pay taxes for.

    I get the feeling that rather than having a government that uses taxes appropriately, many Americans would prefer not to pay taxes at all and to receive no services in return. Whereas outside the US people seem to think the government works for them or something, and start howling blue murder when our socialist ventures (such as universal health care) are threatened by private profiteers.

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  5. Hmmm, I’m not sure I agree. While the media does encourage intellectual laziness and downright dishonesty, I think a large number of Americans are fed up with the way things are going now and unlikely to vote a Republican candidate in. As Bill Clinton famously reminded his supporters over and over again during his 1996 campaign, “it’s the Economy, stupid”. Ultimately no amount of fear of teh gays will change the fact that you just had to declare bankruptcy. Even for people who have no idea that republican policies directly contributed to the poor state of the current economy are discontented and will probably vote for Obama because he is not from the party of the current president. Also recent elections have shown a gradual sea change from America being mostly Republican, to divided, to more Democrat, as reflected in mid-term elections and the composition of congress. I don’t think Obama has the election “in the bag” like most of my European friends (who all keep reminding me to get my absentee ballot. Since the president of the US is still probably the most important world figure, they are genuinely interested in how this election turns out) but I would be really surprised if he lost. But hey, I watch French TV and The Daily show for my news.

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  6. Nice post. I have always been optimistic about Obama even before his candidacy, while my friends were saying he didn’t stand a chance with Clinton. And since McCain was not a strong republican candidate I thought Obama almost has it. But yeah, we know what happened with Bush Vs Al Gore and I also understand a little about American Media after being here for some years, about how they love to cover a Porn star’s death for week after week as the main news over anything else. But what struck me is, People who would believe in distorted “fox”y facts and vote against what’s best for the nation. Indeed, they must be political Idiots.

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  7. This has been on my mind lately (I’ve got to do some election posts, I think). At one point I held the same optimism as your European friend, but now I’m less certain. McCain’s Vice-Presidential nominee has “So crazy/stupid it just might work” written all over it.

    At risk of sounding like a radical whackjob, I find the media’s portrayal of Obama as being some kind of extreme leftist hilarious if only because I consider him to be, at best, center-right. Your analysis of how actual “leftists” are systematically excluded from media coverage is right on target. I was a big supporter of Dennis Kucinich, but his social-democratic leanings (and refusal to accept corporate sponsorship) meant he never had a chance.

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  8. People don’t have a choice. If they disagreed with what the Democrates advocates or if they were against some of the policies and values of Obama, they will have to vote for the other “safe typical”candidate no matter who that is.

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  9. When I suggest that Obama offers the obvious best choice of intelligent, open-minded, compassionate, creative global leadership, my college aged son reminds me that though Obama may reflect America’s best, McCain & Palin represent much of America as it is. As I watched the white Republican crowd cheer its soldier, I had to wonder. Will America vote for the man they recognize as being like them, a man who asks them to FIGHT with him or the one who who offers a new creative inclusive path to the future? The campaign ahead is going to be interesting!

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  10. @ Brian: It seems to me the Republicans have little choice but to get dirty. Their policies have failed, so they have little else to run on.

    @ Meowlin: Popularity contests — what a way to run a republic!

    @ Apophaticattic: Brilliant comment! I especially appreciate learning of the differences between the US and Canada. And your analysis of what socialism basically is strikes me as spot on. Thank you so much for that!

    @ Sabayon: I certainly hope you are right and that Obama wins decisively. I think this is the most important election of my lifetime to date, so please vote! 🙂

    Oh, and welcome to the blog!

    @ Dinesh: I’ve heard Fox actually spent more time in the run up to the Iraq war reporting on missing women than on the war.

    @ Baekho: Please do some election posts! I would love to read what you have to say about the national farce.

    @ Faisal: That seems to me very true. So many people feel they are only voting for the lesser of two evils.

    @ Anne: Welcome to the blog! Your son’s remarks are chilling — but so very true. I agree with you this is one campaign that might prove to be interesting — especially as it closes in on election day.

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  11. I’ve heard Fox actually spent more time in the run up to the Iraq war reporting on missing women than on the war.

    That’s about right from what I saw (it was on at the gym). But modify: “missing middle-class white women”. A black girl disappeared from our campus, and not a syllable devoted to her on Fox.

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