05 October 2012

Romney's empty victory

Conventional wisdom has it that Romney succeeded in avoiding any significant gaffe during the debate.  I'm not so sure.  The "Romney wants to fire Big Bird" meme is rapidly going viral.  It won't overshadow Romney's debate win the way Eastwood's chair fiasco overshadowed his convention speech, but will have legs because it symbolizes a broader reality about Romney -- that he wants to cut the deficit by taking away relatively-inexpensive things that are highly popular with ordinary people, while leaving the huge military budget and historically-low taxes on the wealthy intact.  And Big Bird is a beloved, harmless, somewhat vulnerable character, evoking the Romney-as-bully meme.  (Update:  Yes, it looks like Big Bird is the big story of the debate -- found via Smartypants.)

In broader politics, there's some good news this week.  Obama's Gallup approval rating has shot up to its highest level since 2009.  Both Obama and Romney made gains in favorability ratings, but Romney's gains were mostly among Republicans, while Obama's were mostly among independents -- that is, Romney gained among those who would have voted for him anyway, whereas more of Obama's gain is among swing voters.  (Actually independents have skewed heavily pro-Romney in polling so far, but that probably reflects the fact that many Tea Party types now self-identify as independents rather than Republicans -- and makes Obama's gains among independents all the more impressive.)

Those results aren't so surprising if you think about it.  The kind of left-wing purists who criticize Obama while ignoring how much worse any Republican would be, may well have been jerked awake by Romney's debate win and realize that Obama doesn't, in fact, have this thing in the bag -- and have decided they like him after all now that they're forced to take account of the alternative.  After watching Romney flounder for months, it's not surprising that Republicans would be enthused at seeing him finally win something.  Obama's quiet if plodding fact-based performance might well appeal to thoughtful independent voters (not the teabaggers-turned-independents I mentioned).

It's easy for political junkies to think that the mass of ordinary voters are rather simple-minded creatures, easily swayed by glitter rather than substance, and just not capable of the kind of analysis and insight we ourselves bring to bear on politics.  It's a comforting attitude (especially when our side loses), but it's a dangerous trap.  Yes, someone can always edit together a YouTube clip of people who don't know what continent India is on or whatever (and would you do any better in a quiz on, say, electrical engineering or car repair or plumbing, in which those people may be earning a living?), but I'm convinced most people are much better at knowing bullshit when they see it than political pundits and bloggers give them credit for.

Yes, Romney won the debate, but the debates are only a means to the real end in view, which is to win the election.  And I don't think the debate will help Romney much toward that.  Even most Obama supporters agree that Romney won, but I can't see any Obama supporter voting for Romney on that basis.  If anything, as noted above, some independents are moving to Obama.  It will take a few days for the debate's effects to show up in the polls, but I'm betting they'll be small -- and temporary, once Obama starts using the massive arsenal of lies and flip-flops which Romney handed him.

Romney has won a battle.  But it wasn't a very important battle in the broader war, and the victory will prove Pyrrhic.


Blogger LadyAtheist said...

Love the graphics!

I spent the whole debate hoping the truth will come out five years from now that Obama had spent the night before preventing a war between China and Japan and was distracted by a threat in the Middle East to shut down oil exports and he knew HIllary was on the horn that very moment trying to fend that off.

My favorite Democratic debater is Dennis Kucinich (who represented my childhood home until he was jerrymandered out of it). He would have quashed Romney.

05 October, 2012 10:03  
Blogger okjimm said...

You are spot on.... Romneystilskin will not tell you about his taxes, his off shore accounts, which deductions he will eliminate, what loopholes he will close, but he sure as hell can tell you that a bunch of goddam muppets are fucking up the economy and they have gotta GO! I would call him a douche..... but that gives a honest feminine hygiene product a bad name. He would piss on Big Bird and Elmo.... that is his trickle down... oh oh oh....gotta go take a valium.!!!

05 October, 2012 10:53  
Blogger Shaw Kenawe said...

Great analysis. The Big Bird killers are doing an early victory dance.

They keep forgetting who Mr. Obama is and what he's capable of.

05 October, 2012 14:21  
Blogger BB-Idaho said...

Typical businessman banker: cut
PBS and save a couple of F-35 fighters. (if they can ever get them off the ground).

05 October, 2012 15:24  
Blogger Leslie Parsley said...

You know, I don't think my fellow liberals have learned a damn thing about our president in the nearly four years he's been in office. The condemnation,aka crap,I'm hearing from the so-called left, MSNBC for example, just proves how shallow and short-sighted we can be.

06 October, 2012 07:02  
Blogger S.W. Anderson said...

Your analysis is on target in many ways, Infidel. I particularly agree that Romney's bounce from the debate is liable to be short lived. Especially so after the inevitable about faces and backpedaling, although some suggest he's being given a dispensation by the radical-right base to sound more moderate because they're so desperate to get Obama out of the White House. Just so he doesn't get any ideas about sticking to that more moderate persona once elected, of course.

In earlier decades I would've agreed with your statement, ". . . people are much better at knowing bullshit when they see it than political pundits and bloggers give them credit for." Unfortunately, after voters saw fit to re-elect The Worst President in U.S. History in 2004, with all they knew about him and Cheney, and that whole pack of jackals, I'm much less inclined to believe that any more. A large number of know-nothings and fence-sitting partyphobes who call themselves independents will tell you, "I vote for the person, not the party." I've seen them in action and can't help but be aware of how gullible, flighty and easily swayed by attack ads, whisper campaigns, scurrilous e-mails and other propaganda they can be. Too many of them have a sour attitude that results in them voting, when they bother to vote, against someone, rather than for someone. They also tend to be perpetually down on government, which makes them highly receptive to right-wing propaganda.

06 October, 2012 14:35  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

LA: He's got a lot on his plate, certainly. I had wondered whether the Syria-Turkey crisis had kept him up all night.

Okjimm: That's why Big Bird has become the big story -- that one comment epitomizes the palpable phoniness of what he's saying.

SK: I hope the real Obama will be more in evidence in the next debate.

BBI: Hey, they need those F-35s to shoot down Big Bird.....

LP: There's too much of a tendency to panic at bad news, as I've observed before. Only a fool would expect Obama to win every battle. He's not superhuman.

SWA: Saying that voters are more rational than we give them credit for doesn't mean they will always choose the same way we do. There were rational reasons for re-electing Bush in 2004. To me they were out-weighed by other considerations, but they did exist, and it's simply wrong to say that the only possible reason for a bad election result is that the voters are gullible or easily misled.

07 October, 2012 06:08  
Blogger S.W. Anderson said...

". . . it's simply wrong to say that the only possible reason for a bad election result is that the voters are gullible or easily misled."

I don't believe, and didn't mean to say, that's the only reason. I do think it's a big part of the reason.

07 October, 2012 23:10  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Well, you're wrong. Some voters are gullible and easily misled. Most of them aren't. Especially in a case like 2004, it's a matter of having different priorities. Certainly people can vote differently than you would want without being so.

08 October, 2012 02:42  

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