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In September, 1932, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the Democratic nominee for President, was asked by a reporter for his view of the job that he was seeking. “The Presidency is not merely an administrative office,” Roosevelt said. “That’s the least of it. It is more than an engineering job, efficient or inefficient. It is preëminently a place of moral leadership. All our great Presidents were leaders of thought at times when certain historic ideas in the life of the nation had to be clarified.” He went down the list of what we would now call transformative Presidents: Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Wilson. (He also included Grover Cleveland, who hasn’t aged as well.) Then Roosevelt asked, “Isn’t that what the office is, a superb opportunity for reapplying—applying in new conditions—the simple rules of human conduct we always go back to? I stress the modern application, because we are always moving on; the technical and economic environment changes, and never so quickly as now. Without leadership alert and sensitive to change, we are bogged up or lose our way, as we have lost it in the past decade.”
When the reporter pressed Roosevelt to offer a vision of his own historical opportunity, he gave two answers. First, he said, America needed “someone whose interests are not special but general, someone who can understand and treat the country as a whole. For as much as anything it needs to be reaffirmed at this juncture that the United States is one organic entity, that no interest, no class, no section, is either separate or supreme above the interests of all.” But Roosevelt didn’t limit himself to the benign self-portrait of a unifying President. “Moral leadership” had a philosophical component: he was, he said, “a liberal.” The election of 1932 arrived at one of those recurring moments when “the general problems of civilization change in such a way that new difficulties of adjustment are presented to government.” As opposed to a conservative or a radical, Roosevelt concluded, a liberal “recognizes the need of new machinery” but also “works to control the processes of change, to the end that the break with the old pattern may not be too violent.”
That November, Roosevelt defeated President Herbert Hoover in a landslide. His election ended an age of conservative Republican rule, created a Democratic coalition that endured for the next four decades, and fundamentally changed the American idea of the relationship between citizen and state. On March 4, 1933, Roosevelt was inaugurated under a bleak sky, at the darkest hour of the Great Depression, with banks across the country failing, hundreds of thousands of homes and farms foreclosed, and a quarter of Americans out of work.
In defining his idea of the Presidency, Roosevelt had left himself considerable room for maneuvering. His campaign slogan of a “new deal” promised change, but to different observers this meant wildly different things, from a planned economy to a balanced budget. “Roosevelt arrived in Washington with no firm commitments, apart from his promise to ‘try something,’ ” the Times editorialist Adam Cohen writes in his forthcoming book, “Nothing to Fear: FDR’s Inner Circle and the Hundred Days That Created Modern America.” “At a time when Americans were drawn to ideologies of all sorts, he was not wedded to any overarching theory.”
Barack Obama’s decisive defeat of John McCain is the most important victory of a Democratic candidate since 1932. It brings to a close another conservative era, one that rose amid the ashes of the New Deal coalition in the late sixties, consolidated its power with the election of Ronald Reagan, in 1980, and immolated itself during the Presidency of George W. Bush. Obama will enter the White House at a moment of economic crisis worse than anything the nation has seen since the Great Depression; the old assumptions of free-market fundamentalism have, like a charlatan’s incantations, failed to work, and the need for some “new machinery” is painfully obvious. But what philosophy of government will characterize it?
The answer was given three days before the election by a soldier and memoirist of the Reagan revolution, Peggy Noonan, who wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “Something new is happening in America. It is the imminent arrival of a new liberal moment.” The Journal’s editorial page anticipated with dread “one of the most profound political and ideological shifts in U.S. history. Liberals would dominate the entire government in a way they haven’t since 1965, or 1933. In other words, the election would mark the restoration of the activist government that fell out of public favor in the 1970s.” The Journal’s nightmare scenario of America under President Obama and a Democratic Congress included health care for all, a green revolution, expanded voting rights, due process for terror suspects, more powerful unions, financial regulation, and a shift of the tax burden upward. (If the editorial had had more space, full employment and the conquest of disease might have made the list.)
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Even though every political and statistical indication points to an Obama victory tonight — and a healthy one at that — a certain brand of liberal paranoia persists. This is too good to be true, Democrats declare, fingers grasping at their hair. McCain is tightening the race in key states. The youth vote won’t come out.
And so it goes.
But if in fact McCain were to win this election it would be, one of the nation’s foremost pollster says, almost historically unprecedented.
“There is no reason in history to suggest [Obama won’t win],” said Frank Newport of Gallup. “All you can go by is history and compare our last polling that we have done before the election and the actual outcome in the presidential election… We have most polls showing Obama with a statistically significant lead nationally and also in these states. If he were to lose, it will be the first time since World War II something like this has happened. Now, keep in mind. It’s a small sample, less than 20 elections, but it would be very unusual, in fact, exceptional… improbable.”
Indeed, the last time that Gallup’s final poll before the election did not accurately determine the winning candidate was 1948, when they stopped polling a week before Harry Truman’s comeback victory against Thomas Dewey. Even in 1980, when Ronald Reagan staged a late comeback that turned into an electoral rout, Gallup caught glimmers of this trend just in time, showing the Gipper up three points in its last poll.
When it comes to the current election, the firm has Obama up eleven points in its final survey. But what should make Democrats more assured, said Newport, is that the Illinois Democrat has maintained a steady margin throughout the past month.
“Since September 15, Obama has been ahead in every poll we have conducted or any other polling I have seen and often by substantial margins,” he said. “It is not like it is race in which McCain was leading and we are seeing some kind of shift for Obama, it has been Obama ahead pretty dominantly.”
Moreover, other polling firms are documenting similar trends — a confluence of data that validates the larger picture.
“We are all using a measuring instrument to estimate a big population,” said Newport. “It is like we have a giant lake and we are trying to estimate the bacteria percentage. So we take a sample and test it and that is what we are doing. But yes… if you have 15 scientists and they are all showing the same thing, that does give you more assurance that the lake has some bacteria.”
There are, of course, Obama supporters who will remain unconvinced. And as evidence they could cite the polls leading up to the New Hampshire primary, which showed the Illinois Democrat in a similarly comfortable lead only to lose to Hillary Clinton by two points. Newport acknowledged that the primary fight in the Granite State gives him and others in the business pause — he has yet to find a smoking gun to explain what happened, though he hinted that massive late-stage change in voter preference moved too quickly for polls to pick up.
But that was, for better or worse, an aberration. Pressed to quantify just how big a failure for the polling industry a McCain victory would represent, he didn’t feel comfortable even following the hypothetical.
“Call me tomorrow,” he replied. “Obviously when Gallup and other scientific polling organizations do our best… and if for some reason the actual voting out there didn’t mirror, internally, what we were showing, it certainly would be a time where we would have to say, ‘What are we doing wrong?’… But we will cross that bridge if we get there. Right now, we aren’t crossing that bridge… It is improbable. But like I said, call me tomorrow.”
She’s not donin’ it for naught!!
In recent weeks, the McCain campaign has been attacking ACORN, a widely respected voter registration organization, claiming ACORN knowingly participated in “voter fraud.” In reality, this is just another calculated attempt by the McCain campaign and the RNC to suppress new and marginalized voters.
Help stop the lies: http://acorn.org/lies
The famous CSPAN video below captures Republicans joking about keep Obama voters from the polls.
Tom Davis on Voter Suppression: CSPAN 10/10/08
Imagine if the Obamas had hooked up with a violently anti-American group in league with the government of Iran.
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and her husband, Todd, at a rally in Vienna, Ohio, on Sept. 16, 2008.
Oct. 7, 2008 | “My government is my worst enemy. I’m going to fight them with any means at hand.”
This was former revolutionary terrorist Bill Ayers back in his old Weather Underground days, right? Imagine what Sarah Palin is going to do with this incendiary quote as she tears into Barack Obama this week.
Only one problem. The quote is from Joe Vogler, the raging anti-American who founded the Alaska Independence Party. Inconveniently for Palin, that’s the very same secessionist party that her husband, Todd, belonged to for seven years and that she sent a shout-out to as Alaska governor earlier this year.
(“Keep up the good work,” Palin told AIP members. “And God bless you.”)
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AIP chairwoman Lynette Clark told me recently that Sarah Palin is her kind of gal. “She’s Alaskan to the bone … she sounds just like Joe Vogler.”
So who are these America-haters that the Palins are pallin’ around with?
Before his strange murder in 1993, party founder Vogler preached armed insurrection against the United States of America. Vogler, who always carried a Magnum with him, was fond of saying, “When the [federal] bureaucrats come after me, I suggest they wear red coats. They make better targets. In the federal government are the biggest liars in the United States, and I hate them with a passion. They think they own [Alaska]. There comes a time when people will choose to die with honor rather than live with dishonor. That time may be coming here. Our goal is ultimate independence by peaceful means under a minimal government fully responsive to the people. I hope we don’t have to take human life, but if they go on tramping on our property rights, look out, we’re ready to die.”
This quote is from “Coming Into the Country,” by John McPhee, who traipsed around Alaska’s remote gold mining country with Vogler for his 1991 book. The violent-tempered secessionist vowed to McPhee that if any federal official tried to stop him from polluting Alaska’s rivers with his earth-moving equipment, he would “run over him with a Cat and turn mosquitoes loose on him while he dies.”
Vogler wasn’t just a blowhard either. He put his secessionist ideas into action, working to build AIP membership to 20,000 — an impressive figure by Alaska standards — and to elect party member Walter Hickel as governor in 1990.
Vogler’s greatest moment of glory was to be his 1993 appearance before the United Nations to denounce United States “tyranny” before the entire world and to demand Alaska’s freedom. The Alaska secessionist had persuaded the government of Iran to sponsor his anti-American harangue.
That’s right … Iran. The Islamic dictatorship. The taker of American hostages. The rogue nation that McCain and Palin have excoriated Obama for suggesting we diplomatically engage. That Iran.
AIP leaders allege that Vogler, who was murdered that year by a fellow secessionist, was taken out by powerful forces in the U.S. before he could reach his U.N. platform. “The United States government would have been deeply embarrassed,” by Vogler’s U.N. speech, darkly suggests Clark. “And we can’t have that, can we?”
The Republican ticket is working hard this week to make Barack Obama’s tenuous connection to graying, ’60s revolutionary Bill Ayers a major campaign issue. But the Palins’ connection to anti-American extremism is much more central to their political biographies.
Imagine the uproar if Michelle Obama was revealed to have joined a black nationalist party whose founder preached armed secession from the United States and who enlisted the government of Iran in his cause? The Obama campaign would probably not have survived such an explosive revelation. Particularly if Barack Obama himself was videotaped giving the anti-American secessionists his wholehearted support just months ago.
Where’s the outrage, Sarah Palin has been asking this week, in her attacks on Obama’s fuzzy ties to Ayers? The question is more appropriate when applied to her own disturbing associations.
John McCain celebrated his own role in the final federal government bailout package Monday on stage in front of several hundred Ohioans gathered for a campaign rally.
“I believe that inaction was not an option,” the Republican presidential candidate said. “I put my campaign on hold for a couple of days last week.” To applause, he continued: “I know that many of you have noticed it’s not my style to simply phone it in.”
That sentiment — not “phoning it in” was the campaign line throughout the weekend. On Friday at the first presidential debate, close McCain confidante Sen. Lindsey Graham praised McCain’s return to Washington. “This is one you just can’t phone in,” he said.
A McCain spokeswoman on the plane ride to Mississippi expressed the same. “Meeting face-to-face with people is always more effective than phoning it in,” she said.
And yet, the Arizona senator spent a lot of time on the phone. At the end of last week and over the entire weekend in Washington, he made lots of phone calls, many from his Northern Virginia condo, across the Potomac River from Capitol Hill.
Let’s rewind the clock and start at the beginning. Last Thursday, McCain returned to Washington and headed straight for Capitol Hill. After a few meetings there, he went to one at the White House and then retired to his condo by 6:30 p.m. to make phone calls.Friday morning, McCain traveled to Capitol Hill for less than two hours then flew to Mississippi for the first presidential debate. He rushed back to Northern Virginia after the debate, getting in well after midnight, but never went to Capitol Hill once during the weekend. Instead, he made phone calls from both his residence and his Arlington, Va., campaign headquarters.
On Saturday, McCain called a slew of top players, including President George W. Bush, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke. He also called three senators (Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire and Jon Kyl or Arizona) and 10 Republican House members including Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio.
McCain was spotted several times making the less-than-one-minute drive between his headquarters and his residence — on his cellphone.
Asked why he wasn’t making the trek to the Hill, McCain senior adviser Mark Salter responded: “Because he can effectively do what he needs to do by phone,” and added, “He’s calling members on both sides, talking to people in the administration, helping out as he can.”
On Sunday, during an appearance on ABC-TV’s “This Week,” McCain again said he wasn’t just “phoning” it in. “I did the best that I could,” he said of his work on the package. “I came back because I wasn’t going to phone it in.”
On Monday, he went so far as to slam his opponent, Democratic contender Barack Obama, for not doing enough. “That’s not leadership, that’s watching from the sidelines,” he said of Obama. “And watching from the sidelines is exactly what got us into this mess.”
McCain also defended the criticism coming at him. “You know remarkably some people have criticized my decision to put my country first,” he said. “But I’ll never be a president who sits on the sidelines when this country faces a crisis. I’ll never do that.”