Why McCain lost

I think there are a lot of reasons Obama won. It seems strange to ask why McCain lost. After all, I assumed early on that it would be impossible for a Republican candidate to win, given the current president’s performance. But then the Republicans nominated McCain, someone I had always thought of as a pragmatist, to a certain degree. Like many people, my opinion of McCain has changed significantly during this election–he showed a side of himself that apparently had not been a part of his public persona in the past, and no concession speech undoes what ended up as an attempt to pander to base instincts.

When asked what undid the McCain campaign, most responses are “It’s the economy, stupid,” or “It’s Palin–stupid.” Of course, the economic downturn stacked an already stacked deck against McCain, but I think in the end, the problem is that McCain underestimated the American people. He tried to out-joe-sixpack Bush, which was hard to do. He chose a running-mate that was so folksy that she was a caricature of herself–leaving little work for Tina Fey to do. He embraced small-mindedness and intolerance, and then appeared shocked when people at his rallies expressed opinions that were outright idiotic and racist.

I think Michael Shaffer is right. McCain effectively moved the bar for “egghead,” as well as for “socialist,” to include a pretty large segment of educated, cultured, open Americans:

But one thing the results show, I think, is that eight years of Republican rule changed the definition of “egghead.” Obama’s ability to flip states like Indiana and Ohio and North Carolina was based in large part on his improved margins among college-educated professionals in the suburbs outside Columbus or Charlotte or Indianapolis. Not long ago, your average rational, suburbanite PTA-joining middle-manager at Eli Lilly may not have thought himself an egghead. That was before the Bush administration and the braying campaign-trail crowds of Palinite “Real Americans,” with their angry sneers at empiricism and expertise and worldliness moved the line of demarcation between egghead and everyone else. By election day, it seemed like a basic belief in competence and science and planning was enough to brand you an egghead in the world of the angry GOP base. The newly-enshrined eggheads of 2008 got the message, and voted for Obama.

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4 Comments

  1. drumdiva
    Posted 11/6/2008 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

    Speaking of intolerance, I just can’t get over the fact that the very same people who voted for Obama in California also voted for Proposition 8. 7 out of 10 black voters were in favor of Proposition 8!! How could people help strike a blow against discrimination by voting for Obama, and then allow discrimination to be written into their state’s constitution?? I just don’t get it! Well, actually, I do get it – we can chalk it up to their religious beliefs. How would they like it if we took a vote to decide whether or not they could go to church? Religion has no place in politics – period.

  2. alex
    Posted 11/6/2008 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

    Exactly. I heard an interview on NPR with someone who voted for Prop 8, who identified himself as African-American and a Christian. He said something along the lines of “they can do whatever they want as long as they don’t force it on us,” and I was just blown away by this. Especially given the not-so-long-past laws on miscegenation, how can someone not see the issue here.

    I have absolutely zero problem with some Christian congregations deciding not to marry same-sex couples. But what they have done in California is apply a religious code to all Californians. If I were part of a church that married same-sex couples in California, I now have to deal with a state that says my religious rite is not as valid as that of another church. W. T. F.

    I really hope California finds a way out of this. I don’t understand why amending the constitution requires a 2/3 majority in the legislative body, but only a simple majority for an initiative. That’s wrong.

  3. drumdiva
    Posted 11/6/2008 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

    WTF is right… These people have no problem allowing Wiccans and atheists to get married, but when “those people” want to get married, it’s Chicken Little all over the place (“This spells the end of marriage and society as we know it! We’re all gonna die!”).

    I say we have civil marriages for everyone, and if couples want to get married in a church/synagogue/temple they can. No one is forcing churches to marry gay couples, so again, WTF????

  4. Posted 11/7/2008 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    Pink is the new black. And we face just as steep a climb as the African Americans have.

    Ignorance is deadly. Education is our only defense against this kind of pervasive social injustice. If these people understood we were real people *just* *like* *them* then it wouldn’t be an issue. But we’re demonized and used as a modern day bogeyman.

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