Saturday, August 25, 2012

Elsewhere: Conventions, Birther Mitt

I have a new column over at Salon giving the reasons why the conventions are still worth having. The one I'm really pretty interested in is the notion of rituals and symbols of party and of democracy -- how few we have, and how we need them. There's a little academic work on that, but not much, as far as I know. Anyway, I'm fascinated by the difference between the actual place of parties in the US and the place of parties in US political culture.

Also, over at PP yesterday, I argued that Romney's birther joke was perhaps another result of the conservative closed information loop; when you're inside it, you don't realize what birthers look like to those outside of the loop. I've been hitting this them quite a lot lately, over the last week or two -- not sure whether that means that I'm unduly focused on it and see it everywhere whether it's there or not, or if it really does explain a lot of things.


  1. I like your articles and I hope you and many of your colleagues who I think really lack insight on matters of race will examine my points below:

    One of the most glaring evidence of down right racism is visual every 4 years right in front of our eyes. The so called bias media should be more concerned that every 4 years the GOP convention gets so much more whiter and older.

    The proof is, I have to buy stronger sun glasses every 4 years to keep the white glare from the TV from my eyes.

    In all seriousness, I would like to see you stay on this, not so much to destroy the GOP, but to get them to see how blatant this overt racism is. One of my peeves this election cycle has been the endorsement by Trump and the Romney's standing with this racist. Yesterday's birtherism spewed by Romney makes the below even more relevant to this discussion. In fact, a question that NEEDS to be asked to ROMNEY IS AS FOLLOWS:

    QUESTION: Governor Romney, as you know a major concern that many minorities have with the Republican Party pertains to a lack of racial diversity within the party. In a nation that is increasingly growing in racial diversity, how is accepting endorsements from individuals like Donald Trump, who
    many minorities consider a racist suppose to be received by people of color and do you understand or even care why many minorities feel this endorsement is offensive?

    Also, the Koch brothers Father was the founder of the freaking JOHN BIRCH SOCIETY, hello!!!
    You think that maybe, anyone covering the Presidential race may want to ask Romney, why the vast majority of his contributions coming from the children of a RACIST should not be a concern to voters!

    I know there is hypocrisy on the far left. The difference for me as person of diversity and 99% of persons of color is that the far left does not dislike us because of how we look and/or how funny our names sound and we are welcomed and made to feel welcomed at a Dem Convention.

    1. To some extent, the GOP is a prisoner of its own racism. Racists actually comprise a significant portion of the GOP vote. If Republican candidates were to actually have genuine, successful outreach to racial minorities, they would alienate an important part of their own base.

      And instead of this changing, it seem to have become more entrenched in the past few years. Witness the tea party, which is virulently racist. The things that most enthuse the Republican base are the borderline-obvious racist signalling.

  2. I have started to wonder if the Romney campaign, and the big interests supporting conservative spending outside the campaign, feel so confident (or over-confident) that the huge spending advantage their side is likely to enjoy can negate messaging from the other side, even given the advantage of incumbency, and guarantee victory, that they feel no need to, or see any advantage in, "pivoting" to appeal to the "center." They don't, in other words, have to hide the crazies in the attic this time around and can actually bring them on stage and cater to their sensibilities.

    If that is what they think, do you think they have reached this concludion because of solid market research -- or, just as a result of the "closed information loop?"

    As an advertising professional I think most people tend to over-estimate what advertising can accomplish and misunderstand the (limited) ways in which political advertising is effective when it is effective. I would expect people I assume to be as sophisticated, in terms of corporate communications at least, as these people are, to understand those limitations too.

    1. Did you see the biography on Stewart Stevens, Romney's campaign strategist, on TNR? His background is mainly television commercials, with some biographical puff pieces (a la Linda Bloodworth). In the article, Stevens points out that Romney does most of his own strategizing.

      Which would not be neccessarily bad. I imagine, however, that a lot of wealthy CEO's are surrounded by people who don't tell them that they're about to do something stupid.

  3. In Switzerland, where I live, there are (more or less) seven political parties. They do not easily map on a left to right continuum.

    This is so very different from my experience growing up in the US. While there are certainly meaningful differences in policy and approach to government, the whole concept of "polarization" just doesn't fit in a system like this.

  4. I liked that "closed information loop" post when I read it yesterday. I wondered if a similar and somewhat overlapping effect is happening among financial industry/wall street professionals... I read sometimes about how angry they are at Obama for pushing regulations and "class warfare" rhetoric. How do they not understand that the political consensus that supported their growth is falling apart? Pres Romney can't save them in the long run.

  5. Jonathan, I’d agree with you if the conventions actually represented the parties. They don’t. They’re carefully-scripted media-plays controlled by the party nominee. Yes, they transmit information to low-information partisans, but only what the campaigns want them to hear, which isn’t much. You won’t see anything like the Pat Buchanan or William Weld speeches we’ve seen at past conventions. No hint of disagreement is allowed whatsoever. It’s at the point where the party is controlling not just the speakers, but the delegates themselves… some Ron Paul delegates have even been told they must agree, in writing, to not say anything bad about Mitt Romney to anyone.

    The only reason Rand Paul is being allowed to speak is because he has the proven ability to convey his message while not sounding any different than any other Republican (It’s not hard -- every Republican, even Santorum, has a libertarian dog whistle in the pocket.)

    1. Yeah, neither of these 2 political parties has much use for libertarian thinking, that's clear.

      National political conventions are useless. They're like the NFL playing 4 preseason games, which is at least twice more than what they need, and of the complete wrong format. A couple pure scrimmages would be more helpful for them, competition wise.

      Auto Shows have pretty much fallen off the map, these days. No need for them. There are better and more timely ways for auto companies to get their message out, so no need to gather together and bluster once a year.

      Political conventions are similar. They serve no purpose. A weak candidate like McCain may get a bounce from a well received Palin performance, but that is rare. Nothing substantial or worthwhile is happening at these things. They are a charade and a farce.

      Which is why they'll occur again this year, I guess. Charade and farce appears to be what's on the menu this election.

    2. So JB, could a party convention be cancelled? Never planned in the first place. Be replaced by an online convention?


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