Friday, November 07, 2008

Thank God, they've got this sorted out

Wikipedia has needed this for ages

In related news, the Guardian blog recently changed its software. Some contributors were a bit slow on the uptake for this, and kept submitting articles to the old platform, where they linger forever in an unnoticed queue. One of those articles is by Alan (presumably NTM) Johnson, dated 6 October, and is tantalisingly called "Groucho Marx and Palin Derangement Syndrome". Presumably it will never see the light of day, but I suspect that it would be of genuine interest to future historians as a document of "The Sarah Palin Moment", when otherwise rational people managed to convince themselves that Palin was what the McCain ticket needed to push it over the top, and that therefore they needed to get their ducks in a row with sniping essays at the snobbish liberal left for always looking down its nose at pig-ignorant, book-banning creationists and therefore hating the working class. I think that this "moment" was comprised of one part boilerplate anti-intellectualism, two parts middle-aged judgement lapse at the sight of a pretty face, and three parts the well-documented unerring ability of Decents to jump on the wrong bandwagon. But I suspect that, as with the death of Princess Diana, lots of people will rewrite history when it comes to remembering what they actually thought and felt during those strange ten days, and it will all disappear into a mixture of false memory and "what the fuck was that all about?"

I therefore invite AW (i"WoD") readers to speculate in comments about what "Groucho Marx and Palin Derangement Syndrome" might have said. I suspect that the Groucho connection will have had something to do with not wanting to be part of a Left that didn't include the rednecks or some such - humourless academics very rarely know anything about Groucho (who was an outright genius, by the way, much much better than PG Wodehouse) other than that he said that thing about clubs.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd never come across 'Bush Derangment Syndrome' before, apparently it is a term coined by conservatives in the US to describe:

a hatred by some, including American liberals, of President George W. Bush and his policies. This supposedly leads to reflexive opposition to any position advocated by Bush for no other reason than that Bush happens to be advocating it.

Something Decents clearly think that some of their opponents suffer from. BUT:

I think that this "moment" was comprised of one part boilerplate anti-intellectualism, two parts middle-aged judgement lapse at the sight of a pretty face, and three parts the well-documented unerring ability of Decents to jump on the wrong bandwagon.

I think there's a fourth part - inspired by a belief in Bush Derangement Syndrome - which is a Decent tendency to think that anyone who criticises an American, especially an American who gets fairly bad press in the UK, is motivated by a hatred and misunderstanding of the USA and its people; thus, Palin can't be that bad, and is worthy of support, because 'anti-americans' dislike her. The logic makes little sense, and the Groucho reference seems pointless, but plus ca change.

So we can assume that NTM was defending Palin on the 6th October. The utterly disastrous Couric interview was on the 24th September. the VP debate - by her standards an ok performance - was on the 2nd October, but the damage had already been done, she was already unpopular outside the Rove-designed base, and the 6th was when she assumed the identity of the 'attack dog', that ruined the McCain campaign for good. Neat timing from Alan NTM.

11/07/2008 04:06:00 PM  
Blogger donpaskini said...

Teh google offers one suggestion about how Groucho Marx might be related to Palin Derangement Syndrome.

'Bookworm Room', which appears to be a generic kind of American wingnut blog, has a post which "argues":

'I always assumed that the Left’s hostility to any efforts in the war against terrorists (”can’t we all get along?”) was a byproduct of Bush Derangement Syndrome, a la Groucho Marx’s “Whatever you’re for, I’m against it.”'

So I think there is less to see here than you might think and NTM just copied out the talking points from one of the posts of his nice American friends and recycled them for the Comment is Free audience.

It is less likely to be the case that the article is a reference to Groucho Marx's quote that "Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies."

11/07/2008 04:06:00 PM  
Blogger donpaskini said...

For example, I think NTM's article probably was a shorter version of this:

"The all-out assault on the genuine and likable Palin is certainly a blessing in disguise for the Republican Party. Not only is it galvanizing Republicans, but the nasty tone and hysterical nature are turning off potential Democratic voters...But Obama's worst enemy is not himself, or even Sarah Palin, but rather, the ranks of his own rabid supporters. If they keep it up, McCain could be laughing all the way to the White House."

11/07/2008 04:12:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

As I recall, the term "can't we all get along?" actually entered US political discourse when uttered by Rodney King in an call to bring the Los Angleses riots to a close.

11/07/2008 04:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Obama's worst enemy is not himself, or even Sarah Palin, but rather, the ranks of his own rabid supporters.

almost word for word the sentiment of Nick Cohen's article on Palin, too.

11/07/2008 04:44:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11/07/2008 05:49:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Yes, Cohen certainly went guns blazing for her opponents. Harry's Place in that unique way of its managed to get on both sides of the argument wrongly - imagining that liberals reaction to Sarah Palin had lost the election, and the same day or thereabouts had exactly the reaction they were criticising.

Sorry, typo.

My view, FWIW, was that another explanation for PDS was anti-Americanism showing itself as low expectations. A lot of those criticising criticism of her seem essentially to believe that every American is ignorant, has no interest in foreign affairs, believes in evolution and likes hunting, and therefore to criticise those things in Palin was to criticise being American itself, even if they personally didn't believe in any of them.

11/07/2008 05:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's true that most Americans don't travel. Another reason that Obama was special was that he'd spent some of his childhood in Indonesia. And only 16 years ago, Bill Clinton's time in Oxford looked cosmopolitan.

As for hunting: Alaska has wolves. We haven't. We have stories about wolves (like Little Red Riding Hood) because there used to be wolves in Europe. I'm currently reading Bob Woodward's "State of Denial" (about Iraq, though the title is perfect for Egypt). George Bush snr keeps being reported as believing that his son has screwed up. But he won't say anything: W should make his own mistakes. I sort of admire the maturity and the strength needed not to intervene. I possess neither, because I kept thinking something like, "For fuck's sake, tell him!" Likewise hunting and wolves. (We know better through our mistakes, if I have to spell it out.)

Totally agree with Matt about low expectations, BTW. Until I read this (and the linked article), I believed that Palin was picked when she was for two reasons: 1) she was female, and the McCain camp hoped to pick up women who felt slighted by the defeat of Hillary; 2) she had a son going to Iraq, so she had invested (as it were) in the war as much as Joe Biden. (Whatever anyone says, I still like Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11". The observation that none of the neocons' families were on the front lines still works for me.) But, well, apparently not. And she's really stupid. (Good comments: Considering that Palin is supposed to be some sort of “Christian,” I must say that using “leper” as a term of abuse is the most bizarre response to the New Testament I have seen in my life, and I’ve seen a few. and Relish not the quality of the mud itself, but the fervency of the slinging.) And ... not honest. The McCain campaign found out last week when the aides sought reimbursement. One aide estimated that she spent "tens of thousands" more than the reported $150,000, and that $20,000 to $40,000 went to buy clothes for her husband. Some articles of clothing have apparently been lost. An angry aide characterized the shopping spree as "Wasilla hillbillies looting Neiman Marcus from coast to coast," and said the truth will eventually come out when the Republican Party audits its books.

Rove. Bonus mind-blowing stuff. Obama has appointed Rahm Emmanuel his Chief of Staff. (RE allegedly inspired Josh Lyman - Deputy CoS in the West Wing.) Emanuel was a civilian volunteer in the Israel Defense Forces during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, serving in one of Israel's northern bases, rust-proofing brakes. (See how much Obama hates Israel, his first appointment is not only Jewish, he went to Israel in his 30s when he had a career, when he believed it to be in danger.) Alan Johnson is much the same age. Tune in to Democratiya for the continuing tale of how the anti-Semitic, spineless, fascist Dems all hate Israel. (One of Bush's closest advisors and friends was Crown Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia ("Bandar Bush") who kept the pressure up to support the Palestinians.)

11/07/2008 07:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The idea that Groucho was much better than Wodehouse is simply bizarre--they weren't even in the same line of work. Groucho didn't write his own lines in his films--the best were written by SJ Perelman, who was a fine humor writer and essayist, but no Wodehouse.

11/07/2008 08:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, I will defend that assertion. Read, for example, "The Groucho Letters". Groucho Marx was a master of prose as well as vaudeville, and wrote most of the really good lines in the Marx Brothers films.

11/07/2008 10:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Semi-relatedly, I think there might be some interest in discussion of the winning coalition that Obama assembled as it relates to the Decents' view of politics.

It's long been an article of faith among New Democrats and New Labour - and, by extension, the Decent Left - that the key swing demographic without which the left cannot win elections, is the soi-disant 'white working class' - in America, disproportionately found in rural areas or small towns, "hardworking", "decent", pro-gun, socially conservative, probably a bit racist (or rather "with very real concerns" about immigration etc), and definitely not in the market for the type of urbane, metropolitan, multi-racial, anti-war liberal politics exemplified by Obama.

This election result has basically blown this notion out of the water, in that the "swing voters" in question loyally backed McCain as they had done Bush, but were numerically overwhelmed by the expansion of the metropolitan vote in places like Virginia, North Carolina and so on, as well as Hispanic voters in the south west and an increased turnout among young voters and African-Americans in the cities. Obama also ran on a, by American standards, solidly centre-left platform, with very little of the type of pandering to the right which Clinton and Blair perfected in the 90s.

I know that the Decent Left swung by Obama in the end, but it is worth emphasising that his success is basically a repudiation of the type of politics which Decentists on both sides of the Atlantic spent much of the Bush era advocating - not just in his opposition to the Iraq war but in his entire electoral strategy. The archetype of the 'real' American voter who wins and loses elections no longer applies, and with it goes the rationale for much of the Decents' policy agenda.

11/07/2008 11:44:00 PM  
Blogger Captain Cabernet said...

the "swing voters" in question loyally backed McCain as they had done Bush, but were numerically overwhelmed

I don't think this is true. Obama did better among white voters than other recent Dems.

11/08/2008 08:48:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Oh God, The West Wing. Another one in the list "obviously high quality but utterly unwatchable" list.

11/08/2008 09:47:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I don't think this is true. Obama did better among white voters than other recent Dems".
Well, by a couple of percentage points, but Simon's argument stands. Obama showed immense political imagination, a quality utterly lacking on the Decent left (take the hapless David T, who believes Howard Dean to be an irredeemable ultra-left). For years we were told that only a conservative white man could win the South for the Democrats - and faced with a choice of conservative white men, the Southern electorate almost always stuck with the reliable Republican one. Obama's imaginative strategy won him Virgina, North Carolina and Florida, achievements beyond the wildest dreams of the dull Democratic Leadership Council plodders.

11/08/2008 10:39:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

I've not seen any definitive study on race and voting - the Economist today says that Obama lost the white vote 43-55, but got 'amost exactly' the same share as the last 3 white democrat candidates. That would support Simon's assertion. But CNN's exit poll has Bush/Kerry 58-41 on whites (and the same proportion of voters) whilst it has McCai/Obama 55-43, so there is some improvement. It's not huge though.

CNN also have non-college-educated-whites as voting 58-40 in favour of McCain, one of the largest pro-McCain splits they have. I can't see a similar 2004 result.

Interesting on the split by income, in 2004 every group from 15k below, to 200k above, voted increasingly for Bush. this time it's not quite like that - Obama leads massively up to 50-75k, which Mccain takes, then Obama takes 75k-100k, McCain 100k-150k-200k (all of these are by just a few % points) and then Obama takes by 6% points the 200k plus, one which Bush had by 28% points. I think that's 2% of obama's swing there.

11/08/2008 10:42:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"anti-war liberal politics exemplified by Obama"

Obama wants an extra 90K troops to carry on the good fight in Afghanistan. And Pakistan if they get OBL in the crosshairs.


11/08/2008 12:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know, I was using 'anti-war' as shorthand for his Iraq war opposition, which the Decents for many years would have had us believe was terribly Unserious (cf Howard Dean), but which propelled his candidacy in the early stages.

Back to my point, I think this map is quite instructive, demonstrating as it does that there was a notable swing against Obama in areas roughly corresponding with Appalachia. The key one is West Virginia - this is a very white working-class state which used to lean strongly Democrat (and still does at state and congressional level) but voted for Reagan once, Bush jr twice and strongly for McCain this time.

It was a common trope among New Democrats that they could not win elections without this type of state. The Obama campaign instead pursued a strategy of courting urban and suburban voters in expanding metropolitan areas, which put states like VA and NC in play in a way they had not been for decades. The possible increase in support among white voters doesn't necessarily negate this - many of these would be voters who either didn't vote last time or were more closely split between Bush and Kerry, but this time went overwhelmingly for Obama.

I'm not saying it's a good thing that states like WV were resistant to Obama's charms, but much of the Decent political philosophy is based around the idea that parties of the left ought to pursue the (usually imagined) interests of this type of "swing voter". This is a philosophy which claims to be pragmatic ('we can't win elections without these people') but, like all Decent politics, is plainly ideological.

Because the ostensible Decent/New Democrat pragmatism is no longer borne out by the electoral facts, it makes it much harder to argue for their brand of politics.

Incidentally, I'm not saying that this shift in electoral geography is necessarily a good or bad thing, just a thing which has knocked the received wisdom on its head.

11/08/2008 04:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From, BO beat Kerry among white men by 41 to 37, and I think Gore did similarly to Kerry. A significant increase but indeed probably a small factor compared to improved turnouts from non-whites and young people. 18-29 year olds went from 54 for Kerry to 66 for BO. (And Catholics from 47 to 54.)

I am intrigued that there hasn't been more media focus on Howard Dean this week. From what I've read over the past few years, he really does deserve a huge amount of credit for the Obama victory.

11/08/2008 04:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OT, but as promised -

On Thursday evening I went along to the launch of Conor Foley's book Thin Blue Line, which took the form of a debate on humanitarian intervention and Western foreign policy between Foley, Oliver Kamm and Dennis McShane (who had to leave early so I won’t dwell on his contribution).

Although I previously trailed it as a "bunfight" it was actually a very civilised and respectful discussion. Foley started off by giving a brief history of humanitarianism since the action to protect the Kurds in Northern Iraq in 1991 and a bit of his own history. He said that the debate about intervention is often polarised between the more muscular liberal interventionists on the one hand and the "anti-imperialists" on the other, whereas in truth that intervention can sometimes be neccessary and successful and sometimes misguided. He mentioned Kosovo as an example of the latter, which I guess may be a controversial view for some, although my own knowledge of this particular topic is (shamefully) inadequate. He said that humanitarianism is always a difficult business and humanitarian workers are forever facing difficult dilemmas. He spoke about the need for humanitarian organisations to remain neutral in order to guarantee access to the areas where they are needed.

He was unsurprisingly critical of politicians, citing the frequent gulf between the experience of those people on the ground and the pronouncements made by those in power, which can often be dangerous, for example with the posturing about parachuting aid into Burma which could have made it very difficult for those on the ground. He made a plea for politicians to listen more to those on the front line before speaking out and taking action.
He then laid into David Miliband in particular for saying that the British would intervene in future with the authority of multilateral institutions "where possible", the implication being that the governments was prepared to act even if it was outside international law.

Kamm actually came across quite well - his good humour and reasonableness probably would have been a disappointment to some of his head banging supporters at HP. He praised Foley's book and said that although he disagreed with parts of it it was necessary and useful, and he made a couple of interesting points about neo-conservatism. He admitted that intervention has its problems but pointed out the problems in the past caused by Western non-intervention (Rwanda) and complicity with tyrants (Mobutu). He (surprise) praised Blair's Chicago speech in 1999 and defended the action in Kosovo, saying that the West had no option but to react to what was a "naked land grab" by Serbia.

He made the point that the problem with international law is the lack of a body capable of enforcing it, pointing out the failings of the UN and the fact that it does not exercise sovereignty. His solution though was for the world to rely on the power of the US to ensure the stability of the world order, by use of both diplomatic and military means. This is obviously a contentious view to say the least but there is to me a genuine problem about how to maintain the primacy of international law and at the same time ensure that when action is genuinely required it can be taken, when it is subject to veto at the UN which is not always made in good faith. Foley pointed out that the “responsibility to protect” doctrine could be used as possible basis for legal intervention in teh absence of specific UN authority but that it is a complicated area.

Ultimately a lot of questions were left open and the debate could have gone on much longer but it was an interesting evening.

11/08/2008 06:48:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

Strange Interlude

Groucho worked with all the writers as a team (like the team of writers on the Simpsons for example) but couldn't be listed as a writer for contractual reasons. So he wasn't just reading another writer's lines by any stretch of the imagination. Interestingly and in light of more fatuous comments by Cohen today, the Marx Bros were wiped out, cash-wise, in the Wall St Crash and Grouch put together this amazing soliloquy in "Animal Crackers" 1930 and alludes to the 1929 crash. He parodies Eugene O'Neill's "Strange Interlude". If you watch it, Groucho raises his eyebrows forlornly as he talks about "weird figures, strange figures" and then reads out stock prices.
Wonderful stuff.

11/09/2008 03:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Slightly OT, but this may be of interest:

Like Mad Mel on steroids. My word.

11/10/2008 10:16:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Christ. I thought of late he was becoming more sane again. But that's loopy. He's even changed his name to Peter.

11/10/2008 03:37:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

I was hoping that would continue drove-old-dixie-down

11/10/2008 03:54:00 PM  

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