Friday, October 3, 2008

I Remember 2004

I remember when a single debate was really two debates, where one candidate was debating nothing but issues, and another debater was essentially reading from a transcript various forms of propaganda that never actually addressed the issue. When one candidate was considered boring for actually wanting to discuss substance while another one made strange, false, vague references to intangibles like [lack of] patriotism and elitism. When one candidate was seen as whiny for pointing out with facts how almost everything the opponent said was wrong, while the other opponent was allowed to make up blatant falsities that were left unchecked by both the media and the American people.

But before you say that 2008 is exactly like 2004, I don't believe it is. Back in 2004, "have a beer with" was still considered a qualification. It was a time where enough Americans assumed things were going smoothly that they were able to believe that issues were less important than character, and in 2004, Bush had the character, Kerry had the issues.

It was that belief that gave Bush that election, and - in my opinion - it is that belief that was essentially shat on when Bush continued to suck at his job. That is not to say that there aren't large numbers of people that still view intelligence as a negative quality - they are still there, probably at least a fourth of the country - but these days they are in much more of a minority. In this election, they matter less.

So when Sarah Palin decided to bring out the "Gosh golly gee willickers" into the debate, what would have worked in 2004 I do not believe is going to work this year. That is not to say that the country is more intelligent - not at all. Just that they are more hesitant. They need to be convinced that someone is going to be capable before they are able to accept their character. Not that capable, mind you, but more capable than the president needed to be in 2004.

After the Couric interviews, among other things, Palin fell far below the baseline of "capable." Far below. So with today's debate, she couldn't bank on the character aspect. She needed to win back confidence.

And she didn't. All she did was read scripted answers without substance that did not establish her as a qualified individual. She may have reaffirmed the belief in some die hard republicans that had doubted her after her recent blunders, but a small gain is not what she needed, and certainly doesn't help McCain win the election.

With these debates, sometimes the winner is simply the lesser loser. Though I believe Biden did a good job without any major blunders, even if you assume he just did "okay" I would argue that Palin did below that, and Biden won the debate, because "Gosh Golly" isn't cutting it anymore.

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