Monday, October 20, 2008

At Last, The October Surprise(s)

Ever since TV became the dominant medium in political races (the Internet is not quite there yet, it's too easy for people to choose sources that only agree with what they already think - although Fox News is certainly trying to leverage that predilection), we've been granted the concept of the "October Surprise". As the election draws nearer, that one bombshell that the opposition has kept in it's back pocket lo these many months gets pulled out and tossed onto the bonfire. With George H.W. Bush it was information strongly suggesting that he had been aware of the guns-for-hostages deal with the Iranians leading into the 1980 election of his running mate, Ronald Reagan. In the end, Willie Horton and the looming threat of black men raping white women throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts won the day, but I'm sure Daddy Bush was sweating for a while (and in fact, the race might have turned out differently had it taken place two weeks prior). 

This weekend, we got not one, but two October Surprises, and these will not only kill John McCain's chances at a presidency, but stand to greatly improve the chances of the Democrats getting a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate of 60 votes (they can no longer count on Lieberman, who is for all practical purposes Republican at this point). 

First up was the revelation that Freddie Mac paid a considerable amount of money to a GOP firm to tank federal regulation in 2005. This was after the entity, long a Democrat stronghold, went under Republican management after the 2004 election. Conservatives have been pointing to Clinton-era legislation as the source of problems in Freddie Mac that in turn led directly to the $700,000,000,000 crisis (plus a few hundred billion here and there for good measure), but it turns out that it was the Republicans putting the last nail in the coffin. While Americans have a lot to be worried about (climate change is arguably the most pressing), we get pretty fussy when there's a leak in the wallet. We also tend to think that if a stock is valued at a given rate that it will only get better and not worse, so when over a trillion dollars in assets disappeared down the rabbit hole recently, we tended to forget that until those stocks are translated into cash, they're just paper. Unfortunately, far too many people chose to live as if that value was somehow guaranteed, and their anger will be focused on whoever they decide is at fault. Given that the Republicans have more or less run the government for the last eight years, this shouldn't be a huge surprise when it's the people in charge.

Note: yes, I'm aware that the Democrats controlled the House for the past two years. They certainly didn't control the Senate. They also didn't have veto power, nor the votes in the Senate to override a veto. Or a filibuster, which the Republicans have been very good at. I find it ironic that it is this very lockstep mentality which served the Republicans so well for so long will be the lever that destroys their power at the Federal level for at least two years. 

The second surprise was Colin Powell's endorsement of Obama. Powell says that race has nothing to do with it, although certainly he understands both how far we've come and how far we have to go in America in that regard. Instead, he claimed that the pick of Sarah Palin showed extremely poor judgement, that McCain has not had a cohesive economic thought yet, and that he did not like the direction of the Republican Party. Given that they tossed him to the UN with marginal (and, eventually, bogus) evidence to make the case for invading Iraq, then tossed him from his position because he wasn't slavish enough while keeping Rumsfeld on, who should have been sacked within two months of the 2003 invasion, I can't say that this isn't a very bittersweet play by Powell, a man who people thought could be our first African-American president. BTW, he had nice things to say about Obama as well, but you know that revenge is a dish best served cold. 

Don't be surprised if Powell doesn't end up with a cabinet post in the Obama administration, maybe even his old one. I don't know if he was actually any *good* at it, mind you, but I could see him being asked. I know he has no desire for elected office, but if there was a "real" American, one who cared about the country rather than his party in the Bush Administration, it was Powell. He has no place in the Republican Party now, any more than Lieberman does with the Dems.

Two weeks before the election, with so much early voting going on (we live in Oregon, which has perhaps the sanest and cleanest balloting system in the country, and so already have our ballots), this was probably the time to make these moves. I have no idea who revealed the Freddie Mac information, and Powell certainly wanted to make as much of an impact as he could. However, even with the polls leveling out (as they do in the weeks right before an election) this thing was over after Palin's first interview with ABC News, and buried after the Couric interview. At that point, the only people Palin was impressing (in a favorable way) were the people with ideological blinders on. 

Barring an equivalent Surprise from the Republicans (and their lack of substantive issues - "socialism" is a joke when your party just socialized private loss), I predict a landslide win for Obama, more than 10 points and a 350+ electoral vote win. I'm not as sure of a filibuster-proof Senate, but I think that there's more hope today than there was yesterday (and it was looking like about a 30% shot then). When it comes right down to it, people will step in the booth, look at the ballot, and say to themselves, "I just can't vote for these clowns again." With that comes the second thought, one I've been having for about two years now, "I sure hope the Dems can do this right, because if they can't we are well and truly screwed." Because there are going to be too many issues we can no longer ignore, one of which would normally be cause for extreme alarm. Now, we have a world that hates us, both other countries and Mother Nature, a financial system that was clearly a house of cards thanks to a lack of regulation and rampant greed, and entanglement in a country we went to war with illegally and immorally that flushes vast sums of money down the drain. We have national debt up to our eyeballs, mostly accrued to pay for said war. There is no more wiggle room in a situation that requires immediate and correct action, and God help us all, regardless of who is in charge, if we don't get it right and get it right pretty damned quick. 

Me, I'm strongly considering buying that compound in the mountains and learning how to operate firearms. 


jkwatson said...

Dug, if you don't already know, you can get your election stats geek on at It's a great site (no, I don't work there, I just obsessively reload it every hour or so).

Dug said...

Thanks, I've already been turned on to the site. It is great, and if nothing else is a fantastic place to learn about polling and how you should be extremely careful about where the information you get is coming from.

Like we haven't (or shouldn't have) already learned that from the Internet. :-/