Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Obama/McCain's Anti-Bradley Effect

Much has been made of the race card in the current American presidential elections. There are those who contend that America is ready for a black president. There are those who insist that America needs change, but not that much of a change. And there are those who believe that John McCain is about as much change as any nation can reasonably handle.

If you're a fan of change, this election is for you. But if you're a student of history, you may be interested in a seemingly minor phenomenon with potentially huge consequences. The media has termed it The Bradley Effect, in reference to the mayoral elections in Los Angeles, California of the 1960's. At that time, a decidedly pro-white incumbent mayor by the name of Sam Yorty was running for his political life against a black ex-cop named Tom Bradley. Mind you, this was barely a few years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act. Think Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, hippies, peace signs, protest songs, marches on Selma and that sort of thing.

Going into the election, all the polls had Bradley winning hands down. When the smoke cleared, however, it was Yorty who emerged victorious, holding on to his seat for another four years. Clearly, what voters on their way into the booths told pollsters they were going to do differed drastically from what they actually did in the voting booth. Lots of people said they'd be voting for Bradley, but once behind the curtain, couldn't bring themselves to vote for the black guy. That was decades ago. Or was it? In early 2008, pollsters had Barack Obama sweeping the New Hampshire primary election. But by the next morning, Hillary Clinton had sewn it up.

Now, however, there may be a new wrinkle to the old Bradley Effect and it goes like this:

What if all those McCain supporters secretly can't stomach what's happened to the Republican party? The free market, conservative party, supposedly opposed to socialism, that's engineering the biggest Federal bail-out of all time? The party responsible for the war in Iraq? The credit meltdown? High unemployment? The sinking dollar? What if all those Republicans, thoroughly disenchanted with Bush and Cheney, decide to get into that voting booth and stick it to the party that let them down -- by voting for Obama?

It's a lot more possible than you might think. Just ask the angry supporters of Bob Barr and Ron Paul and Ralph Nader. There may be millions of poor Democrats that are mobilized to vote, but you can bet your ever-sinking dollar that pissed off Republicans have much higher percentages of voter turnout. And these are exactly the people who tell pollsters one thing while doing exactly the opposite in private.

Other reasons why the Anti-Bradley Effect could work: The Sarah Palin stunt is, for the most part, over. After the theatrics and media events, there's simply no way she can hold her own against the likes of a Joe Biden. In the public eye, Palin is an easy target for parody -- truly a second generation Dan Quayle -- and things aren't getting better for her. Between public gaffes ("in a Palin-McCain administration....") and the strict management of her few, unscripted public appearances, all indications are that Republicans aren't exactly lining up behind her in legion force.

Hillary supporters lining up for McCain? You're dreaming, pal. That scenario may have been a nice wish, but wasn't even close to reality after Obama took the nomination. And with Palin as McCain's idea of a capable running mate, that dream is fast becoming a nightmare.

Finally, let's play the race card. The question nobody wants to ask is exactly the question that everyone should be asking. Because despite the conventional wisdom, the truth is that non-whites have no problem voting for a non-white candidate; and if you piss enough of them off, white people will vote for a non-white candidate, too.

You want to learn something from the polls? Try not trusting them. It seems to work.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Banking as Child's Play

As America wades its way through the financial muck, you can be sure that media pundits will be doing everything they can to point fingers and assess blame for what is widely perceived to be the meltdown of the richest country on the planet. Rumors of the meltdown, by the way, are greatly exaggerated distortions of the truth. They're not even close to the truth. Because the real problems facing the financial markets have little to do with finance. The real problems go much, much deeper.

If you're a loyal reader of this blog, you may recall a recent post of a similar nature, in which I pointed out how the price of gasoline had absolutely no relation to the supply and demand of oil. I'm happy to report that within a few short weeks of that post, the price of a gallon of gasoline in America dropped from almost five dollars a gallon to roughly three dollars and change -- presumably with less gasoline on hand. Duh. Clearly, there are other effects in play here. And just as with the price of oil, the current financial "crisis" is due to the very same problem:

Our country is being run by children.

Make no mistake, these kids are all in their fifties and sixties, but that just means they're bigger kids with grayer hair and more wrinkles than your garden variety little leaguer. If you take a long, hard look around, you'll see what I mean. Try finding a reporter who asks pointed, important questions along the lines of Edward R. Murrow when he took on red-baiting Senator Joe McCarthy. In fact, try finding any reporter that asks any kind of piercing, intelligent questions that haven't been vetted by his teleprompter. These aren't reporters. These are kids playing on television.

But that's not the worst of it. They say that thirty is the new twenty. Boy, have they got it wrong. It's closer to the truth to say that forty is the new twelve, with supposed adults acting like children: Pursuing their own selfish goals without giving any thought to the public good. You want to know why there are no good, worthy leaders? Because leaders understand the concept of greater vision. They're able to take the long view for everyone's benefit, rather than immediate self-gratification.

Want to really get freaked out? Ask anyone today why they'd run for public office and more often than not, the answer you'll get is "it's a great way to make business connections." Mind you, given the meager pay of most public servants, I have no problem with serving time and then reaping private benefits. I have a problem with serving public time to get the private benefits.

The kids are invading every nook and cranny of our lives. And the scary part is that as real adults die off, these old kids are moving into positions of real responsibility. They're piloting your airplanes, judging your court cases and as all of America is painfully finding out, destroying your banking system. Pity poor Hank Greenberg, the man who spent forty years building AIG, watching his billion dollar net worth evaporate over the course of a few weeks. When Hank left AIG, his fortune was intact. But once he left -- under a murky cloud of circumstances, it's true -- the kids stayed at home with no babysitter to watch them. And they did what kids do best: act irresponsibly.

Well, America, you don't demand accountability, you don't get accountability. What you get is lots of kids, caught with their pants down, pointing blame at one another. Real adults don't do that. In fact, real adults have enough wisdom, foresight and discipline to understand their responsibility to current and future generations.

I've been saying it for years, but nobody has been listening. So now, instead of listening, everyone can feel the pain. Grow up, America. Realize that you can't fight terrorism with loud, fast jets. Understand that oil prices rise because they're driven by market makers. Wake up and smell the coffee -- if your parents will let you drink it.