Sunday, October 02, 2011

Only ordinary distortion ...

Jack Kelly today engages in what I would call only an ordinary level of distortion of reality, an ordinary level of misinterpreting statistics to try to mislead his readers. Kelly's basic assertions are that a) the President is in trouble with voters according to polls, b) that Republicans are not as hated as liberals would like to say and c) that Herman Cain is actually a viable candidate. All these statements are, to some extent, true, although in my opinion they are not an accurate portrayal of reality.

How much trouble is the President in? Well, obviously, a fair amount. Any time you have to explain how we misunderstood "Yes we can" to Americans, as Van Jones did on Bill Maher's Real Time, that's a bad sign. Jones explanation, by the way, was the phrase is yes we can, not yes I can, which I find somewhat persuasive. This President has shown an almost pathological need to at least thwart the accusations of conservatives that he is a socialist, if not actually be appreciated by Republicans for moving more than half across the center to show bipartisanship. Maybe Obama feels he needs to be liked by people who dislike him. Maybe that's why he has returned to the campaign rhetoric, to win back now disaffected Democrats.

Maybe, and really I don't care, as long as Obama pushes policies that help the economy. But one thing I have to say is that we can count on Republicans not to propose anything that will help unemployment, which brings us to Kelly's second thought. I am not a registered Republican, I would not be among the 11 percent that are very dissatisfied with the current field (although I would find Michele Bachmann somewhat insulting to me). I searched and found (despite Mr. Kelly's usual lack of citation for his references) polls from Suffolk University. The one I looked at (which might be the one Kelly looked at, or slightly more recent). In that poll, the callers somehow reached a population that was only 9% Democrat and 87% Republican or Independent. Maybe that's reality in New Hampshire, or maybe they had a way of polling people who vote in the Republican primary. Either way, about 30% of those polls were moderately or very dissatisfied with the field of Republican candidates. I just suspect that by late October next year, after the debates and assuming nothing dramatic happens, Barack Obama will have looked more competent in the debates (assuming he finds a way to finesse the questions about his own Presidential performance) than who ever the Republican candidate is.

Which is my sort of long range response to the viability of Herman Cain as a candidate. Kelly's points that Cain's lack of political office experience doesn't have to be a negative is a reasonable one, although Cain will have to be an exceptional debater to persuade a majority of Americans that his understanding of the complexity of our problems is the same as their understanding. Which is to say that if Herman Cain wants to sell our problems as "simple", he will have to convince us to ignore any complexity that others might raise. Maybe he can, but I wouldn't think that was a good bet. Yeah, stranger things have happened, (even to say Reagan and Clinton) but I would take that bet.

Which really applies to all the Republican candidates. Unless the Republican is willing to beak with the party and offer a plausible jobs plan (and I wonder how they would pay for it), then the current party inclination is to ignore the unemployed (as a policy matter) and essentially shift even more wealth to the rich. While Kelly says that Democrats can't win on issues, I don't think the Republicans can win on their own issues. We'll all see.

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