2008-08-07

Can we end this "experience" debate?

First rule for observers of the American political scene is to ignore any media analysis that posits a "horse race" meme. Here are several reasons why:

  1. Journalists interpret their commitment to objectivity as requiring them to balance ever positive statement of a candidate with a negative statement. Reporters, anchors and editors fear applying any value metric - that's subjective! - and so they merely present tables of "this helped candidate X; this hurt candidate X.
  2. Media outlets need to sell papers and get ratings. Conflict, division, battle - these are the themes that attract attention from viewers and readers. Witness how early polls that showed Obama with a wide lead were immediately discounted as false.
  3. Focus on an allegedly tight national poll ignores the fact that we do not elect presidents that way; we elect presidents on a state by state basis. And yet even here - where Obama has held a consistent 20 electoral vote lead by the most conservative estimate since the conclusion of the Democratic primary season - the commentary from journalists tend more toward, "why isn't his lead even larger?" This is the classic case of comparing Obama to a "generic" Democrat and saying that he is not doing as well as that "generic" candidate. This ignores the fact that he was not in a contest against a "generic" Democrat, he was in contest with Clinton, Edwards, Biden, Richardson, et al. Then and now he is performing better than any of those candidates.
But I started all of this with a plea to end this senseless debate on "experience". Journalists create this artificial "horse race" meme and then attempt to fill the space with their analysis. Their faith in how they apply "objectivity" causes them to continually posit pros and cons of each candidate and then they answer their own question as to the state of the "horse race" with opinions as to why candidate X is performing not up to their expectations. They have chosen "experience" as one reason for Obama's reportedly lower performance - again compared to that generic Democrat.

Is it not the very definition of insanity to do what "experience" has taught you to do and still expect a different result? We know what experience told us to do when it comes to energy supplies: go to war to obtain the energy resources needed. That is what WWII was all about, was it not? Did we not cement our alliance with the House of Saud as a result of that war? So when two oilmen enter the White House and develop an energy plan in secret - can we not assume that the plan was developed from their experience?

Experience is changing our environment, this is a confirmed fact that we can all see every day. We do not know what the new environment will be and we do not know if we can live in that environment; why should we risk finding out? Why would we bet the lives of our children and all of their children in some selfish quest to do what our experience tells us to do?

We have a need; we can call that need "change", but what we need is to do something new. We cannot do what we did before - what our experience has taught us to do - as that way is the path to death. The human - the animal - instinct for survival compels us to veer off the well-trod path of experience.

McCain wants you to think that Obama is risky. Nothing could be more risky than electing a man who is so incapable of learning something new - of doing something different - that he has his staff "bring him interesting information off the internet."

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1 comment:

Marina said...

Couple of more points about journalists: (1) they prefer arguing about what will happen next rather than to inform and discuss what has happen already;
(2) they try to dampen winning candidate, to depreciate him, to make the fight tighter, to increase public interest. Another aggressive tactic is when it seems like they ask guests with conflicting points of view, but real message is in the question, not in the answers. People think they were given freedom to choose, while they were being brainwashed.