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How does the Right ever expect to win when they marginalize so many voters? In frequently attempting to define their base as the ‘Real America’ and by smearing everyone else, the Right’s schoolyard bully tactics are divisive and dangerous to the prosperity of our nation’s union.

In a Special Comment above, Keith Olbermann articulates wonderfully how this kind of angry mob mentality does far more to undermine America than the claims of anti-Americanism which get unjustifiably thrown at the Right’s opponents.

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On October 25, 1929, the day after Black Thursday, one of the days signaling the start of the Great Depression, where the Dow Jones lost 9 percent of its value in a single day, Republican President Herbert Hoover announced to the American people: “The fundamental business of the country… is on a sound and prosperous basis.”

Sound familiar? In perhaps the biggest political gaffe since then, just three days ago on September 15, 2008– on the very day now being referred to as ‘Black Monday’, where the Dow collapsed by over 500 points– John McCain, seemingly channeling the restless ghost of Herbert Hoover, declared: “I think still — the fundamentals of our economy are strong.”

The parallels are so frighteningly uncanny that one can’t help but be reminded that history, when forgotten, does repeat itself. In fact, it appears to repeat itself nearly word for word.

And the wheels of irony don’t stop churning there. September 15th wasn’t the first Monday to earn the ghoulish title of ‘Black Monday’. In fact, that title originally belonged to October 19, 1987, where the Dow Jones collapsed, as it did three days ago, by over 500 points, which ended up signaling the start of a massive recession in the late 80’s and early 90’s.

Despite the eerie echoing of McCain and Hoover being quoted side by side, and despite the pun-worthy reminder that nobody likes Mondays, the ominous connections between these three days are perhaps best put into perspective by their most startling relationship. Namely: all three of these events happened at the end of long-held Republican administrations.

In the case of Black Thursday and the eve of the Great Depression, Herbert Hoover was the fall guy for 8 years of previous Republican rule. Republicans Harding and Coolidge held the presidency from 1920-1928, instituting many similar economic strategies as have been implemented by Republican administrations in modern times. Of course, the collapse which occurred in October of 1987 rests at the end of a Reagan administration which had unprecedented economic control, instituting policies occasionally referred to as “Reaganomics”, and which focused on massive deregulation and deconstruction of the social programs created by Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s. Roosevelt’s social reformation was called “The New Deal”– which is what incidentally pulled the country out of the Great Depression. Should we be surprised by an economic collapse instigated by a removal of Roosevelt’s policies?

Reaganomics were, of course, the primary economic inspiration behind the policies of the Bush Administration of the last 8 years, which has unfortunately led us down another doomed road, perhaps already signaling yet another Great Depression.

History has been very clear here: Every time Republican and conservative economic policies are implemented, the results are worse than disastrous: they’re catastrophic. And yet, at frequent historical turns, the American people continually get swindled by the right wing rhetoric. The myth of ‘trickle-down economics’ and the utter destruction of oversight and regulation has never worked.

In a political season supposedly themed by “hope” and “change”, it’s remarkable to me just how closely recent events are paralleled by mistakes and economic blunders of the past. Even in the midst of a monumental economic collapse, John McCain has the naivete to announce that the fundamentals of the economy are still strong. Yes, well, the conservative principles which he extols are certainly still firmly in place. But is anyone honestly still being fooled? Those principles have been convincingly falsified by history again and again.

This time, let’s remember history.

This recent Gallup Poll might be telling us what we already know, but if the U.S. election were held in Europe today, Obama would win in an unprecedented landslide. Undoubtedly, most Americans could care less about what Europeans think; In fact, if anything many Americans probably react to Europe’s opinion by taking a knee-jerk, juvenile opposing opinion, just out of spite. It’s never been clear to me why being respected in the rest of the world is seen as a bad thing by a certain segment of the American populace. I would agree that the favorable opinions of foreigners shouldn’t sway our own opinions, at least not ultimately. But if any particular candidate is seen as significantly unfavorable, especially among our allies in other Western nations, it ought to be a legitimate cause for concern.

And there isn’t much room for ambiguity in these poll results. I mean, in France, only 4% of those polled would rather see John McCain as our next President. Only 4%! I think the only way to read this poll is to read it as a flat rejection of John McCain in Europe. The choice, for Europeans, is already startlingly obvious: Barack Obama is clearly the better candidate.

Meanwhile, millions of Americans will be heading to the polls in a couple of months literally torn between the two candidates. Most recent polls here in America show Obama and McCain neck and neck. I think it’s worth asking, then: Why does the choice seem so easy for Europeans, yet seem so strenuous for U.S. voters? Who is wearing the veil here– us or them?

One thing’s for sure: in Europe they aren’t limited by the American media. The American media has become so nationalistic that it’s nearly impossibly to watch a newscast on cable news, such as on FOX, MSNBC or CNN, without seeing a video animation of an American flag waving in the background. It’s as if the media is utterly terrified of being viewed as anti-American. As a result, most Americans are oblivious to the vast harm the neo-conservative agenda has caused this country and our relationships with the rest of the world. The American media, with its rose, white & blue-colored glasses, just doesn’t report what the rest of the world plainly sees.

It certainly doesn’t hurt their credibility that Europeans (certainly the ones listed in this poll!) have significantly better transportation infrastructures, health care systems, standards of living, educational systems, life expectancy, and stronger currencies. Sure, Europe has its problems too, but I think it’s time to be honest with ourselves and ask: WWED? (What Would Europeans Do?)

Because “more of the same” just isn’t working here in America.

Pew Research Poll

Pew Research Poll

Perhaps the most alarming statistic revealing the average ignorance of the American voter was this Pew Research Poll, conducted about a month ago, which demonstrated that 12% of registered voters still incorrectly believe that Barack Obama is a Muslim. Even more frightening is that this number has remained mostly constant throughout the election season, even throughout the spectacle about Obama’s former Christian pastor, Rev. Wright, which littered headlines everywhere not long ago. This means that there is a block of the American voting public which is not only uninformed now, but which appears to be persistently uninformed.

And this block of voters might be even more numerous than 12%. If we’re using this poll alone as indication, you’ll notice that only 57% of registered voters actually get it right about Obama’s faith. There are a large number of voters who ‘have heard conflicting reports’ or simply aren’t sure yet one way or another (1% actually believe Obama is Jewish!). Of course, this should be an easy fact to check. But instead, it appears that these uninformed voters are not only ignorant, but also resiliently stubborn about their ignorance. Thus, it’s probable that somewhere between 15 and 40 percent of American voters could be placed in a voting block; we might as well call it the ‘Ignorant Vote’.

What all of this really means, shamefully, is that the candidate which can pander best to the ‘Ignorant Vote’ can literally sway the election. And if any political party has learned to feed, grope and spin the cycle of misinformation which tinkers the Ignorant Vote, it is the modern Republican Party. Not only do Republicans tend to consistently gain the favor of the Ignorant Vote, but I’ve no doubt that they consciously target it.

It’s no different here, regarding misinformation about Obama’s faith. Let’s brush aside for a moment that it shouldn’t matter which Abrahamic religion Obama adheres to: The fact remains that among the voters who aren’t sure yet, have heard conflicting reports or who already falsely believe that Obama is a Muslim, the vast majority sway toward voting for McCain as a result. Thus, if Republicans were going to play dirty here, they’d have a propaganda campaign designed specifically around proliferating rumors, misinformation and straight-up lies about Obama’s faith. And, unfortunately, this is exactly what we’ve seen– and in unprecedented, unabashed, explicit force.

Republican pundits everywhere raise the question about Obama’s faith. They continually reinforce stereotypes surrounding Obama’s unusual name and his race. For instance, Republican pundit and talking head, Tucker Carlson, on MSNBC’s Tucker, has been caught claiming that Obama’s faith has become “suddenly conspicuous”. Meanwhile, a book replete with lies and falsehoods, many of which were literally made up out of thin air, was recently published by conservative strategist Jerome Corsi, wherein Corsi attempts to make the case that Obama is really a Muslim (among a slough of other falsehoods and lies, too). This is the same guy who coined the phrase ‘swiftboating’ and who published an equally fraudulent book which courted the Ignorant Vote and derailed the Kerry campaign in 2004. Corsi has also published another book which is aimed at concealing the scientific consensus about the truth of global warming, wherein he goes so far as to question the “truism that oil is a fossil fuel”. I’m not kidding. Meanwhile, conservative radio talk show hosts such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity have repeatedly hosted Corsi as a guest, presenting him as an ‘expert opinion’ on all of these matters. If this isn’t incriminating evidence demonstrating the conservative effort to court and foster the Ignorant Vote, I don’t know what is.

There are at least two possible ways of countering the dirty politics of courting the Ignorant Vote: We can either play dirty back (by spreading rumors and lies which influence ignorant voters in other ways), or we can nobly attempt to educate the American public by telling the truth, hoping to dwindle down the percentages of the ignorant. Since this election season is about hope, I’ll reserve my faith for the latter.

Unfortunately, it seems that Republicans have sputtered off entirely toward the dark side instead, shamefully propagating the politics of “anything goes”. To the extent that democracy relies upon an informed and politically active populace, these conservative strategies are not only dangerous to the Obama campaign– they flagrantly threaten our democracy. So I’m asking you: What do you think could be done to combat these out-of-control attempts to foster and manipulate ignorance among American voters?

One thing that has always dumbfounded me about most people who consistently vote Republican is how they continue to vote as they do despite the fact that it is so obviously against their own interests. Republicans seem to continuously fool their voter base into fervently believing things which are obviously fraudulent. There are numerous examples of this, of course. There’s the myth of the liberal media (which has hidden the very obvious takeover of the media by the Right, nationalistic and corporate interests…); There’s also, of course, the myth of trickle-down economics (which really just fools voters into shifting the cost of government onto themselves rather than the really wealthy– who just send their jobs overseas anyway). These are some of the more obvious examples of false beliefs which, somehow, consistently rally conservative voters.

These conservative dogmas are often most effective when they demonize Democrats and blame them for the false problem. A prime example is the widely held but fraudulent belief that Democrats spend and increase the national debt, whereas Republicans are more fiscally responsible. In fact, I think this lie has become so ingrained into the American consciousness that most Democrats believe it too. But let’s take a real look at how the national debt has been effected over the last 30 years by Republican and Democratic administrations:

Now, conservatives frequently attempt to hide their lies by claiming that these debt increases occurred due to a Democratic Congress or Senate. But in fact, the Senate was controlled by Republicans during the first 6 years of the Reagan Administration, and in 1981 the Democrats lost 35 seats in the House too (7 worse than in the so-called ‘Gingrich takeover’). You’ll notice that in the final years of the Reagan Administration, when Democrats took back some control, new debt decreased dramatically and leveled off compared to the years when Republicans were in control.

When Clinton took over and had a Democratic Congress, in 1993, new debt decreased rapidly, at a sharper rate than spending rose during the Reagan years. That trend was held in dramatic fashion, when the budget was balanced during the Clinton Administration, but it rose again, out-of-control, as soon as Bush took the helm and we were cursed with a Republican President and a Republican Congress. In fact, never has the neo-conservative agenda had more control of both our Legislative and Executive Branches of government as during the first six years of the Bush Administration, and new debt and spending has absolutely shot through the roof in that time, as demonstrated by the chart.

So I ask you: Why do people continue to vote for conservatives with the belief that conservatives are more fiscally responsible? Why do people continue to believe in such falsehoods? How did they ever come to believe such backwards nonsense to begin with?

It’s election season, and that means it’s also campaign advertising season; a contemptible season wrought with doleful cinematic failures. The only explanation for the authorization of these snippets of proliferate misinformation or obvious cliché can be that the folks at Geico already bought up the contracts of anyone with an ounce of advertising wit.

It is therefore an incredible mark of prestige that Barack Obama’s ads have been comparatively good. They are good, certainly, in their quality as ads, but also good in the sense that, so far at least, Obama has been dignified enough to avoid publishing a direct attack ad against McCain. The strategy for the Obama camp has been simple enough: feature his speeches, and use Obama himself as the advertisement’s narrator. Thus, the videos are effective because they’re pointing out a substantive difference between the two candidates: Obama is uniquely charismatic and inspiring. John McCain doesn’t even need to be mentioned.

On the contrary, McCain’s latest campaign advertisements are following the usual disgraceful chicanery: not only are they downright cheesy and horrifically witless, they feature cleverly couched lies and misinformation too. As has been reported en masse, McCain’s latest attack ad compares the celebrity of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton with that of Barack Obama. It’s worth posting the McCain ad here for comedic effect alone:

Yes, folks: that’s the ad that passed through the creative gauntlet and political astuteness of the McCain campaign. That is, not only did this ad have to first gain authorization among (what I assume to be) a slough of other advertisement ideas, but it also warranted such high praise by McCain that it was worth spending campaign money on.

I suppose the idea behind featuring Barack Obama as “the biggest celebrity in the world” is to suggest that somehow it is a negative quality that his speeches have drawn crowds nearing 100,000 supporters, due entirely to the brute force of his political career and the content of his speeches. The ad also overlooks the ironic fact that Britney Spears is a diehard Republican and McCain supporter (although I’m unaware of her opinion now since the release of this ad).

As you’ve just seen, the video progresses (in completely unconnected fashion) from featuring Obama as a charismatic leader to making claims about his energy policies. The oblivious lack of a relevant transition aside, it is crucial to note that some of the claims McCain is trying to sneak in are actually straight up lies. Since the advertisement does not cite its sources (something we need regulation for!), I decided to look into the claim that Obama wants to raise taxes on electricity myself.

A quick and useful resource for fact-checking political claims like this can be found at factcheck.org, and if you’re clicking that link near the time that I’m posting this blog entry, you’ll notice that the relevant article is actually posted right on the top of the page.

It turns out that Obama never claimed to raise taxes on electricity at all. The only possible source for McCain’s advertisement claim comes from a drastic misquote. During an interview once, a reporter asked Obama if he thought it was a good idea to tax clean energy to help pay for education. Obama responded, in completely rational fashion, that such a tax would be a bad idea, and that if any tax on energy would be appropriate, it would be a tax on “dirty” energy like coal, oil or, to a lesser extent, natural gas. But even so, no tax on electricity, not even on dirty energy (perhaps unfortunately so, if you want my opinion), is part of Obama’s plan.

Thus, not only does McCain’s ad fail in wit and cinematic skill, it is also replete with blatant lies.

When the advertisement ends with a sudden musical shift and a supposedly noble, chin-raised McCain approving the message, you have to check yourself from thinking this might actually be an ironic Saturday Night Live skit; a satire of McCain instead.

Aside from displaying the evident lack of creativity and wit of McCain’s campaign team, which an authorization of this campaign ad must imply, by far the most alarming failure is how the advertisement relies upon complete lies, as if there is nothing truthful which can be negatively said about Obama.

Unfortunately the only thing worse than this advertisement itself is the thought that it might actually be effective with some voters. It’s good to see that Obama is refusing to stoop to the level of old-school negative campaign politics, but something more must be done to combat the spread of misinformation that these ads display. ‘Playing nice’ isn’t enough. We need regulations which, at the very least, require political advertisements to cite the sources for all of the claims being made. As nauseous as those fluffy drug advertisements are since being required to list all of their side effects, it is at least a step up over the complete lack of regulation that currently exists for campaign ads.

The most prominent effect of such regulation would be to show just how much Republican and Right Wing tactics actually rely upon lies, misinformation and smear to prop their candidates up. The constant use of such tactics only display the obvious fact that Republicans don’t think they could win otherwise. Which is the likely truth.