How To Lose An Election (By An Acknowledged Expert)

The Democrats have pretty much settled on their general election theme: a John McCain presidency would equal George W. Bush’s third term. However, I hope they will reconsider, and take the lead of noted loser George McGovern, who thinks the path to victory lies in ridiculing John McCain’s service to his country:

If I’d be allowed just one little dig at Senator McCain, since he gave me. I would say, ‘John, you were shot down early in the war and spent most of the time in prison. I flew 35 combat missions with a 10-man crew and brought them home safely every time.’

Wow…stunningly crass. Let’s turn it over to the MinuteMan:

Right. John Sidney McCain saved a fellow pilot’s life in the Forrestal accident, recovered from his own wounds, and was eventually shot down on his 23rd mission in 1967.

Sometimes I wonder if the Democrats, in a bit of electoral masochism, LIKE losing elections…

UPDATE 10:46 p.m.: Unrelated, but not worth a post on its own merits: I predicted Hillary by 9…the final margin was 9.2.  Yeah, yeah, so that and $3.50 will buy me a gallon of gas…

28 comments to How To Lose An Election (By An Acknowledged Expert)

  • Aaron

    This, and Ryan’s earlier ridiculous assertion that any Democratic candidate could beat McCain in 2008 reminds me of analysis performed by James Taranto last year. Mr. Taranto pointed out that Democrats suffering from BDS in 2004 made the same assumption about George W. Bush. They thought that since they hated George Bush so much, everyone else must hate, or at the very least dislike him too much to vote for him, as well. Hence they assumed they had already won the election.

    Now Democrats are assuming that people will look at John McCain and see Bush, because that’s what they see. They also think they can rely on the generic ballot polls from January in which any Democrat beat any Republican by double-digits.

    But John McCain is not just any Republican. He polls so well with independent voters, not only does he blow Obama out of the water in Florida, they’re even tied in MASSACHUSETTS!

  • [...] wrote an interesting post today on How To Lose An Election (By An Acknowledged Expert)Here’s a quick excerpt…presidency would equal George W. Bush’s third term. However, I hope they will reconsider, and take the lead of noted loser George McGovern… [...]

  • Ryan

    They’re tied in Massachusetts because McCain isn’t running against anyone yet. McCain is tied with two Democrats who are savaging each other while he strolls around merrily spouting nonsense that no one listens to. As soon as it becomes clear that this man is in love with a war that 60-70% of the country wants ended, he will be utterly finished. I can’t wait for this election. It was fun to watch Republicans get smacked around in 2006; it’s going to be sheer glee this time. I am going to love watching the looks on the faces of these subhuman monsters when they are summarily turned out of their jobs.

  • Ryan

    The best analogy I’ve seen compared McCain to an internet stock circa 1999: great numbers, lousy fundamentals. As soon as his bubble bursts, this is going to be a rout. I will be back to chant “I told you so” at the top of my lungs.

  • Chris J. Breisch

    It’s very possible that Ryan’s right, but for all the wrong reasons. McCain’s biggest liability right now is his inability to raise money at the same rate as his opponents. Obama has a giant edge in money. Clinton has a huge one herself. You can make up a lot of points in the polls with enough money.

    And, there’s always the 10% MSM boost as well.

    And McCain himself brought up a very good point the other day. He was asked if the extended primary season is hurting his Democrat foes. He pointed out that the extended primary has enabled Democrats to register new voters in unprecedented numbers. That can’t be a good thing for any Republican in November.

  • Ryan

    The 10% MSM boost? Are you attributing a media advantage to the Democrats? Seriously? Against knight in shining armor McCain?

  • Bob from Ohio

    What I love loathe about Ryan is his restrained use of language: McCain is insane, Republicans are inhuman monsters.

  • Aaron

    It’s true that Obama has the edge in money, but even a 3-1 ratio in spending still didn’t win PA for him.

    But again, Ryan proves my point: he assumes that because he has a one-track mind and can think of nothing than his irrational desire to see genocide in the Middle East (the inevitable result of a swift US withdrawal from Iraq), he assumes that every American who disapproves of the war has an Iraqi bloodbath as their number one goal in 2008.

    I’m not saying that a McCain loss is impossible or that it will be easy for him to beat Obama, but a loss for McCain is by no means inevitable.

    If Obama can pick up 17 electoral votes more than the Democrats in 2004, then he’ll win the election, but where is he likely to get them? Currently, the electoral map looks about the same as it did in 2004 — OH and FL going GOP, while PA, MI, and WI are for Obama, and everything but Florida is within the margin of error.

    But it’s unlikely that people will all of a sudden realize that McCain is more supportive of the war than they are — it’s not as if McCain is some political unknown who wasn’t a household name in 2003, or even as if he’s kept his views on the war low key or ambiguous. McCain has been clear and vocal in his support for the war, everyone who’s been paying attention(which is almost everyone who will be voting in November) knows where he stands, and — Guess What! — it hasn’t hurt him. Or more precisely, he is unlikely to sustain any more damage over the war than he already has. If it hasn’t killed his candidacy already, chances are that it won’t.

    Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that the Democrats will be nominating a monkey — Kucinich has already droppsed out — so Ryan’s previous delusions cannot be proven wrong, per se.

  • Ginger

    The reason McCain and Obama are tied in MA is that in 2006 we elected Deval Patrick on his “Together We Can” platform and it has been a total disaster. The only thing he has done is upgrade his official car to a Caddy and re-decorate his office. I’m a life long Republican and I’ve been shocked at how many of my Dem friends have expressed remorse for voting for this guy.
    MA went for Hillary in the primary probably for the same reason – and that was AFTER Deval, Teddy Kennedy and John Kerry had ALL endorsed Obama. Electing an empty suit with big promises of “Yes We Can” just gets you an empty suit.

  • Ryan

    Bob: Republicans think it’s okay to torture people. That makes them inhuman monsters. It’s pretty simple.

    Aaron: You call it genocide, I call it ethnic sorting. It’s loathsome either way, and it’s happening/happened either way. The United States military manifestly cannot solve the world’s problems – it has spectacularly failed to do anything of the sort since 2003, and has made several such problems quite a bit worse – and pretending otherwise in the face of 60-70% Americans understanding the truth is a pretty good recipe for defeat. That McCain doesn’t fare worse thus far has a lot more to do with the fact that no one is running against him than anything else. Give it time; as soon as the Democrats have a nominee, this thing is over.

    As for the map, surely you jest. Obama will win New Mexico, Colorado, Ohio, Iowa, and Virginia – at least. Nevada and Missouri are also in play. In fact, since I suspect McCain is about as horrible as he seems on the fundamentals, I fully expect several more states – North Carolina perhaps? – to be very competitive. This one will not be close.

  • peter

    Not all Republicans think it’s OK to torture people. John Ashcroft and John McCain, to name two.

  • McCain voted against enjoining the CIA from torturing people.

    John Ashcroft attended meeting where the details of the torture regimen to be inflicted on “high value” detainees was discussed in elaborate detail. He barely raised a murmur, and now seems more than a little touchy about the subject.

    If they don’t think it’s OK to torture people, they sure have a funny way of showing their disapproval.

  • Jacques, sorry – I’ll look for and rescue your comment. Ryan, you would raise your credibility around here tremendously if you would avoid such laughably extreme statements as “Republicans like to torture people”…

  • Aaron

    I would think McCain more likely to win in NM and CO. McCain is fairly popular with Latinos and Obama is fairly unpopular by the standards of their respective parties. It is the rise in Latinos that has caused the improved Democratic strength in these states. Thus, a McCain-Obama competition should neutralize those gains.

    McCain beats Obama in OH (by more than Obama beats him in PA and WI), while losing to Hillary there. VA is a toss-up, as are PA and WI; while McCain is currently behind, according to the RCP averages, he’s within the margin of error. I do think that Obama is likely to pick up IA and NV. However, a number of states that Kerry won are also in play: I already mentioned MA and NJ is polling even closer than PA and WI. And a Marist poll from a couple of weeks ago shows McCain beating Obama by 2% in NEW YORK.

    Again, don’t misunderstand me; I am by no means saying that a McCain victory is inevitable, I agree that it is likely that once Obama does eventually secure the nomination, he will get a bounce, and I would be surprised if all 25% of Clinton supporters and 60% of Catholic PA Democrats who currently say they will never vote for Obama actually kept their word. Are the MA and NY polls that show a McCain victory in those states at least as likely as an Obama one outliers? Probably. All I’m saying is Democrats will do themselves no favors assuming that their victory is inevitable.

    Obama is essentially running on the McGovern coalition (you might remember how well it did the first time around). The fact that he’s running in what should be a Democratic year makes a victory with such a coalition feasible, perhaps even likely, but it is by no means guaranteed.

  • Aaron

    Here’s a Wikipedia table of recent poll results if you don’t believe me.

  • Ryan

    Mark: In my partial defense, I didn’t say “like” – I said “think it’s okay”. And the Republican Party leadership, as currently constituted, does in fact think torturing people is okay. This is not a stretch or the crazy conspiracy theory of a lunatic; it is a documented fact that the President, with the continuing consent of his party, has allowed the United States military to perform techniques which have been considered torture by every previous adminstration, the Geneva Conventions, and the UN in general. Mark, I realize you don’t like the intemperance of my remarks on this issue, but the reality is that my government -of the people, by the people, for the people? – is committing an act that I consider deeply and manifestly inhumane. My President and his administration are war criminals. Exactly how much should I moderate my tone in response to that?

    As for McCain and Ashcroft, Jacques made the point just fine. McCain, as usual, is great at talking the talk and utterly worthless at actually doing anything of value.

    Aaron: Obviously we disagree, and I think the major factor is that current polls just don’t properly characterize the race. There is no Democratic nominee and McCain does not have to face any opposition research or attack ads or media scrutiny of any kind (not that he’ll ever get media scrutiny – that may be a lost cause). I suspect his numbers are about 5-10 points too high across the board. For instance, there is quite simply no way that McCain is actually competitive in New York or Massachusetts. The dynamic will change substantially once Clinton drops out.

  • Ryan, you didn’t say “Republican Party leadership”, you said “Republicans”. That’s a broad-based smear, not a serious argument. And let’s not get carried away.

    You, Jacques, and millions of other Americans would make a (quite principled and perfectly defensible) argument that torture is a slippery slope that allows no exceptions. I don’t fault you for that.

    The facts are, however, that three detainees, very high up the al-Qaeda food chain, were waterboarded. Now, under the quite defensible slippery slop argument, that’s three too many. But it’s hardly the Spanish Inquisition.

    Do I mean this as a defense of torture? No…rather, I am calling for a little proportionality in the rhetorical response to it.

    Let’s save ‘inhuman monsters’ as an epithet for, oh, Hitler, Stalin, or those 19 bastards that flew those planes, and call the Republican leadership ‘rash’, ‘wrong’, or even, if you must (though this is not my sentiment) ‘criminal’ in what they did…I think we’ll get further debating these issues if we don’t go of the rhetorical deep end…

  • Only three people waterboarded?

    That’s great (if true).

    Hundred have been severely beaten, or subjected to treatment that, by existing legal standards, amounts to torture. Dozens have died in the process. Doubtless, they were all “high level” Al Qaeda operatives, like that Afghan cab driver.

    These are, of course, the folks we know about.

    I presume the ghost detainees, that we don’t allow the ICRC to see, are subjected to far worse. And let’s not forget that (as with much of our manufacturing), we’ve taken to outsourcing torture to other countries, who can do it cheaper and more efficiently.

    Is Bush Hitler? No.

    But I used to think we aspired to a higher standard than that.

  • Speaking of rhetorical deep ends, yet another comment of mine was sandbagged by your spam filter.

  • too many steves

    I demand to see these comments that the spam filter deems offensive!

    Read my lips: McCain will not will MA. Despite the truth of Ginger’s comments, the bumbling inadequacy of Deval Patrick will have no material affect on Obama’s ability to win the State – even given the similarity of their vacuous catch phrases. Aside from Ronald Reagan, this State doesn’t go for Republican presidential candidates.

  • Aaron

    Yeah. McCain won’t take either MA or NY. I just think that the fact that there’s even one poll showing that it’s close, much less a tie, in what should be an overwhelmingly Democratic year is an indication that it’s by no means impossible for McCain to win.

    On that note . . .

  • Ryan

    Mark, it’s the SAME principle as the Spanish Inquisition. Torturing a human being isn’t something you do by accident or because you get carried away; it’s a crime against God and humanity. Yes, torturing more people is worse than torturing fewer people, but torturing a single person is going too far. It’s monstrous. People who torture other people are monsters.

    I’m not interested in having a “serious” argument about what constitutes torture or how much is acceptable. Every previous administration, as well as all of international law, have rejected waterboarding as beyond the pale. That we’re even at a point where we can discuss torture as something that might possibly be okay is sign of complete depravity.

  • too many steves

    I am genuinely curious as to how you arrive at torture being never acceptable. Is your argument utilitarian, consequentialist, deontologist, absolutist (based on some god-based morality: if this, then why does your argument apply to atheists?)? A number of prominent philosophers argue that torture is never acceptable while simultaneously arguing that terrorism is sometimes acceptable. I am curious to understand the basis for your argument, absent all the emotion, if possible.

  • Ryan

    TMS: Sorry I didn’t respond sooner, and I assume you won’t read this, but my position is pretty strictly deontologist. Torture is violative of a basic human right. It doesn’t matter what the outcome is or whether we get useful information; it’s wrong, full stop.

    Now, obviously, in a purely philsophical discussion, a utilitarian or other kind of consequentialist might have a leg to stand on. But American and international law have always recognized torture as a human rights violation and have not tolerated it. To change course requires some explanation as to why the United States should not abide by its own traditions or established international law, and it’s also going to require some evidence that doing so would represent a net benefit to the United States (given, I assume, a consquentialist argument for torture, it would be nice to see some actual proof that torture even leads to the consequences its apologists would have us believe).

    All that said, I think it can be less than useful to try and abstract from emotion in moral discussions. Our intuitive moral judgments are things we should listen to. They are not a perfectly reliable guide and obviously vary substantially from person to person, but so do the assumptions that undergird any analytical moral theories. Our traditions have grown around a revulsion to torture, and any conservative worth his salt must surely recognize that rejecting those traditions represents something quite radical.

    And any liberal worth his salt must surely recognize that handing this kind of power over to the state is a substantial blow to liberty. Those who would have us torture advocate a position that is pretty distinctly un-American, and we shouldn’t feel bad just because we get a little emotional when we call them on it.

  • too many steves

    Thank you for taking the time to respond.

    Setting aside the legal reasons (treaties and the like) to oppose torture, I like to focus on the moral question because it informs the legal argument. The problem with the moral approach, though, is that morality is personal. Some find their morality in god and/or the Bible, others in some broadly accepted rules that have been established over time, and still others on philosophical (utilitarian or consequentialist) grounds.

    The only rational argument FOR torture, to me, is based on utility and consequences: if we can save innocent life by torturing then it should be allowed. But this is a HUGE ‘if’ because I think the evidence is quite clear that:

    a. those being tortured will tell those doing the torturing anything to make the pain and suffering stop.

    b. the direct connection between the information gained (marginally credible per ‘a’ above) and the saving of innocent life is not proven reliable.

    c. information gained through torture is often available through less onerous means.

    Also, if we are to take consequences into consideration, then we must consider the consequences to ourselves, our nation, and our fellow citizens from our decision to commit torture. How does using torture affect our moral standing in the world? How do we rightly argue against torture committed against our fellow citizens (military, journalists, and others) if we ourselves use torture?

    I argue, therefore, that torture should never be allowed as the negatives greatly outweigh the positives, and the positives are unproven. As for those that argue in favor, like Alan Dershowitz, I take them at their word that they are people of good faith who are simply unconvincing and, well, wrong.

  • peter

    In the Brothers Karamazov, Alyosha (the pious one) was asked if he would end all suffering in the world provided a small baby was tortured to death.

    His answer: no.

  • too many steves

    Yes, much to high a price to pay. Part of my argument is that it is never that simple. Likewise, the “ticking bomb” scenario to which Dershowitz often refers is, perhaps, intellectually interesting but so unrealistic (it will never be that cut and dry) as to be irrelevant to the discussion. Also, if we allow torture in these circumstances – for which I have not seen evidence of their existence – how do we account for the implied incentive to make any circumstance appear to fit the requirement? Humans and, by extension, governments cannot be trusted with torture.

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