Why Bill Maher is wrong...
03-04-2012, 03:45 AM (This post was last modified: 03-04-2012 04:15 AM by Drunken Irishman.)
Why Bill Maher is wrong...
I think Maher is probably telling us not to get complacent when he suggests Obama could lose. But I also think he's taking it a bit too far and could depress potential voters - who might actually start believing that, no matter what, Obama is going to lose anyway, so why bother?
This is a tough line to walk. You don't want to act like it's in the bag because doing so could give off the perception voters don't actually need to vote. But you also don't want to make it appear everything we're looking for is a lost cause. By suggesting that Bush won in 2000, and again in 2004, means Obama very well could lose, you're already establishing this idea that voting come November is a futile effort.
Further, he quotes a Gallup poll that shows Obama losing in the swing states (?) but ignores every other poll that indicates the exact opposite.
I know Bill doesn't want Obama to lose. But I feel there are so many cynical voters on the left that we often force ourselves into a self-fulfilling prophecy. I know there are many liberals who are convinced their vote won't be counted, so they don't even feel the need to vote. That idea is just as dangerous and damaging to Obama's reelection chances as suggesting he is unstoppable.
He's not. I'll concede Obama very well could lose in November. But he's stringing together a pretty weak argument.
Take that swing state poll by Gallup. Not only does it show Santorum beating Obama nationally (by 3 points), which is out of step with every other major polling organization, the swing states polled weren't done separately. Instead, they polled 1,137 people in 12 battle ground states. Not 1,137 in each 12 battle ground states - rather, 1,137 people overall.
The problem with that is you're now looking at a very small sample size in those 12 states. Potentially 100 or so for each state. Further, we don't know where Obama's leading and where he's not. Obama doesn't need to win every swing state to be reelected president. If he's leading in Ohio, but losing other swing states, it's hard to imagine he's going to lose this election. So, from my perspective, it seems remarkably pointless to put out these results without signifying what the numbers are in each state.
But, as I'm sure you're all aware, I've been keeping tabs on swing state polls since late last year and, through my research, I've yet to encounter a point where Romney leads Obama in enough swing states to win this election. It hasn't happened.
So, citing one poll to make your point just doesn't do it for me. All signs point to Obama doing better and better in the most important states - Gallup be damned.
The other point is that this isn't the 2000 election. It's disingenuous to compare this race to 2000. For starters, no matter how much respect I have for Al Gore, he is not Barack Obama. Gore ran a very unremarkable campaign in '00. He had a bad team of advisers and wasn't a very exceptional candidate on the stump. Add his poor debate performances, the annoying sighs in the first debate and then the awkward invading of Bush's personal space in that town hall, and you see why, in the end, Gore couldn't quite close it out.
Moreover, at this point in the '00 race, Bush was kicking Gore's butt, leading by eight points nationally. He consistently polled ahead of Gore throughout most of the 2000 election - with Gore only making a comeback toward the end of the race.
So, for anyone who was surprised Bush was able to eke out a victory over Gore in '00, well, they weren't paying attention. That had been brewing for months and, if you want to get technical about it, a couple years.
Why? Well because it's rare a party holds the presidency for three consecutive terms. It's only happened once since Truman ended an unprecedented five-term run of Democratic presidents and that was when George H.W. Bush became the first VP in modern American history to win a term into office.
It just doesn't happen very often. So, Gore was at a disadvantage anyway in that race and yet, still almost pulled it out.
Finally, Romney is not Bush. As much as we enjoy poking fun at Bush, he was a good campaigner. He connected with a large swath of the population and it benefited him. I guarantee you this summer, when the inevitable poll is released asking Americans who they'd rather have a beer with, Romney or Obama, Obama will win easily (and not just because Romney doesn't drink). Even McCain was infinitely more likable than Romney and he still got his clock cleaned in the general.
And that's where Maher's points unravel. He suggests Americans are stupid enough to vote Republican because, well, they're stupid. I disagree. I think Americans voted for Bush because he was more likable than his opponent. We have a history of doing that in America. It's why many felt Kennedy locked up his election win in 1960 through the debate performance with Nixon and it ain't got nothin' to do with his actual words. It was solely tied to the fact that, on image alone, he was younger and more charismatic. It's why those who listened to the debate on the radio gave it to Nixon, while those who watched the debate gave it to Kennedy (personal point: I actually don't know if this is true or just an urban legend).
Image is everything in politics. It's what gutted Bush in '92 and what killed Dole in '96. Romney might be good looking by presidential standards (personally, I think he looks creepy), but he's about as exciting as paste.
Does that mean he can't win? Of course not. When things go south, Americans don't necessarily care how great you are in front of the camera. But things aren't going south and that's another point Bill ignores. Things are going okay right now. The economy is improving, the domestic front is becoming more and more optimistic each day.
That doesn't mean it won't change, of course, but at the moment, we're seeing progress and that's what the voters will look for in November.
In that regard, Romney's image is only going to hurt him even more because they'll see him as unlikable and therefore, with things turning the corner, will have even less reason to vote for him in November.
That's the reality. Yeah, this is not a sure thing (most elections aren't), but it's very telling that, even after all the campaigning (and Romney has been non-stop campaigning since, really, 2007), he has still yet to sustain a lead against Obama in the polls. And I'm serious about that. Sure, one or two polls (and Maher might go and cite all of 'em) may show him leading at one point, but on the whole, it just doesn't hold.
I'm serious. Go check it out.
Since April 2009, Romney has led in only 29 polls. That sounds like a lot, until you realize Obama has led in 108 polls.
Since 2012, started, Romney has led in only four polls.
He can't sustain a lead. Yeah, I expect that to change a bit when he becomes the nominee and there will certainly be more polls that show Romney on top than we've seen the last three years. But I see no trend forming or reason to believe Obama is in trouble.
Maher will have you believe, based on past results, that he should be in trouble.
But he shouldn't. Just because Al Gore and John Kerry lost their elections to George Bush doesn't prove or disprove anything. No more than Bill Clinton winning back-to-back elections proved anything for the Republicans.
Every election is different (well, most of the time, I guess there wasn't much difference when Eisenhower & Stevenson took on one another in an election encore in '56) and it does a disservice to the Obama campaign if you dispirit their potential voters.
Optimism is what we need. We need that feeling that we CAN actually do this - that we WILL actually do this. But if we're going to scare ourselves into believing this might be lost, or should be lost, then it will be lost.
Fighting complacency with pessimism only leads to the opposite of complacency.
No, we shouldn't be overconfident. But also shouldn't be under confident. We need to believe we're going to win this thing and fight to make sure we actually do, you know, win this thing.
Don't scare Obama voters into thinking the Republicans will do what they do best and, at the last second, steal this election too. Just tell it like it is. Yeah, our guy is looking pretty good right now - but remember, elections aren't decided by poll numbers, rather the number of votes on that first Tuesday in November.
If we keep morale high, and yet continue to work as hard as ever, Obama will be victorious.
We can do this. We will do this. We need to believe that we're going to do this. In 2008, the thing that got me through the hardest times, that made me want to fight even harder for this campaign, was the idea that it would happen. If you take that away, start planting this idea into liberals' heads that Americans are stupid enough to vote Obama out - or that the Republican Dirty Tricksters will just steal it, then you're turning an entire group of potential voters into defeatists.
And those voters don't vote.
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