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Why Isn’t Iraq in the 2008 Election?


Friends: What one word or phrase in your judgment best describes the U.S. political system?  Is it the highest embodiment of the will of the people?  Gets the job done?  Workable?  The best system we have?  The best that money can buyOf, by, and for elites?  PlutocraticFull of shit?

Chances are that if we posed this question to the professional classes whose bread and butter, not to mention social status and prestige, are provided by the work they perform within the political system, we’ll get much different answers than if we ask the general public.

In the near-universal debasement of life in the United States (though admittedly, in the United States, the de-baseline starts out awfully low to begin with, and only moves in one direction from there), presidential campaigns of the kind to which we are subjected now for at least two-out-of-every-four-years are the last place where we can turn to learn about the issues that are most dear to the general public.

 

Just yesterday, for example, on NBC-TV’s Meet the Press  the four guests were the Republican Party operatives Mary Matalin and Mike Murphy, and the Democratic Party operatives James Carville and Bob Shrum.  Tim Russert, the show’s host, asked his guests about the public’s perception of the candidates’ personalities.  It went like this (March 2, 2008):

All right, issues, big divide, no doubt.  But what about personalities?  Do–voters in the Pew Foundation poll volunteered words. First they asked about a candidate’s likeability, and here’s what they said. Obama, 50 percent likable; 35 percent said somewhat likable; 10 not likable. Clinton, 26, 37, 33; McCain, 21, 55 somewhat, 18 not likable.  That’s an 85 percent likable for Obama, 63 for Clinton, 76 McCain.  That’s both parties across the board.  Then Pew said, "Give us a word that you think best describes these candidates." The first one was McCain.  Old was the first word people threw out.  Honest, experienced, patriot, conservative, hero, liberal.  Then they asked, OK, Obama.  Inexperienced, charismatic, intelligent, change, inspirational, young, new.  Clinton.  Experienced, strong, untrustworthy, intelligent, smart, determined, rhymes with rich.  That’s what the poll said.  They used a different word. But it’s a family poll, and this is a family program.  [What do these numbers tell us?]

Forget what these numbers tell us. — Why even ask about them?

 

Contrast the performance of these five operatives of the U.S. establishment with the recent lecture by Noam Chomsky, which asks — as well as answers — the question why, during a presidential campaign, issues that matter most to the general population are so effectively removed from the public sphere, and replaced with non- and diversionary issues, as the Meet the Press example shows?
Still.  A more fundamental point needs to be raised. — If this is how the managers of the national political system treat its subjects, namely you and me (i.e., as objects for manipulation, whose sole relevance to the system is to cast the votes the system is set up to elicit from us once every four years), then what real allegiance do we owe to this system, and to its managers?  And, more fundamental yet, why do we keep supporting it, rather than withdraw our consent from it altogether?

(You might also take a look at Ralph Nader’s "12 Issues that Matter for 2008."  — Of course, the list of 12 should be greatly expanded.  And definitely should include the two questions I just raised.)

"Why Isn’t Iraq in the 2008 Election?" Noam Chomsky, AlterNet, March 3, 2008 

Obama Has the Lead, But Potential Problems Too, Andrew Kohut et al., Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, February 28, 2008 (esp. p. 14, pp. 38-41)

(For an excerpt from "Candidate Images," Section 2 of the Pew survey, see below. — What matters most to the media manipulators.)

"Inexperience" is the word that most often comes to the minds of voters when asked for the single word that best describes Barack Obama. On balance, however, more voters use positive words than negative ones to describe Obama. His charisma and intelligence are the second and third most commonly mentioned qualities, and such words as "change," "inspirational," "young," and "new" also are mentioned frequently.

Figure

In contrast with Obama, the one word most commonly volunteered to describe Hillary Clinton is "experienced." She also is seen as "intelligent," "smart," "knowledgeable," and "strong," which has been a top descriptor of Clinton since the mid- to late-1990’s. Yet negative words also are used to describe Clinton, with "untrustworthy" the most common.

McCain is most often described as "old," but voters also frequently use the words "honest," "experienced," and "patriot" to describe him. McCain’s ideology also is on the minds of voters, as several called him "conservative." 

 

 

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