Molly I just listened to that NPR show on this mess... I think it's probably the most easily understandable explanation of what's going on that I've heard. Thanks for the link!
In democracies, all political factions run against an elite. Since the New Deal, Democrats have cast themselves against the financial and business elite. Since the 1960s, Republicans have thrashed the cultural and intellectual elite.
Over the weekend, the moneyed class became a richer target. The foolishness of our financial geniuses now threatens to bring economic sorrow to Main Street. Franklin Roosevelt's 1936 attack on "the privileged princes of these new economic dynasties" never sounded so up to date.
Americans don't mind wealthy and even rapacious capitalists, as long as they deliver the goods to everyone else. But when the big boys drag everyone else down, Americans rise up in righteous anger. The New Deal political alignment endured for decades because the financial elites were so profoundly discredited by the Great Depression. The New Deal coalition dissolved only when prosperity began to seem durable and only after the GOP discovered the joys of baiting Hollywood, the media and the academy.
All of a sudden, the culture war seems entirely beside the point, an unaffordable luxury in a time of economic turmoil. What politicians actually believe about the economy, what fixes they propose, whether they side with the wealthy few or the hurting many -- these become the stuff of elections, the reasons behind people's votes.
And nothing more exposes the hypocrisy of financial elites riding the coattails of those who revere small-town religious values than a downturn that highlights the vast gulf in power between the two key components of the conservative coalition. Even cultural conservatives will start to notice that McCain's tax policies are geared toward the wealthy investing class and Obama's toward the paycheck crowd. Even the most ardent friends of business have begun to argue that a re-engagement with sensible regulation is essential to restoring capitalism's health.
For some time, McCain's strategists figured they could deflect attention from the big issues by turning Palin into a country-and-western celebrity and launching so many ill-founded attacks on Obama that the truth would never catch up. The McCain strategists' approach reflected a low opinion of average voters, and some Obama supporters began worrying that their opinion might be right.
But those so-called average voters understand the difference between low- and high-stakes elections. They develop a reasonably good sense of who is telling the truth and who is not. And though it sometimes takes a while -- and a shock like this week's economic news -- these voters almost always turn on politicians who manipulate cultural symbols as a way to escape the consequences of their policies.
In 1936, FDR argued that "private enterprise, indeed, became too private. It became privileged enterprise, not free enterprise." He insisted that "freedom is no half-and-half affair. If the average citizen is guaranteed equal opportunity in the polling place, he must have equal opportunity in the market place."
The stakes in this year's election went way up this week. The days of Paris, Britney and the exploitation of divisions around race, gender and religion are over.
The NYT looks at McCain's economic record:
While Mr. McCain has cited the need for additional oversight when it comes to specific situations, like the mortgage problems behind the current shocks on Wall Street, he has consistently characterized himself as fundamentally a deregulator and he has no history prior to the presidential campaign of advocating steps to tighten standards on investment firms.
He has often taken his lead on financial issues from two outspoken advocates of free market approaches, former Senator Phil Gramm and Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman. Individuals associated with Merrill Lynch, which sold itself to Bank of America in the market upheaval of the past weekend, have given his presidential campaign nearly $300,000, making them Mr. McCain's largest contributor, collectively.
Mr. Obama sought Monday to attribute the financial upheaval to lax regulation during the Bush years, and in turn to link Mr. McCain to that approach.
"I certainly don't fault Senator McCain for these problems, but I do fault the economic philosophy he subscribes to," Mr. Obama told several hundred people who gathered for an outdoor rally in Grand Junction, Colo.
Mr. McCain was quick on Monday to issue a statement calling for "major reform" to "replace the outdated and ineffective patchwork quilt of regulatory oversight in Washington and bring transparency and accountability to Wall Street." Later his campaign unveiled a television advertisement called "Crisis," that began: "Our economy in crisis. Only proven reformers John McCain and Sarah Palin can fix it. Tougher rules on Wall Street to protect your life savings."
Mr. McCain's reaction suggests how the pendulum has swung to cast government regulation in a more favorable political light as the economy has suffered additional blows and how he is scrambling to adjust. While he has few footprints on economic issues in more than a quarter century in Congress, Mr. McCain has always been in his party's mainstream on the issue.
In early 1995, after Republicans had taken control of Congress, Mr. McCain promoted a moratorium on federal regulations of all kinds. He was quoted as saying that excessive regulations were "destroying the American family, the American dream" and voters "want these regulations stopped." The moratorium measure was unsuccessful.
"I'm always for less regulation," he told The Wall Street Journal last March, "but I am aware of the view that there is a need for government oversight" in situations like the subprime lending crisis, the problem that has cascaded through Wall Street this year. He concluded, "but I am fundamentally a deregulator."
Later that month, he gave a speech on the housing crisis in which he called for less regulation, saying, "Our financial market approach should include encouraging increased capital in financial institutions by removing regulatory, accounting and tax impediments to raising capital."
Republicans will be working to get people whose homes have been foreclosed taken off the voter roles.
Obama explains his economic philosophy (vid)
And Biden's speech the other day is really worth watching. It's a half hour long, but it's more fun than any sitcom you might watch instead. (vid)
Ok, this is just getting silly. Palin is now claiming that during her convention speech she couldn't read the prompter so she just spoke off-the-cuff:
"There Ohio was right out in front, right in front of me," Palin said. "The teleprompter got messed up, I couldn't follow it, and I just decided I'd just talk to the people in front of me. It was Ohio."
This struck many of us -- who, as she spoke, followed along with her prepared remarks, and noted how closely she stuck to the script -- as an unusual claim. (Especially those of my colleagues on the convention floor at the time, reading along on the prompter with her, noticing her excellent and disciplined delivery, how she punched words that were underlined and paused where it said "pause," noting that "nuclear" was spelled out for her phonetically.)
Please note: few people who work on TV will ever bad-mouth a teleprompter. And Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., works with a prompter not infrequently.
But it's different to use one, and to use one but imply that you weren't.
Obama provides some good old fashion mockery. (vid)
Sarah Palin baby name generator
Tonight's final thought comes from Neil Young:
I never knew a man could tell so many lies
He had a different story for every set of eyes
How can he remember who he's talking to?
Cause I know it ain't me
and hope it isn't you.
He was singing about Nixon, but these people are really all interchangeable I think