As a strong supporter of Barack Obama, I found the debate last night painful. Romney performed well. Obama didn’t.
I take solace in a dial group session by a respected Geoff Garin, which found that sixty percent of the study group of undecided voters and weakly committed Democrats viewed Obama favorably for his performance, and that eighty percent of this crucial group after the debate saw the President as more likable and down to earth. And on key issues, Obama decisively prevailed on improving the economy and on Medicare, though the group did marginally shift to Romney on taxes. A small study suggested that a key target audience of the debate didn’t go along with the talking heads.
I also am somewhat relieved by Nate Silver, the statistics guru now publishing at The New York Times, who first made his name in sports, then in politics. He judged, using a football analogy, that Romney in his strong debate scored a field goal not a touchdown or the two touchdowns that Silver earlier declared Romney would have to score to win in November. He gained only a slight advantage.
Yet, as I watched the debate and then listened and read a great deal of commentary, not sleeping through most of the night, I worried that an Obama defeat seemed again to be a possibility, if not a probability. Just about all the commentators and instant polls judged that Romney won the debate, though the meaning of the victory was contested: from nothing has changed, to a reset, to the beginning of the end for Obama.
I want to believe, as also has been discussed, that the debate presents an opportunity for Obama (with the support of his powerful campaign staff), known for his impeccable timing and strategic prowess, to counterpunch in ads and speeches and in the coming debates. I certainly would like to believe that Barack Obama, as Muhammad Ali would put it, was playing “rope – a – dope,” and still “floats like . . .
Read more: Romney Wins! So What?
Last week’s posts all address the difficult issue of the relationship between public appearance and private beliefs and actions.
Mormons, Muslims, Atheists, Gays and Lesbians are unlikely to become President, Michael Corey reports. Large percentages of Americans would be unlikely to vote for these minorities for the highest office in the land according to a recent Gallop poll. This contrasts with other groups that have historically been objects of intolerance. Only small percentages of the population reveal an unwillingness to vote for a Hispanic, Jew, Baptist, Catholics, woman or African American. Given the definitive role that racism has played in American history, it is striking that of these historically excluded groups, the least amount of prejudice is directed toward African Americans. This represents significant progress. That Mormons, Muslims, Atheists, gays and lesbians don’t fare so well shows that progress is a slow and uneven process. To be sure, even in the case of African Americans and women, the taboo against the expression of prejudice may depress the numbers, as Felipe and Andrew maintained in their replies. There is private prejudice, public denial.
Corey proposes two special reasons for the persistence of prejudice against Mormons, true belief, i.e. ideological certainty, and “know-nothingism,” i.e. intentional ignorance. Michael Weinman explores how these are produced and reproduced in Israel, not only as a matter of official public policy, but more significantly in the naming of a picture book character, Elmer the Patchwork Elephant. The project of official policy to Hebraize the names in East Jerusalem is transparent. Every day practices and expectations about in group and out group relations are more fundamental than the official project of exclusion, resulting in more durable effects. The public project to disappear Arab Jerusalem is strongly supported by the intimate working of primary socialization, turning a difficult political conflict into an impossible one.
The passage of the marriage equality law in New York is a milestone. Changes in everyday practices preceded the event. With . . .
Read more: DC Week in Review: Two Cheers for Hypocrisy!