Saturday, September 13, 2008

"One Day More" and what it really means 

Andrew Sullivan links approvingly to this video apparently put out by the Obama campaign (an admittedly hilarious spoof on the song from Les Miserables, "One Day More"), declaring that "the McCain campaign could never pull this off," adding "Patience, steel, triumph."

Of course, the revolutionaries who sang "One Day More" were crushed mercilously in the event, a point that seems to have eluded Andrew. Indeed, one wonders whether the ad signals a subconscious "lost cause" fatalism on the part of Team Obama. That would be misplaced; I still believe that Obama's chances of winning are better than even. There is a long way to go, and Obama retains a lead in the state-by-state race, which is what counts in the end.

That said, the "One Day More" video is a great segue into this article, a very interesting and fairly dispassionate -- at least in the sense that it will irritate partisans of both varieties -- dissection of the different conceptions of "culture" on left and right. This bit is especially good:

As a result of all this intellectual tumult, one stark distinction stands out among the differences between contemporary liberals and conservatives (the real differences, not the manufactured ones). Liberals always think that there is something broken in politics. Conservatives always think that there is something wrong with the culture.

These conflicting urgencies have given the conservatives mostly the upper hand for over a quarter of a century. Since culture is more immediate to us than the abstract policies and principles of politics -- and seemingly more dependable than politics' often fluid expediencies -- a politics of culture is going to be more successful than mere politics. For many people, the idea that Republican politics are wholly responsible for the country's ills is hard to accept. You can't feel politics. Rather, such people blame a culture of selfishness and irresponsibility for the deepening malaise (the word that sank President Carter among liberals who thought they smelled a Christian conservative in progressive clothing). You experience selfishness and irresponsibility in the flesh every day.

Let me clarify what the word "culture" means in this context, a la the Christian right and Mr. Bloom's descendants. If hearing the word "culture" makes you think of Rossini, the latest translation of "Anna Karenina," the Guggenheim Museum or "The Wire," [or Les Miserables - ed.] then you're probably a liberal -- or, at least, an unreconstructed "cosmopolitan" conservative. But if the word culture means for you forms of courtship, or sexual preference, or the relationship between parents and children, or the set of rituals that revolve around the ownership and use of a gun, or, most passionately of all, ways of living, and believing, and rejoicing, and suffering, and dying that are hallowed by the religion you practice and embodied in the church you belong to -- if for you, culture does not primarily signify opera or HBO, then you are probably celebrating Sarah Palin's ragged, real-seeming life. In that case, you are what might be called either a heartland or a Bloomian conservative.

Broadly speaking, liberals segregate culture from ordinary existence. They will "do" culture and then "do" the rest of life -- gaze at a Vermeer, say, and then work on finding the perfect daycare center. But for conservatives, raising children, using the discipline of faith to endure illness or setback, cherishing life at its conception are cultural tasks and values inseparable from the challenges of everyday living. The liberal idea of culture as edification or diversion implies abundant leisure time. The conservative idea of culture as the practice of getting through life (like the anthropologist's idea of culture) implies time under siege by work and adversity; this is culture defined as the meaningful beliefs and activities that are the response to necessity and adversity. Culture in this sense is as familiar as the eight-hour day, and as intimate as biological function. It is a matter of life and death. Call it organic, as opposed to fabricated, culture.

This is why Thomas Frank's greatly influential 2004 critique of the Republicans' cultural strategy, "What's the Matter with Kansas?", has had such a negative effect on the Democrats' fortunes, for the simple reason that Mr. Frank assured Democrats that they didn't have to respond to the way the Republicans were manipulating organic culture. Mr. Frank cogently argued that the Republicans used cultural issues to distract their constituents from Republican economic policies which, ironically, were harming the very people who were voting for them. Mr. Frank believed that what Democrats had to do to win back the White House was to keep hammering away at Republican-induced economic disparities. Barack Obama's campaign is doing precisely that. For many people, however, faith in organic culture is intimate and empowering, while faith in politics is like trying to have a conversation with the TV.

There is much to argue with in the quoted text and the rest of the article, but I think that the author, Lee Siegel, is on to something that many, including Andrew Sullivan, has missed. Read the whole thing, in part for Siegel's explanation why McCain's experience as a POW is so powerful.


By Blogger D.E. Cloutier, at Sat Sep 13, 11:09:00 AM:

1. Re: Andrew Sullivan

Wiki: "Sullivan has said that he would like to become a U.S. citizen but is barred because of his HIV-positive status."

Let's worry about the Americans in an American Presidential election.

2. Your Rasmussen link: "New state polling from Missouri has helped move that state from 'Leans Republican' to 'Likely Republican' in the Rasmussen Reports Balance of Power Calculator."

Quote from an article by Monica Davey, New York Times, February 1, 2008:

"For a century, voters in Missouri have proven to be a nearly perfect gauge of the nation’s thinking on Presidential candidates, swaying from Democrats to Republicans and back again, but always (besides a certain election in 1956) voting in general elections for the candidate who ultimately wins the nation."  

By Blogger Anthony, at Sat Sep 13, 12:14:00 PM:

A new Marist poll has the Prophet Barack's lead in New Jersey down to three points among likely voters, and this is starting to show up in other state polls. The trend is definitely against him.

My prediction: assuming Rasmussen is right, McCain carries Florida and Ohio, takes Virginia, and flips either Michigan or Pennsylvania for a total of 277 or 281 electoral votes.  

By Blogger Miss Ladybug, at Sat Sep 13, 02:01:00 PM:

I'm a big Les Mis fan. I own the London cast soundtrack (the one used in their little video), and I had the opportunity to see a performance in Dallas back in the mid-90s. My guess is, they ignore how the story ends, or they are counting on Obama supporters not knowing how the story ends... I'm sure that many of the demographics Democrats target have never heard of the musical or know its storyline...  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Sep 13, 02:44:00 PM:

"The following day, the students revolt and erect barricades in the narrow streets of Paris. Marius, believing that Cosette has gone to London with her father and that he will never see her again, goes to die with his friends. Valjean, learning that Cosette's lover is fighting, joins them, not certain if he wants to protect Marius, or kill him. Éponine also joins to protect Marius and ends up taking a bullet for him and dying happily in his arms. During the ensuing battle, Valjean saves Javert from being killed by the students and lets him go. Valjean carries off the injured Marius, but all others, including Enjolras and Gavroche, are killed."  

By Blogger Miss Ladybug, at Sat Sep 13, 03:33:00 PM:

I should have known you'd give the run-down, LM, when I sent you the link... lol  

By Blogger Miss Ladybug, at Sat Sep 13, 03:35:00 PM:

But you forgot to mention that Javert can't reconcile the fact that Valjean, who he views as just a common criminal, spared his life, so he commits suicide...  

By Blogger Roy Lofquist, at Sat Sep 13, 08:00:00 PM:

Dear Folks,

You're reading the Racing Form, not watching the race. You're reading last years stats on not watching the game in front of you.

I've seen every election since 1952. A lot of things come into play, but there is an underlying dynamic in every one I've watched.

One guy is more well known than the other. Let's call them Elvis and John - the guy who sings at weddings.

People know Elvis. There's not a whole lot he can do to move their opinions much either way. Now people get to know John. He's compared to Elvis. That's the guy who controls the outcome.

I could go the whole nine yards but I'll just touch briefly on the landslides.

In 1964 Goldwater was much like Obama. He was wildly popular with his supporters and had a glimmer of hope in the early polls. As people got to know him he nose dived.

In 1968 Nixon was very well known. Humphrey was known only to his supporters and constituents. The Democratic Convention told the people all they needed to know and he never had a chance. That convention also flipped the South from solid blue to solid red.

Carter was a known quantity. Reagan was the new guy. The people had to get to know him. The polls gave no indication of the landslide to come. The people are quite normal and rational. Just like me and thee they don't make decisions before it's necessary.

This year Obama is Elvis. Because of the longest and most contentious primary in history people had already mostly made up their minds about him. They were waiting to see if John could play the git-fiddle. So he steps on stage and plays classical music on a violin.

There is nothing Obama can do or say that is going to affect this election. The people have heard enough - they've taken his measure. McCain is not competing against the Obama of today but the Obama of August 28. The only thing that can matter is an event that seriously damages McCain.

I see a landslide. It may not appear in the polls until the end. After all, people do make up their minds at last minute.


By Blogger Elliott, at Sun Sep 14, 01:54:00 AM:

Got here via Ace, thanks for posting that.

As for the video, are they predicting that Sarah Palin will be President? She would seem to be the only one left.  

By Blogger Whiskey, at Sun Sep 14, 02:21:00 AM:

First of all, that Siegel article was garbage.

Both Liberals and Conservatives ARGUE all the time about Culture, and indeed fought a war in the 1990's over it.

Liberals want to celebrate and promote in the culture: Unwed, single mothers, uncouth language, "diversity," "Multiculturalism," PC speech codes, calling white people "racists" and unbridled sex (and violence) aimed at kids or for kids. Liberals also want to "control" what is said so "incorrect" speech or views on Global Warming, the environment, crime, single mothers, etc. are never uttered OR THOUGHT in private.

To the point of criminalizing said speech. See: Mark Steyn's show trials in Canada.

Liberals promote the view that all priests, businessmen, Christians, and straight white "average" men are evil, while "hawt!" upper-class white men are demi-gods who can do no wrong. Liberals promote explicit gay sexual themes and depiction in the media, all the time. Liberals promote the view that the nuclear family is the source of all evil and must be replaced, and that suburbia is a soul-less dead place resembling hell on earth. While ghettos are "vibrant." Liberals depict the military and the USA as the source of all evil, and "insurgents" as poor, misunderstood underdogs, bravely fighting for "freedom" against the AmeriKKKan "machine."

Let's be honest, this is the Liberal cultural agenda. It is at heart an elitist one, exuding hatred of the common man and woman, all that they stand for and value.

The cultural struggle is at the HEART of the liberal agenda, just as much as the political one.

That's why Obama's people put on a musical. It's not about winning votes from people (ordinary folks) they despise but telling themselves HOW MUCH BETTER THEY ARE than ordinary people.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Sep 14, 01:32:00 PM:

Y'all should know it's not the Obama people who made the video; it's an improv group. So speculating on what the Obama campaign means by it, or what the campaign understands about the context of the musical, is kind of pointless.

Carry on...  

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