Political Animal


June 10, 2012 9:34 AM Memes in Search of Quotes

By Ed Kilgore

In a weekend news cycle populated by little other than distant violence in Syria and the near distractions of NBA basketball, I regret that I was unable to attend either of the media confabs in the news: Joe Biden’s media picnic, where anyone bringing a child got the chance to vicariously super-soak the likes of Wolf Blitzer and David Brooks; or this year’s Netroots Nation event in Providence. MSM coverage of the latter event is, as usual, a matter of memes in search of quotes. One AP story suggests the dirty hippie attendees of NN are ready to stay home in November due to various grievances with Barack Obama. A Politico take treats the gathering as a bunch of smug Obama supporters slowly awakening to the possibility Mitt Romney could win on a wave of Super-PAC money. Either interpretation could have been, and for all I know, might have been, phoned in from Washington or written a year ago.

In any event, we are entering a tedious phase of the presidential contest in which the underlying realities of a close election can still be spun as a “surprise” or a trend. Conservatives are particularly manic at the moment, treating the entirely predictable consolidation of Republican support behind Mitt Romney as a sea-change in public opinion, and hailing every random off-message half-sentence by a prominent Democrat (or in some cases, semi-Democrat or former Democrat or pretend Democrat) as the abandonment of a doomed Obama by a demoralized party.

It is always possible that a huge mistake by one of the candidates, or an external event (ranging from unexpectedly good or bad economic news to a foreign policy crisis) will make this something other than a nail-biter. It’s even possible that Democrats will find a way to convince both base and swing voters that a Romney victory plus Republican majorities in both Houses of Congress will produce a sudden policy shift that will make the Reagan Revolution of 1981 look like a tiny tweak, much to the great shock of the large majority of Americans who want no such thing.

But the odds are high that we are looking at a cyle like 2000 or 2004, in which no lead is safe, pundits preoccupy themselves with endless efforts to identify which state and which tiny slice of the electorate gets to decide the outcome for the rest of us, and the days in the calendar pass so slowly that we’ll all want to scream in frustration by October.

In the end, national trends may congeal enough that it’s not as close as 2000 or 2004. But anyone who promises to tell you how it’s going to turn out right now is probably a scribbler or shouter with an attention-grabbing or audience-pleasing meme in search of a quote—or a poll—to support it. Because many conservatives are pursuing not only a vision of victory in 2012 but an ongoing effort to rewrite recent American political history as a decades-long slide into unspeakable barbarism lubricated by elite-underclass conspiracies and RINO betrayals, they can be expected to exhibit the most excitement over every twist and turn in the contest. The rest of us can be forgiven for occasionally grabbing the remote in search of less portentous blood sports, or metaphorically soaking down Blitzer or Brooks with mockery.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • T-Rex on June 10, 2012 9:56 AM:

    That, and of course, obsessing over "character" and "personality." Because a candidate's preference for coffee or tea tells us so much more about what he would do in office than his actual statements about, you know, policy (boooo-ring!).

  • stormskies on June 10, 2012 9:58 AM:

    The sheer fact that this election for president could even be close at all given the who buffoon Romney is, and the policies he has which are worse than Bush's, could be close at all is real testament to just how fucked up, and utterly cretin like, a large part of our population is.

    We are indeed United Stupid America.

    USA ! USA ! USA !

  • c u n d gulag on June 10, 2012 10:10 AM:

    GREAT title - and post!

    I'll wait until after the R Convention in soupy-hot Tampa, Florida, and the (quite evil) hopes of a hurricane hitting there while the climate-change deniers tremble, screech, and pray for Jesus' mercy.
    Or, not...

    I'm waiting until the Presidential debates start, and Mitt has to open his mouth without inserting his Dolce&Gabbana-clad foot in his mouth.

    Obama's a pretty good speaker and debater.

    Mitt's like "Baby Doc" Bush, in that when he talks about war, the military, and the economics of hurting people, had never makes any gaff's - but, like W, his tongue stumbles around like a drunk in search of a lamppost when he tries to sound caring and empathetic.
    It wasn't in W, and it sure as hell ain't in Mitt, either.
    They don't "feel your pain" - they like the feeling of inflicting it!

    I'd bet money that Mitt will say something colossally stupid right after his carefully scripted opening remarks.

    And if he doesn't, in any of the debates, THEN, I'll panic!

  • Richard Fox on June 10, 2012 10:14 AM:

    The election cycle seems so endless to me, and stuff like this (below, from Crooks and Liars) is making me seriously tune out:

    NBC's "The Chris Matthews Show" - Panel: Katty Kay, BBC; Andrew Sullivan, Daily Beast; Andrea Mitchell, NBC; John Heilemann, New York magazine. Topics: Will Romney's strength on the economy trump Obama's likability? Queen Elizabeth's 60 years on the throne. Meter Questions: Will voters blame Obama PERSONALLY for his campaign's negative attacks on Romney? YES: 11 NO: 1. Will TV ads more effectively portray 2012 as a referendum of Obama rather than a choice? YES: 9 No: 3.

    There, that first question: "Topics: Will Romney's strength on the economy trump Obama's likability?" ...So may I ask WHAT strength? The framing sickens me and makes me want to do an impression of an insane Alan Simpson rant. In essence that bit says everything I don't want to hear, and exhausts me just thinking about. I could go on but I have already put myself to slee--

  • DAY on June 10, 2012 10:17 AM:

    Too much mining the weeds in search of a flower.
    Bigger picture: Americans are concentrating on the Hockey/Basketball playoffs. No time for politics!
    Soon, though- oh, wait! The baseball All Star Game is coming up. And then NFL mini camps. So much to do, so little time.

    The good news- and under the radar- is the Obama folks are opening offices in small towns, and mustering the troops. Basic training, if you will, for the Labor Day assault on the fat cat super pacs. Who, I understand, must spend ALL those millions well before the election.

    I heard yesterday that a focus group of WalMart ladies were largely ignorant of just who Romney was. Some rich guy, who either saved some businesses, or destroyed them. So far, the ads are not reaching the "undecided" voters.

  • stormskies on June 10, 2012 10:29 AM:

    Richard Fox has is exactly right "What economic strength" ? This is a perfect example, again, of the corporate media creating a 'narrative' or 'story line' that has no connection to actual reality. Zero.

    Yet the corporate media creates these fictional narratives that are repeated over and over so that the typically stupid American begins to 'believe' that indeed buffoon Romney actually has "economic strength". It is intentional from the corporate media who is performing the same 'con job' that the buffoon himself is doing on the American electorate.

    How often have we heard from any of the corporate media gatekeepers that the buffoon's actual economic agenda is even worse that Bush's ? And the reality that that would the recreate for our country ?

    The vast amount of our corporate media is, in reality, a 'clear and present danger' to what is left of our once great country.

  • Ronald on June 10, 2012 10:36 AM:

    money may scream loud (screechingly loud this cycle. Thanks Justice Roberts), but GOTV will win the day.
    Obama, ftw.

  • c u n d gulag on June 10, 2012 10:50 AM:

    Oh, for Jayzoos Keeeeeeerist's FECKIN' sake, I turned to ABC to see if Paul Krugman is on, and who do I feckin' see?

    Mike Huckafeck, and Ann FECKIN' Coulter!!!

    What, ABC now has a FOX 'catch and release' program?

    And representing "The Left," they have Ed Rendell - that noted Marxist revolutionary.

    And they all get to beat on the token black guy like he's a feckin' bongo drum - Van Jones.


  • hells littlest angel on June 10, 2012 11:23 AM:

    I'm no historian, but Joe Biden has got to be the coolest vice president ever.

  • Dredd on June 10, 2012 11:29 AM:

    "Conservatives are particularly manic at the moment ..."

    That is an apt diagnosis, however, I think the mania diagnosis should be followed up with the the proper treatment and therapy.

    But I am not sure whether the appropriate group treatment and therapy is available.

  • 2Manchu on June 10, 2012 11:36 AM:

    Romney's only "economic strength" is that he is a rich, white Republican male, and therefore the MSM echo chamber thinks he must know something about the economy that Obama doesn't.

  • hornblower on June 10, 2012 12:00 PM:

    I'm going to Europe next week and will ignore the political drumbeat for a couple of cycles. Unless Romney does something really stupid there will be no change at all. Wake me up in September.

  • Anonymous on June 10, 2012 5:02 PM:

    This morning, I heard Washington's NBC4 station announcers gleefully stating that Mitt Romney was actually leading President Obama in the Rasmussen daily tracking polls for the FIRST time!

    Oh, really? How ignorant can these people be? Romney has led many times in Rasmussen polls.