Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Why Do Europeans Love Obama?

Victor Davis Hanson makes some salient points:
Let us count the ways:

1) Obama’s tax code, support of big government programs and redistribution of income, and subservience to UN directives delight the European masses—especially at a time when their own governments are trying to cut taxes, government, seek closer relations with the US, and ask a petulant, pampered public to grow up.

2) He offers Euros a sort of cheap assuagement of guilt—in classic liberal style. When Obama says falsely that he does not look like other Americans who have addressed Germans (cf. Colin Powell or Condoleeza Rice who have represented US foreign policy abroad the last 7 years), Europeans feel especially progressive—and therefore need not worry that no one of African ancestry would ever become a European Prime- or Foreign-Minister.

3) Europe is weak militarily and won’t invest in its own defense. But with Obama, they believe the US will subject its enormous military strength to international organizations—usually run by utopian Europeans. So they will play a thinking-man’s Athens to our muscular Rome. They especially lap up Obama’s historical revisionism in which he lectures about the world’s effort to feed Berlin or tear down the communist wall, never the solitary, lonely efforts of a Harry Truman or Ronald Reagan to confront the evils of communism when almost everyone else preferred not to.

4) Style, style, style. Remember socialist Europe is where we get our designer eyeglass frames, Gucci bags, and French fashions. Instead of a strutting, Bible-quoting Texan, replete with southern accent and ‘smoke-em’ out lingo, they get an athletic, young, JFK-ish metrosexual, whose rhetoric is as empty as it is soothing. The English-only Obama lectures America on its need to emulate polyglot Europe; while a Spanish-speaking George Bush is hopelessly cast as a Texas yokel.

5) Obama reassures Europeans that they, not American right-wingers, “won” the classical debates of the 1990s over economics, foreign policy, and government. He is a world citizen, who buys into human-created massive global warming, wind and solar over nuclear and clean coal, high taxes, and cradle-to-grave entitlements, and resentments of the rich. There is a certain European “We told you so” that comes with his election. In short, we elect a world citizen with a European view, and put behind us the embarrassments of a Texan or cowboy actor.

The final irony?

The hated George Bush is still around; Chirac, Schroeder, Villapin et al. are history. Iraq is secure. Iran is becoming isolated. North Korea supposedly is denuked. And America is reassuring a jittery Europe that we will stick by them in a world of bullying Russians and Chinese.

A Modest Prediction

In 5 years, Europeans will prefer George Bush to a “We are right behind you” Obama.
VDH seems to assume (possibly rhetorically?) that Obama will win. I'm not so sure.

My rule of thumb right now (for lack of better data) is that any national poll is deeply suspect and likely to be off, in favor of Obama, by about 5%. Maybe more; it's hard to say.

The reasons? There are at least two. Don't just take headlines about poll results at face value. Some recent polls claimed that Obama was up over McCain, but were based on "registered" voters. New polling from the same source (Gallup) this week now shows McCain up. But this poll was derived from "likely" voters. That's a better pool to draw from, but it's not as good as "previous" voters, folks who actually have voted before. Those are your most reliable pollable voters.

There is a problem with using "previous" voters in this election: the strong evidence that among Democrats Obama is bringing in plenty of young, new voters. Democrats were setting voting records all through the primary season and you saw lots of young, fresh faces at his rallies. How well that will hold up through November is another open question. Past evidence says that young people just don't vote in strong numbers. Will two elections worth of frustration over not taking the Presidency finally drive that trend another way?

The other reason is something I've mentioned here before: the Bradley Effect. In the new, PC (politically correct, not personal computer) age lots of white voters feel pressured, when asked by pollsters and media how they will vote, to claim they will support a black candidate they in fact don't vote for.

The name comes from Tom Bradley's run for mayor of Los Angeles. All the polling showed him clearly ahead right up through election day. And yet he lost. A lot of folks lied about their vote and voting preference. It's since showed up in a lot of other campaigns and professional polling organisations are still trying to figure out how to factor for it.

I think this was part of the reason why so many were so vociferous for Hillary Clinton to get out of the race. Notice how, toward the end, in a lot of blue collar and rural states she was racking up some surprising margins against Obama. Big ones. And that was in the Democratic primary. It exposed a weakness in Obama that will only become more apparent when you're talking about independents and "Reagan Democrats."

I think there's still a lot of folks out there who just won't vote for a black candidate no matter what. It's ugly but it's true and it must be addressed. Not by media hacks who will examine it from a "what's wrong with those people?" approach, but from a truly disinterested analyst. I wonder if Obama's famous Pennsylvania slip will disappear down the media's memory hole?
"You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."
No sense reminding those voters what Obama thinks about them, right? It will only make things worse for him!

The media seems to have blown right past any adjustments, or lack thereof, that might have to be made in voters to having a real live viable-ish black candidate out there. Pretending racism or racial discomfort is "over" is what the media usually do, so they can feel good about themselves and demonstrate their PC bona fides, but it's wrong. As the Bradley Effect shows, race is still out there and being unexamined as a factor.

I'd also allow that the media's excitement over the flood of new and excited Democratic voters led them to push the more problematic issue of missing voters -- and the unhappy voters who went to Hillary Clinton -- off to the side. I do know there's been some examination of Clinton's supporters, but mostly in a bitter, "game's over; deal with it" sort of light.

If someone knows of any studies of the Democratic primary results with respect to how people said they would vote and how they actually voted, I'd like to hear of them.

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