You ask; I respond

Devoted reader and all-around fine human being, John F, writes in comments about presidential approval:

I’d like to see some info on the effects of standing by an unpopular Prez at a fundraiser. Maybe it’s just me but it seems that Democrats are constantly suffering the negative consequences of their politics without enjoying the potential positives – something I didn’t see repubs doing until the bitter end of W.

Case in point are those dem candidates who are “unsure” whether they want the Prez doing fundraisers with them because they fear their opponents will tie them with his unpopularity. And it would seem that the dem campaign consultants are buying into the punditry’s errant belief of guilt by association.

What these consultants fail to recognize is your point that the Prez’s popularity is tied to economic conditions nearly outside his control, and have little to do with the man or his politics. Taking that point a step further and I conclude that everyone’s negatives right now are due primarily to economic conditions and aren’t necessarily tied to any one candidate. So merely associating with the Prez isn’t going to have a negative rub off effect when the underlying condition for the negative approval affects nearly all candidates, especially incumbents.

But the 1 thing the Prez has proven that he can do really well is raise $$$, and in the absence of a speedy economic recovery $$$ may convince enough voters to vote for the incumbent and/or not vote for the repub. But these candidates and their campaigns seem to be miscalculating the politics and essentially cutting off their nose to spite their face by not having the Prez raise $$$ for them which would help to offset some of the negatives.

Your thoughts?

If we’re talking about incumbents, most incumbents are probably already able to raise enough cash without the president.  In fact, some time ago there was a huge debate among political scientists about the impact of incumbent spending.  Turns out, the more an incumbent spends in a House race, the worse he (males, being roughly 83% of incumbents) tends to do.  How is that, you ask.  Incumbents in tight races are forced to spend a lot of cash; your typical incumbent can pretty well skate by.  Thing is, so many of the incumbents advantages (name recognition, non-partisan community ties, experience) have nothing to do with money, so after a certain point, spending more probably doesn’t help all that much.  Since a challenger is trying to overcome all their disadvantages, they get a lot more bang for their buck.

Yes, the unpopularity is very much tied to economic conditions, but it’s still unpopularity.  There are some places in this country where Obama is quite unpopular and it may well do more harm for the candidate by association than the good that comes with fundraising– especially for an incumbent.  All that said, I suspect many incumbents over-estimate the potential negative impact.  I think it is safe too say that most incumbents are overly risk averse and this is probably an example of that.

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(500) Days of Summer

Watched this movie a couple nights ago.  Really liked it.  Usually, I’ve read/listened to a few reviews before I watch a movie, but for some reason I had not in this case.  All I knew is that it was supposed to be good.  It’s not like a review would’ve ruined any major plot points in this, but I think I particularly enjoyed approaching this with no foreknowledge.  I’m also a sucker for a well-done non-linear narrative (of course, this is also something that can easily be annoying and precious– here I thought it worked great).  I found Zoey Deschanel utterly charming, but I know I was supposed to.  What really surprised me was how much I liked Joseph Gordon-Levitt– whom I remember best from 3rd Rock from the Sun– in the lead.  I thought he was terrific.  Would love to see him in more movies.

Mosque timeline

I feel kind of lame blogging about the Islamic Center so much, but I think it is a really striking, and depressing, window on how dysfunctional our national politics have become.  Of course, one of the major features of current political discourse is how ultimately trivial issues our amplified by the right-wing noise machine until they are picked up by the mainstream media and become what everybody is talking about.  There’s surely 100 things more important to our nation than whether an Islamic Center & Mosque is built 2 blocks from the WTC site, but that’s the number one thing in the news now.  Salon’s Justin Elliot does a real service by creating a timeline and showing just how this issue blew up.  Some highlights:

Dec. 21, 2009: Conservative media personality Laura Ingraham interviews Abdul Rauf’s wife, Daisy Khan, while guest-hosting “The O’Reilly Factor” on Fox. In hindsight, the segment is remarkable for its cordiality. “I can’t find many people who really have a problem with it,” Ingraham says of the Cordoba project, adding at the end of the interview, “I like what you’re trying to do.”

(This segment also includes onscreen the first use that we’ve seen of the misnomer “ground zero mosque.”) After the segment — and despite the front-page Times story — there were no news articles on the mosque for five and a half months, according to a search of the Nexis newspaper archive.

May 6, 2010: After a unanimous vote by a New York City community board committee to approve the project, the AP runs a story. It quotes relatives of 9/11 victims (called by the reporter), who offer differing opinions. The New York Post, meanwhile, runs a story under the inaccurate headline, “Panel Approves ‘WTC’ Mosque.” Geller is less subtle, titling her post that day, “Monster Mosque Pushes Ahead in Shadow of World Trade Center Islamic Death and Destruction.”…

May 13, 2010: Peyser follows up with an entire column devoted to “Mosque Madness at Ground Zero.” This is a significant moment in the development of the “ground zero mosque” narrative: It’s the first newspaper article that frames the project as inherently wrong and suspect, in the way that Geller has been framing it for months. Peyser in fact quotes Geller at length and promotes the anti-mosque protest of Stop Islamization of America, which Peyser describes as a “human-rights group.” Peyser also reports — falsely — that Cordoba House’s opening date will be Sept. 11, 2011…

Within a month, Rudy Giuliani had called the mosque a “desecration.” Within another month, Sarah Palin had tweeted her famous “peaceful Muslims, pls refudiate” tweet. Peter King and Newt Gingrich and Tim Pawlenty followed suit — with political reporters and television news programs dutifully covering “both sides” of the controversy.

Ultimately, a depressingly familiar story.  Right-wing media obsesses on fear-mongering issue.  Professional fear-mongers like Gingrich and Palin expand the story.  Mainstream media covers “the controversy.”   Sad and pathetic.  And effective.  I really wish more (there are some) reasonable conservatives would denounce this demagoguery.  That failure depresses (though no longer surprises) me as much as anything.


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