Flip-Flops and YouTube

John Cole does an excellent job of demonstrating the falacy behind an attack on Obama from Ed Morrissey in a post entitled Obama still doesn’t get YouTube, does he? John responds:

Yeah, Ed. They guy who fueled his candidacy with YouTube videos and viral videos and whose campaign has a YouTube page and was notorious for emailing youtube links to the press and who raised closed to 300 million on the internet doesn’t understand YouTube. At least not as good as John McCain, who will talk at length about “a google.” Posts like this from Captain Ed and others make me wonder if the right-wing bloggers lack a complete and total sense of awareness and understanding of reality, or if they really are just Rovian hacks who have completely internalized the concept of attacking your opposition’s strengths.

Ed’s title is pretty absurd considering that John McCain doesn’t even know how to use a computer. Still, there is more to Ed’s post beyond his title which is worth discussing. Captain Ed’s main argument, putting aside the absurdity in the title, is that politicians cannot get away with changing their views on positions due to YouTube. He wrote:

In days gone by, politicians could issue mutually-contradictory messages with near impunity as the mainstream media rarely would double-check the historical record.  Now, with video on line and millions of fact-checkers scrutinizing every statement, any obviously false statement will get exposed in short order.

Just as it is ridiculous for a Republican to try to criticize Obama’s comparative knowledge of the internet, it is rather audacious to continue to use the flip-flop attack in yet another election year. John McCain’s list of flip-flops is tremendously longer than any flip-flops one might accuse Obama of. This might simply be because McCain has been in politics a lot longer as opposed to any real character flaw on McCain’s part. The real problem is the manner in which supposed flip-flops are used by conservatives as a political attack.

Republicans used claims of flip-flops against John Kerry with some success but I don’t believe they will be as successful this time around. It’s a classic case of “fool me once…” Now that the voters see through Bush and his party, they are less likely to fall for this again.

The Republican stress on flip-flops is largely a consequence of them being on the wrong side of so many issues. It allows them to attack Democrats without having a coherent argument against the actual policies. At times the difference comes down to the ideological and even theological approach Republicans often take. They might see the issue in terms of black or white when actually there are many nuances. The answer to many questions from a political stand point is not static. It is understandable for a politician to support different legislative measures at different times based upon what can pass. While Bush has been an unquestioning ideologue, Obama is a pragmatist who looks at various possible solutions to problems which fit within his broader views.


Attitudes on Income Redistribution and Government Action

There is a segment of the right which keeps trying to fight socialism despite its demise and the triumph of the free market. They imagine the Democrats as Marxists while applauding the Republicans as heroic defenders of the free market, often blind to their support for corporate welfare and other big government programs. While there are some who hang on to old leftist economic ideas, current partisan divides are far greater over matters such as social issues and the war. Gallup has released a poll on attitudes on redistributing wealth. If those on the right who claim Democrats are a pack of socialists were right, we’d expect to see a tremendous difference between the parties on this issue.

The poll shows that Americans are fairly united in opposing income redistribution. The poll finds that, “Americans overwhelmingly — by 84% to 13% — prefer that the government focus on improving overall economic conditions and the jobs situation in the United States as opposed to taking steps to distribute wealth more evenly among Americans.” This is one reason why John Edwards did not do well in the Democratic primaries, and turning to populism did not bring Hillary Clinton victory.

The results of the poll were fairly constant regardless of either party affiliation or income:

Americans’ lack of support for redistributing wealth to fix the economy spans political parties: Republicans (by 90% to 9%) prefer that the government focus on improving the economy, as do independents (by 85% to 13%) and Democrats (by 77% to 19%). This sentiment also extends across income groups: upper-income Americans prefer that the government focus on improving the economy and jobs by 88% to 10%, concurring with middle-income (83% to 16%) and lower-income (78% to 17%) Americans.

Where there is a difference is over the question of whether the government should be doing more or less:

A separate question finds Americans more likely to believe government is doing too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses (50%) as opposed to saying government should do more to solve the country’s problems (43%). This broad question is not directed specifically at the economy, but reinforces the general idea that many Americans are leery of too much direct government intervention in fixing the country’s problems.

This philosophical issue appears to divide Americans by both political party and income groups. Republicans think the government is currently doing too much, by 72% to 24%; independents are split, with 47% saying the government is doing too much and 44% saying it is not doing enough; and Democrats say the government needs to do more by 58% to 36%.

Not surprisingly Democrats are more likely to see a need for government action than Republicans, but there is far from complete agreement. I believe members of each party see government action differently. Many Republicans see government action in a more black or white manner, with it always being bad and generally a form of creeping socialism. Many independents and Democrats are more likely to be pragmatic and see a need for government action in specific situations where individuals and businesses have not been able to solve problems. This does not mean most Democrats support near unlimited government control and income redistribution as many Republicans believe.

Michelle Obama Speaks on Gay Issues

One frustration in politics is that often neither party gets it right and we are forced to go with the party which comes closer to our views. Political considerations prevent politicians from taking consistent principled stands, even when they probably agree with us on principle. The Democrats’ compromise on FISA provided one example this week. Same-sex marriage provides yet another example with two events this week showing the differences between the parties. Just as many Democrats are afraid of taking a principled stand on civil liberties which risks leaving them open to attacks of being soft on terrorism, they are afraid of the consequences of openly backing same-sex marriage. I cannot help but wonder if in the end they are primarily risking the loss of votes from people who would never vote for a Democrat. While the consistent liberal position on both FISA and same-sex marriage might be supported by less than 50% of the voters at present, I also cannot help but wonder if public support would be greater if Democrats spent more time defending civil liberties and marriage equality as opposed to hiding from Republican attacks. Obama has the ability to persuade voters on these issues if he were to choose to.

Barack Obama’s position on same-sex marriage seems to be crafted more as an attempt at political compromise than as a firm support of a principled position. He does have a strong record of support for equality up to the point of marriage, where his views become less clear. He is on record many times opposing gay marriage. Once it comes down to specifics, he both has been accepting of same-sex marriage while he has been opposed to laws hindering it. It seems to be a position which attempts to keep this under the radar for the majority who do not cast their vote based upon the issue but is also unsatisfactory to both sides which care about the issue The LGBT community understandably has been critical of Obama for not openly supporting full equality in marriage while conservatives realize that he is not standing with them in opposition.

From the right, Rich Lowry believes “Barack Obama might be the first major candidate for president to support same-sex marriage.”He notes that Obama “respects the decision of the California Supreme Court” which basically equivalent to approving of same sex marriage even if he will not openly support it. He goes further than the 2004 nominee, John Kerry, and his more socially conservative opponents in 2008, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, on this issue.

Michelle Obama spoke at a dinner meeting of the Gay & Lesbian Leadership Council of the Democratic National Committee promoting her husband’s record:

She said he supported a complete repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, which only recognizes marriages between men and women and upholds states’ rights not to honor same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. He also opposes a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy toward gays in the U.S. military and was against a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, she added.

He supports full family and adoption rights for gay and lesbian couples and believes the federal government should not stand in the way of states that opt for domestic partnerships, civil unions or civil marriage, she said. The Illinois senator opposes same-sex marriage.

“Barack believes that we must fight for the world as it should be, a world where together we work to reverse discriminatory laws like DOMA and ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’” she said. “The world as it is should be one that rejects discrimination of all kinds.”

Her husband also has called for a renewed effort to fight HIV and AIDS and has said the African-American community should overcome homophobia, she said.