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November 05, 2008



1. Exit polls showed that 60% of voters thought Palin was unqualified. That number has been steadily increasing since she was added to the ticket.

2. Blacks and Hispanics voted overwhelmingly for Obama, the former probably due to common heritage, and the latter due to the nativist sentiment of the Republican party.

3. Voters under 30 voted overwhelmingly for Obama. The young are easily disillusioned with the old guard.

4. The majority of voters with college degrees and voters making over $200,000 voted for Obama. The educated and affluent support suggests that Obama was simply a better candidate.

5. The majority of voters making less than the median income also voted for Obama. This is perhaps due to Obama's populist appeal.

6. The incumbent party during a recession will almost always lose power, regardless of who the candidates are.

Who did McCain get? He got a larger percentage and larger number of religious evangelicals than even Bush got. He got a majority of white men. He got a majority of incomes between $60k and $200k. He probably also got all of the voters who think Obama is a Muslim terrorist anti-christ, but that's just speculation on my part.


I actually think Nathan's analysis is generally dead-on, though I don't at all deny Tom's additional dynamics. The dominant theme, though, was McCain's inability to sell his economic policy, which ruined his chances with persuadables. I think Nathan cites the main items that demoralized the conservative intelligentsia which had a trickle down effect on the ability to convince regular folks the McCain was equal to the economic challenge. Palin was a drag in terms of making the McCain campaign seem unserious, a narrative fed by the occasional choice to actually draw attention to Ayres et al in the middle of the economic maelstrom. But the biggest single factor still seems to have been how voters viewed McCain with respect to the economic crisis.


Here's some interesting behind-the-scenes reporting by Newsweek:

Make sure to read the second page too.

Nathan Smith

"Who did McCain get? He got a larger percentage and larger number of religious evangelicals than even Bush got."

The evangelicals might have been voting the messiah issue. They think the Messiah already came. Whether Obama shares a "common heritage" with most American blacks is questionable, since he's the son of a Kenyan immigrant. Nothing wrong with that, it's just interesting. But Kenya is on the opposite side of the African continent from West Africa, where most American blacks come from, and they've been here for generations-- more generations, on average (I think) than whites. So to say that Obama has a common heritage with American blacks seems a little like saying that the son of a Russian immigrant shares a common heritage with sixth-generation Irish-Americans because they're both of European stock. Or so it seems to me... *Race* is what Obama has in common with American blacks; and again, nothing wrong with that. "Common heritage" sounds politically correct but seems inaccurate to me. (Unless he's got American black ancestry on his mother's side, that I don't know.)

Nathan Smith

re: "4. The majority of voters with college degrees and voters making over $200,000 voted for Obama. The educated and affluent support suggests that Obama was simply a better candidate."

Heh. Tom's weird reverence for the educated again. Having been at Harvard myself, I must say I trust the opinion of those with fancy degrees, if anything, LESS than those of people with less highfalutin pedigrees... Obama had snob appeal, there's no doubt about that. I think there's a difference between snob appeal and being a better candidate.


Reverence for education is weird? Wasn't your own messiah a teacher and philosopher, a bringer of the word? Isn't your history and tradition recorded and retold through educational mechanism? Did not you read and learn from the bible? Reverence for education is not about placing value on diplomas and degrees, it's about placing value on knowledge and the search thereof. Education is about equipping oneself to make sound decisions of thought and action. Without education, what are we?

You're damn right I revere education. The pursuit of knowledge is much of what makes us Human (moral agents).

Nathan Smith

Jesus was indeed a teacher (though not a philosopher exactly) and a bringer of the word. But he was not, as far as we know, particularly educated (though it seems he could read and knew the Psalms and the Scriptures) and he was certainly not an academic. "Knowledge and the search thereof" occur in all walks of life, not just in schools and universities. For those who love to participate in a certain kind of specialized intellectual games, universities are great; and a certain deference to highly educated specialists in their area of expertise is warranted, to be sure.

Also, most of the great minds of history have been well-educated. But very often, too, they have *rebelled against* what they were taught in the schools, and made their mark by defying the majority of their school-fellows. Certainly they are a tiny minority of the educated. My overall impression is that, if anything, the highly educated as a group are more sheeplike and gullible than the common people, that the highfalutin theories they learn in school crowd out workaday common sense and judgment, and also that university campuses are home to lots of silly-complicated lost causes which ordinary people can't understand because they don't make sense and/or are completely at odds with experience, and that only intellectuals are clever enough to mislead themselves by. (Marxism is only the most famous example.)


I'm not sure how Nathan can really think the uneducated are less "sheeplike and gullible." Hasn't he worked with such people before? The conspiracy theories and preposterous rumors taken as fact, the amazing (to someone like me) incuriosity... In my life I've worked in places where most people were educated and the opposite, and there's just no comparison.

A more parsimonious explanation as to why most of the really big mistakes come from the educated is 1) because the educated have, on average, more power and resources to make things happen and thus more power to cause serious damage when they make mistakes. 2) Educated people who know themselves to be educated are more resistant to contravention on issues important to educated people because they actually care about those issues, contra someone who overheard something once and takes it to be true but wouldn't really care much if they found out it wasn't. For example, I believe the 49ers are better this year than last, but if someone who actually knows about these things were to tell me I was wrong, I would just shrug and say "oh." Meanwhile a committed 49ers fan might well bristle and give all the (possibly specious) reasons why the 49ers are, in fact, better.

Returning to 1) there's a fairly significant difference in impact between a belief that the 49ers are better/worse this year and that we should/should not bail out the financial sector or whatever.

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