Pizzarebbe’s note: I did not put this here by mistake!

From Shtetl-Optimized


Over at Cosmic Variance, Mark Trodden points to a rant by John Scalzi that excoriates fellow Democrats for taking their eye off the ball by obsessing over Sarah Palin. I posted a comment there, and thought I’d make it into a post. (It turns out Mark and I are basically in agreement on this.)

The whole trouble is that, for something in politics to matter, it suffices for enough people to think it matters. Sure, the Palin ploy was reckless, crass, and cynical, but to judge from the polls it’s apparently working. If 2000 and 2004 taught us anything, it’s that millions of voters will fall for this stuff every single time. They’ll tell interviewers that they disagree with the Republicans on every major issue, from abortion to climate change to tax policy to Iraq, and then they’ll still vote for them because they seem like nice, normal folks to have a beer with.

So what can be done? I think Obama now needs to regain the spotlight in some creative new way—something dramatic and unexpected, like his Reverend Wright speech. “Sticking to the script” has turned into a clear recipe for failure.

To illustrate the point, consider the following only slightly-fictionalized exchange:

DEMOCRAT: …and hence c2=(a+b)2-4(ab/2), and the Pythagorean Theorem is indeed true, as claimed.
REPUBLICAN: Nuh-uh! No it isn’t! You’re an elitist dorkwad!
DEMOCRAT: Clearly this ad hominem attack is simply an irrelevant distraction from the issue at hand. Returning to the expression for c2, we see that…
REPUBLICAN: Blah blah blah! Did they teach you to drone on like that in the Ivy League?

As judged by 52% of the American electorate, the Republican is winning this debate hands down. The Pythagorean Theorem is false; case closed!

What, under the circumstances, might have been a more cogent rebuttal to the Republican’s counterarguments? Well, I’m not a political consultant, but the following all strike me as improvements:

  • I’d rather be an elitist than a doofus hick.
  • Do you have any clue what I’m even talking about, you assbrain?
  • What, did they not have right triangles in the cave you grew up in?