Sunday, October 19, 2008

Chess and Checkers, Right and Left

“Thus, what is of supreme importance in war
is to attack the enemy's strategy.”-- Sun Tzu
Today, as a purely mental and distracting exercise (it is a slow Sunday in comfortably middle-class Seattle for me after all), I began to think about what a Barack Obama presidency would look like. I began to contemplate the very thing, I have convinced myself is impossible. The more I contemplated it, the more I was disturbed by what lies ahead. Don’t get me wrong, I intend to vote for Barack Obama and still yearn for a regime change at the executive level of American government. However, seeing the discourse of the past week, and following that trajectory forward beyond November, I am very concerned.

Republicans are a notoriously aggressive political party, so "better luck next time" isn't enough for them. They use their self-righteousness to galvanize and energize their political maneuvers, and thus they need never apologize for their tactics and they never stop fighting. For many Republicans, the end always justifies the means, and the greatest end one can achieve is to solidify and protect the American values, that most Republicans feel that they alone symbolize. Literally, some Republicans view all alternative points of view as “anti-American”.

As I have written before, I admire Republicans in many ways, because far more than the Democrats, they do not delude themselves about how power is usurped, and used, to achieve an agenda. In other words, they see politics for the cold, malicious power-grab that it is, and not the pleasant discourse of contrasting philosophies that we wish it was. Also unlike many Democrats, Republicans actually have an agenda. You may not like their staunch support and vision of “Reagan’s America”, (and I certainly don’t) but give them the credit that they have successfully rallied-around this vision for decades, and have gone to great lengths to perpetuate and empower it.

Now of course, several boughs of the Neo-Con philosophy have begun to break, (or at least appear to be ineffective). Indeed, there is an argument to be made that Neo-Conservatism may have even been the systemic cause of some of the country’s current problems. So it seems like dire and desperate times at the Republican dinner table, which explains why even the National Review and the Buckley family have suddenly come to blows.

However, despite all evidence to the contrary, I am not convinced the Republican Party or the conservative movement is going through the utter collapse and humiliation, that DailyKOS is already celebrating.

Assuming however, the polls are correct, and Obama wins, let’s play the politics of the next year out, see what we find…

Nobody likes an angry Republican, and unlike the Democrats, when Republicans are angry: heads roll and blood is spilled, (Democrats in contrast tend to whine they lose, then mutter and write editorials that blame the centrists in their party for losing). To start with, all of the anti-McCain voices in the conservative movement will begin their “I told you so” essays. Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter will appear almost instantly, to remind us they predicted the calamity months ago. This discourse will only last a day or two because the real message the conservatives want to perpetuate is: fraud.

Fraud. Illegitimate. Scandal.

These three words will be the only explanation Republicans can offer for the results of the election, and they will hammer these three themes home, well into November and well beyond the Obama inauguration (assuming he wins).

Already, the groundwork is being laid for this rebuttal, and the messages we hear are alarming. The most alarming aspect of them is there are just enough granules of truth in these accusations, to allow the Republicans to ensure their "scandal" takes root in the mainstream media. What media outlet doesn’t love controversy anyway, and wouldn’t be more than willing to magnify these granules into a full-blown, scandalous investigation and national dialog?

The attack will come from several tiers. First, we’ll hear reams and reams about ACORN, (and other community-based voter registration organizations), that registered thousands of fake voters. These organizations are skewed left, they are disorganized and they are quite frankly, a tad inept. Rightly, or wrongly, they will look and sound suspicious to the average American once the bright light of media scrutiny shines on them.

Then we’ll hear about “fraud” at the polls, and especially how early-voting in some states were usurped and manipulated by Barack Obama. The Republicans will scour the Earth for voters, who “confess” how they voted multiple times, or used a combination of early-voting, absentee-ballots and poor registration. Others will suddenly pop-up claiming Obama supporters urged them to cast votes in states they do not reside in. They’ll find a black-woman from Illinois for example, that will “confess” how she was urged and taught how she could actually cast her vote in Florida.

Then we’ll hear the more powerful and quite frankly more legitimate claim about the shady way Barack Obama was able to raise such enormous funds.

The fuel that will drive this “controversy”, will be that, in fact, Obama does indeed collect money in a somewhat dubious way. In many ways, this is not Obama’s fault. He merely perfected a means of fund-raising pioneered by Howard Dean. To make matters even more perfect for the Republicans, this means of raising funds, also questions the integrity and security of the internet, and this is a theme that a vast majority of older-Americans appreciate and applaud.

The internet is big and spooky to many Americans fifty and over, because it is a medium and tool that was developed primarily by the generation that came after them. And of course, there is a basis of truth in the internet’s unreliability and insecurity, so the ingredients are well established for the Republicans to make a lot of noise about how Obama "broke the law" in becoming President.

The Republicans will probably even find internet-donations, that have "links to terrorists", and despite the flimsy evidence, the headline will be so sensational our media won't be able to resist it.

Obama’s main source of income was built around a rule that establishes that nobody who contributes less than 200 dollars to a political campaign has to declare who they are.

You then combine this rule, with an internet-based campaign fund-raising tool, and you then combine this with the elements of fraud that take place under any electronic-commerce endeavor, and you have the recipe for the accusation of scandal.

I guarantee you, there will be examples and instances that the Republicans can point to in the months ahead, where people were donating money via credit/debit cards that were stolen, (or used without permission). There will be examples where people obscured how much or how often they contributed, (therefore bypassing the 200 dollar rule), by creating “anonymous” profiles to hide the true source of the contribution.

We'll see instances of foreigners contributing, and some of the contributions will be deemed to have very dangerous ties or a "threat" to our security. For all of these accusations, there will be examples along the way, to make these accusations seem legitimate, there are probably some being "planted" by shrewd Republicans right now.

It sounds outrageous I know, but I have a great deal of experience in electronic commerce, and indeed have had great success in my career in this field of work; and I can tell you any electronic-based, credit card system, can be exploited via fraud.

Indeed, there is no e-Commerce business I know of, that hasn’t had fraud issues and these include billion dollar companies who devote millions to limiting their fraud-liability. There is *NO* way, Obama’s campaign could have completely insulated themselves from fraud, because no e-Commerce business ever has.

So while, it may be true that Obama’s campaign did the best they could to limit fraud, (and make sure people were contributing honestly), all it will take is a few sturdy examples of fraud (and those examples will manifest believe me), and the entire campaign can be called into question.

Lastly, these two veins of attack (voter-fraud and campaign financial-fraud), is a clever and obvious move for the Republicans because they can claim higher ground on both fronts almost immediately, and even more brilliantly, could use their attack to create legislative pressure that will seek to strengthen them in 2012. They can’t lose anything (since they’ve already lose the election), but can gain not only legitimacy for the next election, but might also take away the very tools and means by which Obama has forged himself into such a strong political force.

One casualty from this election I am certain, is that if Obama wins, the rules for campaign financing will change again, because if the Republicans have any kind of congressional power (a lack of a filibuster-proof majority for Democrats in the Senate more than likely) they will extend that power to get this dialog onto the public agenda. They’ll rally the FBI/CIA to investigate Obama’s financing, and they’ll rally their “troops” into civil acts of discontent (rallies etc), to delegitimize Obama and his party.

It will be a war of words, unlike any we’ve ever seen, because the conservatives will perceive themselves as righteous and just, in raising these concerns.

If the left were smart, they’d be preparing for this inevitability right now. Sadly, the left in this country is not always smart. Remember this is a side of the spectrum where half of their members refused to recognize how brilliant a politician Obama was to begin with. Their solution was to dredge up the ghosts of the Clinton presidency. Mercifully, the other half of the left, stopped us from that nightmare, which would have surely ended in Republican victory.

Unbelievably, as I write this, the left is popping champagne and declaring a victory, before it is even won. The left will probably stand around stunned and surprised that their victory isn’t as fully realized as they deluded themselves it would be and then blame "racism" for it. Then the real war will begin, and the left will be (as usual) playing a reactive and defensive game to the right’s attacks, totally unprepared and hung over from their premature celebrations.

I think if this plays out, we’ll likely see concessions on voter registration and campaign financing, that will ensure that the populist-nature of Obama’s political rise, will not be seen in this country again for a very long time. After all, Obama's campaign defeated two institutional and powerful forces: it defeated the Clinton machine, and it is now poised to defeat the Neo-Con machine.

You can't slap the power-brokers of America that hard, and not get punished for it.

The fight does not end after November; indeed, the fight will have only just begun. That’s something the left should be talking about and strategizing against, but instead they post YouTube clips of Sarah Palin and giggle and pat themselves on the back, for an election that still is undecided.

The right is playing chess, the left is still playing checkers, and I fear Obama’s political career (and populism in general), could suffer from it.

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