Yesterday it was one of those moments when you felt sure that the news people must have made it up. Like that moment when you were sure for a fleeting instant that the picture on the TV tube, the one of the burning WTC tower, was just an airline accident in New York. Yesterday that moment, for me, was the news that McCain has pulled ahead of Obama 50 percent to 46 percent in the latest USA Today-Gallup Poll.
Ahead of Obama on the basis of what? I thought this was a Presidential election. I had the naive idea that elections were decided by issues....that the polls are supposed to record up-and-down ticks of the public's positioning on issues. For a while there, Obama was ahead on the issues. Issues like vanishing jobs and healthcare. Issues like a a bankrupt economy. Issues like the eight years of corruption, scandal, mismanagement and lies that have characterized the Bush administration. Even Nixon needed only one lie to get himself bounced from the Oval Office.
We're told that this tick in the polls is the after-effect of Sarah Palin's speech the other day. You mean that Sarah Palin? Right -- the one who looks like an overgrown schoolgirl, which makes her the most dangerous candidate that the religious right have picked yet.
Palin is the cutie-pie that the Republicans chose after all their wild-eyed objections to Hillary. The woman who wants to outlaw reproductive choice for all women, even rape victims. The one whose friends and pastors say she uses the Bible as her political guide. The one who thinks that creationism should be taught in schools. The very one who campaigned to remove copies of My Friend Flicka from library shelves in Alaska. I can understand a church lady not wanting kids to read Lady Chatterley's Lover, but...My Friend Flicka?
For a more detailed analysis of Palin's problematical positionings, readers can go to Alternet
As the running-mate of a 72-year-old man, this Flicka-fighter will be half a heartbeat away from the Presidency...and some in the American public evidently think that's a great idea. One speech, and she's on the way. Even Hitler needed more than one speech.
If this shift in the polls is real news -- if it's any indication of how the swing vote will go in seven weeks, it shows that this election isn't being fought on issues. It's being fought with clouds of purple tabloid fog. The Republicans have their media fog machines (read FOX News and others) going day and night, to cloud the issues -- that they bankrupted our country not only economically but politically and ethically, that they sold us an ever-expanding war we didn't want, and worst of all, that they pulled the Trojan horse of state religion inside the gates. As a result, some people now "approve" McCain on the basis of non-issues -- things that drift by in the air like fog, that they can't quite put their finger on. Enough people are being pushed to approval by wisps of purple fog that McCain and Palin just might squeak into office.
But FOX News et al aren't the only right-wing fog machines. The Christian Coalition is distributing 70 million voter guides to get McCain and Palin elected -- in flagrant violation of IRS regulations that church nonprofits may not engage in partisan political activity. Not to mention millions of voter guides being distributed by other right-wing churches and religious nonprofits. Least of all to mention pastors who get up in their pulpits and tell their ever-obedient flocks how to vote.
Ever since the 1980s, when the Moral Majority launched, the IRS has been watching the religious right break the law and do their voter-guide thing. But the IRS have sat on their thumbs and done little about it. Now, 30 years later, the voter-guide chickens are finally coming home to roost. You have to imagine how good Sarah Palin will look in those millions of conservative Christian voter guides, with her perky high-school hair-do and her Bible bullet-points.
On seeing the poll news yesterday, a friend of mine said despairingly, "The Democrats need to grow some balls before November."
In my opinion, the Democrats are going to need more than balls. And they're going to need more than a better fog machine.