The Wisdom of Crowds?

I’ve been trying to decide if the speeches at th Democratic National Convention even matter. Sure, the all-star lineup hit it out of the park. They were bad for me, because I kept listening to them at work and tearing up uncontrollably.

But does anyone really listen? I’m starting to think they do not. Look how long it’s taken Obama to counter the Muslim lie, even though it shouldn’t matter. He hasn’t really totally gotten rid of it, even though the simple truth should win out. Some of the people who don’t trust him because he’s a Muslim also don’t trust him because of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright “controversy.” (He’s a Muslim, but the remarks of the Christian pastor who baptized his children bother them, too? Come on people: you have to pick one.)

After listening to Obama’s speech last night, I actually felt really good. Then I got up this morning and listened to the chattering classes on NPR talk about how he had done what he needed to do. I realized it then. They’re only talking to each other. They’re the ones who decided what he needed to do in the first place. Most people just aren’t that invested, and don’t pay that much attention. If they did, the whispers wouldn’t work. And it doesn’t help that we have a national media more concerned with reflecting the readers’ world’s back to them and telling them what they want to hear, rather than taking them to new places and telling them what they should hear.

That was only reinforced when I was listening to a story about an elementary school that is holding a “book election,” to pick their favorite book. Kids who haven’t even read the book, it turns out, will most likely vote for the ones everyone else lines up for, the crowd. The indignant reporter, a student named Bridget, asked how one of her friends could even stand with a book crowd when he didn’t know much about it. He had relied on his other friend to sell him on it, he said. Other than that, he didn’t really know.

So that’s that, I’m afraid. If McCain wins the election, it’ll be because people want to look at the gas price at the pump and have someone tell them that the seemingly quickest solution, getting more oil, is actually the right one. They don’t want to hear about nuance and they really don’t want to hear about things they should do. They won’t even read a book. That’s why they still claim to not know Obama, a man who’s written two autobiographies.

Obama said in his speech that what makes America great is, “. . . that American spirit, that American promise, that prushes us forward even when the path is uncertain; that binds us together in spite of our differences; that makes us fix our eye not on what is seen, but what is unseen, that better place around the bend.”

That’s beautiful, and refreshingly grammatically correct. But I’m not so sure. At least now I know what Obama always seems to be looking at, off in the distance.

  • Shawn L.

    “They don’t want to hear about nuance and they really don’t want to hear about things they should do.”

    Independents, where Obama has a significant lead, absolutely want to hear about nuance. And they’ve made it clear on radio and the blogosphere that the Palin pick indicates a serious lack of judgement on McCain’s part, even pushing some who were leaning McCain to jump ship. The GOP faithful are the ones fired up by a pro-life, creationist, Big Oil supportin’, NRA card-carryin’ hockey mom and they were going to vote Republican anyway.

    And let’s be real about it– the “GOP base” is really a euphemism for the deep South and racially/religiously divided Midwest. Even those frustrated few who planned to sit out the vote in protest until the Palin pick were not going to swing any of the aforementioned states blue. In fact if you look at the entire South the only place where we have a real shot is Virginia, and with Warner, Kaine and Webb campaigning for Obama there, it still looks good. Iowa doesn’t have the level of racial paranoia and religious conservatism so prevalent in the rest of the rural Midwest which explains why Obama has a slight lead there.

    Obama doesn’t even need to win Ohio or Florida if he holds on to the Kerry states and wins 1) Virginia and 2) New Mexico (popular Democratic governor where record Hispanic turnout is expected) or Colorado (popular Democratic senator and is already at the forefront of the green technology that Obama is promoting) or the aforementioned Iowa (where the Obama campaign originally took off).

    Any of those combinations would give him the 18 additional votes Kerry needed to win in 2004.