Deconstructing the Obama and Romney websites gives you insight into how their campaigns think.
Look at the Obama website, and you see interest groups:
- African Americans
- Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders
- Jewish Americans
- LGBT Americans
- Native Americans
- People of Faith
- People with Disabilities
- Rural Americans
- Small Business Owners
- Veterans & Military
- Young Americans.
Just as they did in 2008, they divide the world into races and ethnicities (1, 2, 6, 7, 9) religions (3, 6 again, 12), ages (15, 20) , life stages (11), gender (19), sexual orientation (8), occupation (4, 10, 16, 18), ability (13), geography (14), and affinity (5, 17).
I am sure there are studies behind this, but this is a really awful way to think about the world. First pigeon-holing identity is wrong. Second, their pigeon-holes are incomplete. I could easily identify as none of these (though I am sure the campaign figures I am 6 based on mailings I have received, I guess they cross-listed against a names-database). I fall under 4, though I think of myself differently than the school-teacher they have in mind, and parents, but again, I could just as easily be childless.
Why are Catholics singled out, but not Athiests, Protestants, Mormons, Eastern Orthodox, Muslims, Hindus, Zoroastrians, or Buddhists? (Alternatively, are Catholics not People of Faith?) Why are Women singled out but not Men? Why are Young Americans and Seniors singled out but not middle aged non-parents? Why small business owners but not laborers or large business investors (like everyone with a pension plan)? Why nurses but not doctors, physicians assistants, lab technicians, or candy-stripers? Why Rural Americans but not Suburbanites or City-Dwellers? And of course, there is the White Elephant sitting in the room.
[It also raises the question of why it is politically correct to say "Seniors" but not "Juniors" or "Youth", but "Young Americans", or Sportsmen but not Businessmen, or People with Disabilities (no longer the Disabled, or Disabled Americans, or Americans with Disabilities), or Rural Americans rather than Countryfolk, or Catholics, not Catholic Americans, but Jewish Americans and not Jews, or Educators but not Teachers or Teaching Americans or People of the Chalk.]
So despite the 3 times a day emails, I am unmoved by the campaign.
Mitt Romney on the other hand breaks the world into coalitions:
- Americans of Faith
- Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
- Black Leadership Council
- Energy Voters
- Farmers and Ranchers
- Former Obama Supporters
- Healthcare Professionals
- Jewish Americans
(He goes there!)
- Polish Americans
(but not Czechs, Ukrainians, or Romanians)
- Public Safety Professionals
- Voters for Free Enterprise
- Veterans and Military Families
- Young Americans
The lists are oddly similar. Environmentalists get replaced with Energy Voters, Nurses with Healthcare Professionals, Rural Americans with Farmers and Ranchers, Small Business Owners with “Romney Voters for Free Enterprise”, African Americans with the Black Leadership Council, Latinos with Juntos, <!– Jewish Americans with the Elders of Zion, –> People with Disabilities are replaced by Public Safety Professionals and Lawyers.
The fundamental flaw is the same, and Romney’s coalitions seem even smaller than Obama’s. Yuck.
Obama on the Issues
I hope to find solace in the issues. At least Obama is still a Civil Libertarian, right? There is no evidence on the website.
The issues page is slightly better than it was a few months ago.
Innovation: No policies appear there, just a goal. Nothing about patent reform or copyright reform? Nothing about open access to scientific research? Further when I click “More on Innovation” I am taken to the economy page, which is about the lack of innovation, reviving the auto industry and manufacturing.
Taxes: Ok, some reforms in that the Bush cuts expire, and spending rises less fast than the baseline. And really, he is only asking the rich to just “pay a little bit more”. Really, why are they complaining? It’s only a “little bit”. BS. It’s a lot, nearly $1 trillion in a decade. That’s a lot even to Mitt Romney. And it should be a lot.
Nation-Building: This is where he talks about Infrastructure and is the best bit. Americans will be rebuilding “road”, not “roads”. I.e. his plan is build one road? Yeah, I know, it is a typo. That’s what you expect on a blog, not from the POTUS. Clearly, it was put together by interns, and no one read it! He seems to refer to the Infrastructure Bank, I am surprised to see it in the top 5 of his list, but good. Of course, the Bank the administration has proposed gives away money in addition to lending it, and it is not clear how the money is paid back, but I guess something is better than nothing.
I have never understood the Energy Independence mantra running through the US politic for forty years now. Who will buy our stuff if we don’t buy theirs? At any rate, we have the good fortune to have lots of new natural gas, so we can burn that now.
More education is good too, but where is the support for vouchers and charter schools? We should have “single payer” education, but not state provision, any more than we have state provision of health care or food. We would be so much better off if we had single payer for both education (less “socialism”) and health care (more “socialism”).
Nothing on immigration? Smart immigration reform is probably the greatest free lunch for growing the US economy there is. (At least there is something elsewhere on the site (though I have to “jump to another issue”) about immigration, but it is not part of the economic blueprint).
Romney on the Issues
Romney does in fact have a better issues page. I don’t believe it of course, and it looks wrong, but it does lay out the issue in a way that you can believe that someone on his team has actually thought about it. The five key points:
The Skills to Succeed
Trade that Works for America
Cut the Deficit
Champion Small Business.
Aside from the “Reduce taxes” and “Replace Obamacare” parts of Champion Small Business, it mostly sounds okay and bland, i.e. it could have appeared in some form on the other party’s website. Clearly there are some subtle differences, Obama spiked the Keystone pipeline in its proposed form. But really, we all want streamlining, cutting red tape, and eliminating strong-arm tactics. We just disagree as to what constitutes important safeguards and what constitutes increases in regulation tangling job creators in red tape.
For the record. I nevertheless intend to vote for Obama. The objectivist Republican alternative is awful, the big “L” Libertarian alternative is not going to win, and if he won is unprepared to govern.