The unexplained rise and the mysterious fall of mammoth waves

According to Frank Rich, there are only three ways McCain can win, and two of them involve race:

The election isn't over, but there remain only three discernible, if highly unlikely, paths to a McCain victory. A theoretically mammoth wave of racism, incessantly anticipated by the press, could materialize in voting booths on Nov. 4. Or newly registered young and black voters could fail to show up. Or McCain could at long last make good on his most persistent promise: follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell and, once there, strangle him with his own bare hands on "Hannity & Colmes."
I realize that according to Rich's thinking, it is not possible to dislike anything about Barack Obama without being racist, which would mean that to the extent voters vote against him, they are inherently racist. However, even if racism is defined that way, does that necessarily mean that any movement in the polls against Obama can only be explained by racism? What about people who decide that they like John McCain? I realize he's supposed to be a terrible guy with a bad temper and everything, but isn't it theoretically possible that some people like him? So what about those who like McCain? Are they racists for liking him? Or is it to Frank's way of thinking theoretically impossible for anyone to like McCain without being a racist? As to newly registered young and black voters not showing up, what's the assumption there? That young voters favor the younger candidate and black voters should favor the black candidate? Rich thinks that is a good thing, right? And they can't be racists, because none of them are voting for a black man because he is black, nor are they voting against a white man for being white. Unlike McCain's supporters, who are all voting for McCain because he is white, and against Barack Obama because he is black. It is by definition impossible for racism to be a reason for anyone to vote for Obama. And it is by definition impossible for racism not to be a factor in the thinking for anyone to vote for McCain.

Perhaps this explains why the dying Republicans racists are "bailing on a McCain resuscitation" and resorting to Stalinism, fatwas, and storm trooper tactics:

Even Republicans are rapidly bailing on a McCain resuscitation. It's a metaphor for the party's collapse that on the day of the final debate both Nancy Reagan and Dick Cheney checked into hospitals. Conservatives have already moved past denial to anger on the Kubler-Ross scale of grief. They are not waiting for votes to be counted before carrying out their first round of Stalinist purges. William F. Buckley's son Christopher was banished from National Review for endorsing Obama. Next thing you know, there will be a fatwa on that McCain-bashing lefty, George Will.

As the G.O.P.'s long night of the long knives begins, myths are already setting in among the right's storm troops and the punditocracy alike as to what went wrong. And chief among them are the twin curses of Bush and the "headwinds" of the economy. No Republican can win if the party's incumbent president is less popular than dirt, we keep being told, or if a looming Great Depression 2 is Issue No. 1.

This is an excuse, not an explanation. It absolves McCain of much of the blame and denies Obama much of the credit for their campaigns. It arouses pity for McCain when he deserves none. It rewrites history.

Well, let's look at history, especially recent history. I'm tired of Stalinist Republican storm trooper fatwas anyway. As things stand right now, McCain has a statistical pattern of pulling ahead of Obama occasionally, then falling behind again. Take a look at this graph, showing McCain's and Obama's relative positions in the polls over the past year.


You'll notice that I've supplemented the chart to reflect the additional insight from Frank Rich about "mammoth waves of racism."

Yes, waves, Frank, waves! Note the plural! There have so far been at least four (maybe five) times in which McCain has pulled ahead of Obama, during each of which McCain would presumably have won had the election then been held. As Rich defines a win by McCain as occasioned by a mammoth wave of racism, then simple logic dictates that there have been recurrent periods of these mammoth racist waves. Who knows what causes them? Certainly not the economy, as that wasn't the leading issue during these earlier periods. Nor could they have been caused by people "bailing on a McCain resuscitation," as things were too early in the death game for the Kubler-Ross team to arrive. As to the "newly registered young and black voters" who "fail to show up," that wasn't a factor either, for the simple reason that no one has to show up in those kinds of polls.

Notice that the mammoth waves came and went without regard to Republican fatwas, Stalinist purges, or even (unless there was a repeat of Kristallnacht of which I'm unaware) the antics of Republican storm troopers.

What could be going on?

I'm stumped.

The mammoth waves must be some primal force of nature that only Frank Rich can explain.

posted by Eric on 10.19.08 at 10:09 PM


The typical Frank Rich column is witty, nasty, and clueless. This one seems to fit that pattern.

Joe Lammers   ·  October 19, 2008 10:25 PM

I keep hearing "amber waves of grain" and then it's "mammoth waves of racsim". Grain. Racism.

Back and forth it goes. One minute I'm making a reasonable decision based upon policy positions and wham! racist thoughts pour into my head. It's the reason I've resisted Cartesian geometry. Hey, Descartes wasn't like us. He was French! And besides, wasn't Leibnitz better? And German?

Rich's analysis is therefore, spot on. It's gotta be race. It can't be the socialist thingy. Engels was a German, too. So, the socialism is okay.

OregonGuy   ·  October 19, 2008 10:55 PM

I have almost settled for being called a racist because I voted for McCain. Yes here in Colorado we have mail in ballots and we have voted. Wonder when BO will get around to "reeducating" me???

LYNNDH   ·  October 19, 2008 11:33 PM

"the right’s storm troops"

Back in my teens you only found language like that in commie propaganda organs like the Daily Worker or the local hippie rag.

To see this sort of open extremism in the Times only shows just how rotten journalism has become, and just little it deserves to be respected.

pst314   ·  October 20, 2008 12:14 AM

This is just a setup folks. Who in their right mind, ie, Republicans would vote for Obama? Why, yes they might stay at home instead of vote for McCain, but vote for Obama? Why?

My husband is a retired pipefitter. His union also covers plumbers. This is a Democrat demographic if there ever was one... where the hell did they find Joe? Surely, they (whoever they are) had to go to great lengths to find a plumber that would question a Democrat.

Yet, in that mail last week was an 8 x 10 tri-fold from the UA exhorting its members to disregard race and vote for Obama.

They (whoever designed and approved the ad) are assuming that most of their members are racist and considering not voting for Obama because he's black.

But wouldn't that be a Democrat problem, not a Republican problem? How many of these union members are registered Republicans? From my personal experience, very very few. Maybe none?

So, isn't this racism problem a Democrat problem rather than a Republican problem? Obama is left of Kerry and there was no way I - a registered Republican, even though my husband is a Democrat - was ever going to vote for Obama, even if he was stylishly pink and brown polka-dotted.

Donna B.   ·  October 20, 2008 5:26 AM

Frank Rich may have momentarily talked himself into this - liberals are notoriously easily influenced by intellectual fashions - but I suspect he doesn't believe it. It's calculated. From a progressive standpoint, one gets to feel self-righteous, making the accusation whips up the base for turnout, and you might even pick up a few votes of people who are afraid to be thought racist. What's not to like?

Truth? Details, details.

Assistant Village Idiot   ·  October 20, 2008 8:21 AM

Considering the MSM theory that Democrats are intelligent, caring, tolerant and progressive and that republicans are religious, bigoted, racist idiots.
The only people that can possibly be adopting racist view are Democrats, since by the MSM definition of a republican they are already racist.
Perhaps the history of the democratic party back to about
1850 should be reviewed?

hugh   ·  October 20, 2008 8:52 AM

Hugh, I'd settle for 1950. Ain't gonna happen, though.

Assistant Village Idiot   ·  October 20, 2008 4:40 PM

Give Rich points for mixing Stalinist imagery with the inevitable Nazi references, though. He must have strained his great brain all morning for that one, and then had to lie down with the shades drawn and a damp cloth on his forhead. But I'm sure he thought it was worth it, what with the constant struggle against evil and all that.

But still, he ought to take care, lest some hate filled right winger comes along and demonizes him or something.

Steve Skubinna   ·  October 20, 2008 8:01 PM

There have so far been at least four (maybe five) times in which McCain has pulled ahead of Obama

Um. Most of which occurred before the primary season was complete?

Do you really not understand that the passage of time changes things?

Hamilton Lovecraft   ·  October 22, 2008 3:31 PM

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