Interview: Dan Carlin on Barack Obama, Voting Machines and Bob Barr
We are on the eve of a historic election. We most likely will have the first African American president. Things are pretty exciting, and to add to this excitement is podcaster Dan Carlin, who hosts the podcasts Common Sense with Dan Carlin and Hardcore History.
The election is about a week away. Who’s going to win the presidency and why?
Well…I have been saying Barack Obama ever since it became clear who would win the respective party nominations. But I don’t think it takes a genius to see that the combination of Bush’s unpopularity coupled with the pretty obvious charisma mismatch would make a McCain win unlikely. He has always had an uphill battle in this race. I would think he would have needed to run a perfect campaign to pull off a victory, and his campaign has instead been a bit haphazard at times. So, I think by all conventional standards Obama should win. This is NOT a conventional election, however. I am very curious to see if there will turn out to be any real difference between what people told pollsters they would do when they cast their ballots, and what they actually DID do when they entered the voting booths. Was there a “Bradley Effect”? A hidden racist vote? We’ll see.
WHY he is going to win is a different question. Obviously the Bush fatigue is part of it. The war(s), the world situation, the perceived lack of federal competency. The economy is always huge as well in elections and the party out of power usually is the beneficiary of bad economic times. The Republican “brand” is not really hot right now either (perhaps a huge understatement on my part here). Add to that the first truly exciting Democratic nominee since Jack Kennedy and you have a recipe for a Democratic win I would think.
And let’s be honest, McCain is a really lackluster candidate. I rank him with a Bob Dole, Mike Dukakis John Kerry or Walter Mondale. They are all about equally compelling. Bland competency. Dole got to run against the charismatic Clinton, Mondale against the charismatic Reagan, and now McCain against the charismatic Obama. Not really fair, is it? It would be nice to have a battle of charismatic heavyweights some day wouldn’t it? But you don’t get that very often in American politics unfortunately. If you are lucky you get a Star against a “tomato can”. If you are unlucky, you get two tomato cans (see the 1988, 2000 and 2004 elections for details).
Oh, I don’t know about this. It seems to me we should expect a sizable increase in the number of Democratic members to the House and Senate. But so much of this stuff depends on the conditions in the various districts. Every district, of course, has its own local dynamics going on, and long-serving incumbents are always hard to defeat. But again, you would think the economy and the Bush fatigue would result in Democratic gains. Will it a be filibuster-proof majority? I don’t know.
Well, certainly the mere specter of vote fraud is dangerous. It strikes at the perceived integrity of the system. You don’t have to have the actual fraud for the perception to undermine confidence that the outcome reflects the will of the People. If enough Americans think their candidate was robbed by the opposition the system suffers.
This election is particularly worrisome because both sides have already been highlighting places where they think fraud might happen or actually is occurring (from vote machines to ACORN). They are, in effect, setting the stage for after-election complaints should their candidate lose. Since one of them WILL lose, we are almost guaranteed that one side will be making the case that we have (another?) fraudulent election on our hands. Over time this can’t help but be a cancer on the system’s integrity.
Now…is it valid? Is fraud happening? I’m dying to find out. I hope this question is exhaustively researched soon after the election and we see how all these potential scenarios and allegations play out. Did the mythical people at the heart of the ACORN allegations actually impact the vote? Were there problems with the voting machines? Are there any really solid claims of actual “vote fraud” on a nefarious level? I really want to know, and I think the system needs that sort of exhaustive post-election analysis if we are going to maintain confidence that everything is fair. Will we trust the results though? When you become too suspicious and cynical even the official investigations won’t alleviate the mistrust.
What do you make of the Colin Powell endorsement of Barack Obama?
I am not really surprised. I think if Powell had any mixed emotions at all (but I don’t think he did) the Sarah Palin pick probably sealed the deal for him. Powell has a pretty high standard for the VP’s qualifications and it seems he doesn’t think she quite measures up to it yet. I doubt it impacted the vote much though.
The tone. But only in some ways. A President Obama will find that the system has a way of molding and constraining those who sit at the center of it. Ask Jimmy Carter. If another terror attack impacts people in the USA Obama will likely act in a way that he might well be critical of others if they did the same thing today. Events can do that to a President.
One thing will surely change though. An African-American president would be a big change. And I do think some good comes out of that fact alone. It helps validate that old mythical American line from parent to child that “You too can grow up to be President someday”. And I see importance and value in that.
More than people think.
Well, anything I say might have the air of sour grapes to it, so I’d rather not get into it too much. I don’t know Congressman Barr and he doesn’t know me. I’m just a podcaster, right? But, we have one of (if not the) largest audience in political podcasting (a majority who lean basically libertarian, including me). We do our interviews at the time and date chosen by the interview subject and they are taped, over the phone. They can be done while the interviewee is en route from one speaking engagement to another. They are terribly easy to do for those being interviewed. When the excuse is “we don’t have time”, and there are still months before the election, we just assume we are being avoided. Maybe we are totally wrong. But, let’s be honest. If I were Bob Barr, would I want to be on my show? Hell no.
There is a whole book here, not a simple answer. The Republican Party is in the early stages of a transition I think. They are going to have to craft some sort of mission for themselves, an identity. They used to stand for something and now they really are a bit of an ideological train wreck. I think they are going to go though a painful process of self-rediscovery on the level of the one that Goldwater was the spark for in the 1960’s that eventually culminated in the later “Reagan Revolution” or the one that Eisenhower’s defeat of the Republican isolationist Taft cemented in the 1950’s.
What will emerge is anyone’s guess. If I had to put money on any one figure swooping in to pick up the pieces (and maybe benefit from doing so) I’d bet on Newt Gingrich. Don’t discount him. He is formidable and understands this situation well.