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WILL A CYCLE NOW BE BROKEN? Today, we’re heading off to Virginia—where Clinch Mountain voters said no: // link // print // previous // next //
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 10, 2005

CONTINUES SATURDAY: We’re off on a mission of some importance, taking us to the great state of Virginia. Our incomparable series on Making Schools Work will continue on Saturday.

WILL A CYCLE NOW BE BROKEN: Every four years, we agree to pretend that the New Jersey/Virginia governor races hold some vast predictive significance. They don’t, of course; Dems routinely win the State House in Virginia, for example, as they did again this week. (Politically, Virginia has become the anti-Massachusetts.) But newspapers have to publish each day, and it’s better if they have something to say. So the tribe of scribes agree to pretend that Something Quite Big has occurred.

That said, we couldn’t help hoping that a cycle had been broken when Virginia’s voters turned away the gong-show campaign of Republican Jerry Kilgore. For the past several decades, pseudo-conservatives have eaten free lunch by playing the credulous voters for fools. But has anyone ever played this card like the utterly laughable Kilgore? Back in June, he authored one of the most ludicrous pitches in recent campaign history, claiming that his Democratic opponent, Tim Kaine, was making fun of his southwest Virginia twang (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/9/05). You’d think a campaign couldn’t get any dumber, but there was Kilgore again this October, complaining in ads that Kaine—a personal opponent of the death penalty who said he would carry out Virginia law—wouldn’t even have executed Adolph Hitler.

It’s hard to get much dumber than that. You could hear Kilgore’s pitch very clearly: Hey rubes! But amazing! Watching from their Clinch Mountain homes, Virginians didn’t bite for his bullroar.

We’ve suggested, for years, that Dems and libs should make this clowning a central framework. Pseudo-cons have prospered this way for years, offering the dumbest possible pitches—while Dems and liberals pretend not to notice. For our money, here is the crowning example of this pseudo-con style of politics:

OUR PERSONAL FAVORITE: When we lower the tax rates, we bring in more revenue.
Is it possible to think up a claim that is more blatantly dumb and inane? But this absurd talking-point has now survived through several decades of pseudo-con talk, and Dems and libs rarely tell voters the obvious truth: Claims like this are blatant, absurd nonsense. Rush and Sean (and Jerry Kilgore) are playing you for complete screaming fools.

Tim Kaine is making fun of my accent! And: This guy wouldn’t even execute Hitler! No, you can’t get dumber than that. But when will we liberals translate for voters? When will we give them the code that lets them hear what’s really being said? When will we decode the slick, secret message: Hey, you big dumb f*cking rubes!

KAINE-DO CANDIDATE: Meanwhile, we thought Kaine ran a superlative campaign, especially in the way he discussed his religious beliefs. Here at THE HOWLER, we aren’t religious, but as it turns out, some voters are. And if we recall correctly, Dr. King—the greatest liberal/centrist achiever of the past fifty years—was a minister who brought his religious faith right smack-dab into the discourse. Sure, Kaine was wrong to mock Kilgore’s accent. But it seems that voters will forgive even that if you tell them your faith made you do it.

All kidding aside, since we’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: If you want to know why Bill Clinton became president, you ought to read pages 251-252 of his book, My Life—the pages where he discuses his vew of Arkansas’ Pentecostal voters. “Knowing the Pentecostals has enriched and changed my life,” Clinton writes. “Whatever your religious views, or lack of them, seeing people live their faith in a spirit of love toward all people, not just your own, is beautiful to behold. If you ever get a chance to go to a Pentecostal service, don’t miss it.” Whatever your religious views—or lack of them. Clinton is suggesting that liberals reach out—yes, he’s suggesting that liberals be liberal! We’ll again suggest that Dems and libs should read this fascinating part of his book. Or, to get the tangiest excerpts, just see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/18/04 and 11/19/04.

FOR FOOTBALL FANS ONLY: Meanwhile, we can bash the red states with the best of them—but we only do so in a football context, dissing the perennially over-ranked teams of the SEC. We think the current state of the polls helps show you what we’ve been saying.

With Tennessee’s loss to Notre Dame, the SEC is now 2-5 against major outside competition. (Against other major conferences plus Notre Dame.) But as usual, SEC teams are highly-ranked despite their annual floundering. In the current AP poll, the mighty elevens of the SEC are ranked 4, 5, 9, 12 and 15, despite this sad conference showing. Granted, seven games is a rather small “n.” But this tends to go on every year.

The computers are less kind. This was clear in a detailed graphic about BCS standings in Tuesday’s New York Times. (Sorry—we can’t find the graphic on-line.) Yes, Alabama is well-regarded by computers; the Crimson Tide is ranked third and fourth in the two BCS human polls, and is tied for fourth by the computers. But all other SEC teams get dissed. LSU? Fifth in both the human polls—but tied for thirteenth on the computers! Georgia? Ninth in both the human polls; only twelfth, say the whirring machines. Florida is twelfth and thirteenth according to humans, number 17 on the computers. And Auburn? The War Eagles rank 15 and 17, humans say. But the gimlet-eyed computers don’t even have them in the Top 25.

We try to make this point every year. Today, as we head on a two-day mission, we’ll let the computers speak for us.

Bonus: Most under-rated teams this year? Colorado is 21 and 22 in the human polls—but it’s ranked 11 by the computers. And on Wisconsin! The Badgers are 19 in both human polls. HAL’s pals beg to differ: Number 9.