Initial afterthoughts

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When I began this blog in its current form, a couple weeks after my coverage of the Democratic National Convention, I half expected it to be an exercise in masochism. McCain and Palin were riding high in the polls following her hard-edged acceptance speech at the RNC. Obama was under constant attack. The course of events seemed all too familiar.

And then something happened. Many things, actually. The first was Tina Fey’s Palin impersonation on SNL. I had just asked in a post whether late-night comedians were making fun of Palin in any meaningful way, and sure enough, a commenter linked to the first Fey skit that had run a couple days earlier. All the tension that had been building up over the Palin nomination suddenly found an outlet. Her self-sabotage in the Gibson and Couric interviews only added fuel to the fire. Then came the financial meltdown, Obama’s steady debate performances, and McCain’s spastic devolution.

More generally, I see a shift in the culture away from the Bush-Cheney zeitgeist. In 2004, I wrote that America had become a "snorting, stomping, hate-filled beast" that I no longer recognized from my childhood. Pseudo-patriotism, extreme militarism, and self-righteous, jaw-jutting, macho posturing ruled the day. At times it felt like the country had literally become a giant Hummer. It seemed like that mindset would never end.

Those attitudes are certainly still around, but they’ve curdled somewhat. Katrina, Iraq, and the economy have had a humbling effect. Politicians can no longer get away with dividing the country into "real" and "fake" portions. Yet the McCain campaign acted as though it were stuck in 2004. And why wouldn’t they? The same people who ran Bush’s 2004 campaign were calling the shots.

Not all the news has been good, however. The passage of Proposition 8 in California shows that many of the same voters who helped achieve one civil rights milestone have set back another. Oppression can be depressing that way.

Also frustrating is the possibility that Perriello could lose to Goode by a mere handful of votes. While I was having dinner at a restaurant last night, I overheard a young woman — almost certainly a UVA undergrad — remark on the congressional race. She knew nothing about either candidate, so she decided to vote for the one with "the funny name" which, according to her, was Goode. I kid you not.