Yesterday I was talking to some McCain supporters about how they arrived at their preference. We don't see many McCain supporters in my neighborhood, so I always take time to hear their views. Admittedly my sample is not large, but of the dozen or so McCain supporters I have spoken with, there is a common thread: Obama gives them a vague feeling of discomfort that they can't quite identify.

When I ask about this vague feeling of discomfort, the answer has something to do with how his views got formed, his past associations, how quickly he rose to prominence, and how charismatic (slick) he is.

The risk, as I understand it, is that once in office Obama would start sporting a turban and begin each speech with WAHLALALALALALAL!!!! He would appoint Supreme Court justices who favor a redistribution of wealth to unborn gay babies, and he'd legalize crack. It would all be part of his master plan to destroy America. I might have the details wrong, but it goes something like that.

It's hard to argue against someone's vague feeling of discomfort. After all, studies have shown that people are actually quite good at determining character and intelligence from nothing more than photographs. I just found it interesting that the people I spoke with described a vague feeling of discomfort in forming their preference. That is not something I ever heard in other elections.
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Oct 31, 2008
A lot of the hoopla during this election about the Democratic Party and Obama is very similar to the Kennedy election. The Democrats had a young good looking wonder kid with a smart and beautiful wife and a hope at changing the old guard in Washington. Many historians look at the JFK Presidency as not being one of our best examples of a stellar administration.

There are lots of differences between JFK and Obama. But the feeling still lingers that he is not the heavy hitter we need in the White House to deal with representing the US on the world stage. We could use someone with more experience. Many feel that Obama could pay more dues in the Senate and run in 2012 or 2016. But maybe not.
Oct 31, 2008
Scott, congratulations on Dilbert 2.0, it's what I want for Christmas.

I think that the idea that "people are actually quite good at determining character and intelligence from nothing more than photographs" has not been proven.

Are our snap judgments accurate? OR Is it possible that once we have an impression we rarely change it, regardless of what the new information comes to light?

In other words, we decide very quickly if we are going to like someone and if we do, we will see the good in all the bad they do.
If we decide we don’t like them, we will see the bad in all the good they do.

On page 13 of Malcolm Gladwell's book, "Blink", he writes of a Nalini Ambady study of student impressions of professors. After a term with the teacher ratings strongly correlated to the results of non-students impressions after the first two seconds of watching the professor without sound on video. This was offered as proof that our blink decisions are accurate.
I think it is just as plausible that we are consistent and very slow to change our minds

They also did an experiment with people who interviewed for jobs. The video of the greeting, handshake and sit down was all that was needed for impartial observers to correlate strongly to how the trained interviewers rated the candidate. Again, the assumption is that with more information people will change their minds. Studies of cults have shown that sometimes people will realize they were wrong and change their minds, but some will actually dig in their heels more and become more devout rather than admit making a mistake.

What experiment could we devise to control for this and actually prove that first impressions are accurate versus persistent?
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Oct 31, 2008
Annhhh! Thanks for playing.

It has EVERYTHING to do with how charismatic he is. That vague feeling is a survival instinct kicking in. It's the same one that kicks in when you meet a car or insurance salesman. It's the disquieting (possibly subconscious) notion that this person has the power to sell you something you don't want or need, for an over-inflated price. And send you away feeling happy about it. For a while.

They might sell you something you need and for a good value - if you're really lucky. But, you know that you won't know whether you needed it and it was a good value until it's too late to do anything about it if you really got screwed.


The people crying "Socialist!" crack me up. Obama would have 45% of the country paying no income tax. So? 40% are already paying no income tax. From a practical point of view, on that score, McCain and Obama are practically indistinguishable. And from an idealistic point of view, they are completely indistinguishable. Both parties are preaching Socialism. "No! You're MORE Socialist!"

It would be hilarious if I weren't caught in the middle of it.

Where is John Galt??
Oct 31, 2008
I have a specific discomfort with Obama: He talks like a demagogue. You can listen to hours of his speeches without learning what he plans to do. The things he says that get the loudest applause lack substance, logic, or factual support. This, combined with his reliance on the most corrupt elements of the Chicago political machine, and his years of attendance at an overtly racist church, make him suspicious.

On the other hand, if McCain wins and dies, we're all doomed.
Oct 31, 2008
The Obama supporter need to be prepared that there is a good chance that a large percentage of the 'Undecided' in the opinion polls are going to vote for McCain.

The reason is, since the mainstream media and the Democrats have made this election more of a referendum on Obama than an election. Any dissenting view point is painted as 'racist'. No one could possibly not like Obama's position on the issues or his political leanings.

So, many who are 'undecided' have really already made their choice.
Oct 31, 2008
I am willing to bet that the folks who said "Obama gives them a vague feeling of discomfort that they can't quite identify." are white and above the age of 55. Let me make it very clear that I am not making any accusations of racism.

Something I have noticed is that people generally like to associate with people who are like them. Vets like to be with veterans, women with women, Koreans with Koreans, baptists with baptists, college graduates with other college graduates, and so on. This is why the "Who would you rather have a beer with" question has been so popular these last two decades. They are really asking, with all policy things being equal, who would you pick.

Back to my original statement, I am willing to bet that folks who have a "vague feeling of discomfort" of a candidate has that feeling because they do not know which one offers the best policy direction and they are choosing someone who is like them. Start with older white voters choosing McCain, and younger voters choosing Obama. It is kind of like showing someone a guy a picture of two women (or vice versa) and telling him to pick one to go on a date with tonight, and the only information he gets about the women is a picture that he sees for 5 seconds.
Oct 31, 2008
To those who are afraid Obama will make drastic changes - well, duh, that's why he's ahead. Look around you, and tell me we don't need drastic changes. Why is every candidate arguing about who will accomplish the most change? Or did you miss that?

And about "redistribution" of wealth his detractors are targeting: where was your voice when it was going the other way, and the rich were getting tax breaks instead of the rest of us? Are you really so afraid that some of the less fortunate (of which most of you are actually a part of) might share in some of the wealth of the upper class? Do you really think we're better off if a small percentage of people have the most wealth? Do you think those rich executives who cause the problems really have your best interests in mind, and will use their wealth to better society? Sure they will... after, they've bought as many fancy cars, homes, vacations, etc as they possibly can!
Oct 31, 2008
Some of what Obama (and his campaign) gets blamed for is really because of how the mass media has treated him by a different set of rules. If they had vetted his past better (or at least as enthusiastically as they have betted his opponents') perhaps we'd have a better sense of who he is and what he might do.

There have been a lot of very well stated, thought provoking comments about this topic.

May God bless, guide and inspire whoever wins. And may both parties start acting more like responsible adulsts!
Oct 31, 2008
Hi Scott. Thanks for a thought provoking discussion.

As a Libertarian, I find that I agree with the Democrats on social issues and with the Republicans on economic issues. I usually tend to vote Republican because I feel that economic concerns have priority. I have to confess that from an economic standpoint, Obama scares the pants off of me. There is nothing vague about it at all. But...I don't talk about it to anyone except my closest friends, and only those that I know are supporting McCain. And now I am questioning my own uncharacteristic reticence. I think I would have to agree with Paxil that it is easier not to go there. In fact, I avoid admitting who I'm voting for (we do have a secret ballot, don't we?), not because I'm ashamed, but more because I don't want to endure the discussion, and possibly have to defend myself against a charge of racism.

In all my years, I have voted FOR one candidate (Ronald Reagan). All the others were basically a choice between the lesser of two evils. When I read through the comments which discussed this conundrum, I was surprised to realize that I am making a FOR vote this time.
Oct 31, 2008
There is nothing 'vague' about my reservations about Obama.

I don't like his socialist leanings. That is what 'wealth distribution' is. For those of you that think this is only an 'allegation', all I can say is, we only have his words to go by and this is a favorite topic his, just check youtube and you will hear it from his own mouth on many different occasions or read his book.

I don't like the people he hangs out with. The fact that most of them HATE the American way of life and American values is scary. You don't hang out with people for 20 years if you don't share basic values.

I don't like his views on family, abortion, health care, etc, etc, etc.

Many have commented that most people voting for McCain are really voting against Obama, and I can safely say that is true in my case. I am not enamored with McCain (I didn't vote for him in the primary), but right now he is the best choice I have. That's the way our system works, sometimes you end up casting a vote that is more a vote against someone than a vote for someone. Let's face it, there are rarely (maybe never) perfect candidates, only one's that are less offensive.

And if you think this only goes one way, your wrong. I would guess most of the people who a Obama supporters would be hard pressed to articulate specific issues/platforms/etc. that they like about him. It's usually, "I think we need a change and he seems like a good choice, he seems intelligent, etc.", nothing specific. It is also, more than likely, a vote against Bush (why do you the Dems they spend most of their time trying to associate McCain with Bush).
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Oct 31, 2008
barack's comments on that interview in 2001 were comments regarding social justice with respect to reperations not about subsidising people's incomes
Oct 31, 2008
I have vague feelings of discomfort about both of them. I'm not thrilled with either tax plan or either health plan. I don't like McCain's stance on the No Child Left Behind act or Obama's on guns. I am for smaller government and neither of them make me happy there. I am socially liberal in general, but pro-life and non-Christian. They both make me uneasy on the various issues. But the tipping point for me seems to be that I am not allowed to be uneasy about Obama without being accused of racism. That makes me more than uneasy. That makes me furious. I'm guessing Obama will win because it is the Democrats turn to hold the office and I'm hoping that after a couple of year of this 'you're a racist if you criticize Obama' crap that 'wolf' will have been cried so much no one listens anymore and we can all at last move beyond it
Oct 31, 2008
@paxil: That's all fair and fine, but when I think of wealth distribution, I think of the "hard" redistribution of Socialism and Communism that involves the nationalization of private companies, not the "soft" redistribution of fiddling with a couple tax brackets. Unfortunately, most people also think the same thing as I do, so when they hear the phrase "redistribution of wealth," they automatically jump to the conclusion that Obama is a Socio-Communist who will model D.C. after the Kremlin of yesterday.

In the end, I believe in teaching people to fish instead of slapping them upside the head with a mackerel. I just graduated from school, just got my first paycheck at my first real job today, I'm poor as heck and have huge loans to repay, but I'll tell you this: I don't want anyone else's money to make my life easier, I don't expect handouts from anyone, and I'm darn happy to be in the state I'm in. I don't particularly care for Obama, or any politician for that matter, but I beg you: look beyond the money in this election. We cannot surive as a nation or as a people with the Republicans in the presidential seat. At least the Democrats can give us a gangrenous stump to stand on while the country reconfigures its sociopolitical standing to something that optimizes its economic, intellectual, and social freedoms.
Oct 31, 2008
SlapDMonkey: "There is a reason the US has the best and most advanced health care system in the world..." - When did this happen?
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Oct 31, 2008
@grapeSoda: I don't think it's an "allegation" when he states outright that he's sorry that the Supreme Court didn't institutionalize redistribution of wealth. Or when he says it's good to "spread the wealth around."

"The Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and of more basic issues such as political and economic justice in society. To that extent, as radical as I think people try to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn’t that radical. It didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the founding fathers in the Constitution." -- Barack Obama, 2001 Radio Interview
Oct 31, 2008
@DilbertMJJ: I'm fairly certain that the allegations of Obama's support for "wealth distribution" are exactly that- allegations. Propaganda, if you will. Additionally, you should be far more scared of McCain for being the man who thought that it would be a good idea to put Sarah Palin in a position to obtain the vice presidency. A vote for the Republicans is a vote for intellectual and social stagnancy, and I prefer my Dark Ages to stay in the history books where they belong.

@tragicmishap: I don't think anybody had a "feeling of discomfort" about four more years of President Bush. I see discomfort as akin to having sand in your shoes, and I think the vast majority of people who voted for someone other than the Big Bad W. had stronger things to say than "well, that boy just makes me a li'l uncomfortable." If you liked him, you liked him. If you didn't, you could at least list the reasons why instead of just giving a vague and wimpy explanation.

Or maybe these people secretly want to vote for Obama, but they just can't admit it to anyone.
Oct 31, 2008
It isn't just hard, but IMPOSSIBLE, to argue against that "vague sense of discomfort". There's no handle.
If they were basing their opinion on facts, you could show different facts, or abuse the credibility of their fact source.
If they were basing their opinion on reasoning, you could show the logical fallacy.

But emotions are completely under their control (or not). They will only respond to an emotional appeal, and even then it has to be the emotions that they accept. Too inspirational (like Obama?) and they (are programmed to) percieve "slickness". Too dogmatic (like McCain?), and they (are programmed to) percieve "boring".

This election (like most elections) isn't about Hope. Or Change. It's about Fear. Who do you fear more, More-of-the-Same-Too-Old McCain, or Too-Drastic-Too-Raw Obama?

I wish I was supporting my candidate because I KNEW he was the best. But when I'm honest with myself, I find myself fearing the other guy, and hoping for the best for mine. Yuck! What a way to run a country.
Oct 31, 2008
It's a moist robot thing:

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Oct 31, 2008
It may be easier, in polite company, to express "vague" feelings about Obama than it would be to express specific things you don't like about him or his policies. Particularly when it seems like every disagreement with an Obama policy is somehow spun into some kind of thinly-veiled racism by his supporters. Calling Obama a socialist has been decried as racist. Voting against Obama has been called racist. Obama's civil rights adviser has suggested that voting FOR Obama means you could still be a racist. Feeling uncomfortable about his pastor is racist. Belittling his lack of experience or criticizing his community organizing pedigree has been called racist. Wearing a white jacket at your vice-presidential nomination acceptance speech racist. I think that kind of cheap, "crying wolf" B.S. really turns people off. But it's become pervasive in this campaign, and to think that that kind of ridiculous demonization of the opposition would continue for the next four years might seem like too much to bear. Maybe as long as someone can keep his concerns as general as possible when he's out in public, he can avoid the appearance of racism and keep up his friendly acquaintances with his liberal friends and neighbors.
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Oct 31, 2008
Regarding people making decisions based on facts vs. feelings, "After all, studies have shown that people are actually quite good at determining character and intelligence from nothing more than photographs." Honestly, I think there is an intuitive sense that we have that seems irrational but, well, isn't. We just don't understand it.

At the same time, this intuition is built upon information we have stored, though we may not actively remember it. For instance, some of the posters of Obama I have seen vaguely remind me of the novel, 1984, although, had I never read this novel, I wouldn't have had that information to intuit with. Hence, there are some people who intuitively distrust Obama, and other who intuitively trust him.
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