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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Obama's Still Going Down

By this time, I expected John McCain to have left Barack Obama choking in the dust in the US Presidential election campaign.

I expected that, as an untried candidate, the odds were good that Obama by now would have been brought low by either gaffes or unfortunate discoveries about his past. And the press, having glorified him unreasonably in the past, would then, by now, have turned on him.

I was right about embarassing things turning up in his past: Rev. Wright, Tony Rezko, ACORN, the New Party, old quotes about wanting Supreme Court judges to transcend the intentions of the founders, Bill Ayers, illegal campaign donations from Mickey Mouse, and on and on. I was right about the gaffes, too: Joe the Plumber, nost notably, and a loose Roman candle by Joe Biden saying electing his running mate would lead to an international trial of Obama's mettle. Come to think of it, Joe Biden himself is a gaffe.

But I was wrong about the press. They have not yet turned on Obama. Just the reverse: they have become more blatantly partisan in his favour week by week, and far more than ever before. Instead of covering them, they have basically done their best to suppress all these stories. They have as much as already declared Obama elected.

Some have theorized an unspoken pact at work: in return for getting Barack elected with a Democratic majority in both houses, the old mainstream media types expect a renewed “fairness doctrine,” applying not just to radio and TV but also the Internet. This, they hope, will suppress the new voices that are swiftly robbing them of their viewers, listeners, readers, advertisers, and livelihoods.

I doubt this. For several reasons:

1.Such a new law would be unlikely to survive a Supreme Court challenge.

2.You can't control the Internet, because you can't control foreign sites. A suppression of free speech on American blogs would only be a boon for Canadian (and Qatari?) bloggers; and Canadian Internet-based talk radio.

3.It would be too unlikely to work; instead, the blatant partisanship seems likely to hasten their decline, driving readers to those new voices to get the real news.

4.The left is not smart enough to pull off something this coordinated.

No, I think the failure to turn on Obama is based on something else.

It might still have something to do with news sense. Yes, the media are long overdue to find out he's not the Messiah. Even so, the bigger they build him, the better the eventual news when he blows. So there is no compelling reason to pop the bubble now. And, if he does actually get elected, it is intrinsically more newsworthy than if McCain does--”First Black American President.” Not to mention the most leftist president ever, with the legislative majority to try something dramatic. That could generate lots of news. Then there will be lots of time to destroy him later.

Unfortunately, this instinctive attitude, while good for the news business, would of course be very bad for America. If Obama is discredited only after he is elected, the cost will be a failed presidency, and a rough four years for everyone.

I think there may be another reason—a bit of wisdom as old as Aeschylus. In “Prometheus Bound,” Heaphaestos explains Zeus's cruelty with the observation, “his rule is always harsh whose rule is new.” A tyrant who most fears being toppled is most inclined to harsh measures.

Just so, the mainstream media, once so powerful, seeing their power slip so swiftly away, may be up for one last mad fling: seeing if they can actually skew the news enough to elect their favoured candidate. Flexing their power to the maximum before it's all gone.

Afgter all, if you're going down with the Titanic anyway, you might as well finish the champagne.

However, I still don't think they are going to pull it off. First, the press bias is too blatant. People are beginning to talk. It is losing its intended effect. It may now even start to generate a backlash, against both Obama as well as the MSM. McCain has at last started to rise quickly in the polls, perhaps just in time to pull off a victory.

Second, even if it is effctive, such press bias is likely to create of increase a “Bradley effect.” If everything they read and see on TV says Obama is going to win, and should win, people will be that much shyer of saying to a stranger that they still want to vote for McCain. If the Bradley effect has in the past typically been in the range of ten percentage points, with this kind of media push against the pricks, it should this time be, if anything, something higher than that. Obama is now leading by 5.9% in the poll of polls, with that gap closing.

I say he still loses.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

2012: Early Prospects

Has this occurred to you? If McCain wins this time, there is as very good chance both presidential nominees in 2012 will be women.

Given his age, McCain may pack it in after one term. His VP then becomes the automatic frontrunner to replace him.

If Obama fails this time, who is the presumed frontrunner for the 2012 Democratic nomination? His runner-up in the primaries: Hillary Clinton.

Realistically, though, I don’t think Hillary will ever be the Democratic nominee. She’s been around too long; the Democrats are too partial to fresh faces.

I think Obama could have another shot at it, though.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

I Was Wrong

Okay, I predicted a bare majority Conservative government, and it did not happen.

Let me point out, though, that the actual vote spread was large enough to, in ordinary times, produce a Tory majority. It's just rather unpredictable how the actual seats are going to fall. Newspaper headlines saying “Canadians deny the Conservatives a majority” are really rather fanciful or metaphoric.

It was not enough, I think, because the NDP did not do as well as expected, failing to sufficiently split the leftward vote; because the BQ did better than expected, blocking by a whisker a Tory breakthrough in Quebec; and because the Conservatives are now the only national party, spreading their vote more thinly than the others.

It's Not Over

Everyone seems now to assume that Obama has the election won. An Irish bookie has actually begun paying out, cutting his losses on an Obama win. Rassmussen Markets has President Obama trading at 83.2, President McCain at 16.7.

I must be nuts. I still think McCain is going to win.

McCain had, I think, a very good third debate. He beat Obama soundly, and he projected a strong, very understandable message: “He's going to raise taxes. In the middle of a recession. And you can't believe him if he says he isn't. You don't know him.” Joe the Plumber could not have been invented as a better spokesman for the issue. Obama, by contrast, did not seem to have a clear message or a clear program for the perilous times. He did not seem—and this all along I have felt was his Achilles' heel—to care.

Debates don't usually count for that much, but a good last debate is better than a bad one. It should take two weeks for any bounce to fully appear, and that will bring us very close to election day.

The timing for it all is very good, and fits McCain's usual m.o. McCain runs best as the underdog; he is best under pressure. With everyone feeling Obama is inevitable, all eyes are on Obama; and there is now just time enough for second thoughts. McCain's campaign has played this opportunity well. As someone wisely said earlier in the campaign, if the central issue at the end is George Bush, Obama wins. If the central issue is Obama, McCain wins.

And what do the polls say?

Anne Coulter claims that, since 1976, the major media polls in the last month of a campaign have “never been wrong in a friendly way to Republicans.” When they were wrong (albeit they were not always wrong) they overestimated Democratic support by 6 to 10 points.

That's without the “Bradley effect.”

It makes sense. Supporting the Republicans is the politically incorrect choice. Democrats hate Republicans in a way Republicans do not hate Democrats; and the chattering classes are solidly Democrat. So there is no surprise if 3 to 5 percent of the polled population regularly lie to pollsters in an effort to preserve social peace.

That's in an average year. Add in the unique unpopularity of the Republican “brand” this year, seen in the polls on Congressional races. Then add in the possible Bradley effect—the more so since Democrats have already pretty openly played the “race card.”

Real Clear Politics now has Obama leading by 6.9%, with the gap closing.

It's not enough.

Canada's Coming Role as the Centre of the Universe

With all the other news going on, nobody seems to notice it, but it looks as though Stephen Harper is negotiating a free trade deal with the EU.

It makes tremendous sense. For Europe, the attractions to free trade with Canada are great. Canada has a lot of oil. Europe lacks a secure supply. This is not to mention Canada's other rich natural resources. And both Britain and France feel historic ties.

If it happens, Canada in turn would have a unique competitive advantage, as the only nation trading freely into both the European and North American markets. It would make great sense for companies from both zones to relocate production to Canada as a result. It also provides Canada with its historically-needed counterbalance to US dominance, filling the gap left by the dissolution of the British Empire. More than most countries, Canada lives by external trade. If we can boost trade with Europe, it will cushion us somewhat from our over-dependence on one market, that of the US.

Of course, it also helps Canadian consumers; and we are all consumers.

It is an exciting prospect, and one, I think, whose time has come.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Case for Laurentia

The Quebec-Ontario border along the St. Lawrence River is, in the end, artificial. It cuts Montreal off from the English-speaking part of its hinterland, which naturally extends through the St. Lawrence Plain to the Frontenac Axis, just before Kingston, and up the Ottawa River. Similarly, the border along the Ottawa splits in two a region that really developed culturally as one; the Ottawa Valley remains quite different from the rest of Ontario, and the Gatineau Region quite distinct culturally and politically from the rest of Quebec.

Perhaps one day, to resolve these anomalies, it might be worthwhile to carve out three provinces where today there are two, Quebec and Ontario. Ontario would spread from Kingston and Algonquin Park west, a province centred on the Great Lakes. The land east of Kingston and the head of the Ottawa would be joined with Montreal and that part of Quebec south and east of Trois Rivieres, including the Outouais and perhaps the Noranda- Rouyn region.

This would give Canada one province, Laurentia, in which French and English-speaking populations were almost the same; indeed, the boundaries could be set to make this so. It might well become a thoroughly bilingual province, and a bridge for national unity.

Imagine how this might change the equation for Canadian federalism. How could Quebec separate without Laurentia and leave behind so many French speakers? Conversely, how could Laurentia separate and take with it so many English speakers? It would be a forced marriage, perhaps, but it would be a marriage that much less likely to ever end in divorce.

Less importantly, it would also help with the equailty of provinces. It has always been awkward, for such matters as Senate reform, that two provinces, Ontario and Quebec, were so much bigger than the rest.

This region has always produced much of what is most interesting and most distinctive in Canadian culture—and for good reason. It is the mixing of cultures that makes for great art, and it is, historically, the mixing of the English and French-speaking cultures that has made Canada. With the artificial barriers removed, Laurentia might become that much more productive, and go much farther in developing a solid, enduring, glorious, and distinct Canadian culture.

It would help Montreal financially. Geographically, Montreal ought to be the business capital of Canada, and was until relatively recently. All transportation funnels through here. It has been in slow decline for decades because of Quebec separatism, Quebec cultural protectionism, and Quebec economic policies. Freed of this and made capital of its own, perfectly bilingual region, it should quickly rise again as Canada's great metropolis, the preferred site for any Canadian head office.

Laurentia, as I call it, would, not least, be to the advantage of French-speaking Canadians. They would have a proper choice: those who believe in cultural isolation and fear for the decline of their traditions, can remain in Quebec. Those who believe the future is brightest with bilingualism and an openness to other cultures can choose Laurentia. If the economy or politics of either spot becomes unpalatable, the average Francophone would now have the option of the other, without having to surrender his French culture.

My Canada already includes Laurentia, and I imagine this is true of many Canadians. I grew up there. Because of this, I often feel I have no province now. Irish Eastern Ontario is a very different place frome that Ontario centred on Toronto; and West Island, Anglophone Montreal is a very different culture from that commenly meant when one says "Quebecois."

It's time we were maitres chez nous, n'est pas?

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Election Tomorrow

The Canadian election is tomorrow.

The polls are all over the place.

In the last few elections, the Nanos-CPAC-SES polling has been most accurate.

Its final poll shows Conservatives 33%, Liberals 27%, NDP 22%.

That's a six-point spread.

Traditionally, 6.5% to 8% is needed to pull off a majority.

But the final trend is to the Conservatives--and with the NDP close behind the Liberals, the left-wing vote may be split more than usual. In a first-past-the-post system, that may allow a few extra Tory candidates to come up the middle.

I predict a bare Conservative majority.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Bradley Effect

Many argue that there is no such thing as a “Bradley effect.” Others think that it has faded in recent years.

I don't believe that. My gut says there is such a thing. Not that people are disinclined to vote for blacks--people are disinclined to tell pollsters how they really intend to vote if they think their choice is less than socially acceptable. This favours blacks, women, and perceived front-runners in the polls as against the actual vote.

If there is a Bradley effect, we will not have seen it yet in this US election cycle. In the primaries, Obama was running against a woman, and a Democrat, who was expected to win. Nothing “politically incorrect” in choosing a woman Democrat. Even so, Obama most often underperformed the polls, and did best in caucus states.

But admitting one prefers a white Republican man to a black Democrat might be a different story. Even without the race factor, Republican candidates usually do better in the actual vote than in the presidential polls. And Obama is now widely expected to win. Intrade has Obama at 78.4, McCain at 22.7.

So, if there is going to be a Bradley effect, how big is it likely to be?

I looked it up. It is not that easy to calculate—it depends on which pre-election poll you assume is most reliable, and what other factors might have intervened between poll and election day. But for Bradley himself, it was “in the double digits”--the polls were more than 10% off the actual vote. It is also sometimes called the “Wilder effect”--for Douglas Wilder, it was 8.5 to 10%. For Harold Washington in Chicago, it was about 10%. For Dinkins in NYC, it was about 12%.

So—10%, on average. That means that, if it exists, Obama needs a 10% lead in the polls to win.

Currently, Real Clear Politics has him at 7.4% up.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Who is Obama?

Pundits are wondering why in Ohio, where early voting has begun, turnout has actually been historically low. This is odd, in an election that is highly competitive, of historic importance, that has attracted record-breaking audiences for TV debates, convention coverage, and rallies, in which Ohio is considered a crucial swing state where every vote counts. Moreover, Obama is supposed to have a historically well-funded, well-oiled turn-out-the-vote machine. What gives?

I submit the simple answer is this: people have genuinely not yet made up their minds. They want to hold off until the last minute, because they are not comfortable yet that they know enough to make a decision.

Given that McCain is already pretty well known, I think that can only mean one thing: they feel they do not know enough about Obama.

Which means the central question of the election now is “Who is Obama?”

The Republicans should hit this theme, and hit it hard, by bringing up Obama's questionable past. The press too should examine it closely.--it is what the public wants to know. They should be featuring, and digging carefully into, Obama's connections with former terrorist Ayers and his wife. They should be featuring Obama's connections to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and their contributions to his campagins. They should be featuring Obama's associations with shady Chicago businessmen like Rezko—Chicago has a peculiar political culture, the last big city machine in America, and it might be important. They should be taking a close look at ACORN, Obama's first employer, and just what kind of activities it pursues—voter fraud? Lobbying for sub-prime lending? They should be looking carefully at who is donating to Obama's campaign, and who has donated in the past. A Mr. “Good Will” of “Loving,” Texas? Donations from points overseas? They should be noting that Obama was endorsed in his early elections by the American socialist party (the New Party—not that radical, in Canadian or European terms, but it means that Obama can be legitimately called a “socialist”), and that his voting record is far to the left. This is the information the American public wants and needs.

They fear they do not know Obama yet—and they are right. The issue is not so much “Is he ready to lead?”, but “Is he a Manchurian candidate?”

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Dion's "Meltdown"

This video is supposed to show a Dion "meltdown," according to the CPC and many in the press.

Sorry, I would prefer Harper to win personally, but I do not see how this is true. At worst, it implies that Dion's English is not up to handling very complex English grammar. In what way is that a qualification to be prime minister?

But I think I would have raised the same objection Dion did: the question is itself nonsensical. It matters very much at what point Dion's hypothetical premiership begins.

In airing the missed starts, CTV also violated an agreement with Dion, which we actually hear on the tape. Had they not made this agreement, Dion presumably would have acted differently, and we would have no tape. So airing the tape is likely to--ought to--earn Dion some sympathy, among fair-minded voters. In addition, he sounds quite reasonable, likable, and sincere in the tape as released.

It is suicidal for the Conservatives to draw attention to it. What they should do is condemn CTV for airing it. It's not as if the arrogant media are their natural constituency.

Sarah Palin's Great-Great-Grandfather Was Born in...

...Kingston, Ontario, Canada.

Same as mine.

I always thought there was something in her terribly reminiscent of the folks I grew up with. But then again, I gather most Americans feel the same way.

She really is the girl next door.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Atheism Makes You Stupid

"Once people stop believing in God, they will believe in anything." - G.K. Chesterton.

Of course, there are flaws in the article's reasoning as well. It takes it as a given that we know which beliefs are false. If we did, things would be a lot more straightforward; but if we did, there would be no article. "Superstition" is best defined, I have always held, as "the beliefs of others."

It also fails to realise that, for example, there is a specific reason why fundamentalist Protestants do not believe in communication with the dead, which does not have to do with being more religious: such communication is banned by their religion. Ask Catholics, and you would surely get a different answer.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

The Canadian Leaders' Debate

Through the magic of the Internet, I have been able to view the English-language Canadian leaders' debate.

By conventional measures, Liz May won: she made her points most effectively. She's a good lawyer; the others are not lawyers by training.

This does not matter; she cannot win the election. May's strong showing, instead, should help Stephen Harper, by further splitting the left-wing vote. In electoral terms, it was Harper who won.

He was, to my ear, second only to May in selling his viewpoint. When he said, repeatedly, of the demands of others, “we'd like to, but we can't afford it,” that sounded very much like common sense. He seemed to be the only one truly aware that we are currently facing serious economic uncertainty. That alone should win him the election hands down. And his calm demeanor, I think, hit just the right note in such times: a steady voice implies a steady hand.

The debate also helped Harper in another way. Last post or so, I mentioned the value to American politicians of conforming to the American lietmotif of the frontier. It is similarly valuable, although less so, for Canadian politicians to embody the national myth of the survivor: an ordinary person meeting and overcoming adversity through calm, dogged determination. Showing him holding his cool while four others attacked him was a good way to cast Stephen Harper in that role in the public mind, just before an election.

A few notes on details: when Elizabeth May insisted, “families need jobs in the communities where they live,” my immediate response was, “like hell they do.”

Anyone who is not prepared to move for the sake of a job does not deserve to be a Canadian. We are a nation of immigrants. What would Canada be had our ancestors been so helpless and so unmotivated?

Similarly, Layton's concern about conditions on the reserves overlooked an obvious solution available to all native people: leave them.

Gilles Duceppe seemed to think he had a winning issue in demanding that Harper agree to a “reimbursable tax credit” for failing corporations, on the grounds that, if they were not making a profit, an ordinary tax credit was no use to them. But why, I wonder, is it a good thing to take money from ordinary taxpayers and give it to corporations in the first place? Surely only for the opportunity to create jobs, and more tax revenue in future. But this proposal would be a lousy way to do that. Failing businesses tend to be failing for a reason; a sudden government grant is not going to change the economic fundamentals. It is just a matter of throwing taxpayers' money away.

Harper did not say this; perhaps the idea plays well in Quebec.

Like Duceppe, Jack Layton showed that the NDP's instinct too is always to take from the poor and give to the rich. He wants to forgive the student loans of graduating MDs—a handout to anyone entering Canada's wealthiest profession. Liz May quickly agreed. She'd probably extend it to lawyers too.

Layton insists that wood should be used in Canadian manufacture rather than being shipped overseas, saying “they can't make anything with that wood in Asia that we can't make here.”

That's pure jingoism, and obviously untrue. The lefties love to play the nationalism card, to criticise anything foreign (and especially anything from the US). Are we, say, going to build Buddhist temples in Canada and then ship them overseas? How about printing Japanese daily papers in Canada? How's the distribution going to work on that?

In general, Layton strikes me as the least sincere of the leaders. Liz May has an excuse—she seems honourably deranged. Dion is sincere. Layton seems more calculating about his views. You see in his eyes he doesn't believe a word of it. He also kept interrupting Stephane Dion; which may have grated on others as much as it did on me. The same style hurt Al Gore in the US, and politeness is supposed to matter more to Canadians.

On the arts, Layton managed to accuse Stephen Harper of censorship for not funding dissenting voices with taxpayers' money. It is all very well to say that governments should fund the arts; but it is only too obvious that government funding in the past has hopelessly politicised the arts in Canada, so that now to be an artist—or more precisely, to succeed as an artist—requires a political view in conformity with the Liberal party or the NDP.

We are not funding many real artists; we are funding poseurs and party hacks, and calling them artists. And the bad is driving out the good. The arts matter far less to the average Canadian, I think, than they did fifty years ago.

Friday, October 03, 2008

The Problem with Education

There are three fundamental problems with educational theory as taught in all colleges of education throughout North America and beyond:

1.They seek a scientific approach. A scientific approach to education is not possible, because of an insurmountable observer paradox, and the effort tends to reduce human beings to fairly simple machines. Which they are not. The model does not work, and it is ideologically dangerous. It leads to totalitarianism.

2.They ignore all educational traditions outside the Western European “mainstream”--even much Western European educational thought that occurred between the Classical period and the Enlightenment. Leaving aside the cultural chauvinism, and the denial of mankind's diversity, we surely have much to learn from other cultures, who have been at this game as long as or longer than we have. Cumulatively, they represent the vast majority of human thought on the subject.

3.They believe one can have a coherent education without agreeing on its ultimate goal. But what is good education depends vitally on the answers to two essentially religious questions: what is real, and what is the purpose of human life?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Why McCain Will Win

I am not saying I told you so. I did say McCain should nominate Mitt Romney for VP, and he chose Sarah Palin instead. I said he should choose Romney, in part, because there was quite likely to be more economic turmoil in the runup to Election Day, and, given the other side's lack of economic expertise, the inclusion of someone with Romney's financial background could be a game winner.

Would McCain be further ahead today with Romney instead of Palin on the ticket? Perhaps.

But I also think he may have been wise for chosing Palin.

Even without Romney, McCain should have the best of this economic issue. He does not yet; but that may change as things sink in. It takes, in my experience, about two weeks for public reactions to events to fully form. Since neither Obama nor Biden have any particular economic expertise, McCain should still be the winner on this issue, on the plain value, at a time of turmoil, of an experienced hand at the tiller.

Meanwhile, there is another reason why Palin still looks very good. She is getting hammered right now in the press, but there may be a snap-back effect; what counts is how she connects with the average voter.

On this, I present an insight from Canadian literary criticism.

I hate Margaret Atwood's politics, and I think she has gotten further than she deserved to solely on the grounds of being a woman. But she once wrote an excellent book of literary criticism in which she argued that all Canadian literature reflects a single informing motif: that of survival.

At the same time, she pointed out different motifs distinguishing British and American literature. British literature is all about “the island”; American literature always returns to “the frontier.”

It works—it is true. And here is an interesting way in which it works. At least since the 1940s, whichever presidential candidate can most clearly identify himself with “the frontier” has a big advantage in the election. It makes sense; a president is a symbol of the nation. It matters if his own life story intersects with the nation's central narrative.

Let's parse past races on this basis:

George W. Bush—with his cowboy manner, his cowboy walk, his cowboy talk, and his Texas roots, he has an unusually strong connection with the frontier. This enabled him to beat Kerry, who had none; and Al Gore, who had little. Tennessee was frontier enough for Andrew Jackson; but some years have passed.

Bill Clinton—Arkansas is not particularly frontiersy, but it is as good as Kansas (Bob Dole) or George H.W. Bush's essentially Northeastern roots, even with a bit of Texas added. Clinton managed a draw on frontiersmanship with his main opponents, and won on other factors (specifically, thanks to Ross Perot).

George H.W. Bush--was able to out-frontier Michael Dukakis, a fellow Northeasterner, but one who looked awkward in a tank. The point of that, in the end, was how un-frontiersy Dukakis seemed. Entirely a man of salons, offices, and elevators. Bush had at least some claim to Texas connections, and his war record, and he had his link with the Reagan legacy.

Ronald Reagan—may not have been a real cowboy, but he played one in the movies and on TV. His frontier associations easily trumped Mondale's or Carter's.

Jimmy Carter—probably a wash against Gerald Ford, Michigan versus Georgia. The VPs were also a wash—Kansas versus Minnesota. Other factors prevailed. But Carter's backstory of being a “plain peanut farmer” from a small town surely helped. That's more frontiersy than a professional life spent in Washington.

Richard Nixon—Orange County, California, is not that frontiersy, and South Dakota, home of George McGovern, is, but here, Vietnam was more important. Marshall McLuhan saw the Vietnam War at the time as an extention of the old frontier across the Pacific. Nixon represented persisting in that drive—and his opening to China was the opening of another sort of frontier. George McGovern and, to a lesser extent, Hubert Humphrey, represented pulling back from that distant Asian frontier.

Lyndon Johnson—against Goldwater, the frontier issue was a wash. Both had strong frontier associations. Other factors prevailed.

John Kennedy—in his race with Nixon, he deliberately evoked the frontier image: he called his vision the “New Frontier.” Neither Kennedy nor Nixon had personal frontier connections. Given that, it was enough.

Dwight Eisenhower—against Adlai Stevenson the intellectual, Ike from Kansas was plainly the frontiersman. All else being equal, being a professional cavalryman is a suitably frontiersy occupation.

Harry Truman—Mark Twain's Missouri trumps New York (Dewey). Truman's plain-spoken, common-man image was pretty frontiersy quite apart from where he came from.

In theory, FDR should have been vulnerable, being from New York. He was aided by overwhelming historical events—the Great Depression, WWII—which took precedence. Even so, some of his opponents were no more frontiersy than he: Wendell Willkie was a Wall Street lawyer, and Tom Dewey was also from New York. In normal times, perhaps Landon should have beaten him, and Hoover, on sheer frontier.

Enough; but to note that a connection to the frontier was important for Lincoln, too—famously born in a log cabin; for Teddy Roosevelt; for Andrew Jackson; and many other presidents, especially those best remembered.

This is what Palin brings to the ticket: the frontier. Even without Palin, McCain has much of the frontier about him: the maverick, the Arizonan, the military man, the lone pilot.

If urban, urbane Obama beats him, it will be a historical surprise, regardless of what the polls show.