Ammunition for settling—or starting—holiday political spats.

Ammunition for settling—or starting—holiday political spats.

Ammunition for settling—or starting—holiday political spats.

Who's winning, who's losing, and why.
Nov. 25 2008 7:49 PM

Do You Want Gravy on Your Palin?

Ammunition for your holiday political spats.

Thanksgiving dinner.
Thanksgiving Dinner

It happens every year, and this Thanksgiving will be no exception. Someone in the family will start talking politics. (Given the historic, wacky, pervasive nature of the campaign just past, this time it may not even be your blowhard know-it-all uncle.) And since politics is a volatile subject and family gatherings are fraught with tension, the ensuing discussion will lead to discord.

John Dickerson John Dickerson

John Dickerson is a Slate political columnist, the moderator of CBS’s Face the Nation, and author of Whistlestop and On Her Trail

If you want to avoid such conflict, you may want to inquire after the young ones, busy yourself with doing the dishes, or ask the host about his grill or golf swing—topics that will tie up conversation until daybreak. But if you can't shake free of a political debate, you may find yourself embracing Loudon Wainwright's Thanksgiving prayer: "If I argue with a loved one, Lord, please make me the winner." In that case, here's some help: Slate's guide to this year's political arguments.

The Election

Obama won: He played a great hand well. He was disciplined, focused, and turned the Internet into a fundraising and voter-organizing machine.


McCain lost: So long as it didn't have an (R) after its name, a wooden post could have won this election. Bush was unpopular, the Iraq war was unpopular—and yet McCain was nearly even in the September polls. Despite the hype, Obama didn't raise any more from regular folks who gave small donations than Bush did. If it hadn't been for the financial crisis, McCain might have won.

The Financial Mess

Blame the Democrats: Robert Rubin started the deregulation that led to this mess. Bill Clinton supported and signed key banking deregulation, and Obama's incoming economic adviser, Larry Summers, was also a big champion. Democrats were relentlessly blind to the dangers at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Blame the Republicans: Bush and the Republicans deregulated even more than Rubin did. Greenspan played a role, too, pushing the deregulation of derivatives. Their response has been indecisive at best and ineffective at worst.


Bonus argument:The party is clearly beholden to Wall Street.

The Detroit Bailout

Help 'em:Sure, the auto companies screwed up, but the economy can't afford to lose so many jobs right now. You can bail them out and make them restructure.

Screw 'em:Did you see that the Big Three CEOs all flew private planes to testify in Washington? As for restructuring, it will happen only if they know they won't get any help; as for the job losses, those workers will be better off in more viable industries. Did you see that the Big Three CEOs all flew private planes to testify in Washington?


Economic Stimulus

Against it:Our deficit will go through the roof, which will make us beholden to foreign creditors. A stimulus plan will delay needed behavioral changes among both individuals and companies. We're becoming a socialist country.

For it:Most economists say it's essential. Yes, the deficit will grow, but the alternative is widespread business failure and job loss. Here's the definition of socialism.

Obama's Mandate


Yes, he does:He won the biggest share of the popular vote of any Democrat since LBJ. He won nine red states, four of which a Democrat hasn't won since 1964. With seven new Democrats in the Senate and 24 in the House, it's the largest partisan mandate since FDR.

Not so fast:They might have elected the man, but there's no evidence people signed up for his policies. A lot of voters picked him because he wasn't Bush. (See McCain lost, above.)

Obama's Cabinet

No change:It's all Clinton people. The lobbying rules aren't as restrictive as he promised. He's hiring a replacement for Karl Rove.


He's the change: Change comes from the leader. He's picking competent people to execute change. His economic team is not excessively ideological, and he's likely to keep current Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Hillary at State

Great idea: She knows the issues, won't be afraid to tell Obama what she thinks, and is the perfect embodiment of American ideals of opportunity and service.

Horrible idea: Drama! She'll put her interests above the president's. Bill's conflicts of interest will be impossible to overcome. Powerful women don't do well in the Middle East.

The New Congress

Get ready for left-wing madness:Congress dominated by Democrats is going to run roughshod over Obama and push crazy liberal policies, which will lead to even bigger deficits and big losses for Democrats in the midterm. How reckless will they be? Listen to what House ways and means Chairman Charlie Rangel said: "Don't ask me where the money will come from. I'm going to the same place Paulson went."

We're all incrementalists now: Eighty-one Democrats were elected in districts George Bush won in 2004. One-third of Democrats hold seats that have Republican leanings. So nothing too crazy will happen. With such low approval ratings, Congress needs to, you know, actually pass a few bills, which means they'll need bipartisan support.

Obama Surge in Black Voters Passed Proposition 8 *

No, they didn't: There's no evidence that new black voters inspired by Obama made the difference on the measure reversing the California Supreme Court allowing gay marriage. New voters actually voted against the measure.

Yes, they did: How new voters behaved is not at issue. Seventy percent of African-Americans voted for Prop 8. Ninety-four percent of black voters supported Obama. The increase in turnout among African-Americans supporting Obama made the difference.

Will a Woman Ever Become President?

Sure: Hillary's campaign was a thorough mess, her husband was off message constantly, and yet she still almost beat Obama.

Not for a while: Geraldine Ferraro was right—in politics, it's harder to be a woman than a black man. It's still a sexist world. Just look how terribly everyone treated Sarah Palin.

Young Voters Decided the Election

Wrong, Sonny: They didn't turn out in greater numbers than before.

It's true, Pops: Yes, but they gave a big share of their vote to Obama.

The Republican Party Is Dead

Call the coroner:Demographically, Democrats are winning larger shares of growing populations: Latinos, unmarried voters, and those with college degrees. All Republicans have is the South.

It's just resting: Pundits declared Democrats all but dead in both 2004 and 1994. Parties don't die; they restructure. (See Detroit Bailout, above.) Historical patterns suggest a pickup in House and Senate seats in 2010.

Palin Ruined McCain's Chances

No, She Didn't: Look, just because she doesn't visit the Met and drink microclimate wine doesn't mean she's not smart. McCain lost for other reasons in a bad year for Republicans. McCain's problem with the base would have been worse without her. Exit polls showed that a majority of voters who cared about the Palin pick went for McCain.

Yes, She Did: Please keep believing she's a viable candidate. Keep her on the campaign trail. She's so entertaining. An interview while a turkey is being slaughtered? She's not fodder for a Saturday Night Live skit. She is an SNL skit. But on the merits, 41 percent of those voters said she was an important part of their voting decision, and McCain just barely won among those voters (51-48). A vice-presidential pick is supposed to really help a ticket, not be a wash.

Bush Is the Worst President of My Lifetime

Born before 1932:Son, let me tell you about a man named Herbert Hoover.

Born between 1932 and 1974: You think he was worse than that paranoid liar Nixon? There have been no attacks since 9/11. Iraq is turning around and may become a beacon for democracy in the Middle East. Bush is like Truman: unpopular now, but history will vindicate him.

Born after 1974:No need to elaborate. Use the time to get a second helping of pie.

Correction, Nov. 26, 2008: The article originally and incorrectly said that African-American voters killed Proposition 8. The issue in question was whether black support helped pass the measure that reversed the California Supreme Court allowing gay marriage. (Return  to the corrected sentence.)