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One more post-debate analysis.  I know, I know: but stay with me a little bit. . . .

I saw the debate.  I thought it was a draw.  Obama seemed cogent and smart; Romney seemed rude, but forceful and effective.  Lies aside, Romney seemed like a real person, not a caricature.  That in itself is a big deal, since Obama’s advertising and Romney's own classism and inelegance had been very effective at making him seem like a caricature.

But I was wrong.  And in retrospect, I’m not surprised I was wrong, and I’m not completely surprised Obama’s “handlers” didn’t catch what turned out to be a problem.

Follow me over the orange-bow, and I'll explain.

I don't think Obama threw the debate.  I think he was being himself.  Obama talks like a college professor.  I am a college professor; he talks like my colleagues and I talk.  He pauses to consider; he pauses to choose precise language.  Occasionally he backtracks, or goes a circuitous way to make a larger point.  Sometimes (this is the danger of having a lot in your head) he got a little tangled.  

A lot of people I know were blind-sided by the idea—after having seen the debate—that Obama lost.  It wouldn’t surprise me if some of Obama’s team were surprised, too.  Why?  I think they are used to complexity, to nuance--to a learned sort of subtlety of listening.  Apparently that sounds weak to some people.  To others, it makes you sound smart, careful, and considered.  

I talk like that.  But—here’s the thing—get me in front of a podium with my poems, and I can be eloquent, passionate in my delivery.  (Really: reading poems is one of my core competencies.)  

My point: there was nothing incompatible to me about the man who gave those answers on the podium, and the man capable of soaring addresses.  I just think Obama and his handlers forgot something about how Americans listen, how they hear.

One more note: I often look down when I am listening very carefully.  It is a way of focusing for me, for really hearing every word someone is saying.  I guess I understand now that it is rude.  I didn’t know that before.

My bet: Obama got a wake up call.  I guess I did, too.  Maybe this explains why I get so few second dates.  :)  What I took for considered, mature speaking is apparently read as weakness; what I do to really carefully listen is a kind of disrespect.

So my theory: we’ll see a very different Obama next time.

And my theory’s corollary: either way, we’re going to win this thing.

And the addendum to my theory’s corollary: Andrew Sullivan is a total drama queen.

I'm off to make another (alas small) donation.  I am fired up.  

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Comment Preferences

  •  I agree with you. (16+ / 0-)

    It was a tie until the punditry declared it the greatest debate victory of all time.

    However - I am hoping the President's men don't force some sort of unnatural aggression on him.  Certainly he can turn up the heat and I think he learned his lesson on looking down at his notes.  But I for one don't want a "new Obama," I like the professor I elected just fine.

    Still enjoying my stimulus package.

    by Kevvboy on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 08:16:55 PM PDT

    •  Even Obama says otherwise (10+ / 0-)
      LOS ANGELES -- President Barack Obama has a new critic of his debate performance – himself.

      Speaking at a celebrity-led fundraiser at the Nokia Theatre, Obama came on stage after performances by such singers as Katy Perry, Jon Bon Jovi and Stevie Wonder and remarks by actor George Clooney. He marveled at how they are able to perform flawlessly night after night and then said, quote, "I can't always say the same."

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/...

      The Obama surrogates knew they'd lost the debate that night and made no bones about saying so, which is unusual.

    •  Me too, look at what the campaign did to Al Gore (16+ / 0-)

      when they forced him to watch the sighing skit on SNL.  The next debate is a town hall meeting. Far be it for me to give advice to the President, but if he were asking my opinion, I think if he is going to be agressive and call Romney out for any more lies, he should do it with humor, he does this very well, I love his sense of humor and I think others do too. It is charming and it will certianly throw Romney off his game, you know he is expecting anger and who know what else, I don't think he will expect to mocked, and mocked is what he should be.

    •  I knew Obama lost the debate right away (10+ / 0-)

      I also talk like Obama.  It drove my wife crazy for years and years until I learned how to have an engaging discussion.

      But I don't think that Obama's problem was how he discusses things with people.  It's that he wasn't supposed to be having a discussion.  He was supposed to be WINNING a DEBATE.  

      And he CAN do that JUST FINE when he applies himself to debate.  I know he can, because I saw him debate John Stewart on the Daily Show when Jon said that he thought Obama had not lived up to his promise of audacity.  

      And there's the times Obama would defend himself from accusations from the left for having made compromises.  Mr Nice Guy disappeared and in his place was a glimmer of that guy in the picture while Osama was being taken out.  The guy with the clenched jaw and razor sharp focus.  He's in there.  We just don't get to see him all that often in public.

      I can sit down and have a thoughtful conversation with someone about just about anything.  But when a discussion becomes a debate... there is a change inside of me.  I stop thinking about how to understand someone and their point of view and everything inside of me focuses on taking down their point of view and shoving my point of view down their throat.  

      That is what Obama needs to do at the next debate.  He will be at a town hall, so, to the people who ask questions he needs to be nice, but when he challenges Romney, the nice genial guy who likes to have a good discussion needs to be pushed aside by the guy who sent the Seals to get Osama and who told the left that not everyone reads the New York Times and told Jon that if he thinks that passing health reform didn't count for audacious then he needs to talk to every other president who tried and failed for a century.  

      Obama has got the killer instinct.  He just needs to use it.  Romney is a bully who is full of shit and if Obama goes for his throat he can take him down in a dramatic way that shows the American people the difference between the guy who would have let GM die and the guy who avenged 911.  One is a poser and the other is the goddamn president of the united states.

      so long and thanks for all the fish

      by Anton Bursch on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 09:18:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  If you weight style and substance equally (5+ / 0-)

      It was a draw. If you weight style 99% like the media and the American public, it was clearly a loss.

  •  You may have a point (11+ / 0-)

    We all have our theories and explanations, I think Obama truly distains Romney. I think he could barely stand on the stage with him, and he just tried to focus on not letting is emotions and lack of respect for the man cause him to disrespect the moment, which was an opportunity to make his case to the American people. There was a big down side to this strategic response whether it was coached  or spontaneous. But who knows if the greater risk was to take a confrontational aggressive stand against Romney and trade off his likability factor to the mushy middle. Hard core progressives did not want to follow Obama to the high road, we are sick of the high road. We are ready to get this fight on toe to toe. Obama will not coast to victory he is going to have to duke it out. But it is not his fight to win or lose, it is our fight so we need to stay focused on our part.

  •  two cents (8+ / 0-)

    President Obama brought a symposium presentation to a pissing contest.

    I hope he doesn't come to the next "debate" prepared to fight the last  one.

    Me? I like a good symposium.

    Chop wood, carry water.

    by Allequash on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 08:22:50 PM PDT

    •  But it wasn't a symposium. It wasn't a presser. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      salliezoo

      It was a debate! Different rules of engagement.

      It’s the Supreme Court, stupid! Followed by: It's always the Supreme Court! Progressives will win only when we convince a majority that they, too, are Progressive.

      by auapplemac on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 10:19:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  This sentence (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      salliezoo, rhauenstein, JVolvo
      President Obama brought a symposium presentation to a pissing contest.
      made me laugh repeatedly. I think it's accurate.

      He lost a debate but he'll win the election. He knows how to make adjustments to rise to the occasion.

      He has enough a an ego--in a healthy way--that he will not easily hand another victory to Mitt Romney.

      Their next match up should be suited to his strengths. Town halls and foreign policy are his element.

      The choice of our lifetime: Mitt Romney, It Takes A Pillage or President Barack Obama, Forward Together.

      by FiredUpInCA on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 10:27:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Now that you mention it, (5+ / 0-)

    staring at nothing in particular while listening, or thinking is a habit.
    I read, (in a management text or article,  can't remember where) that when trying to determine the consensus of a group, you had to be careful to re-poll the group, to be sure you got the input of the slower thinkers, the ones that needed the overnight time to turn things over in their minds.  

    Time is a long river.

    by phonegery on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 08:34:54 PM PDT

  •  claytonben, what the right likes is "rude" (5+ / 0-)

    dishonest and they see that as effective. I would imagine the media feels the same. Maybe I am partial to professors, but that is what I love about the President, although he can get verbose at times, I love the way he explains to me and doesn't talk down to me, he never insults my intelligence, Romney does daily.
    There is however one area in which I wish he would get professorial and verbose and he doesn't. I wish he would better explain to everyone the truth about the 716billion in cuts to Mediare. Romney keeps pounding him with this and he never explains it adequately, I can even do a better job. It is not that difficult to understand. Romney and those on the right need to know once and for all if you reapeat a lie long enough it doesn't make it true, and the debates are the perfect opportunity to explain this as completly as possible especially when polls show that Senior citizens are engaged more so than any other group. If he explains this he can sweep the senior vote, no matter how many times Wilalrd sings "America the beautiful"

    •  You're right, romney is getting traction (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wishingwell, jplanner, JVolvo

      with this.

      JON HAUGEN FOR U.S. CONGRESS! 3RD CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT.

      by keeplaughing on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 08:57:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I am a Senior Citizen, and this is an issue that (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        auapplemac, salliezoo, JVolvo

        concerns me, I have researched this and I know how wrong Romney is about this, but on it's face it sound really bad. On facebook many "friends" are seniors too and they also happen to be pro-Romney, I can not tell you how many times I have had to explain this to them. When I think I am making some headway, Romney comes out with this again, and I have to start over from square one. They think Obama is going to take away their Medicare advantage, which they love, and that is so not true, if anyone will take it away it would be Romney who would turn this back over to the insurance companies who are making a fortune by offering Medicare Advantage. Bottom line that is who Romney cares about Insurance companies and their huge profits, certianly not Senior Citizesns, but it does take some explaining. Sometimes I question if the President knows how this Medicare Advantage works, they get paid more than any other provider, at least they did before these cuts and Obamacare, and until Obamacare, even though they got more money from Medicare to provide Seniors services, Seniors had to pay a co-pay for everything, from yearly physicals, to routine tests, not to mention also paying for their drugs too. It is more than maddening, this was one of the perks G.W. Bush gave away to HMO's with is perscription drug plan, and the thing is, Seniors got nothing, but they got a hell of a lot. Right now Seniors are better off with Obamacare whether or not you are in a medicare advantage program. No deductable or co-pay for yearly physicals, no deductible or co-pay for routine diagnostic tests, and the closing of the donut hole, a plus as well. You need to break it down and explain it to them. Sometimes it is difficult for them to understand, any talk of doing anything to Medicare good or bad frightens many.
        Two more things, this is why I dislike this man so  very much, he is exploiting the fears some seniors have for his own gain, and finally if everyone had the same type of health services as Medicare provides to our seniors with Obamacare we would all be a hell of a lot better off.

        •  I think Obama plans to do away with or cut the (0+ / 0-)

          funding of Medicare Advantage. Not sure which, but I do believe there will be some change because the insurance companies are getting too much money to subsidize  these plans.

          It’s the Supreme Court, stupid! Followed by: It's always the Supreme Court! Progressives will win only when we convince a majority that they, too, are Progressive.

          by auapplemac on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 10:23:20 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I learned that the 716 billion in cuts to Medicare (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            auapplemac

            is to cut the over funding of Medicare advantage. They got paid at a much higher rate than other providers. They are trying to scare Seniors into thinking they will no longer have Medicare Advantage, that some have come to depend on. They may lose their Medicare Advantage if they are insured by a company who was just in it to get the over payment. My husband has a Medicar Advantage program, one of the best in California, and they have aleady informed him that nothing in his coverage will change, he will still have the same coverage he had before, even with the cuts. Of course they also went on to say, they always provided outstanding service. They also give free yearly physicals and free diagnostic testing, everything else will require a co-pay the same as before, not increase. I am sure there are other Medicare advantage plans that will suspend their Medicare service, because they were the plans that provided a poor level of care and collected a higher payment from the government too, for them the gravy train has stopped, and that is a good thing.

            •  Thanks for the clarification. I know there were (0+ / 0-)

              some changes planned for Advantage, just not the details.

              It’s the Supreme Court, stupid! Followed by: It's always the Supreme Court! Progressives will win only when we convince a majority that they, too, are Progressive.

              by auapplemac on Mon Oct 08, 2012 at 03:40:27 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  UMMM -- too much buy-in to the MSM (4+ / 0-)

    spin that debate participants are required to stare at each other for the entire debate. I actually found it off putting that Romney was transfixed on Obama every time he spoke. I see nothing wrong with taking notes while your adversary is speaking and consulting them in framing your thoughts. Obama looked at his notes, he took notes, he looked into the camera while speaking, he looked at Lehrer, and sometimes he even looked at Romney. There was nothing wrong with where Obama focused his eyes. The debate was not a staring contest as many of the pundits seem to think it was.  

    •  Pres Obama (0+ / 0-)

      cannot stand the man and didn't want to look at him.   It looked like he was doodling and distracted but I think, deep down, it came from disrespect.

      President Obama will have to practice channeling those emotions into a better outcome, is all.

      "Stand! There's a cross you have to bear. Things to go through if you're going anywhere." - "Stand" Sly & the Family Stone

      by mirandasright on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 09:04:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Romney used stare-down to (6+ / 0-)

      intimidate Obama.  I've lived much of my life around men like Romney and I recognized immediately what he was doing.  The shouting down and aggressive body language of Mitt confirm the alpha male dominance technique.

      Too often, rich white men are the ones who feel entitled, not the poor.  Romney in his mind is entitled to the presidency, and Obama is not going to keep it from him.  That's how all the top Republicans feel.  To them, Obama's a skinny black kid who needs to get off the road so they drive slowly past in their Lincoln.

      Obama needs counsel about dealing with racism in public situations to foil Romney's bullying in the next debate.  

      JON HAUGEN FOR U.S. CONGRESS! 3RD CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT.

      by keeplaughing on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 09:13:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I think you're onto something (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        wishingwell, auapplemac, JVolvo

        here. I just went back and buzzed through the first Obama-McCain debate in 2008 (also moderated by Lehrer). Mitt was much better trained than McCain. McCain took the opposite approach -- he basically refused to look at Obama, presumably because he resented sharing the stage with a young upstart (or at least that is how it felt). This didnt seem to bother Obama (perhaps McCain's avoidance of eye contact came across as a sign of weakness of defensiveness) as he did in fact look at McCain a lot more than he did Romney. However, Obama didnt stare at McCain in the weird way that Romney did but he did look in his direction often.

        My guess is that Obama needs a better stand-in than Kerry in debate prep -- it was obvious that Obama was not sufficiently prepared for the bully as he should have been based on Romney's bullying and aggression in the Republican primary debates . .

      •  I don't think it would intimidate Obama (0+ / 0-)

        since he sadly  must have so much experience with this attitude

        We have to remember that Obama is an introvert and does not speak as well off the cuff under pressure while scrutinized as some people. Taking notes on what Romney was saying would help hiim organize his thoughts. Romney changed the game and nullified some of the President's preparations when Romney 2.0 (3.0? 4.0?) showed up with entirely different stance on the issues he's been running on.

  •  He was Debbie Downer (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    auapplemac, Supavash

    His demeanor was totally negative.  Romney looked like he was on uppers and Obama like he was on downers.  Did someone tamper with the water?  

  •  Obama is a bad debater. Period. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    auapplemac, blueoasis, JVolvo

    The faster people come to terms with this the better it is for us. He would be better off training with someone like Bill Clinton.

    What worries me was that he did not bring up the points with which his campaign has been hammering Romney for the past month. That is a debating and political malpractice.

    That and his less the inspiring grasp on the facts about his own administration. Nothing Romney said is new, these are all right-wing misinformation that have been spewed out for months by the conservative media.

    Bad preparation and bad debating skills has nothing to do with being a college professor. I know plenty of college professors, specifically law school professors, who are excellent debaters and can run rings around Obama. As Jon Stewart said, Obama might not like debating, but the debate is like the interview for the job. If I go for an interview I need to bring my A-game every time, unless of course if I really don't want that job.

    "Mr Obama wishes to be president of a country that does not exist. In his fantasy US, politicians bury differences in bipartisan harmony."

    by tarheel74 on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 08:54:17 PM PDT

    •  Have you ever seen (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wishingwell, JVolvo

      those college professors debate?  And I don't mean debating with students, or even arguing cases in front of a jury, with a judge there to enforce some kind of decorum.  I mean no disrespect by this question; it is an honest one.  Put them in a context in which intelligence, carefulness and even truth, finally, doesn't matter: do you think they'd do all that well?  

      •  Actually I have (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        blueoasis

        We used to have plenty of one on one forums, most of them Oxford style with minimum moderation like the last debate. Generally it was a test of who could think best on their feet. Obviously truth does matter, but to know what is true and what is false one must be aware of the facts to set the record straight. Most professors I knew and interacted with were very well versed in their field and had great command of the facts. That is the reason I said, Obama's lack of awareness of the facts of his own record was alarming. But that just shows his lack of preparation and bad debating skills. It has nothing at all to do with him being a professor.

        "Mr Obama wishes to be president of a country that does not exist. In his fantasy US, politicians bury differences in bipartisan harmony."

        by tarheel74 on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 09:15:28 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Well, (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          wishingwell, salliezoo, JVolvo

          my experience is different.  Granted, I don't know law professors--I teach in a college of Arts & Sciences.  But his demeanor did not speak to me at all of someone ignorant of the facts--not one bit.   It spoke to someone used to engaging complication, someone who knew a lot of facts--and so had to parse through them.  (This in distinction from someone who had set speeches read to fire off.)

          Your sig line also suggests your bias regarding Obama.  Mine is that he's well aware of who/what the Republicans are--even if the depth of it surprises him at times.  (As maybe it should: at times it's only a hair's breadth below treasonous.  "You lie," etc.)

          So, coming from different places, maybe it's not surprising we arrive at different conclusions.

          •  You obviously have your biases (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            blueoasis

            Nothing wrong with that, but let's recognize for what they are: your personal opinions and biases. To generalize them across the board to say all professors are bad debaters is an exaggeration (incidentally exaggerations and hyperbole are good tools for debating, and it seems you are not immune from using them to drive home your point).

            I will grant you all your assumptions, but only a person who is unaware of facts, or completely unprepared, will let something like Romney claim on the $716 billion medicare savings, the one about the IPAB, and the green jobs initiatives go unchallenged. Even by slow and steady professorial standards that is ridiculous, especially since those egregious claims have been around for years now and rebuttal of the first two lies were the centerpiece of Bill Clinton's keynote speech at the DNC. Letting those two lies pass again was just bad debating.

            Now as far as my sig line goes, glad you asked; it is a quote from FT columnist and economist Martin Wolf who made this comment long ago at the height of Obama's kumbaya politics days. I just happen to agree with it, because I think Obama misunderstands that at its core American politics has always been partisan, and compared to what it was a couple of centuries ago, what we have now is downright civil.

            "Mr Obama wishes to be president of a country that does not exist. In his fantasy US, politicians bury differences in bipartisan harmony."

            by tarheel74 on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 09:42:18 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Well (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              salliezoo, JVolvo

              I don't see where I've exaggerated or used hyperbole.  Further, I've admitted to having my biases.  Nothing wrong with having biases.  As a matter of fact, your responses would be much more convincing (to me, at least, for whatever that's worth) if you owned up to yours.

              By the way, I did hear Obama rebut the $716 medicare claim during that debate; I heard him do it clearly--but it was complicated, exactly the kind of professor-talk I'm mentioning here.  What he didn't do was rebut it in a sound-bite.  And (this part is what I'm saying in my diary) that ws what was needed.  

              I think Obama understands the core of America just fine and is doing the best he can to lift the dialogue.  Just one more thing, I think, that makes him a great President.  And for all the frustrations, there's been no shortage of left-ward movement: universal health care passed into law, Ledbetter act, don't ask don't tell, higher CAFE standards, and incremental Wall Street reform.  

              So, all right: let's agree to disagree.  I'll read your further posts--and with an open mind as possible--but I won't respond again.

  •  No politician should ever forget (0+ / 0-)

    Americans are largely an uneducated, anti-intellectual and mostly not very bright bunch.  They are superstitious and backward.  Most have distasteful tendencies to violence.  Expecting reasoned analysis and careful thinking to carry the day just shows that Obama doesn't know much about the country he lives in

    Never believe your own press, never drink your own KoolAid

    by Mindful Nature on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 09:05:04 PM PDT

  •  Interesting debate analysis (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    claytonben, JVolvo

    Also, I never considered blaming any dating difficulties I might have on my having picked up bad communication habits from being an English professor. From a personal standpoint, that is actually more helpful. Thanks for that!

  •  What can I say? (7+ / 0-)

    Damn it, my instincts said this is the way people with big brains and so much to choose from and reflect upon react.

    America has been trained by the sound bite.  The commercial is there for a few seconds and must be complete within that time.  That is the American attention span in many cases.

    Obama has never been that kind of person in all the many, many things I have heard him say--whether in news conferences, debates, or rallies.

    What we like him so much for is that he is so thoughtful.  He said that Romney was a good debater and he, himself, was just ok.  He said this before the debates.  Why did we disbelieve him?  And why does he have to be a star at debating a grey wolf dying for the kill, lying at the speed of light, so he can blind us and inflict his many horrors upon us all?

    •  What I really care about (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      blueoasis, Sophie Amrain, JVolvo

      I would like the President to win all the debates. I really would. But what I really need is for the President to win the White House again and provide coattails long enough to keep the Senate and possibly re-take the House. I need that much more desperately than a debate win.

      The choice of our lifetime: Mitt Romney, It Takes A Pillage or President Barack Obama, Forward Together.

      by FiredUpInCA on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 10:41:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JVolvo

    Loved your post, from one college professor to another. My mother is convinced that I am a liberal because I hang around with the literati in my ivory tower (I teach at a four-year institution; I'm too busy grading to sit in the ivory tower). The difference between me and many low-information voters is not that I'm thinking high and lofty thoughts, it's that I'm thinking at all.

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