Monday, November 03, 2008

A Tale of Two Ads / At Stake - 2

Overheard in Philly this weekend:

Ad 1: A woman discusses which candidate is the right choice for women. Compares and contrasts McCain and Obama's policies - pointing out that Obama offers tax relief for working women and is pro-choice while McCain opposes equal pay for women and wants to take away their right to choose. Therefore arrives at conclusion that Obama is the better choice.

Ad 2: A man says that ever since he heard Obama talk about bitter people clinging to guns and religion he's known that he (Obama) just doesn't get 'us'. Because "We love our God. And we love our guns that have been handed down to us by our grandfathers." And since Obama doesn't understand this, you should vote for McCain. [Note that nothing is actually said about McCain - you should vote for him purely because he's not Obama]

And there you have it.

With the election less than 24 hours away (for which, thank FSM! I don't think I can take another week of this) it seems to me that what is at stake in this election is not just the future of US government policy, but also the nature of campaigning in US elections to come. What is horrifying to me about the prospect of a McCain-Palin win (unlikely as it may seem) is that a victory for them now would be a victory for a campaign run on lies, misdirection, character assassination and appeals to bigotry; a victory that would make the Rove-ian playbook the standard for decades to come. If Obama loses this one, who in his right mind is ever going to try fighting an election on issues or substantive arguments again?

Remember the old Lincoln saw about not being able to fool all of the people all of the time? The catch with that assertion has always been that you don't need to fool all of the people all of the time - you just need to fool enough of the people enough of the time. And if McCain does manage to win tomorrow then that is exactly what the GOP will have done [1].

Here's hoping that doesn't happen.


Meanwhile, the award for the WTF statement of the day goes to Doug Mackinnon, and his preemptive griping about media bias:

"This person reasoned that the pressure within the news business to diversify and be politically correct means more minorities, women and young people are being hired. And young and ethnically diverse reporters and editors go easier on candidates who look more like them, are closer to their age or represent their ideal of a presidential candidate."

This is ridiculous at so many levels I don't know where to start. First, can we assume that before the news business was under pressure "to diversify and be politically correct", they only hired old people? Second, can we take it that going easy on people they like is a characteristic only of young and ethnically diverse reporters - middle-aged white men, by contrast, are never biased? Third, if young people, women and minorities (in other words everyone but old white men) are all predisposed to like Obama, mightn't that have something to do with his popularity, rather than 'media bias'? Fourth, are we to assume that the way to correct the liberal media bias is for newspapers to stop hiring young and ethnically diverse reporters and editors? Fifth, can we assume that the only reason the news business would hire women, minorities or young people is to be politically correct, since these groups couldn't possibly have anything worthwhile to contribute otherwise. And finally, notice Mr. Mackinnon's extreme weasliness of putting this idea out there by ascribing it to someone else and not bothering to comment on whether he agrees / disagrees.


Cheshire Cat said...

"a victory that would make the Rove-ian playbook the standard for decades to come"

More so if Obama wins. The efficiency and discipline of his campaign, and the organizational capability at the grassroots, are surely inspired by Rove's campaigns for George W. Bush.

Filtering through all the conspiracy theories floating around, cutting through the liberal angst of the past 8 years, a simple core principle stands out: the candidate who runs the better campaign usually wins.

Falstaff said...

cat: Different aspect of the Rove-ian playbook no?

In a sense, this election splits the two key aspects of the Rove campaign - extreme effectiveness and a focus on character assassination - into two different camps. If Obama wins, the core principle that stands out is: whoever runs the more organized, disciplined and coordinated campaign wins. If McCain wins the principle that stands out is: forget about the issues, just tarnish your opponent as much as you can and you'll win. Neither of those conclusions is really valid, of course (it's hardly a scientific test) but they're the conclusions I suspect future campaign managers will draw - and I, for one, would rather they drew the first conclusion than the second one.