Animadversions.

The weblog of Joshua Drescher

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The Worst Political Team on TV.

April 12th, 2008 · No Comments · Politics

Wow. CNN has officially given up and just installed panels of overt Obama supporters:

Ignoring the shameful lack of professionalism involved here (the low point probably being when the voters Obama talked about are compared with AL QAEDA TERRORISTS), it’s an interesting clip because this sort of indignation seems to be the dominant reaction among Obama’s supporters at the moment. There are oodles of comments about how it makes more sense “in context.” Or how Obama’s just telling it like it is. In short:

“Why does it offend you? I mean, anybody but a dummy can see that IT’S TRUE.”

Which is - at least strategically - shocking. In context or out of context, his statements explicitly deny the validity of the core beliefs of a significant number of Americans - suggesting that those people wouldn’t believe what they believe if only they weren’t so poor. True or not (and I tend to AGREE that it’s true), that’s a pretty damn foolish thing to say about the voters you’ll need the most in the remaining primaries AND the general election.

It’s really no different than coming out and saying “you wouldn’t believe in God if only you’d read more books.” To be sure, the objective evidence for any specific religious tradition’s factual legitimacy is deeply lacking, but what politician would be foolish enough to come out and SAY that?

Obama’s statement is telling because I absolutely believe it’s an honest, considered position based on a legitimate insight into racial, sociological and class divisions in the US (and beyond). I’m sure when he delivered it to an audience of wealthy supporters in San Francisco it was met with uniform praise and agreement. But it was - DEFINITIVELY - the wrong thing to say.

For all of Obama’s talk of doing things in a “new way,” he’s stumbling - again and again - into the classic pitfalls that have haunted Liberal politicians in the US for the past quarter-century. Their certainty in the intellectual validity and moral rectitude of their positions blinds them to the FACT that the things that convince an educated, wealthy intellectual are often useless when you try to communicate the same ideas to the general public. This is a lesson the GOP learned in the mid-1980s and they’ve been relentlessly leveraging that knowledge ever since.

The Reagan Revolution, the 1994 Contract with America, the ascendancy of the neo-conservatives, both Bush II campaigns - all of them faced off against considerate, informed Democratic ideologies that had applied intellectual rigor to the issues of the day. And those relentlessly logical, academic ideologies were utterly obliterated by simple, clear, emotional offerings from the GOP.

Obama has - thus far - been pretty lucky in this regard. Because the initial year or so of his campaign took place (at least publicly) in an absolute vacuum when it came to his intellectual beliefs, he hasn’t been forced to either moderate his positions or risk alienating swing voters. He ran a GOP-style EMOTIONAL campaign and it worked very well - helping him coast to victory over other candidates bogged down by overly specific platforms or (worse yet) quantifiable political records.

But that time is coming to an end. If Obama tries to take his TRUE beliefs to the masses in detail, he’ll be torn apart in the general election. The reason we have so much “politics as usual” in America is that “politics of any other kind” almost never work. Obama’s campaign ignores this at its peril.

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