Saturday, October 11, 2008

McCain: More Than Just Cranky

Last night I did something that I very rarely do. Two things, actually. The first was that I watched a baseball game on TV, and was actually interested in the outcome (Go Phillies!). Then, since the CBS evening news program was on so soon after, I watched that, too. On the news program, Bob Schieffer, Mister “George Bush is a regular guy" and "why do I need Democrats on the show to discuss a Republican scandal?”, mused about how dangerous the rhetoric from the McCain campaign was becoming. If I hadn’t had such a well-established position on the couch, I might have fallen off of it.

He's right, of course. It's dangerous both to McCain's campaign and to us as a country.

In today's column, Gail Collins caught the gist of the problem:

The Republican campaign strategy now involves sending their candidates to areas where everybody is a die-hard McCain supporter already. Then they yell about Obama until the crowd is so frenzied people start making threats. The rest of the country is supposed to watch and conclude that this would be an enjoyable way to spend the next four years.

Dear Old Golden Dog Days

McCain's problem, and the Republicans' in general, is so obvious that even David Brooks understands it. After explaining how conservative ideas reigned triumphant in the era of Reagan (and if that's not a premise that explains how out of touch Brooks is, I'm hard pressed to think of one that will), Brooks observes:

[O]ver the past few decades, the Republican Party has driven away people who live in cities, in highly educated regions and on the coasts. This expulsion has had many causes. But the big one is this: Republican political tacticians decided to mobilize their coalition with a form of social class warfare. Democrats kept nominating coastal pointy-heads like Michael Dukakis so Republicans attacked coastal pointy-heads.

The Class War Before Palin

This rhetorical strategy has continued, and worsened, to the present. Brooks, you may remember, was the New York Times columnist who couldn't be bothered to read his own newspaper before challenging Barack Obama to do something he'd done three days previously. That a man with so little situational awareness can recognize the intellectual bankruptcy of the McCain campaign's rhetoric is a testimonial to just how obvious it is. Or, it could be just random data, I suppose.

In any case, the mean-spirited nature of the McCain campaign is becoming a problem. In the CBS news segment I referred to, McCain was shown trying to tell a crowd of the faithful that Obama really wasn't a terrible person, and that the republic would doubtless survive an Obama Administration. He was greeted with boos. That's the danger - creating a schism so large in America that we won't be able to trust each other on anything of importance.

Hopefully, McCain has become aware of this and is willing to change. Unfortunately, there's not much else for him to talk about. As I've observed, it's going to be very difficult for him to portray himself as the guy who will fix our economy. He was so instrumental in breaking it in the first place that even a well-informed electorate wouldn't take him seriously. Our actual electorate will be even more skeptical, because that's how it's been in the past. The party in power when the economy turns bad is to blame, period. For once, wisdom and ignorance will lead one to the same conclusion.

The McCain campaign has made the ludicrous charge that the Obama campaign is one of the dirtiest ever. This, I think, should be ludicrous on its face. Obama, to his credit, has actually run one of the more effective campaigns of the last few decades while not indulging in the sort of mudslinging it used in the primaries, nor the kind that McCain has used in the general. Answering the opposition's bullshit isn't dirty politics. That's what the Obama campaign has done, and it's generally done it clearly and effectively.

So I suspect that McCain will continue to pursue this course in some form - make egregious statements about his opponent, and then occasionally sound a conciliatory note. He'll try to instill enough fear and doubt in voters' minds that they'll think twice about voting for "That One" while trying to still look like Presidential material. How well he'll do that remains to be seen.

For the sake of our present, as well as the future of our country and its political rhetoric, I earnestly hope that he fails badly.


Cujo359 said...

Spam will not be tolerated on this blog. If you have a link you'd like to share that's relevant, go ahead, but don't just point to another website with a vague, one sentence description of its contents.

shoephone said...

Hi Cujo -

I don't have any links, hot or otherwise. What I do have is the growing sense that McCain has painted himself into such a tight little corner he may end up choosing to cower there rather than emerge from it to return to the Senate in January -- at which time only Lieberman will want to be seen with him.

It seems McCain's splintering coalition of evangelicals, vicious white men, Grover Norquist conservatives, Goldwater conservatives and ever-fickle independents and swing voters is pretty much a pile of sawdust right now. He either has to join Palin in firing up the GOP base with below the belt tactics -- and risk losing the independents -- OR he has to fall back into mister-likeable-mavericky-guy-territory and risk losing the fired-up nutcases. He won't be able to get both sides of that coin to flip for him in November.

Pretending to come to Obama's defense, after two weeks of lobbing dirty accusations at him, just isn't going to pass the smell test. I almost feel sorry for the guy. Almost. But he's proving himself to be such a nasty S.O.B. that any pity I might have had is just plain and simple derision now. There's a Yiddish term for him, "alter cocker", that fits him to a T. It roughly translates to "old fart".

Okay. I think I've mixed enough metaphors for one evening.

Cujo359 said...

Hi Shoephone,

Someone left a spam message earlier along with vague message saying that we should all choose carefully.

Anyhow, I don't feel much sorrow for McCain, either. No one made him run for President, so if he can't appeal to a particular base maybe he should have stuck with the job he already had.