The election of 2008 is virtually a dead heat. It’s baffling to many of the political pundits, as well laymen who follow this coming election closely. The facts on the State of the Nation are well defined, and clear to all.
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Terrible economy…plunging stock markets…disastrous deficits…erosion of civil liberties…history of corruption…tilt toward the rich…diminishing international presitige..and on and on. All under the unpopular stewardship of eight years of Bush, six with a Republican Congress and a friendly Supreme Court. When was the last national convention when a sitting president and/or vice president were not even in attendance? Add to this a 72 year old lackluster war hero paired with a novice unproven governor of our second least populous state, and you have what should obviously be a landslide victory for the Democrats.
But, that is not the case. Indeed, the election is not only razor thin; it seems to be moving inexorably towards an unbelievable Republican victory! How is this possible? And what are the reasons. The first is the Republicans skill at running elections, which far outstrips their ability to govern. And secondly, there is a much darker reason based on the GOP’s plan to actually run two campaigns: one overt, and the second covert.
It seems logical to give faint praise to the Rove-run elections of George W. Bush, replete with chicanery at the ballot box level, employment of the Swiftboaters et al. And it is probably a foreshadowing of similar things ahead in the coming weeks. But those are old techniques, effective as they were, and the Dems are working hard to preempt them, or at least be prepared to effective responses. Analyzing events of recent days indicates there a plan in place to run both an overt and a covert campaign; and this plan is far more subtle and disturbingly more insidious than even the 2004 debacle.
Overtly, McCain has been forced to run against his own party, while employing Palin to lock in the right. A tough task, but he can always pull out his “maverick” credentials, damaged as they have been in the recent past with his endorsement of Bush policies. It is so weird that he should start complaining about the way Washington is run…he is Washington having been part of the scene for over 25 years. Then again, he can always invoke his POW credentials, which while getting tiresome still maintains an emotional lift and deflects confronting the real issues. And, of course, Palin energizes the base. The overt campaign is pretty much the fallback position for the Republicans, and about the only viable option they have in avoiding the facts and real issues of the situation. But it is the covert campaign that will bring them victory. And here’s where it gets really ugly.
And it takes us to the race issue. Obviously, they cannot employ this tactic in their overt campaign – nor do I sincerely believe either McCain or Palin have any such feelings. In fact, there is evidence to the contrary, and McCain especially appears to be a “good” and decent man. But that has not stopped him from accepting a strategy that is nefarious and ugly. And what would that be? In simple terms, portraying Obama as “not one of us”!
The execution of this strategy can already be seen in the words and actions of the McCain campaign. “He (McCain) is a true American”. Palin points out the juxtaposing of being a mayor in a nice white small town – as opposed to being a Community Organizer on the seedy south side of Chicago. “She’s one of us”, was a line heard often in the convention. The hockey mom thing, PTA, and NRA membership play into the same theme: she is one of us! In a curious irony of her bona fides, her selection was a brilliant move precisely because she is not extraordinary. She “blends” right into the American psyche. Forget that it was a WASP administration that got us into this mess, and forget the issues; but remember, Palin is Americana personified (she even hunts)…Cindy McCain would look perfect in the White House…and McCain was a Navy fighter pilot. What else could you ask?
On the other hand, with Obama we get a guy with a funny name. We get a black. We get a guy who spent a lot of time on that creepy south side of Chicago. He went to a strange church where people clapped (not the Episcopal on the town square). We get a guy who somehow might even have been touched in some obscure way by MUSLIMS. We get Michelle Obama as first lady. Do you really want to see that happen? Sure, it might be best for the country, but it would make Norman Rockwell vomit.
To ignore the fact that there is latent prejudice in the country, and this election, is not honest – and the strategists behind the Republican campaign know this. How is the best way to play it? Overtly backfires. Obama is not one of us works. It seems benign, but it is incredibly powerful, and it is being played every day in every way. Virtually the entire Republican convention, with virtually every speech, was built around the biographies of the candidates. Issues were barely discussed. Aside from attacking Obama, Palin spent most of her time giving her resume and introducing her family. Indeed, her resume is so thin; it could have been covered in 10 minutes. She spoke for 45 minutes. McCain again pulled out his POW credentials. We already know about his terrible years as a tortured prisoner, and the nation has again and again expressed its gratitude and sympathy for his awful experience. But, where’s the beef? What are his programs? Palin was loved because she is not Washington and has executive rather than legislative experience (brief as it is); are we then to apply that standard to McCain who is Washington and has only legislative experience (like Obama)? No! Because that, like the issues, is not relevant to the McCain campaign strategy. What does matter is: they are one of us; and Obama fits the wrong template. Subtle, but ugly.
None of this means persons should not be voting for McCain; nor does it mean one should not vote Republican if the issues form the reason. But to vote against Obama because he is different…because Michelle’s portrait would be so different from that of former first ladies…to oppose him because of skin color…and more subtly, because he “is not one of us” would be a sordid action antithetical to the country we all claim to love so much. The razor thin margins separating the candidates now are almost certainly the result of this condition (and it takes very little to change an election as we have seen in the recent past). And we can be sure this strategy will be played out to the hilt. Will it be successful? Only if we let it.