D’JEver Notice? XV
File this one under lessons to keep in mind for 2012, I guess.
The theme here is distinguishing a candidate from the left-wing against which that candidate seeks to compete. With the benefit of hindsight, it seems to me if there was one huge letdown among the many, many errors of the McCain campaign, that would have to be the big one right there. Obama talks to you for five minutes, and you hear all kinds of stuff about The Failed Policies Of The Bush Administration, and McCain Voted With Bush Ninety Percent Of The Time. Change, Hope, Hope, Change.
You listen to McCain for five minutes, and you get the impression it really doesn’t matter very much who’s in charge of things.
The intellectual error committed by McCain is really quite simple. You can distinguish yourself from the opposition in your policy approach, and you can distinguish yourself from the opposition on the spectrum of class. These should, by rights, not be mutually exclusive messages…but somehow we got this rule going that if anyone associated with McCain started giving reasons why we’d regret putting Obama in the White House, that would cross the line into an “ugly smear” campaign.
Obama labored under no such burden. And if the onus was ever placed upon him to work with such surgical precision, criticizing-without-criticizing, he’d have easily been able to pull it off. He benefitted throughout the election season from a comfortable disconnect with regard to his gaffe-prone running mate — let alone his slobbering, angry fans. As in, okay maybe that attack on John McCain for his POW status was over the line, but prove The Messiah had anything to do with that. Okay, it was a bad moment to make fun of McCain’s inability to use a computer, when it’s his beatings at the Hanoi Hilton that leave him physically incapacitated…but Obama had nothing to do with that, either. Then someone screams something less-than-diplomatic at a McCain/Palin rally, and McCain Must Apologize. And if nobody screams anything, the press will just make up fancy stories about someone crying “Kill Him!” McCain was connected by default to anyone doing or saying something ugly; Obama was disconnected by default from such things on his side. Meanwhile, if McCain and Palin didn’t go so far as to actively campaign for Obama/Biden, they were somehow “crossing a line.”
All of which meant that McCain had to make the right choice — distance himself from his opponent through policy, or distance himself from his opponent through superior character. Simply put, McCain made the wrong decision. You can’t prove you have superior character to someone whose mind is already made up about you. You certainly can’t prove it when you’re viewed through the lens provided by a third party, who has already made up their mind about you.
It was a futile endeavor. Maybe it would’ve worked if Obama was known for being class-less. But He simply isn’t, and He won’t be. He could rape a hundred girl scouts in broad daylight and the talking point would be that George Bush made Him do it. (Here’s something else…if anybody actually read The Blog That Nobody Reads, I’d have to apologize for that metaphor and then flog myself.)
So the memorandum that emerges with regard to 2012, to be opened and studied by whoever is nominated at that time, is this: Distinguish yourself through policy…not through class. Run a clean campaign, but don’t talk about how clean your campaign is. Keep it to yourself. Let people make up their own minds about you, because they will anyway.
Policy, policy, policy, policy, policy. The template should be one of McCain’s brighter moments — during the debates when he asked “Why would you want to raise taxes on anyone in this economy?” That was good.
Yes, The Walking Luminescence will be running for re-election. His acolytes and minions will begin reverberating with their mindless chatter that you’re going over the line. Let them. It bears repeating: People will make up their own minds, one way or the other. Respect that. Go over the pundits’ heads, straight to the people.
Talk about cause-and-effect, cause-and-effect, cause-and-effect. When you subsidize something, you get more of whatever it is, when you tax something, you get less of it. Repeat that over and over until people associate your name with that sequence of words, and if people think that simple reminder somehow reveals an inner ugliness about you, go ahead and let ’em. Keep it away from the personal, and that counterattack will enjoy no domino effect. I promise.
In fact, mock this little mini-debate about “civil tones” once in awhile. Take it on directly, like Palin did. Talk about making a major purchase of an appliance that is expected to last four years or more, like a television set or a refrigerator, and somehow obsessing over the package in which the appliance was shipped. Then get straight back to cause-and-effect so people are reminded why the appliance itself is far more important. Without admitting you crossed a line. Because you didn’t.
Active on the policy.
Passive on the class.
Show us why you are so spectacularly different on the policy. The debate on the class issue will resolve itself.
If you argue instead that you’re a classy guy, people will just look to The Annointed One to see how classy He is, notice that he sits up straight and smiles so well, and decide He’s the superior one. When you’re the guy who started that debate, the standard imposed on the opposition, is breathtakingly low; if he picks his nose on national TV, but with his pinkie properly extended, alrighty then. That’s class. As to whether that is the most important issue to decide, they’ll see that you brought it up in the first place and make up their minds it was all your idea. And they’ll be right.
The voters were not terribly concerned with policy in this election. They weren’t given too much reason to be.
Cross-posted at House of Eratosthenes.