Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Triumph of a Mostly-Sensible Campaign

American democracy is performance art at its best times, and this year has been more like a comedy sketch than most. In one of Tina Fey's recent lampoons of Governor Sarah Palin, the comedienne actually quoted straight from the actual text of her subject's press interviews. The material just writes itself.

A word, then, for the mostly-sensible campaign. In a year when fear seems such a potent weapon, when 91% of Americans participating in one poll think government is on the wrong track, with the wars and lost homes and plunging markets and energy and -- oh, just take a deep breath. One might think a campaign would win only by exploiting those fears.

Yet this year we have a mostly-sensible campaign that appears to be winning. It is not perfect. It has been wrong about some things. It has stooped to a dishonest statement here, a negative ad there. Its candidate is wrong about some things, like FISA. Its candidate has also been lucky: lucky that Hillary Clinton underestimated him, lucky that he's not running against the John McCain of 2000. His messianic aura is the work of mass imagination, like those stories that get in the news sometimes of people seeing the face of Mary in a cheese sandwich. He is a mainstream Democrat, a decent man, a shrewd Chicago politician who played this election exactly right.

What they have done is appear calm and thoughtful, and have persisted in speaking intelligently to us 98% of the time, assuming that most of us are basically intelligent, educated to some extent or another, and deserve something better from our politicians than fear-mongering and overblown lies. A lot more of us have noticed that trickle-down economics is a false religion at best, and at worst a deliberate fraud.

That goes for the candidate himself, but also for campaign spokesmen like managers David Plouffe and David Axelrod, and this press secretary named Bill Burton. Burton demonstrates what this campaign has done well. He can go on Fox News, as he did on the 27th, and unflappably confront the most belligerent partisan nonsense without a hint of anger. Watch the clip and note how the Fox sandbagger gets angrier and angrier while Burton remains calm.

That's what they do. They raise money well, they mobilize volunteers well, they crafted a rational message, they communicate well, they minimize embarrassing gaffes, they are well informed and reasonable. Kind of like how you want your government to operate, nu?

It is stunning to see the Democrat candidate called every worst thing that can be thought of. Terrorist. Communist. Cokehead. The N-word. An assassination plot has been discovered and foiled. And he has shrugged, addressing these things briefly if at all, while returning to real problems and proposing solutions. He has slyly branded McCain as another Bush - a deeply ironic charge if you think about both men's history - and the opposition has been too undisciplined and amateurish to thwart him.

He looks "presidential" and so does his team. That's why he's winning over people who consider him too liberal for their tastes. He is the new George Papoon! Obama is not insane.


Pam said...

No, he's not insane and will probably be our next President.

I didn't vote for him. To be perfectly honest my vote wasn't "for" anyone this time around.

He will certainly have a full and difficult plate before him.

quid said...

He is wrong on FISA; I fear he will not pursue Gitmo (my own personal crusade) in the interests of moving forward.

He is almost stunningly presidential. He doesn't have to ask... "So America, will ya hire us?"

Namecalling. Oldest political game on the planet.