Jeering and Sneering All the Way Where?
by anna shane, Thu May 29, 2008 at 10:36:44 AM EDT
Back when this race was getting underway and no one had yet dropped out, I wrote about Barack's style of negative campaigning, in a diary published at kos called "Maureen Dowd, Not," which was a parody of Dowd's column championing Barack for stepping out onto the low road. He'd made a joke that made Michelle laugh, alluding to Hillary's experience, married to Bill, and he wondered, in his now trademark style, how that qualified her to be president.
I was astonished; he'd used sexist memes to get his audience to laugh at Hillary? I had thought he was the nice guy, the one who would elevate the political discourse and treat all candidates with respect, as indeed he had suggested he would, with his words of praise for Bush and his admiration for how Rumsfled had managed the war. So, months later, when he promised her some Chicago Smack Down, I thought, well, he's at least admitted it and now the media and his supporters will have to admit it too. Like, right.
I then saw his strategy as searching out anything in Hillary's or her surrogate's words that could be `understood,' (read misunderstood) to mean something offensive to African American citizens and then to express his manufactured outrage. I said then that he was predictable, in that he would pass up no opportunity to smear her with the implicit charge of racism.
Although I thought he could probably convince some white people she was `using' veiled racism (for what, to turn off her supporters?), that black people would see right through it, and possibly fear some backlash, but essentially forgive him, because he was a new guy and he was trying to win. Even I could understand, sort of, I mean new immigrant groups have long used fanning racism against African Americans to `identify' themselves with white Americans, who feared the `Otherness' of black citizens far more than they feared any immigrant `Others,' so they could `bond' over home-grown and common ugly racial prejudice, with the `the enemy of my enemy is my friend and makes a more acceptable neighbor' idea.
But my prediction that Barack himself knew better, and was being only as calculated and cynical as most other presidential candidates before him in `demonizing' his opponent, and so would stop when it no longer `helped' has been proven overly optimistic. Bush did that to McCain, with his claim that John had fathered an illegitimate black daughter, which could apparently still offend enough racist pugs to sink John's dream. Outside the question of why this would be a big deal even if it were true (is it the illegitimate part or the black part?) it certainly showed what might be seen as `prep-school racist smack down sneer and jeer.'
John Kerry was `taken down,' over the flip flop metaphor, and he was jeered and sneered at on the floor of that now infamous GOP convention, that showed America a mob of fools slapping rubber flip flops every which way and jeering their blockheads off. That was a smack down for sure, and the fact that racism wasn't involved was the only bright light in an ugly campaign.
My prediction was wrong, because Barack has kept up his `game,' long past time when it `helped' him win over undecided Hilary Haters, and into overtime, where he's losing support over it, so much so that he's enraged many of Hillary supporters with the disrespect he shows her, so much so that he may have sparked a grass roots mainstream Democratic movement to bring professionalism into our party. Had he `closed the deal' early on, likely no one would have noticed or cared about his jeers and sneers, and had he realized, in a cynical calculation, that this was no longer helping and stopped, he would have shown himself to be an adept politician, able to shift modes as the race goes on toward the goal of `winning.'
Had he seen himself as the clear winner, surely he would have stopped jeering and sneering at her, and would have reached out to her supporters in a way that would show us he never really meant it. Surely if his purported style of bottom up governing were his truth, he would have listened to the 70 percent of Democrats who want a unity ticket. He would have used her strengths, asked that she be in charge of agencies like homeland security, for example, that have long needed a professional and expert head. How nice would that have made us all feel, we'd see him as a big man who knew what it takes to unite and to bring real change to our government.
But Barack went `a bridge too far,' when he `responded' to an analogy she used that had nothing to do with him: She's been asked countless times by reporters why she hasn't dropped out already for goodness sake, why she keeps dragging out the primary season with her obstreperous refusal to `admit' she can't possibly win even though she's `harming' Barack's chances in the GE by showing it's not yet over, and that she has at least as much support as Barack from Democrats expected to vote in the fall. To this constant, how dare you, she answers with history, other races went on even longer, this isn't new, remember, this primary and that one? And in the end the party will come together, because she'll unite behind the winner.
Barack's response is now the stuff of legends. He pretended her only hope to win the nomination would be if he's off'd. Since the fears of African Americans that he might be killed have been often expressed, and deeply felt, his unveiled charge was if possible even more ugly. For a man who attended a church where his pastor and at least some of his fellow parishioners believe AIDS was a government plot against African Americans, Barack well knows that ugly rumors can be accepted as fact, no matter how incredible. Indeed, some citizens hold equally incredible `beliefs' about Barack's background and his agenda should he win the highest office in the land. There are always some who will believe the most offensive and incredible of charges, and Barack must know that. The only `political' spin I can give him is that this gives him an ugly argument against asking her onto his ticket; `she wants the presidency over his dead body; no wonder she'd like to be a heartbeat away?'
This will be known as his `bridge too far,' in that he's exposed himself, as an unpleasant man, not so smart after all, who will never stop creating `meanings' to smear Hillary (and who else) with the ugliest of motivations. It now seems likely that Barack isn't just a politician; he really hates her, and `believes' she's some monster out to get him. We can't say that he'll do anything to win the presidency, but may say with some evidence that in his `paranoia' he'll charge anything, even when it hurts him the most. That's the `fatal flaw' psychologists have noticed in some candidates who can't win the biggest cheese: for some psychological reason they have to be `true to themselves,' even if `themselves' isn't worthy of being true to, and even when it means they reduce their chances. One thinks of Al Gore selecting the impeacher Joe Lieberman as a running mate and excluding Bill Clinton from his campaign. Fervently held so-called high roads, as much as fervently held ugly low roads are equally stupid in presidential races. Statespersons see themselves as representatives of something bigger than themselves. (To paraphrase Barack, I'm not against politicking; I'm against stupid politicking.)
But on a cheery note, Barack has shown us all how to play jeer and sneer. Some of us remember this `game' from elementary or `primary,' school, when many little boys still see little girls as scary or creepy `Others' who must be warded off with incantations and spitting at and the like. I recall a survey taken in a fourth grade classroom, where the children were to choose which children they most wanted to sit next to and which ones least. There was one little outcast boy named Leslie in that classroom, who was sensitive and bad at sports, and was the scariest `Other' to the rest of the boys, judging by how they taunted him. One little boy answered in the survey that he'd least like to sit next to "Leslie, and all the girls."
The tried and true way to bond with `the popular group,' is to taunt the common enemy. It's the stuff of bullying and the making of outcast children, some of whom grow up to be dangerous.
Thanks to Barack, and with help from Marc Rubin at Tom Paine, we can now all learn how to play this `uplifting and inspiring' game of Jeer and Sneer. Rubin noticed that after Barack first `assumed' she meant she hoped she would win because she hoped he'd be killed, he called her remark "unfortunate." He then accepted an apology from Clinton that she didn't give him "because he didn't have one coming." Rubin sees this as "the equivalent of hitting the ground after you sucker punch someone so the person can't hit back, and if they do you scream that you're being attacked." How many times have we seen bullies do that with weaker kids, to get an `excuse' to beat up on them, and if not in person, then in movies? (If any sixth graders who don't know this are watching, that's how it's done.) The real fun part of this trick is the audience who does see through it, sees that she didn't hit him but he acted hit, and then played her victim, and made a weak fool of her, to their delight or dismay. When he pretends to take the high road, and `accepts' her apology, he's taking his bow.
Then, when it's supposedly over, he must enjoy it more; he takes Keith Olberman's insane rant and sends it out to all newspersons. See what she is, Keith knows, she's a cootie girl. Ick. It's jeer and sneer.
On a depressing note, I heard an African American man, who was on a show about the lack of color in the GOP, state that we now know that "The Clinton's" are racists, and no one told him he was full of shit.
I've often had the strange sensation in this campaign that there are two alternate realities. Hillary's campaign is old fashioned: reach out to the voters and ask for their votes. She's cheery and upbeat and optimistic about the future of this nation. It's like a remake of Rogers and Hammerstein's, State Fair, updated with representation from all of America. She's the American Girl candidate, running against Bush, pledging to reverse his policies and bring efficiencies and professionalism to Washington. One of her big applause lines is `it's a tough job, hire me, and I'll clean up the Bush mess."
Barack's case seems mainly to be about her, how bad she is, how wrong she's been, how awful she is, how racist and selfish and horrid she is. His campaign is more like Neil La Bute's, In the Company of Men.
So now we may be delivered a seemingly flawed human being as our candidate, and we'll have to support him, and how much will he enjoy that, because John McCain wants to expand our nuclear arsenal to include more so-called tactical nuclear bombs. John is on the crooked talk express, a nice guy on the outside, and bent on the inside. Between Barack and John, there is a clear worser.
But we still may get our American Girl, ready and willing to work her buns off to achieve a better nation.