The Dark Side of Election 08
by sarany, Sat Sep 13, 2008 at 06:30:03 AM EDT
I have a theory and want to know what you all think.
I posted these comments today, at the bottom of a descending thread at Open Left from yesterday, My Frustrating Ignorance On The Campaignby: Chris Bowers where Bowers wonders about why Obama's numbers are creeping steadily down.
I don't know how much this has been talked about, having been preoccupied by local primary races, but I'd like to see what others think:
I believe the strategy McCain/Palin is using now is this: Promote a myth people want to believe and scoff at a reality people prefer to believe is not true. And I think there's a parallel darker campaign being deployed (below).
Maybe that's overly simplistic, but it speaks to a gut feeling that I have.
Overwhelmed and frightened people want desperately to believe in a strong father who will make decisions for them, and tell them (firmly, parentally) they don't need to do their own thinking and deciding. And that things are okay, really, they are okay, you can trust me, believe me.
During a campaign, this is a myth that works, because people WANT it to be true, very badly, and because it won't be put to the test until governance begins. Then the wheels fall off, as in Bush, life gets measurably worse for everyone and the lie is revealed. Obviously too late -- the damage has been done.
We have made the mistake of assuming and hoping that people wouldn't be duped again, or at least not enough people to threaten Obama's chances, but the problem is that people want very badly to be told things are okay, and to believe it.
In addition, people's anger, a seductively powerful distractive emotion, is being successfully channeled (by the Palin and McCain campaign message) against anyone who talks about scary reality and personal responsibility, like Obama does. And all the educated liberals who support him.
Obama has said that this campaign is about US, that we have the power to change things, but now that Palin has energized a huge swath of people who are terrified by that message of personal responsibility, Obama's strongest message has been undermined, even beyond the right's base.
Obama and the rest of us have to come to terms with this very entrenched dynamic. The politics of hope are operating, but it's upside down now, and has completely regressed to the Bush formula of hope from 2000 and 2004. That is, tell us it ain't so. And McCain/Palin is obliging.
That's bad enough, but there's a darker side that is about racism, fear and suppressed violence:
The other insidious tactic is to tap into the dark attractiveness of anger, scorn and derision, and the unconscious appeal of violence when an individual, group, clan or family can be convinced they are threatened. Obama and his supporters are identified as the enemy. His very popularity is working against him with people who can be frightened.
Palin's job is to activate the worst and darkest of human nature, the urge to scorn and deride the arrogant sons of bitches, those ivy league prima donnas who have never done honest work, those community organizers, those people of color who envy and hate us "real Americans" and are coming to get us if Obama and his "kind" gain access to "our" White House. You can imply an awful lot of unspeakable and primally satisfying behavior without actually having to be so explicit that people wake up sufficiently to be appalled at what they are agreeing with. I think that McCain/Palin has managed to plant a deep fear and conviction that in this country, it's a kill or be killed situation, and "it's US or THEM" is a short step to unexpressed violence. In this subconscious scenario, Palin becomes a cheerleader at a bloodsport.
Is this not the fundamental way Rovian politics operates? They've found a perfect catalyst in Palin. It works for the base, and I'm afraid of how far it might creep into the middle as well.
It makes me wonder about whether trying to tag Palin as a bloodthirsty hunter might actually backfire, if her subversive purpose is to fire up people's primal fears.
I have to say, that back in the Primary, when I THOUGHT I knew that what was coming in the General against Obama -- that it would be terrible -- I committed the sin of forgetting just how awful these people can be.
It could be that what Obama needs to do is find a new way to get out his message of hope that appeals again to the best side of people, and somehow makes them aware of how they are being played. I don't know about solutions, but I think this is the problem.
Am I right about this? If so, how do we contain the damage, as much as possible, to McCain/Palin's base?