Red and blue. Black and white.
“The hardest thing about any political campaign is how to win without proving that you are unworthy of winning.” Adlai Stevenson
With so many different polls tracking the progress of the two election ’08 campaigns, this is a great at-a-glance view of everything that’s happened since the start of the year.
I found it on my new favourite blog, Daily Kos, an great source of up-to-the-minute info, insight and analysis, coming from a solidly left-wing point-of-view. Their analysis of the polling so far is well worth a read, but what really caught my eye is the way things have gone downhill for the GOP since the Republican convention.
Whatever advantage McCain gained from the unveiling of Sarah Palin as his running-mate, it turned out to be pure novelty value. It was only a matter of days before the lip-gloss started to come off for the thinking members of the American electorate, many of whom will have watched her famously assert in an interview with Charles Gibson that her governorship of a state within sight of Russia constituted valuable foreign policy experience.
Palin made matters worse by defending this claim in a subsequent interview with CBS’ Katie Couric. Pretty soon it became obvious that Palin was just getting started, and that there was no question, however simple or straightforward, to which she could not provide a confused, convoluted and often meaningless answer.
The first crime in politics is to lack the knowledge to field a question (especially if that question relates to a basic detail of, say, the policy platform on which you’re standing). The second, perhaps greater crime is to then lack the charm, articulacy and guile to be able to talk your way out of the corner you’re in without being exposed as the utter bullshitter you undoubtedly are.
On the strength of the Couric interviews you could send Palin down for life. Her shortcomings were so manifest that McCain made an eleventh hour decision to join her for one of the follow-up interviews. This enabled him to define the direction of their response to Couric’s questions, before deferring to Palin on the benevolent if somewhat belated assertion that she was more than capable of speaking for herself.
If the shine was starting to come off the hockey mom with the electorate, in the hands of Saturday Night Live’s Tina Fey she was an instant hit. Fey’s impersonation was uncannily familiar, not least because for much of the time she was simply repeating Palin word for word. As a politician, it’s not a good sign if all somebody has to do is change the context of the things you’re saying in order to create ready-made, weapons-grade satire.
By the time the VP debate came around, anybody who’d been paying any attention at all would have found their mind boggling at the idea of Palin going toe-to-toe for ninety minutes with someone as knowledgeable and experienced as Joe Biden. History may record that she coped well, but that will only be to say that, so far out of her depth, she managed to tread water. History ought to record that it was Joe Biden who delivered a truly classy performance, letting his superior knowledge and experience speak for itself without ever appearing unduly superior or condescending towards his opponent.
At this stage McCain and his campaign strategists must have been realising that what they had in Palin was a blunt instrument, and that she should be used as such. They would also have been realising that, however ardently they might claim to have won the various debates, the polls demonstrated otherwise. Hence their decision to try and ‘turn the page on the economy’, focusing instead on raising questions about the character and background of their opponent. Palin spearheaded this attack, suggesting in an interview that the electorate ought to be giving more of their attention to Obama’s relationship with reformed domestic terrorist Bob Ayers.
It’s reassuring in this day and age to witness how disastrous the decision to ‘go negative’ proved to be for McCain.
Disastrous, because since then the economy has kept itself very much on the agenda, by continuing to deteriorate in a way that nobody, least of all a prospective president of the USA, could possibly afford to ignore.
Disastrous, because Obama saw it coming, and lay in wait, releasing a series of advertisements exposing the cynicism of his opponent’s approach, and drawing attention to McCain’s own dubious association with the Keating 5 (not to mention Sarah Palin’s links to a secessionist Alaskan independence organisation).
Disastrous, because it introduced the word ‘terrorist’ into the lexicon of the Republican campaign, leaving McCain open to accusations of radicalizing his supporters, reinforced by the sudden appearance of words like ‘treason’, ‘traitor’ and ‘terrorist’ coming from the audiences at his increasing hateful and vitriolic rallies.
And, more than anything, disastrous because, for a reason that I will probably never understand, the McCain camp decided to announce exactly what they were doing, and why they were doing it. To quote the ‘top McCain strategist’ in question, “if we keep talking about the economic crisis, we’re going to lose.” Unsurprisingly, Obama has had no difficulty turning these words against them.
Meanwhile, rather than courting the middle ground, McCain has continued to move steadily further and further away from it. That is until yesterday, when he finally initiated another change of tack. He took the microphone from a woman at a rally who had claimed that Obama was an ‘Arab terrorist’, correcting her to the effect he was no such thing, but merely ‘a decent man with whom I have disagreements’, to the audible displeasure of his audience.
Whether McCain did this because he realised that he was in danger of becoming a spokesperson for America’s far right or because he’d seen the polls and knew that he wasn’t going to win an election that way is still up for discussion. Either way, the danger now is that he finds himself on no man’s land, having to constantly chastise the lunatic fringe his campaign has created a platform for.
It’s hard to see how the Republicans can claw their way back into this race, especially hampered by a such a manifestly inadequate and increasingly unpopular running-mate. Palin has only looked anything like comfortable since she’s been inciting hatred among the terrifying throngs of white, middle-class pitchfork-wavers she best claims to represent.
As of the last twenty-four hours and McCain’s attack of conscience she’ll probably need to tone that down. She may find that more of her time is spent explain the findings of the Troopergate investigation, who reported back yesterday that she had abused her power in trying to get her former brother-in-law fired.
For my part, I hope they’re both finished, and I’m calling it that way.
I see Obama going 300+ electoral college votes, maybe even a landslide 350+ if the McCain camp go on running their campaign as badly as they have done until now (and the electorate are good to their word when they find themselves alone in the polling stations).
And God knows it needs to be that kind of margin, it really does, because Rove and his cronies have shown how ready, willing and able they are to steal a close one.
This time though, there’s a difference. This time the electorate seem to be against them. Because for any thoughtful, compassionate, intelligent human being, it’s surely black and white.