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How Obama won the election

by ThatBritGuy Wed Mar 19th, 2008 at 09:41:55 AM EST

The consensus is that Obama's speech yesterday was about race. He certainly talked about race a lot, but I'm not quite convinced that race was the main message, or necessarily the main intent. Let's pick apart the themes and see how this is an election winning speech which will do more to eliminate both Hillary and McCain than any number of primary wins.

Theme 1: The Patriot

Google 'Obama speech', and you'll see this is his regular backdrop. It's been used time and again, with the number of flags apparently increasing directly with the intended importance of the speech.  

Last night (first photo) there were at least four flags, and probably more out of shot - an impressive display, which I don't think even Bush has equalled on camera.

And look at this - even Fox News has run with the image:

None of the other candidates use this device with anything like the same consistency. McCain seems to use it occasionally, probably by accident. Clinton barely uses it at all. Look at her photographic trail and you can see giant US flags - which could be read as a sign of megalomania and overcompensation; Bush tends to use them too - or campaign decorations with no visible flags.

Here's her NY victory speech. It's ancient history now, but - ironically giving her attempts to outlaw flag-ish disrespect - what has she done to the flag?

A more typical shot:

And another:

I'm not cherry picking here. After a short search I could find a good selection of similar Obama flag shots, and only this comparable one - which looks like an accident - for Hillary:

(As an aside, glum people seem to be common in Hillary photos. She really should end this thing - she's so out of her depth it's getting painful to watch.)

Would viewers be persuaded by something as simple as this? Absolutely - it's a clear statement and a clear frame, and it's used consistently enough to be deliberate. Someone on the Obama team is visually literate enough to understand that you can frame your message metaphorically on camera in the same way that you can by triggering associations in text.

The framing here couldn't be more explicit, and the media are responding to it as they should, by capturing the shots they're supposed to. Not only is it a patriotic frame, it's a presidential frame, deliberately intended to invoke the duly elected speechmaker-in-chief.

It might - or might not - be a stretch to suggest there are also echoes of 9/11 there, with their suggestions of solidarity, which viewers will respond to in a conditioned way.

Theme 2: Not a Muslim

This was a textbook show-don't-tell move which destroyed the credibility of the Muslim accusations. By concentrating on his pastor, his church and his god, Obama didn't have to bother to explain that actually, no, he's not a Muslim, thankyou for asking. He's totally on-board with the Christian thing, and he even goes to church regularly. And if his pastor says odd things sometimes - doesn't yours too?

This is genius-level subliminal redirection. It kills the Muslim rumours while also spinning a powerful narrative of identification and inclusion for the benefit of our many Christian viewers at home. One of the key points which anyone watching this speech will have taken away with them is that Obama has a relationship with his church and his pastor which is just like their own. So not only is he not a Muslim, he's their kind of Christian. He knows what being a Christian is like. He knows what it means to doubt and question your pastor, and then to have to speak to your community about the weakness and confusion of your faith.

Obama's speech wasn't just a political speech, it was a dialogue with others of his Christian community in which he questioned, challenged and discussed race and unity.

Okay - so he did it all on his own, with not so much of the listening. Or actual discussing. Or dialogue, even.

But that won't be how it's felt and remembered. As of yesterday, any wavering moderate Christians, and probably some of the extremist fundies too, will have decided that Obama is someone they can feel comfortable with. He's literally speaking their language. And even if in practice he doesn't really go to church much - someone on dKos mentioned that in his professorial days Obama could hardly be called a church stalwart - that won't be how it plays.

Theme 3: Business as usual

Barack Obama's Speech on Race - New York Times

But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren't simply controversial. They weren't simply a religious leader's effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country - a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.

There's nothing subtle here, and given what we know of his foreign policy leanings, it's not a surprise. This is a clear signal to AIPAC and the Establishment that Obama isn't going to end the War on Islam, that Israel's treatment of Palestinians is justified and - most of all - that Obama is a card-carrying member of The Party. He's not a revolutionary, he doesn't want to change America's view of itself, or its relation to the world.

He's on the team, and he's a team player.

Theme 4: It's not all about me

This is where we are right now. It's a racial stalemate we've been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naïve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy - particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.

But I have asserted a firm conviction - a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people - that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice if we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.

Very smooth. 'We' means 'you and me' - you and Obama, not you and Clinton, or you and McCain. He's flagging the issue, and then he's owning the issue, which cuts out the competition from this semantic and rhetorical territory.

And then you get 'there is no choice' - so we have to do this. And we have to do it with him, and his humble imperfect candidacy.

Theme 5: It's the doubletalk

For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle - as we did in the OJ trial - or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright's sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she's playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

Yes, we can. We have permission now. He says some other things in the next paragraph. But remember - next time Hillary plays the race card, we can pounce on her.

In fact this is the defining mode of the speech - it's internally contradictory on many of its main points, not so much a synthesis as a litany of have-it-all opposites.

Obama supports Wright and won't disown him, but he unequivocally condemns what he said.

Race is an issue, but even if people are angry, they're not so angry they don't have to time to stop and salute the flag and remember how great America is.

Obama is just an 'umble candidate, but he's your humble candidate, who believes in great things, and promises better times.

This is something-for-everyone speechifying. It hits all the rhetorical keynotes, targetting the emotional responses of various key demographics - there are kids, there are old people, there's a down-home story, there's solidarity, and a bit of condemnation, there's black worship and white reassurance, and gargantuan attempts to trigger viewer identification; there are also flags, and promises, and there might as well be cute kittens.

But it doesn't ask for, or promise, anything specific, except to hint broadly that Obama will somehow magically deal with the issue, because America is greater than everyone, and America will make everything better, and Obama humbly presumes to implore America to do this.

Which I think is the key point - this is where he wins it:

Obama has dramatised himself as the mediator and priest who stands between you and the all-bountiful and good thing that is America.

If he can keep that identification going and doesn't destroy it by saying or doing something that breaks the spell, it's going to be impossible for him to lose.

Out of interest, it's worth making an obvious comparison to MLK's 'I have a dream' speech:

In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

There's no false modesty. No plays for identification. No prevarication. He knows what he wants and he's saying it's time to get it. He's not speechifying, he's demanding.

In comparison Obama isn't demanding anything - because you don't demand things from god. Instead he's supplicating before America, promising to be good, asking for forgiveness for his less patient brothers and sisters, and asking if maybe something can be done.

The framing is meta-religious, all the way down to the bone.

Coda: Propaganda

Here's what Edward Bernays had to say about campaigning in his book Propaganda [1928]:

If [our candidate] were a propagandist, on the other hand, although he would still use the radio, he would use it as an instrument of a well-planned strategy. Since he is campaigning on the issue of [X], he would not merely tell people that [X affects their lives] but would create circumstances which would make his contention dramatic and self-evident. [...]

In whatever way he dramatized the issue, the attention of the public would be attracted to the question before he addressed them personally. Then, when he spoke to his millions of listeners on the radio, he would not be seeking to force an argument down the throats of a public thinking of other things and annoyed by another demand on its attention; on the contrary, he would be answering spontaneous questions and expressing the emotional demands of a public already keyed to a certain pitch of interest in the subject.

By accident or design, Obama has managed to dramatise the race issue perfectly, and his public has been primed and ready for this speech for almost as long as he has been running his campaign.

Clinton meanwhile has tried to dramatise the gender issue, and failed - not because she's a woman, but because the requirement for entrance is proof that a candidate is a church-going patriot, and she forgot to supply that. Instead she has dramatised the less appealing sides of the issue - demanding a turn, demanding equal opportunity, but doing it as an outsider, looking in on the big prize, stating inevitability while lethally dramatising its opposite.

Obama has claimed the prize, claimed the territory, and proven he's on the team. He's not demanding anything, because he's not one of those angry over-excitable non-whites.

Even though, in a way, he is. But not that way.

Still, he knows it's important and he solemnly promises to ask America to look into it for you, if you vote for him. Because - are you getting this yet? - he can't do it otherwise.  

So if you wouldn't mind.

Really excellent analysis, TBG, right to the core.

BTW, I read somewhere there were no less than 10 flags...

by balbuz on Wed Mar 19th, 2008 at 11:52:50 AM EST
Incredible deconstruction of the tactics here, really interesting to read. Thanks, TBG.
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Wed Mar 19th, 2008 at 12:11:57 PM EST
interesting breakdown, tbg.

i think i remember noticing 6 flags, before i dozed off.

(not BHO's speechwriters' fault, i just needed a nap, and the mellifluous vocal tones acted like a tab of melatonin!)

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Mar 19th, 2008 at 12:35:08 PM EST
Heh. Will you post that on DailyKos? Should I?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Mar 19th, 2008 at 12:39:47 PM EST
Someone should. (not someone, unless she wants to and has permission, of course....)

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Wed Mar 19th, 2008 at 01:13:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
if TBG gives me the signal - and links to pictures from an authorised site (flickr, imagsheck, mac, etc...)

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Mar 19th, 2008 at 03:33:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, right.  They play by the rules over there...  Suckers.

Glad you got your workplace blogging situation ironed out.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Wed Mar 19th, 2008 at 04:23:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
how well temper tantrums work... when you're needed.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Mar 19th, 2008 at 04:30:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No I wouldn't.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Wed Mar 19th, 2008 at 04:32:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Are there copyright issues? I'm assuming not, and I can just Flickr (etc) everything under a Fair Use clause.

If it's going on dKos it's going to need an extra introduction, which I'll put together tomorrow.

To be fair to Obama, his Iraq speech today was much less fluffy and very much more explicitly policy-focussed. He did a bit more genuflecting to the US equivalent of 'Our brave boys (and girls)' but the proposals for getting out of Iraq were relatively clear.

He's still - absolutely - an American exceptionalist, but I think we know that now.

I don't think someone should ask him why god permits suffering. Asking him why America permits suffering and how he plans to work with Europe would probably be more revealing.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Mar 19th, 2008 at 04:43:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't think it was so much a fluff problem as it was an "Okay, so what do we do about it, and, by the way, why is this even a big issue right now?" problem.  I think there's some truth to the idea spreading in the press that the speech had to be given by someone at some point, because the tensions have been brewing there for decades, allowing people to prey upon them (as he mentioned with the Reagan Coalition and Rush Limbaugh).  And I do think it was important that a black leader who's liked by whites gave it.

So, all that said, it wasn't that I found it unimportant, but rather simply annoyingly timed.  We've got too much shit to deal with that is far more pressing.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Wed Mar 19th, 2008 at 04:51:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
give me the signal when you want. It would have been nice to post tonight, as this is still the topic of the day, and it's a good time to post, but no problem. Ideally, It should be posted around 8am EST, ie around noon London time this week.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Mar 19th, 2008 at 04:55:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
got your email, am travelling now, will post tonight

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Mar 20th, 2008 at 12:21:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Mar 20th, 2008 at 04:23:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Almost 400 comments! But after I scrolled through about a third of that, I'm not thrilled at all. So far 99% stupid candidate-worshipping etc. responses which either totally ignore, most naively deny/dismiss or misread the content of the diary. And, quite frequently, believe Jérôme is the author despite him clearly crediting TBG...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Mar 21st, 2008 at 06:33:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Now that it is in dailykos, my comment:

Propaganda and Obama in the same diary....you are, how can I put it, doing a really nice experiment (?) :)

Even with the introduction and with all the caveats... you know better than me (given your knowledge of narrative, myths, symbols and magic) the possible outcome of the experiment.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Thu Mar 20th, 2008 at 05:23:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Fun analysis TBG.

Hey, Grandma Moses started late!
by LEP on Wed Mar 19th, 2008 at 01:31:45 PM EST
Hehe.  What part of "Magic Negro" did you not understand the first time?

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Wed Mar 19th, 2008 at 02:00:44 PM EST
Now you have to.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill
by r------ on Wed Mar 19th, 2008 at 02:02:58 PM EST
Very, very good analysis TBG.  The visual framing, the religious resonance - without claiming religiosity, the identification with YOU - each individual viewer, and your sense of what it SHOULD mean to be an American, recognising the flaws but not pandering to them - this is genius level communication.  He is inviting the viewer to agree that WE are not racists, WE are not Bigots.  WE know we have problems but we are going to solve them together. This is not about the humble candidate, but about you.

Contrast that with the sense of entitlement that Hilary seems to exude:  Its our turn as Democrats, and as Women, and as Liberals she seems to be saying.  It's about HER, not about YOU.

What is remarkable is that financial America is falling apart at the seams - and yet Obama gives it barely a thought.  Military America is suffering humiliation in Afghanistan and Iraq - he doesn't go there.  Middle America is suffering real pain, and he says that he KNOWS what its like.  His community have been there.  We are all blacks now.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Mar 19th, 2008 at 02:06:18 PM EST
We are all blacks now.

And here I was hoping to exercise my entitlement to catch a cab in New York this summer.  Shit....

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Wed Mar 19th, 2008 at 03:38:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Thu Mar 20th, 2008 at 03:07:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]

But I expect Clinton to win the presidency... still.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Wed Mar 19th, 2008 at 04:12:40 PM EST
Reading this had to be less painful, and certainly more interesting, than watching the speech--which I didn't, except in the usual media-bytes.  But I'm still not convinced the Obamawagon has wheels.  The "Muslim" allegations were never credible, and I'm not sure that the new media linkage of Obama with ranting-and-raving fundamentalists is really a net gain with the electorate as a whole.  Well, we'll see.
by keikekaze on Wed Mar 19th, 2008 at 04:35:08 PM EST
the mediator and priest who stands between you and the all-bountiful and good thing that is America.

Brilliant (TBG). Obama too. He has the flair for this (I think it's not advisors but him, just as the eloquence is his).

I still have no idea what's behind it, what he might become as a president, for better or for worse. But he knows how to win an American election.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Mar 19th, 2008 at 04:37:34 PM EST
This is the stuff that attracted me to this site in the first place. Truly stellar analysis.

Thank you

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Mar 19th, 2008 at 04:40:17 PM EST
The flag thing, as you point out TBG, is crucial. To see a mixed race person ( who is 'read' as African-American) in front of these iconic flags is a 'novelty'. It makes people look at the flags - which they see everyday - in a new way.

Flags, when they represent pride in who you are, are powerful foci for feelings a lot of peope find hard to express. I mean nationality and location are harder to define these globalized days. Your average Finn will only notice the flag on certain flag days (such as midsummer) and on the rare occasions when a Finn or team of Finns win something major that is recognized abroad. For the Finn, the Finnish flag can become a torch of exstacy, say with the winning of the World Hockey Cup. And it is because that flag is not mundane. The flag is seen on these special occasions only. It therefore becomes part of the magic that people feel at that time. It becomes invested with that magic.

But shove a flag in people's faces everyday and it is debased. It becomes wallpaper - UNLESS you see it in a novel context. And that can make the flag come alive again with personal meaning, it brings a flood of associations. Most of them positive. But how to give it personal meaning?

You do what Obama did. You reframe the flag, by associating it with an unusual object - in this case, himself. Not only that, but it plays with figure-ground ambiguity (Is it the flags or Obama that is the main thing in the frame?). The funny thing with that type of oscillation (figure-ground ambiguity), is that it makes the medium 'hot' in the McLuhan sense, where Clinton and McCain are more going for 'cool'.

Granular or low resolution messages are 'hot' because they force you, the observer, to involve yourself - to complete the image from imagination. Without you, the picture is saying, I am incomplete.

High resolution messages keep you at arms length. They are cold. The detail may seem amazing but, essentially, that detail is telling you that you are not needed. You can't get involved. The cold picture says 'I'm good - I don't really need you. I am complete.

Clinton and McCain think that they have to be seen as managers. The kind of people who can take the 3am call about cataclysm as cool as a cucumber. And they can't do the flag thing, because with them it would be mundane and without novelty.

Only Obama could do this so powerfully. And the massage is hope. IMO most people do not know what to hope for, except health, love and happiness. Hope is not greed. Hope is that things will get a little better in the future even if that future will only be enjoyed by their kids.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Mar 19th, 2008 at 06:53:47 PM EST
Flag rows are well visible in US elections. If I had a single look at GOP debates, all I remember flags everywhere.

Obama does look like a legitimate outsider to the Wall-Street - Washington power clans.

Can we compare Gore's and Obama's speech appearances? Did flags help Gore, or they weren't of granular resolution enough?


by das monde on Thu Mar 20th, 2008 at 02:12:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The flags didn't harm Gore, but they were there to remind that he had already been in the WH. There was no novelty in the association.

The interesting question is why Hillary used the big Patton-effect version of the flag. A woman in front of flags is also a novelty - used to jingoistic effect by Thatcher during the Falklands affair. But by that time Thatcher had already demonstrated she had more balls than her compatriots.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Mar 20th, 2008 at 03:40:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I remember a CNN passage in the heated 2000 ridiculing Gore's and Bush's flag wars... That was fair and balanced, presumably.
by das monde on Thu Mar 20th, 2008 at 04:25:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Where these uses of symbols become obvious to the audience, they are less effective. The use of subliminal signals such as book shelves lit in such a way that a joint between a shelf and an upright becomes a crucifix, can be more effective.

What is harder to gauge is the effect of media analysis of such use of symbolism.

One thing that is not discussed much, and which creates some confusion in the European mind, is the reversal in the US of the colours red and blue as indicators for socialism and conservatism.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Mar 20th, 2008 at 05:31:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Seems like a total make-up disaster in the last pic.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Thu Mar 20th, 2008 at 05:34:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That is a compression artefact. You can see the posterization clearly on the podium sign,

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Mar 20th, 2008 at 05:43:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Seems the pic is saturated : look at the "We the people" panel underneath.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Thu Mar 20th, 2008 at 05:44:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Obama's speech will help him, but he has not won.

I think this analysis, while very good, is mostly wishful thinking.

There will be more mud and slime thrown at Obama between now and November. There quite possibly will be a election-shifting "surprise" this summer or fall in the United States too. This is far from over.

The odds are against Obama and for McCain.

Obama has not won the election.

by Magnifico on Wed Mar 19th, 2008 at 08:57:56 PM EST
The odds are against Obama and for McCain.

I don't think so.

"It's the Economy, stupid."

And McCain is going down with it.....

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Wed Mar 19th, 2008 at 09:59:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was subjected to some terrible talking heads on CNN at the gym this evening. Main right wing points:

Obama hates jews and hates Israel.
Obama isn't patriotic enough.

Which fits with your deconstruction. Obama was right to distance himself from his pastor - Obama is not black culturally, but his pastor is, and a culturally black person cannot become president of the US. The right wing is all over this guy.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Thu Mar 20th, 2008 at 12:46:20 AM EST
a culturally black person cannot become president of the US. The right wing is all over this guy.

True. But whites in Ohio do not admit the existence of blacks who are not "Culturally" black. They are branded- "Uppity".

Obama's framework relies on thought- on comprehension- in a culture where slogans have long dominated and now largely replace thought.

That's why several good commenters elsewhere have said that his speech (and, in fact, his whole campaign) are perhaps too smart.
Obama thinks we're better than we are.  

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Fri Mar 21st, 2008 at 05:08:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
He wasn't getting those votes anyway. And he can still win Ohio.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Fri Mar 21st, 2008 at 01:21:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
He can win Ohio, but I wouldn't bet on it, just as I wouldn't bet on Florida (although Ohio is a bit more favorable territory).  The Inner Plains, the New South and the Mountain West are the key targets where he can pick up states.  McCain needs Ohio and Florida.  We don't.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Mar 21st, 2008 at 01:42:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What do the poll numbers look like for Obama vs. McCain in the southern states?

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Fri Mar 21st, 2008 at 02:21:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not sure what they look like after Pastorgate, and we won't have a good idea until a week or so from now once everything's been digested, but at the last round of polling, it looked like he was strong in Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia -- either winning or within striking distance in all three.  Those would be the "New South" states (higher incomes, rapid development, etc) as opposed to Mississippi, Alabama and South Carolina, although Mississippi's enormous black population might -- not likely, but possibly -- put it in play if he could strip a few whites from McCain.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Mar 21st, 2008 at 04:45:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't want to rain on this parade, especially since I thought the speech was the best I have heard by a national US politician in my lifetime (born 68) but I have to.

I agree with you that race was not perhaps central to the speech. This is all about patriotism in the end.

And you can bet that the flags are a symbol of massive overcompensation, because they need to be.

All attacks on Obama have one thing in common. He is being fashioned as the Manchurian candidate. Every negative comment is meant to drive the notion home that he's not a real American.

This is always how the GOP goes at Democrats, and the only one to have avoided that level of scrutiny is Gore. Dukakis of course was Greek, not American; Clinton a draft-dodger; Kerry was a phony soldier who faked service to our country and then went hippie. All of them unpatriotic.

This is why the idea that the Muslim meme has now been blown out of the water doesn't really matter. It was never there in the first place to do anything but question his patriotism. Sure, Americans seem to despise Muslims in general, but Americans are also highly capable of coming to the conclusion that, "He's not one of the radical ones." I would argue, instead, that its primary intention was to make him seem unpatriotic, a man who doesn't love America as much as the true Americans. As such, it dovetails really nicely with the attacks on Wright.

The American mind works in soundbytes:

"God Damn America," err, hmmm, something a Muslim would say.

Black church, just like Farrakhan, don't think some Americans won't get this mixed up.

Nation of Islam, Black Panthers. Hmmmm.

People get Iraq and Iran confused, Al-Qaeda and Saddam.

Of course this is a racial attack, and a religious one. I'm not denying it. But the primary intent is still there. Make him seem unpatriotic.

Unfortunately, as is evident in the media, Obama does not yet have an answer to "God Damn America." His speech was breathtaking, but brains in this country are the size of a speck of saccharine. Where's the soundbyte to combat that? Nuanced mature serious discussion of race? Our last candidate had nuance as well. Where's the soundbyte?

I've heard it this morning: "I would no more disown Rev. Wright than I would my white grandmother." That's the one that gets repeated. But it's a mixed message. It associates White's patriotism or lack thereof with Obama's grandmother's latent racism. The two are not comparable other than to say that Obama has understandable difficulty disowning people who are close to him. But that's a personal dilemma. Where's the meme? How to combat: "God Damn America?"

The polls show that he has not won.

by Upstate NY on Thu Mar 20th, 2008 at 10:18:21 AM EST
My impression today, though I don't live in the U.S. is that Obama is severely damaged and may not recover. If Clinton wins the remaining primaries because of the Wright fallout I could well see the Super Delegates giving her the nomination. If that happens, and black and Obama supporters feel that Obama was wronged and stay home on election day, then say hello to President McCain and the continued decline of the U.S.A. And because Clinton has so brutally attacked Obama, she cannot choose him as V.P. candidate; she has closed that door. I'm afraid we are going to say hello to Bush 3.

Hey, Grandma Moses started late!
by LEP on Thu Mar 20th, 2008 at 04:28:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My impression -- and I didn't even know about the Wright controversy until around the time of Obama's speech, so it's entirely possible I'm missing a lot -- is that he took a pretty nasty hit from it, but not as nasty as I would've expected.  (His numbers have recovered a bit since the speech, as he's now back to within the margin of error.)  It depends on how things play out from here.

Rather than keeping an eye on Obama, I'm keeping mine on the Right.  They seem determined to come as close to the line as possible without stepping over it, but I wouldn't discount the possibility of someone slipping up -- (say) some well known right-wing talk show host calling him a synonym for "nigger" (if not the actual word) in a fit of rage, or something to that effect -- and turning the fury on the other side.  (My money would be on Hannity or Buchanan.)

We'll see.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Thu Mar 20th, 2008 at 05:29:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't think they have to go there at all when it comes to race. That will lose them votes. The racists are already not voting for him.

They will unapologetically go after him because of his name, and his father, and Wright, and also paint him as a Communist. That old meme? Yes, you watch.

by Upstate NY on Thu Mar 20th, 2008 at 09:27:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd add to that it doesn't seem to have benefited Clinton at all in GE match-ups with McCain.  She's down to 55% of blacks against him.  Add the young voters not showing up in sufficient numbers, and it's over.

All of these things said, it's fortunate that it's only March.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Thu Mar 20th, 2008 at 05:31:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Here's a good sign for him, though:  In the new Fox poll, only 24% believe Obama shares Wright's views -- presumably the 24% who still think Bush is awesome.  57% do not believe he does.  (Am I once again going to owe my country an apology for underestimating its collective intelligence?)

The hope would be that it would cause an initial hit, followed by him moving back up due to a combination of forgetfulness and reasoning that the pastor and Obama don't agree.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Thu Mar 20th, 2008 at 07:18:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A very good deconstruction and, as Helen says, one of the reasons this site is worthwhile.
Another reason is the quality of the comments. I am skeptical of the Democrats' chances. I think Obama is a very skillful orator and, in a moderately enlightened environment, he would take the election for the reasons outlined above. However American politics is as emotional as a soccer match and the refs are not particularly honest.
by northsylvania on Thu Mar 20th, 2008 at 06:34:45 PM EST
Great analysis - Here's hoping it plays out this way.
by sgilman on Thu Mar 20th, 2008 at 07:23:56 PM EST
Thanks, TBG. Thoughtful point of view.
Obama has proven he is a master of words, a superb communicator. "By accident or design", he has built a workable conceptual framework that MIGHT just get him past the endemic racism that IS, in truth, the hallmark of his culture. I doubt it. All those millions of "Unworthy victims" as Chomsky calls them, have one thing in common-- they're people of color.
I think that when push comes to shove, racism in Amerika will win, even over self-preservation. To relinquish this easiest and most poisonous of stereotypes, Amerikans would have to open a floodgate of guilt, and they will not do this. I hope I am wrong--of the two  choices, he's more nearly a healthy human.

As for Obama himself, his stated policies (when one can find  them) and choice of advisers suggests strongly that his grasp of the greater world outside his own is quite superficial. He's gonna have to learn a lot, fast. Will he?

Remember, if he's elected he will be dropped into a simmering vat of catastrophe, denial and divisiveness, in which only community and positive-sum policies will suffice--in a deeply zero-sum culture.  

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Fri Mar 21st, 2008 at 04:58:25 AM EST

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