"Our Karl Rove is the blog you should be glad that Democratic strategists don't seem to listen to"
-- what they're saying on Republican blogs

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Bush/Cheney the Reason for an Obama Blow-out in South Carolina?

What we've just witnessed in South Carolina looks like the New Hampshire effect all over again. But that's not even the big news. The big news is that the voters seem to have transformed in ways that are surprising to the Clinton camp.

The results are still rolling in as I'm writing this, but it looks like a wash-out for Hillary and Bill Clinton's candidacy.

Yes, I know I just outraged many people with the above statement. A Hillary and Bill candidacy? A Republican talking point! How dare I. But, you know what? That was Bill's doing. I am no Obama apologist, nor am I a Clinton hater. But the behaviors of the Clintons this week reeked of ugly desperation -- almost equivalent to what G.W. Bush did to McCain in 2000. Bill Clinton's behavior and style started allowing me to see him the way Republicans saw him in the 1990's.

And this is an important point to consider. Why am I drawn to Republican talking points to describe the Clintons? Because the Clintons create an environment ripe for such adversarial knife sharpening. And this from a guy who voted for Clinton twice. Even establishment Democrats began to be appalled by the Clintons' soft-peddling of R&R issues (Race and Reagan) in the past weeks.

The Clintons might be shocked to learn that these tactics don't seem to be working quite as well as they used to. Triangulation, R&R-baiting, destroy the opponent -- all tactics developed and honed by a frustrated "Clinton Democratic" party that witnessed the Reagan revolution and then the follow-up, Gingrich's Contract With America.

The media and many Americans are used to -- and generally expect -- this business-as-usual approach to politics. Most everyone in charge these days lived through the same events, and honed similar tools.

Yet Obama has changed the setting. Tools and tricks that used to fit and match the political decor now seem to fall flat. Strategies that used to be able to manipulate public opinion now seem to backfire.

Is it possible that the Bush/Cheney mis-administration itself is the X factor? Are we all now so keyed into being mass manipulated by this administration that we've developed a political 6th sense since the 1990s? Did Bush/Cheney actually help develop mad skills across the younger band of the electorate?

Perhaps.

Perhaps the zero-sum game is still alive and well -- where the Misadventures of Little Bush have sharpened the electorate that was previously dulled by decades of administrations that did not routinely mislead Americans out of deliberate habit.

Hillary and Bill Clinton will either remain in their echo chamber of the 90s and plow through the only way they and Mark Penn know how to... or they will pivot and recognize that it's a new world -- a world not defined by Barack Obama, but appropriated and symbolized by him.

3 comments:

TripS said...

Hey Jon,

Just had the opportunity to catch the info on South Carolina and I think you hit it right on the head. It's the soft peddling of, as you called it, R&R and the non stop attacks that have many, including myself, feeling more motivated to vote for O. As you mentioned in the article, it reeks of desparation.

Now - does she change or stay the course? If she changes, she is accepting defeat and who really wants to vote for someone who changes to the flavor of the month, or in thise case, the state. However if she stays the same who wants to vote for a desparate candidate.
Just think she is getting herself into a corner. You think a few tears are coming? ;)

Another good article, talk to you soon.

LaLa said...

I think part of the Clintons' problems is that Hillary positioned herself as an independent woman who is capable of being strong and making hard decisions.

Then at the first sign of trouble she starts crying (whether that move was calculated or not is immaterial to the image it left in the eyes and minds of voters), and when she really needed support, she turned to her - hubby President? Attacks on Obama also seemed to backfire on her (the Rezko issue). Those are not the signs of a "strong, independent" person (woman or not), and I think that's what South Carolina voters reacted to.

Voters may be more skeptical of political "small lies" thanks to the Bush administration, but I think a much bigger factor here is the proliferation of the Internet which makes it possible for ANYONE to do quick fact checks and for debunks to spread like wildfire.

So maybe, just maybe, voters will actually focus on the issues now instead of image politics...

PS: A more down-to-earth explanation here is that Obama simply received all the black votes in SC... =)

Jon said...

LaLa,

While O certainly attracted the mass majority of black votes in SC, he has now shown that he can attract most any vote (whites in Iowa and NH, women in Iowa and SC) except Latinos.

The only way O can become a real national candidate is if he keeps to his post-racial persona.

The Clintons tried to make him into a racial candidate, which reeked of cynicism.

Time will tell if the Clintons touched a white nerve in this country or not....