The politics of distraction

For too many presidential election cycles, the Republicans have defeated Democrats with the same, simple playbook: distract Americans from the issues; distort those issues that do get discussed; and manufacture personal narratives of the candidates using cultural images, which may bear no resemblance to reality, but nevertheless persuades the public to vote, irrationally, for them.

Mondale, Dukakis, Gore, and Kerry all were defeated by this approach, as they faced despicable attacks based upon hate and resentment and which relied on style over substance and perception over reality. But the GOP attacks nevertheless worked. The Republican attack machine divides Americans by playing up wedge social issues, such as abortion, gun control, and gay rights, which distract us from focusing on solutions to the larger problems that we all face. They also create narratives about themselves and their opponents, which have one characteristic in common: the Democrat is the “elitist” that does not represent traditional American values, and the Republican will uphold all that is true and decent in America. Never mind that, for example, George W. Bush was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and never served his country during Vietnam: John Kerry, the decorated and wounded Vietnam vet is the elitist that doesn’t support the troops. This tactic even has a name now after 2004: “swift boating.”

The questions for 2008 are: (1) will this playbook work again, and (2) what can the Democrats do to counter it? First of all, the play book will be less effective this year, because the state of the economy and the mood of the public will demand a serious look at the issues. The events on Wall Street over the past few days, coupled with the high unemployment, inflation, and soaring gas, health care, college education, and now even food prices, illustrate the dangerous turns in the economy. Furthermore, the center of the American electorate has shifted to the left in recent years, as the 2006 midterm election results and public opinion polls have demonstrated.

As to the second issue, the Democrats will need to be aggressive in their attacks on McCain and Palin. A strong defense is a good offense, and Obama and Biden cannot remain on their heals. They need to emphasize over and over again the economic troubles that middle-class America is facing, and then offer real solutions. Meanwhile, they need to tie McCain-Palin with Bush and the Republicans who created this economic mess.

~Captain O’Biden


September 20, 2008. Election 2008, political tactics.

One Comment

  1. Police State replied:

    No statement can be profound once it has been repeated by others.WilliamThomasWilliam Thomas

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