Election notes

August 23, 2008

Everybody watches what America does, is it is no wonder democracy is discredited throughout the world. What should be a priority of the government, providing a better standard of living for the people, or setting up a system where preening hacks can hurl negative TV ads at each other before being elected in an interregum of several years until the next round of negative TV ads.

The Chinese don’t have a democracy, and the people are just dumb and happy, enjoying great stock market returns and burning an increasingly large share of world petroleum production. Oh, and the Olympics. There are a few disgruntled people in China, the Falun Gong cultists and some Tibetan romantics, but you know you can’t please everyone. The Thais aren’t too keen on the democracy stuff either, nor are the Indonesians. Thailand has an unpopular elected government, so with the widespread support of the public, the military took it out.

If voting in the US presidential elections in November, it is best just to go to the candidates’ websites and read their position papers (zzzzz), wait till election day (better yet early voting) and pull the lever, fill in the lines, or touch the screen. That’s because what passes as an election campaign is so silly and irrelevant it will just pickle your brain. It is not fun anymore. Here’s an example of the latest campaign issues:

Rep charge: “Obama is a weak candidate, so he had to pick an experienced running mate, Joe Biden, to make up for his lack of qualification.” OK, so what of our current president in 2000? Why did he pick Dick Cheney. Everyone figured that Cheney would be a shadow president, which he has been.

Rep charge: “Obama picked Biden. He’s lying when he says he wants to be President because he is an outsider. Biden is a bigtime insider. Hypocrite.” Well, the people who would say this, are Washington insiders. If you aren’t a Washington insider, then you have no idea how to work the system. You do awkward things or worse not be ‘effective,’ which can then be used against you in the next election cycle. Whether you look like an ‘insider’ or not is all due to marketing.

Rep change: “Obama is associated with Weather Underground radical Ayers. So he agrees with Ayers.” Unless they can come up with a tape with something juicy like proving that Obama helped Ayers wire some bombs up, or discusses leading an armed insurrection against some government, then this is just a guilt by association charge.

Dem charge: “McCain doesn’t know how many homes he has he’s so rich, who’s the elitist.” Problem is, Americans believe in this core myth that everyone has a chance to be rich, which these days according to McCain is having $5 million US. Without this undying myth (myth in the sense of being mythological, myth in the sense that’s it’s not true) the country might disintegrate. Anyhow, Americans don’t have a problem with McCain being rich, or as the final arbiter of wealth Robin Leach says, being super-rich. Dale Earnhardt Sr is the iconic hero of the average Joe, and he didn’t hide his wealth but he acted like an average Joe. I guess the issue is then, that McCain is being a hypocrite in accusing Obama of being an ‘elitist’, when McCain himself is the ‘elitist’. But not that kind of elitist. Obama was a professor, meaning he is an egghead. That’s what Americans do not like, somebody who appears or presents themselves as being smarter that the average Joe. Americans don’t want smart people to fill the imperial presidency. Besides, John Kerry was quite wealthy, and like McCain he got it by marrying up.

Remember that the worst charges are almost never made by the candidates themselves or by the parties directly, for there are operatives who are paid to this. And they have always existed. Thomas Jefferson paid operatives to smear John Adams and the Federalists back in the 18th century.

Whether McCain can pin Obama as an elitist 60s radical Muslim who wants America to lose, and whether Obama can paint McCain as an out of touch extension of the Bush administration, depends on the marketing gurus behind the campaigns. And this will decide the election. Notice that the McCain narrative on Obama sounds a lot juicier than what I could describe as the Obama narrative on him, so advantage McCain for now.

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