Fasten, fit closely, bind together.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Five Steps to Save Your Candidacy (Part One) 

“It coulda been so sweet, too,” Joe Pesci laments in Casino, looking back on how divided loyalties and rampant ambitions finally tore down the Mafia’s boldly-imagined Las Vegas kingdom. Right now, Democrats might relate. 2008 was supposed to be their chance at building a shiny empire in the desert, where after eight years in the political wilderness they could finally break away from all the bad blood of an older politics and seize power before their bosses knew what was going on.

Months ago, they had their kingdom locked up. The opposition incumbent was widely detested and sinking deeper in the polls. A costly and unpopular war was dragging on, with No End in Sight and no progress on the front pages. The economy was slipping, markets bearish. And rising from the American ashes, a captivating new icon was stirring the hopeless with promises of change, unity, and Hope You Can Believe In.

This victory could be felt, tasted. It was as if all they had to do to seal the win was avoid some outlandish blunder. With plenty of experienced Democrats in the race, they were free to nominate anyone other than, oh, maybe some extreme character like an elite-seeming far-left radical on a friendship level with terrorists and racist fanatics or something. But ha, avoid something like that and it would be theirs, theirs at last!


This week’s Pennsylvania primary demographic breakdown pretty much tells the tale of how that leap of faith is working for them. Turns out, Barack Obama is having some huge problems charming those Democrats he would need to win the White House. Pretty much every Democra-graphic except blacks, adoring college kids and wealthy ex-hippies bolted to Hill-dog like they were under Bosnian sniper fire.

The fact that even the Philly suburbanites voted Pantsuit in this one indicates that key fish in larger Democratic pond are more than a little sketched out by the reality of those shiny promises the Promised One is dangling on the line. Take a look at the image behind him during his concession speech. One needs more than Abercrombie-clad frat boy clones and Larry David look-a-likes to emerge from the American landscape as President.

So what now? In the end, the mysterious Superdelegates aren’t going to risk social and political suicide among the O-bombians that dominate that make up their networks by suddenly handing it to her. It’s like being the OJ Simpson juror who stops everyone at the door and says, but fellas, shouldn’t we think about all that DNA evidence?

Sure, nominating Hill-dog somehow is the smarter Strategery if you break this thing down into a game-theoretic decision-making model with probability-weighted utilities of an O-bomb vs. Hill-dog candidacy. A lot of people –O-bomb most of all – want O-bomb to set up shop in the Oval. But if John Nash was on O-bomb’s crew, he’d tell him that the Nash Equilibrium here would be to take the 2 Spot on the ticket so they could both take John McCain down - which they could do in a landslide (and he could always run in eight years).

But in this theoretic game tree, their dilemma is that both actors are ego-driven prisoners of their own ambitions; as long as both imagine themselves as the #1 Stunner, they will tear each other down for it and block each other’s chances for greater utility. In the end, the bruised primary victor will roll into the battle with J McC like a kicked peach.

So the weaker O-bomb will get the nomination, and – without some image help – lose. Then we’d have to listen to John Stewart replace his hilarious eight-year “Bush is dumb” routine with “McCain is old” jokes. And make that little face he does when even his diehards can't muster a laugh. No one wants this.

So now N Dot has to pick up all the pieces. After a long absence, I’m back on Billiken to offer Senator Obama some frank advice and a roadmap to success before it’s too late. You may recall that I’ve offered you lefties advice before after the ‘04 election (which, by the way, I predicted almost exactly, missing one state). Note that my advice in 2004 could have prevented Democrats from making the same mistakes in 2008: back then I said that Democrats should listen to those arguing that they "support some of the cultural values most of the country seems to find important." If there was an N Dot on O-Bomb's team to begin with, this whole "bitter clinging" fiasco would never have happened.
Why do I do it? All for fun; no liberal in the history of the United States has ever actually listened to a conservative. (If they did, they wouldn’t be liberals!)

The fact is, this race is far from over for O-Bomb. The man is an extraordinary political talent and a genuinely likeable guy facing a good political climate. His oratory skill and locked-in base could be huge. While he is “out of touch” with some key people, he has proven an ability to “touch in” on emotions that turn the open-minded into committed followers. In politics, style is everything - and this man has style. He just needs … adjustment.

So here it is, Senator. My five part series (I'll post the next four steps in following weeks): Five Steps to Save Your Candidacy.

Step I. Act as if.

This is the Ben Affleck from Boiler Room rule. If you want it, first act like you own it.

It’s not that Obama doesn’t know how to do this- he’s a master at it. For instance, he acted early on like his candidacy was equal to Hill-dog's and was able to make that unlikely perception work.
And when revelations came out about Rev. Wright, he acted - successfully at the time - that he was so above normal political vetting that is was ridiculous and insulting to Americans and the discussion before them to broach the subject. This makes sense - why should people care now about his past and the people who influenced his career and shaped his ideas? After all, Obama is a man whose many years of public service, extreme sacrifices for country, and extensive congressional record debating and voting on issues provide so much accessible information to the public about his overriding vision, judgment and character that these kind of relationships become more of a “manufactured” distraction for voters. Oh, wait - that’s John McCain.

Anyway, the point is that O-bomb now needs to apply this principle to his ultimate, plausible goal. He needs to act as if he is what he could be, rather than things he can’t. For instance, he needs to first stop acting like the guy who is going to magically unite people of different races or transcend the country’s historically-ingrained divisions. It’s not going to happen.

True, he has spoken eloquently at times about the need to begin a “real” discussion about race and race-related problems in America. Lofty, admirable. But in practice, O-bomb has proven particularly deft at mentioning the issue where politically expedient while avoiding this issue when a “real discussion” might otherwise have emerged.
In a speech following the Rev. Wright revelations, O-bomb himself turned the discussion into one about race and its persisting impact on people’s attitudes, when all along it should have been about his judgment and his propensity to be a leader. But after an eloquent and stunningly honest acknowledgment about the variety of ways in which racial attitudes are hurtful to the country, O-bomb hastily equated Wright’s despicable public rants to his grandmother’s privately held prejudices, and seemingly left a more nuanced discussion of race for a later time and place. Have we heard anything about race from the candidate since? And should we?

O-bomb can’t be blamed for avoiding the political minefield surrounding the race issue. Simply, it shouldn’t fall on him to tackle race any more than it fell on the old white guys who preceded him. O-bomb is essentially right when he says that Americans are more interested in hearing from their candidate about those issues affecting their lives that a president might actually impact. While O-bomb’s unique background makes his candidacy an exciting milestone, the voters he needs now are rightfully skeptical about whether he is either interested in or capable of addressing the nation’s damaging racial divisions by sparking some grand national dialogue. Those who believe in O-Bomb’s divine powers as racial healer won’t change their minds - for everyone else, the act should be dropped.

Similarly, it’s silly for O-bomb to put so much effort into acting like “the regular guy.” He’s not a regular guy - he’s a particularly impressive guy with a fascinating story. And Americans aren’t necessarily looking for the regular guy anyway; having that aura only helps to the degree that it convinces people that the candidate shares their values and isn’t an insufferable snob (see Step Three in upcoming post). Unlike G-Dubb, O-bomb can better address this challenge by relying his skills as a communicator. If you're not good at bowling, don’t go bowling.

Instead of all this, O-bomb needs to start acting as if he is the President. It’s a familiar icon to Americans, with recognizable features. To embody this role, Obama would welcome and directly answer tough questions and attacks, instead of appearing blindsided, annoyed and frightened in a debate when issues come up that should have been expected. The POTUS doesn’t get special treatment, he gets special scrutiny. So he needs to stop playing the role of popular-kid media darling who whines when things go south, and start playing the guy who is ready and willing to take the hits without buckling. Referencing Jay-Z or comparing your grandmother to a rabid racist is neither a politically sufficient nor particularly presidential response to the problem.

Similarly, the tough questions Obama faces about his past connections cannot be answered by saying, “well that’s just politics.” Because, we know that. What did you think you were playing - croquet? Get in the game, playa! And act as if you already won.
Return soon for Step Two.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

View or Post to our Message Board!
Free Web Counter
Oshkosh Clothing