Thursday, November 6, 2008

Highs and Lows

Election Results: Hope: 1, Fear: 0

How did it happen: The election results are even more amazing when the following factors are considered: Hillary Clinton had been the anointed one for years. The Democratic Party planned to walk through the formality of a primary before selecting their candidate for coronation. But from Iowa onward Obama was smarter, better organized, better prepared, and hungrier. President Elect Obama won the election despite being beaten up and trashed during the primaries by the Hillary Clinton camp that threw out charges of sexism at those who did not support her. Hillary showed her mettle as a terrific campaigner who some say nearly followed a scorched earth battle plan. That turned out to be a two-edge sword, for although the Republican opposition used several of Hillary’s clips in anti-Obama’s ads, if one watches his performance before and after the primaries, it is clear that he improved tremendously against the strong competition. The long and arduous primary was so intense that many Hillary supporters were so committed to her they were unable to change their loyalty to the person she had been fighting. After the primaries it became clear that her tiara had been snatched from her and she coolly did the minimum to help her former opponent until late in the campaign.

More innovation, less traditionalism: The Obama vs. McCain campaign was like no other in American history. Conventional wisdom calls for the leaders of the Party to support the candidate of choice. The most influential Democrat in the country, former President Bill Clinton was noticeably absent from the campaign trail until very late when the outcome was already well in hand. As mentioned above Senator Hillary Clinton also had a difficult time helping to elect the person to the office that she and Bill clearly saw as hers. She did eventually overcome her hurt and in the same fashion that she had reinvented herself time again during the primary campaign, she got into it about the eighth inning. Her help was a little stronger than Bill’s but still was not a deciding factor.

Next in the traditional campaign would have been former primary candidate John Edwards who was strong with the working class and was expected to bring that constituency to the Obama camp. But he self-destructed with the tabloid news break of an illicit affair that produced a love child while his wife was fighting to be a cancer survivor. It was a Newt Gingrich type story but the result was that Edwards and his leadership disappeared from the campaign trail. Finally, the Party traditionally helps the candidate with money for TV and radio ad buys, but in a stroke of brilliance, the Obama party raised more money than the entire Democratic Party.

If Reagan was Teflon, Obama was Houdini: The Obama campaign neither invented the internet nor introduced it into political fundraising but took the task to a level never before seen. The campaign, as the nerds say, went viral, reaching hundreds of thousands of people who had neither been previously active nor donated to campaigns. In addition the campaign used its internet magic to reach supporters who were already both internet and politically savvy. Supporters were asked to donate small amounts - $ 25, $ 30, $ 50, even $ 100. The internet donations had almost a contest atmosphere to them, bringing supporters back almost daily for more requests. The phenomenon was not unlike a chat room in which people with like interests exchange ideas, gossip, chatter, and donations. No campaign had ever taken such a novel approach and one result was that young people in the 18-35 age group, many of them students who had not been politically active previously, “joined the club.” The campaign also assembled more than a million volunteers to register voters, hold rallies, and bring in many who had felt disenfranchised by the political system.

The Campaign itself: The campaign was a classic between traditional and innovative. The innovative side had several firsts including a female presidential candidate in the primaries, a non-white presidential candidate in the generals, a campaign that used the internet with an almost surgical precision, used text messages and cell phones to keep in touch with constituents, and focused on constituencies that had not played a major part in politics for decades. The traditional side offered an elderly white male candidate who by his own admission did not know how to use email, who campaigned in all the traditional ways, drawing mostly white audiences, and earning endorsements from mostly old white traditional men. Late in the campaign the traditional side threw the equivalent of a Hail Mary pass by adding a female to the ticket. The ploy seemed to be pure genius but upon further review, although she invigorated the party base, a lack of vetting of the candidate proved to be a detriment.

The traditional candidate did what had been done in campaigns for decades, tossing dirt, character assassinations, and other usual tricks such as having surrogates in the form of so-called 527 groups send daily missives that were wildly emotional with highly skewed “facts” in an attempt to discredit the opponent. The innovative candidate did not address the attackers talking points or return the below the belt punches. It had no 527 or surrogate groups return the attacks in kind. It simply either ignored them, or for those that were patently false, it responded with a rebuttal, often within minutes, then moved on.

Newest Republican sport: Pounding Palin: Now that the election is over, as in any contest to the victor go the spoils. For the losers, angry Conservatives have discovered a new target – their former Hockey Goddess Sarah Barracuda. Reports have leaked from the McCain camp that the head guy himself described his ex-running mate and her family as “Wasilla hillbillies who looted Neiman-Marcus from coast to coast.” Reporters who had taken a vow of silence until after the campaign was over are now saying that the Republicans are painting their former star as an overly ambitious politician who lobbied hard for the job and who, when told to buy three outfits for her and her hubby, bought nearly $ 200,000 worth of clothing for the entire family! Her rise and fall from grace reminds me of the line from “Ole Blue Eyes,” who once crooned, “The higher the top, the longer the drop.”

Out with a smile: We will close out today’s post with a few bits of tongue-in-cheek humor about each of the players. The rift in the McCain campaign became clear when he began to refer to Sarah as “That One.” When Sarah Palin began “going rogue,” her Secret Service detachment changed her code name from “Caribou Barbie” to “Joe Biden.” Joe the Plumber was not a licensed plumber so he was unable to save the McCain campaign from going down the toilet. President Bush’s dog Barney reportedly bit a Reuters reporter. Seems the newsman reported finding a “doggie surprise” on the White House sofa. Barack Obama had Bruce Springsteen lead off with “Born in the USA” at a fundraiser. His birth certificate was shown on the big screen to convince the right wing.

A little blogging music Maestro… Dedicate this one to the Vice President Elect: “The World Was a Mess But His Hair Was Perfect” by The Rakes.

Dr. Forgot

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