Monday, August 11, 2008

Kevin Finally Speaks Decisively, But Seems To Give Bad Counsel

Kevin wrote this post to respond to a Barack Obama campaign ad, and he seems to be encouraging behavior the Republicans would like to see in us (like refusing to consider political tactics because of an emotional response).

I'll respond to this sentence from Kevin's post:

The main reason the ad is dumb is because it's so painfully juvenile: you called us a celebrity, so we're going to call you a celebrity! Nyah nyah nyah.

I don't think it's necessarily juvenile or that there is necessarily anything wrong with it. Politics between the Democrats and the Republicans isn't a cocktail party discussion between two old, sincerely fond friends in front of some of their other friends. It's a battle over power. When McCain uses these kinds of techniques on Barack, he opens himself up to having these techniques that Dems are reluctant to use in the first place turned back on him-- and these are techniques that have proven to make a big difference for the Republicans, even when their substantive policies are terrible. By absolutely refusing to use these tactics, we are abandoning our voice with a large segment of the population that those kinds of statements actually appeal to. That's just dumb. You may not personally like the behavior, but Barack's battle isn't a battle to behave in a way that would be impeccable in any context, it's a battle to win over a political enemy to gain power.

Anyway, even though the Republicans go overboard with those kinds of attacks, it's also going overboard in the opposite direction if we pretend that there is nothing at all to the voters' concerns that a Presidential candidate is too egotistical or spends too much money on things like shoes. They are, after all, running for the most powerful officially/publicly recognized political position in the world. The trick I think is not to go overboard in how we answer those kinds of concerns (for instance, not to become dishonest and pretentious), or to turn our politics into a politics of hoopla and bluster, where the best liar will win and policy will be forgotten-- that does not serve freedom (because likely the Republicans have a lot more chance of winning elections if that is what the norm of the political discourse of the country becomes).

It's kind of hard to see how saying something that responds very directly to the kind of attacks that gain the most traction for the Republicans is a bad idea (especially when we don't say "I'm not a celebrity, you are" but rather "I'm not a celebrity, you are, and here's why: X, Y, and Z"). But Kevin doesn't even say it's a bad idea, he just says that it's "juvenile," and of course, none of us have ever even heard that a lot of voters tend to side against a candidate because they perceive him or her to have made a juvenile attack or statement once. It's more like just a Republican mind-f*ck: "Hey, don't put out messages that work for your side-- you don't want to be juvenile, RIGHT???"