Saturday, December 20, 2008
WHY THE "NOBAMA" CAMPAIGN FAILED
I got rid of the beard. I was afraid people might mistake me for an Obama Supporter. I'm back -- with a vengeance. Fasten your seat-belts, because the next four years are going to be quite a ride.
"Perception is reality." (An old saying in the public relations business).
The problem of course is that perceptions are sometimes (perhaps usually?) wrong. In the campaign to defeat Barack H. Obama and elect John S. McCain, most voters had the perception that Obama was extremely cool, very smart, and usually charismatic. That is, most people saw him as a real-life version of Obiwan Kanobi.
Those of us in the pro-McCain (and, especially, pro-Palin) online community tried to undermine the general perception of Obama. We tried to present him as an inexperienced, unqualified, untrustworthy candidate. We wanted the world to see him as we did -- as (in the words of one TIME editor), "creepy . . . self-absorbed." We saw him -- correctly -- as man who'd spent a lifetime associating with what our grandmothers (and his?) called "bad companions."
We failed. Obama won the election -- and won big. The charges we made against BHO did not stick.
There were many reasons John McCain lost -- one of them the collapse of the economy under a Republican President and another the general ineptitude of the McCain Campaign, including both the candidate and his staff.
But we played a role in the defeat. We assumed the public would want to know the truth about Obama's associates, including Tony Rezko, Rashid Khalidid, Raila Odinga, Jeremiah Wright, and William Ayers.
In fact, the American public didn't give a hoot about Obama's relationships with Khalidi and Odinga. They didn't know -- and don't know -- who those people are. An obscure Kenyan politician (Odinga) and a half-crazed academic (Khalidi) were of no interest to American voters.
For the "bad companionship" argument to work we would have needed substantial cooperation from the national media. Basically, we got none. We also got no support from the head of the Republican ticket, who regarded it as a badge of personal honor to reject even mentioning the names of Jeremiah Wright and William Ayers (let alone Khalidi, Odinga, or Rezko).
In the online community, we tried to sell Ayers and others to a public that wasn't buying. Alas, we may at time have qualified for the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and somehow expecting different results.
We should have spent a lot more time making the case for John and (especially) the incomparable Sarah. Unfortunately, McCain didn't give us a lot of help there. He definitely wanted to become President -- he just never really gave us a short, compelling reason why. He regarded doing what was necessary to win (such as making Rev. Wright a focal point) as somehow beneath him.
It's a dangerous thing for bloggers and other onliners to determine what the public "should" know. The public will know what is meaningful to it. Give the public an unpronounceable name, and you've lost them.
The American people decided that Raila Odinga and Rashid Khalidi, people with strange names and bizarre views, were not worth knowing about. What poll data there is shows that a person like Ayers had almost no influence on the election.
I notice some people are still writing about Ayers (and perhaps Odinga and Khalidi). They're wasting their time, sad to say. In regard to Obama's many bad companions, the public has voted with a gigantic ho-hum. In the end, the tens of thousands (!!!!) of pieces we wrote on why Obama should not be President struck voters as if they were emanating from the Tower of Babel. It was as if we were Darth Vader and he in fact was Obiwan.
I look for Obama to be a terrible President. Inexperienced. Unqualified. Untrustworthy. And dangerous to the Constitution and the safety of the American people. His approval rating now is in the 70s, right where it should be for someone who has never served a day in executive office.
The all-time champion of political fundraising, Obama will spend his first days in office paying off the UAW members who provided the winning margins in Michigan and Ohio. Instead of "In God we trust," the national motto may very well become, "Hey, if you want to play, you gotta pay!"
I'm not optimistic.