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It's the economy, stupid

Incredibly, a poster at The Obama 527 Formerly Known As Daily Kos -- under the provocative title "Is dkos being played by Rove?"* -- gets it, and has a way forward, though I didn't look at the comments because I had not time to disinfect afterwards. Quoting Bareback Andy (no link) quoting email, this gem:

Just a few examples---yesterday Obama gave a fantastic interview at the Service Forum. Did the liberal blogs even cover this? No.

He gave a great speech on the trail. Are his town halls even posted or excerpted? No.

The liberal [sic] bloggers have become McCain[/Palin] central [Jeralyn]. They make people click on his ads, make the world spin around him instead of focusing on our candidate and what he is trying to do. There is ZERO coverage of what Obama is actually doing every day talking tough on the issues. There is ZERO coverage of Biden (who is on the trail but the blogs don't seem to care or cover him unless he is doing what they think he should be doing).

Town Halls?! Like Hillary did?!?! So, I googled for transcripts, and a hasty search found one, way back on September 5, in York, PA (with Bob Casey, ick, but that's another story):

[OBAMA] This is the second day in a row where we've taken a look at manufacturing here in Pennsylvania. Yesterday, we were in York and we were looking at hydroturbines that are being manufactured there today, specialty glass. And when you hear about some of the work that's being done, making the glass that's required for night vision goggles, developing photovoltaics as part of this company -- this is really cutting edge stuff.


[OBAMA] It's the kind of research and development and then transferring that technology into critical applications. That is what has built America. And when you meet the workers here, many of whom have been here 30 years, it gives you a sense of pride to know that great manufacturing work is still being done in the United States of America.

Now, unfortunately, we just got a jobs report today that showed we had lost another 80,000 jobs -- 80,000 jobs lost. We've now lost 605,000 jobs since the beginning of this year -- 605,000 jobs have been lost. The unemployment rate just jumped up to 6.1 percent. It's the highest that it's been in five years. We've had eight consecutive months of job loss. And so part of what I want to talk about is how do we create more shotglass operations all across America? How do we create jobs in America at a time when it seems like plants are closing all across the country and jobs are being shipped overseas? ...

But the other thing I've learned is people are anxious because of the kinds of statistics that you're seeing today released today. Everywhere you go, people are working harder and harder just to get by.

It's harder to save, it's harder to retire. Incomes and wages have not gone up since George Bush took office in any substantial way.

When Bill Clinton [a Democrat] was president [!!], the average family income went up $7,500. Since George Bush [a Republican] has been in office, the average family income has gone down $2,000. And so, people just don't have as much money at the same time as the cost for everything from gas to food to health care have all skyrocketed.

Not quite "And we get?" territory, because, stupidly, Obama's solution borrows a page from the Republican playbook: tax cuts. I really don't think Obama gets that the country is ready to listen** and ready to think. But at least I don't feel quite so invisible. That transcript could almost be... Bill or Hillary Clinton on the geekery and stats (on an off day, I grant, and I'd need to see a video to see if Obama makes a real connection to the audience). And that's how the local papers played it, too. Yes, this part of PA is Hillary territory, so he's pandering Hillary-style. And so what?

So, better. Comes now thereisnospoon with the heavyweight's response to the first-time frontpager quoted above. Here's the meat of the argument, which advocates a classic tiered architecture with the blogs at Tier Two:

2. It's OUR job*** as bloggers to do what the Obama campaign cannot do.

... We, on the other hand, have no such obligation. The Obama campaign has been successful largely because of its inspiring "new brand of politics" [and Donna, HoHo, the RBC, the TX caucuses, and FL/MI]. Unfortunately, as Bill Clinton might note, that makes it somewhat difficult for the Obama campaign to get quite as nasty with the opposition as it might need to [Oh, really?]. But that's OK--because that can be our job.

It's our job to push memes the campaign can't. It's our job to focus on Republican chicanery that would waste the time of an Obama campaign that needs to be focusing its messaging on core economic issues. By talking about McCain's egregious lies and horrible personal ethics, we can help push the press to cover stories that the Obama campaign can't seriously push themselves.

Ours is an important role to play. I would argue, in fact, that we harm both ourselves as independent analysts and the campaign itself by simply being extended mouthpieces for the Obama campaign. Everyone has a role to play: ours is to play hardball, to hit where it hurts, and to force the traditional media to cover what it might be uncomfortable covering otherwise.

Thereisnospoon is a rotisserie Rovian. His oppo is to professional oppo as rotisserie baseball*** is to major league baseball (unless it isn't, in which case an FEC complaint**** is definitely warranted).

First, thereisnospoon's post is incoherent both logically and ethically. Logically, you can't be an "independent analyst" and have a "job" with a campaign at the same time; either you're independent or you're not. Ethically, either you've got a duty to tell the truth to your readers and let the shit hit what fan it may, or you've got a duty to tell the readers only that which will help your candidate. One way, your writing and your message have integrity; the other way, they're purely instrumental, means to ends. Thereisnospoon wants to serve both God and Mammon; but that can't be done (Matthew 6:24). Which is really Cheetopia's branding problem right now, isn't it?

Second, what the polls are telling us now is that the Tier Two strategery as advocated by thereisnospoon is failing: The geniuses at Axelrod's shop and his branch office in the netroots at Kos have managed to turn what should be a cakewalk for Democrats into a close race. And why wouldn't it fail? The American people, no matter what the rotisserie Rovians in the "creative" [cough] "class" might think, really are not stupid. They know not only they, but the country are in trouble. So McCain throws them Palin, and how do the progs respond? They go after her seventeen-year-old daughter and her Down syndrome baby and her small town roots, and come down with a case of PDS as virulent as their CDS (currently in remission). Pathetic, disgusting, misogynistic, and above all ineffective, and all taking place at what used to be a flagship political site that still has the circulation of a cable channel. And no wonder Obama's numbers tanked: the American people identified Obama with his noisiest asshole supporters, which is exactly what they should do because, not being stupid, they're not giving Obama the benefit of "plausible deniability" after the filthy primary campaign he ran -- or at least the voters Obama's got to win over won't, unless and until he talks to them in their language (as Obama, to his credit, did in York). And if Obama's even trying to deliver an economic message -- that weak new ad he's running sure God doesn't -- his best friends at Cheetopia have succeeded in stepping on it. Sweet Jeebus, I had to Google that transcript myself! You'd think the trolls would be citing it every chance they got!

Third, thereisnospoon presents oppo as the only contribution that Cheetopia and the rest of Tier Two [Jeralyn] can make. That's just not so. Go back to the original post:

Are his town halls even posted or excerpted?

Doing that would greatly help with "It's the economy, stupid!" Doing that would also counteract the perception that Obama is all hat and no cattle, just like Bush before him. That's a Tier Two strategy that might actually work, and not blow up in Obama's face, or get in the way of his economic message, assuming he wants to deliver one nationally, instead of only at Town Halls. It's also a role that the blogosphere can play, and play well.

Now, to me, thereisnospoon's post is replete with the delusional self-righteousness of the typical OFB. I threw up a little in my mouth when I read "somewhat difficult for the Obama campaign to get quite as nasty with the opposition." It's exactly because of the kind of campaign that Obama and Axelrod's Tier Two operation on the blogs ran in the primaries that I have no trust or respect for the man, or the movement that represents him.*****

I do think, however, that the average American voter will be a good deal more forgiving than I am. The progs could help win them over by becoming bloggers again. I doubt that they will. But it might be useful if the sort of person who goes to parties reads this, and makes the adjustment.

NOTE * My answer: No. Not even Rove could fuck up The Obama 527 Formerly Known As Daily Kos as much as Kos himself has. Come on. Let's be realistic.

NOTE ** Which is why the hopey-changey, which really does treat the American people as stupid.

NOTE *** You'll never guess who invented rotisserie baseball. Just goes to show that anybody can have redeeming qualities, I guess.

NOTE **** I would dearly love to know how literally to take "job" in this context. The Kos sysadmins implemented the purge of Hillary supporters, as proved by the thought-crime screens some of us got. Having Kos subjected to an FEC complaint would be one for the Department of Schadenfreude.

NOTE ***** But then, what would I know? I'm a racist.

UPDATE For a contrary view, see Paul Hackett. I guess we're both agreed that if you want to win, do what winners do. Both Clintons won (Hillary won the popular vote in the primary), and I advocate that Obama become a Clinton Democrat, as much as he can (and the transcript I quote shows him trying). Rove won too (twice) and the progs, and Hacket, want to follow Rove. I'm betting they'll win out, because that's the road Obama already took in the primaries. Plus, snark is a lot more shiny and fun than boring bullet points about policy. Dance with who brung ya. Ick. Green is looking better and better.

No votes yet


trishb's picture
Submitted by trishb on

For any event of this type done by Obama. Just as you've never seen the videos of Hillary campaigning for him. It doesn't advance the media's preferred narrative.

TonyRz's picture
Submitted by TonyRz on

Hm. What a shame there isn't some way for Obama's campaign to capture video and audio of his appearances, and make these short films available on some kind of, oh, I dunno, an FTP site or something, a network repository of some sort where people could connect with their computers, download it, and see it for themselves.

otherlisa's picture
Submitted by otherlisa on

Jebus. How do guys like this become any kind of serious voice in the political process?

Wake me up when this freakin' election is over.

Caro's picture
Submitted by Caro on

... doesn't work with the general public when coming from Democrats, I think, has to do with the 40-year, multi-billion dollar branding campaign mounted by a few very wealthy right-wing families.

Democrats have been portrayed as soft and cowardly, and of course they've done as much as they can to help build that image. When Democrats go negative, then, they appear to be dealing from a position of weakness. They look like whiners.

Republicans, on the other hand, have been portrayed as fighters, and of course they've done everything possible to help build THEIR image. They mount fights even when they know they're going to lose, because it shows their base that they're trying. So when Republicans go negative it looks like part of their muscular image, and even if they go too far, as they frequently do, it seems to be coming from a position of strength.

The only reason why Obama's negative campaigning against Hillary worked was that he was willing to use the 16-year campaign of the right against her and her husband, and was willing to go to the nth degree to kill her dead, dead, DEAD. That 16-year campaign was so successful that it had Democrats selling their souls to be part of the get-the-Clintons mob. But even then it didn't quite work.

Liberals, progressives, whoever cares about promoting sane values in this country, will have to do significant rebranding and show some spirit and some fight, to be believable. I sincerely hope that there is a rebranding campaign, but like you, Lam-BEAR, I hope that it's done in the positive way that the Clintons have shown us.

There's a fight going on in the Liberal Blog Advertising Network right now because some people want to ban a blog that dares to say nice things about McCain and Palin. You have to HATE your political opponents, see. You can't see ANY good in them, see.

And that's your "transformative politics" in a nutshell.

Carolyn Kay

Submitted by gob on

Negative campaigning that doesn't work seems to be a specialty of "our side", but I have a different take on the reasons than Caro's. (I agree with her that the "branding" or background assumptions established over the years are a big part of the problem.) What I think I see is that the Republicans have a long history of appeals to a resentment that they know very well how to target. The same resentment that drives the humor of the Arkansas Traveler. The resentment I felt when my fellow grad students asked me to say "Carnegie" because they wanted to see if I would exhibit the Pittsburgh accent they had read about in their "Guide to Living in Pittsburgh". The resentment anybody feels when treated as less than fully human, duh.

Paul Hackett advocates attacks like this to appeal to the voters of southern Ohio (i.e. Appalachia):

"Sarah Palin? Can't keep her solemn oath of devotion to her husband and had sex with his employee. Sarah Palin? Accidentally got pregnant at age 43 and the tax payers of Alaska have to pay for the care of her disabled child. Sarah Palin? Unable to teach her 16 year old daughter right from wrong and now another teenager is pregnant. Sarah Palin? Can you trust Sarah Palin and her values with America's future? John McCain? Divorced from his first wife one month and marries a billionaire influence peddler and convicted felon. John McCain, a record of rash and impulsive decisions. That’s not change that’s more of the same.”

That is dumb. The code, or dogwhistle, or subtext, whatever you want to call it, is, though not exactly backwards, certainly sideways. "Accidentally got pregnant at age 43"??? Please. The world is not inhabited exclusively by women who are wrapped so tight and so well-tended that every pregnancy is planned. The Palin attacks sound like a comfy suburbanite going on about "white trash". If you want to tap the wells the Republicans have been working, you have to paint the opposition as contemptuous of the little people. Exhibiting contempt for the opposition will push any leaners right into their camp.

Policy not party!

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

Please explain about Okrent. Don't know the feller, but I gather you're not a fan. I must say I lurve this quote found in his wikipedia entry, evocative of my pet agenda about equivalation: "The pursuit of balance can create imbalance because sometimes something is true."

Truth Partisan's picture
Submitted by Truth Partisan on

Yeah, let's hear the real, good stuff!

This reminds me of MoveOn members, who are still forwarding a list with 10 points about why not to vote for McCain (to 239,164 people by e-mail they claim)--but it's dated (from early Jan-Mar. 2008, and doesn't include updated information as of those dates either) and focuses on a few good issues (one example: environment) but also some more unimportant issues (Hagee's endorsement of McCain which McCain has disavowed.) There is nothing about the economy on the list.

Why not have clear information on economic impact with specifics for the average people?

Why invest in truthiness and fluff when you can tell the clear and updated truth?

Can someone really explain this all--the post above and MoveOn's inadequate (but not underfunded) job here? They can't be trying to fail, right--so is it just a bad adoption of Rovian tactics?

Valhalla's picture
Submitted by Valhalla on

Right on, both.

Republicans have spent years building up not only their own mythology and an opposite mythology for Democrats, they also built an ideological architecture which they stick with. They have a set of core principles (nevermind that they're repulsive) and branding that feeds into it (nevermind that their ideology and the resentment-tapping is usally at odds with each other).

Democrats don't have either. They reboot the branding every 4 years at best, and they can't decide on core principles or ideology. Republicans build for the long term, Democrats build for next week.

Aside: I've never been able to get why Democrats don't get that people don't like to be mocked. Do they like to be mocked? It's hardly some obscure psychological phenomenom.

Example: Had Democrats spent the last 20-30 years educating folks that the reason they are pro-choice because reproductive rights are a critical component of women's social and economic equality, rather than treat it as just another item on an issue checklist, they would have had a much greater shield against the Palin pick.

But instead, they're left with Steinem's rather weak laundry-list drumpounding. Two months is too short to for any 'messaging' to overcome 30 years of Republican narratives tying themselves into family values and American security. Long-term branding sinks into people brains and bones, waiting to picked up by Rs every election; while Democrats have to make the arguments for themselves anew each time.

The message the Democrats should be making, or are trying to make and failing, is that voting for McCain-Palin is a vote against women's equality, and abortion is a subset of that. Hell, I'm not even sure most leading Dems understand that, or agree. It's too late now, though.

Caro's picture
Submitted by Caro on

... has to start from scratch, both with message building and with building a support infrastructure.

What the hell good IS the Democratic Party, anyway, except for the good ole boys (including the females) already in it?

basement angel's picture
Submitted by basement angel on

in information. The advantage the right has is that their fans love getting ramped up about sexual excess (that is, in between, attending sex addicts anonymous meetings at the local baptist church and dressing their small daughters up for beauty pageants) and the media indulges that. What the media does not indulge is Dems getting angry about economic inequality. Once the Dems built their Wurlitzer, that whined on about sexual excess, the media was happy to pick the stories up.

as for the Okrent Wikiquote, one of the things I've been pointing out for years is that for modern media, truth has no intrinsic value. That's quite a problem for a society that wants to be free.

Caro's picture
Submitted by Caro on

... because that would be a threat to the corporate bosses who own the big media organizations and, increasingly, the talking heads representing those organizations, as well. The established order must not be questioned, as it might lead to someone DEMANDING something, for goddess' sake. And as we all know, the universe will disappear into a black hole if that happens.

I used to think the Democratic Party was our bulwark against the corporate juggernaut, but the events of the last two years have shown me otherwise.

Truth is not an issue. Truth CAN NOT BE an issue. It's POWER that's at stake.

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

his actual and practical solutions to all the problems he lists (not "tax cuts" or "research and investment", but real things that people can immediately see will help), he's not connecting.

At all.

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

that's not why we hire presidents.

We want presidents and leaders to answer questions--not to raise them. We know the questions and the problems--we want answers.

gyrfalcon's picture
Submitted by gyrfalcon on

That's what a good community organizer does-- maybe make a few suggestions, but mostly guide people to figure out for themselves what should be done, largely by -- ta-da! -- asking questions. The idea being to empower them to act on their own.

Obama talked a lot during the primaries about wanting to do just that on a national scale, about how ideas and solutions should "bubble up" from the people to the leadership, and that he promised to act on them when that happened. I think that's the rationale for why his campaign has purposely deemphasized specifics. (Does he imagine that the people bubbled up the idea that he should vote for that FISA bill?)

The more I think about it, the more I'm becoming convinced that Obama's grand idea is to apply the community organizer model to national politics and governance, or a hybrid Alinsky-non-Alinsky model that encompasses both a "charismatic leader," ie him, and bottom up empowerment.

Like everybody else, I've spent the last X months trying to figure out what the heck he thinks he's doing, and this might be the key that ties it all together.

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

not leading?

We ask candidates: What will YOU do about this, this, this & this?

We don't want to hear: "Well, let's all talk about it"

The job, the power, the way our govt is set up--none of these things will change for a president who wants to use a different model. It's absolutely absurd and delusional at a time with so many problems to be thinking he can do things differently.

And he has absolutely no track record of doing things his new way--or the old way.

gyrfalcon's picture
Submitted by gyrfalcon on

But I think this is what all that crap about "new politics" is about. Just my guess, but it sure seems to fit.

IMO, the man has very serious psychic/emotional issues different but every bit as potentially dangerous as Bushie Jr.'s., so "dulusional" is not too strong a word, I think.

Truth Partisan's picture
Submitted by Truth Partisan on

"Obama’s grand idea is to apply the community organizer model to national politics and governance, or a hybrid Alinsky-non-Alinsky model that encompasses both a “charismatic leader,” ie him, and bottom up empowerment." Very interesting!
Doesn't this argue for us continuing to push for what we believe in?

gyrfalcon's picture
Submitted by gyrfalcon on

he listens to is both grander and more diffuse than our petty specific concerns about things like FISA. The way it works is He, the Charismatic Leader, will ponder what it is we're really asking for, decide whose concerns are valid and whose are just masking something else, blah, blah, blah, and then act on his own principles, whatever those might be (I'm still unclear on that.)

That's one reason, of many, why charismatic leadership doesn't generally work well in classic community organizing, I believe.

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

bottom-up would be true single-payer, and out of Iraq immediately, and no expansion of the military, and no trade deals, and no spying, and investment in jobs and protection against foreclosure and bankruptcy, etc.

not the weak shit he's peddling---none of it is bottom-up at all.

no one is crying that their taxes are too high or that they need a tax cut. no one is crying about "changing DC". no one is crying to sit down with health insurers and the Republicans who trashed this country.

gyrfalcon's picture
Submitted by gyrfalcon on

us here, not the country as a whole. You can't possibly mean to say "No one is crying that their taxes are too high."

The public as a whole is also not crying for single payer or to get out of Iraq immediately, etc. They're unhappy with the way health insurance works and they don't much like the Iraq debacle, but that's my point about how He will interpret for us what our discontent Really Means and how to make it less so.

campskunk's picture
Submitted by campskunk on

this election is lost, and the only hope of winning another one is for people like the kos kiddies to dig themselves a hole so deep they'll never get out of it. casual public statements about illegal activities are their stock in trade.

what i really regret is the fact that these people openly advocate election fraud, and they're (allegedly) democrats. ever since we got rid of mayor daley the first and lbj, the democratic party has been the good guys in electoral fraud fights. no more. thanks to the obama campaign and its supporters, we have lost all moral authority to complain about the 2000 election theft, or any other election fraud, ever again.