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Not Prince Hamlet

"Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse."

Eating Their Own Tail

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Jeffrey Feldman said today that the scores of clips from McCain and Palin rallies in which supporters hurl racist epithets have become the dominant images of the campaign. While the post is given to some hyperbole, Feldman is hitting on what I think is the story as the race draws to a close: John McCain's campaign is dying a self-inflicted death, as the worst tendencies and instincts of white conservatives have taken center stage.

Beginning with the Palin pick, McCain ceded his message to the practitioners of divisive identity politics. It bore immediate fruit, as Republicans who had theretofore been cool on the Arizona Senator immediately got on board. You could feel it in Palin's early speeches, and especially during the convention: conservatives passionately embraced the McCain campaign as something that looked and sounded like them.

If it had stopped there, things might be different. But, beginning with Guiliani's and Palin's jabs at community organizers from the convention podium, the Republican campaign's message turned to the "difference" of his opponent, employing terminolgy about his "secrets" and asking "Who is Barack Obama?" In doing this, McCain began allowing unqualified and unaccountable people to say things on his behalf that made mainstream Americans a little sick to their stomachs. Thus, the people introducing him at rallies started referring regularly to Barack "Hussein" Obama. When McCain failed to put a stop to it, the wheels began to fall off.

Yes, Palin's interview with Katie Couric hurt. Yes, the financial crisis and McCain's faux campaign suspension amplified the problems. And no, SNL's parodies didn't do the camp any favors. But the legacy of McCain's failed campaign will be the scenes from these rallies. It will be supporters in Pennsylvania and Ohio making shooting gestures with their hands and disavowing the prospect of a black president. In the face of this ugliness, all McCain could do was double down on his bet with the devil and praise his supporters.

Joe the Plumber's campaign appearance today and the ignorance it put on display is merely postscript. Because from right wing shock jocks to an inexperienced and unknown VP pick and finally to an obscure right wing hothead, John McCain has repeatedly allowed the wrong people to do his talking for him. His wager has been that enough Americans will see themselves in such unrefined and unprofessional personalities. If the polls are to be believed, it's a wager he's about to lose in embarrasing fashion.

All Obama has to do is wait for the desperate and undisciplined mouths of McCain's surrogates to swallow the rest of the campaign's body.
posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 10:14 PM

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