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May 31, 2008

Comments

They see Obama's playing the race card throughout the campaign and no one calling him for it as frightening.

"they" ?

where has Obama "played the race card" ?

cleek: I think it's in the same place in which his SC speech was about leaving whites behind. Which is to say: in their heads.

Don't you mean in Geraldine Ferraro's head? ;)

Not that it's anything to smile about.

Which is to say: in their heads.

that's what i think, too. but if you peek at the comments of any pro-Clinton blog these days, "Obama played the race card" is repeated over and over, like a koan.

on second thought, i suppose there's nothing that says a koan has to reflect current events accurately, if at all.

Minor quibble with: It's not just that they listen to speeches that have nothing to do with race and imagine that they do; that when they hear Obama say things like "our time for change has come", they assume, on the basis of nothing whatsoever, and in flat contradiction to what Obama is actually talking about, that he is dissing whites.

I believe they "imagine" and "assume", not because of their nature, but (significantly) because people like Ferraro tell them to think that way.

Shorter Geraldine Ferraro:

"I tell people they shouldn't vote for the n*****r, and I get called a racist! How unfair!"

What a tool.

Harvard vs Yale: John Yoo is from Yale Law. Bill and Hillary are from the same place, and they never impressed me with their legal smarts. Other YLS graduates are Steven Hadley, Clarence Thomas, and John Bolton.

On the other hand, Alberto Gonzales is a Harvard Law man.

Speaking as a Caltech alum, I've always been puzzled why those Ivy League schools are held in such high esteem. They are not the analytically smartest people around. One gets the impression that while they are bright, a substantial part of their appeal (and "value") is the social rank that the institutions provide.

"If twice claiming that a presidential candidate is only in the race because he's black doesn't make you racist..."

If repeating the same lie over and over again doesn't make you a liar...

And, oh yeah, the notion that Obama's blackness might lend a historical dimension to his candidacy that at the margin might be a significant benefit in the Democratic contest is, like, totally ridiculous.

they don't believe he understands them and their problems.

Has Ferraro ever elaborated on these problems that white people face?

Excellent dissection. I don't mean to distract from the underlying stench of Ferraro's column, but I would make one point, which is based on your comment

For another, I think that the word "racism" has outlived its usefulness.

Ta-Nehisi mentions the 'narrowing' of the word racist later in the piece and it's this narrowing or declining utility that interests me. One could argue that it is only by 'narrowing' particular notions that we as a society have been able to make social progress. I wish it were not the case, but it seems like the only way America (and perhaps any society?) makes social progress is to lurch from demon to demon and define it to the most outre of groups in order to 'stamp it out'.

This means that people who should be examining their own hearts and minds for problematic notions are left to comfortably tsk tsk at the people who are the demonized flavor of the day. This seems to be linked to a certain crusade-like quality that the West in general and the US in particular has.

So, if the word racist has outlived its usefulness, what do we put in place of it? And how do we address those imaginary Reagan Democrats who are also unknowingly racist? I ask this not to rehabilitate Ferraro's notion that something must be done, and that something is to support someone who isn't black, but to wonder if racist is no longer a useful descriptor, what are we left with?

they don't believe he understands them and their problems.

Has Ferraro ever elaborated on these problems that white people face?

Ferraro makes sense to me. The veneer came off when they took pot-shots are her. She is pissed.

Hilzoy asks:

Why, exactly, is that?

One answer is that Obama is a member of a church congregation that hoots and hollers and backslaps people who say down with white people. Reagan Democrats are not that dumb.

It’s tough to make a living in my state as a high-school graduate worker. Wages are less than $10/hr and rent is $600/mo. It is difficult to afford children. You’d be amazed at the strength of some of these people though.

Brick Oven Bill,

It’s tough to make a living in my state as a high-school graduate worker. Wages are less than $10/hr and rent is $600/mo. It is difficult to afford children. You’d be amazed at the strength of some of these people though.

By "some of these people," you mean the white ones? That's all I can read based on the juxtaposition of your two paragraphs.

As Ta-Nehisi says: "Who does a guy have to lynch around here to get called a racist?"

Racism: The belief that one group is *superior* to another group and therefore has a right to rule.

br;

How would you describe the behavior of Obama’s congregation?

If Geraldine Ferraro has such a keen insight into the psychology of 'Reagan Democrats', why didn't she use some of it to help Mondale win a second state back in 1984?

@ B.O. Bill:

It’s tough to make a living in my state as a high-school graduate worker. Wages are less than $10/hr and rent is $600/mo. It is difficult to afford children.

Uhh, Bill: in your state, are these the wage/rent scales for white workers, black workers, or are they the same for everyone? In your state, do East Asian/South Asian/Latino workers have a different economic schedule for the cost of their children, or are they grouped in with whites or blacks?

In your state, is there a different, sliding economic wage/cost-of-living scale based on race/ethnicity? And if so, who gets the benefits?

LJ: One thing I've seen some friends do is talk about racism (and other prejudice) in association with actions and statements rather than people. One puts it like this: You may have had food poisoning, the flu, or something else, and ended up vomiting unexpectedly some place you'd really rather not. (If you haven't, you can certainly imagine it even so.) This doesn't mean that you're a "vomiter", and nobody is likely to think you did it for fun or because you thought it would it improve the environment. Nonetheless, here's puke, and it's got to be cleaned up. Discriminatory actions and prejudiced words can likewise come from people who have no racist intent, and we can respect that intent, but there's still the prejudice and discrimination to clean up.

It doesn't work for everything, but it's a useful arrow in the quiver.

You know, Obama's congregation was built from nothing in a ravaged south side Chicago community. Trinity members include numerous University of Chicago intellectuals, pillars of the South-Side community, and even sometimes Oprah. They have fought and spoken out against homophobic bigotry. They have done countless projects for the poor and less fortunate in their community.

But, oh noes! They hoot and holler about power structures! They say liberal things in loud voices! Oh noes!

Jay C;

I write you from an overwhelmingly white region of a white state and am unable to provide you with decent datapoints. The McDonald’s workers are white where I live. Many of them are fat.

I came out of college as a human biodiversity (HBD) denier. Time in the military and private sector have changed my opinion on that.

Most of the people here, in this all-white community, are HBD deniers. They really are. But their primary interaction with blacks has been through the television. They voted for Obama, unlike white democrats in southern states.

But Obama’s congregation’s behavior is not something that can be easily edited. Those images can be used to form opinions by people who have a financial interest in doing so. I believe that even though my state voted for Obama early in the process, they will turn against him in the general election. Those are powerful images.

Oprah quit Trinity because of it’s racist foundations. It would have been bad for Oprah’s finances to remain a member of that congregation.

What a remarkable window onto one of the human mind’s many highways into darkness.
I think I’m grateful Ferraro is free to display the contents of her mind.

I like LJ’s formulation:
This means that people who should be examining their own hearts and minds for problematic notions are left to comfortably tsk tsk at the people who are the demonized flavor of the day. This seems to be linked to a certain crusade-like quality that the West in general and the US in particular has.

What it comes to is, those whose minds have moved towards light, as Ta-Nehisi’s did, are obliged to supply the reflection of which Ferraro is incapable and with their light make clearer, and untangle, the knots into which the darker minds are tied; to help us all to be less confused by mental and emotional sleights-of-hand.

This is of course one of the defining if unstated purposes of this site.

Thank you, hilzoy, for sharing your light. We need all we can get.

It'd be nice if people like BOB put 1% of their anti-Trinity, anti-Wright fervor into (for instance) pushing for laws that would strip licenses from banks and lenders that engage in sustained discriminatory denials of loans, sanctioned prosecutors and judges with provable racial disparity in their habits for charging, trying, and sentencing, fined insurance companies in percentages of their profits and executive compensation for racial and other bias in denial of claims, and other stuff that would put teeth in the idea that America isn't a society full of still instutitionalized bigotry.

Bruce you are falsely accusing white people of being racist. It is true that the average American jury incarcerates blacks 7.4 times as much as they do whites. People blame white people for that ratio.

But black juries (Washington DC) incarcerate blacks 29.4 times as much as they do whites. Meaning that blacks are 4 times more racist than whites. But they still vote in block for a black candidate.

Reagan Democrats, more properly defined as Type 1 Democrats, are not dumb, and will see through Obama. They will see his congregation, just like Oprah did.

Hey Bill -

Straight up, do you think blacks are less intelligent than, or are otherwise inferior to, whites, by virtue of being black?

Do you think any ethnic group is less intelligent than, or is otherwise inferior to, any other ethnic group, purely by virtue of belonging to that ethnic group?

These are very simple questions. The range of possible answers to each is "yes" and "no".

Here is the essay question:

If your answer to both of the above is "no", what do you mean by "human biodiversity"?

Thanks -

B.O. Bill - "One answer is that Obama is a member of a church congregation that hoots and hollers and backslaps people who say down with white people."

I certainly have my disagreements with some of what Rev. Jeremiah Wright has to say, but I've never seen any quotes of him saying "down with white people" or anything like it. I also have not seen any account in general of the Trinity congregation expressing support for a "down with white people" message.

If you have evidence of such an occurrence, please provide it.

We are all different Russell. Because someone is different does not mean someone is a bad person. If I had to hang out on an island for the rest of my life, I’d probably choose to hang out with Hispanics on that island. People like the Bush family get on my nerves. Always posturing.

But if I were to set up a series of staffing offices and had to make a profit; I would probably have the mechanized army division in northern Europe, the long-distance running division in Kenya, the sprinting division in Zambia, and the champion chess division in Tel Aviv.

Tony: See the reaction to Pfleger’s words. How do you interpret ‘take away their 401ks’? I think it’s code for take their stuff. See also Obama’s father’s brilliant paper: Problems with Our Socialism.

What was this about?

... Second, whether the media treated Clinton fairly or unfairly; and third whether certain members of the media crossed an ethical line when they changed the definition of journalist from reporter and commentator to strategist and promoter of a candidate. And if they did to suggest ethical guidelines which the industry might adopt.

What's she thinking of here? I feel like there is a sub rosa reference here I am not getting.

And what on earth?

Hope, change, and inspiration don't do it. A speech on racism might persuade editorial boards, but to these voters it's "just words." Obama has less than six months to make the case.

You know, last I checked, cases are made with words. One argues a case typically, unless you're going to do some weird Wittgensteinian pointing thing. If to these voters a speech is just words, how exactly is Obama supposed to make any case at all??

excellent essay, hilzoy, philosophy at its best: addressing the strength of one's opponent's argument and ignoring the weaknesses.

heroic too. I think many great thinkers such as yourself don't want to bother unpacking thin, specious at best, arguments like Ferraro's.

but when a talking head such as Ferraro (and Bloomenthal and Carvel) have been so discredited, that should be a good time for the Globe, et al. to publish new voices.

so much for a meritocracy in the media.

Oprah quit Trinity because of it’s racist foundations.

Setting aside that Oprah has never been elected as final arbiter of what is and is not racist, this is an unsupported and false statement. What Oprah has said is that she had many reasons for leaving the church and one of them was that she was not comfortable with the tone of some of Wright's sermons. Jumping from there to "Oprah says Trinity Church is racist" resembles the kind of fallacious thinking on race that Ferraro demonstrates in her piece.

We are all different Russell. Because someone is different does not mean someone is a bad person.

So I take it that your answer to russell's question:

Do you think any ethnic group is less intelligent than, or is otherwise inferior to, any other ethnic group, purely by virtue of belonging to that ethnic group?

is yes.

I won't bother going through all of the reasons why your reasoning and your examples point to an extremely poor understanding of the intersection of individual human abilities with the concepts of race, ethnicity and what you are rather bizzarely referring to as human biodiversity. I feel fairly certain you have heard them all before and have somehow managed to retain a pretty distorted perspective on these matters.

What I will say is that Ferraro does seem to share some of your thinking on these matters. It does not speak well of her.

"I am also sure that her all Reagan Democrats"

Trivial wordo here you might (or might not) want to fix.

I wonder why Ferraro and people who keep talking up the role of sexism tend to pin blame on the mainstream media, rather than on the voters themselves.

Ferraro seems to have an appropriately realist attitude towards racism: if it's there, while it ought not be coddled, we shouldn't be in denial about it and what impact it might have on a candidate's electability, and we certainly shouldn't think that excoriating voters for being bigoted will help. She's not indignant that these Reagan Democrats hold some truly outlandish views. She's a realist about that. Fine.

But she doesn't take that same view towards sexism. First, she's going to scapegoat an unpopular industry: the media. Second, by picking a small group, she's going to eschew her own best trait -- her realism -- with silly suggestions about ethics rules reforms? Ethics rules? Chris Matthews? Are you kidding me? This is why some people think of Democrats as whiny sissies, not tough enough to stand up in situations (international situations, in particular) where there aren't institutions to protect them.

If there is sexism in the media, why isn't it that Hillary was obliged to make the case? Why is Obama obligated to soothe the fears of bigoted people, while Clinton and the Shorenstein Center will point the finger at others? Why does he have an obligation to win people over that she did not?

If there is rampant sexism out there, why shouldn't we consider that a systemic flaw in Clinton's candidacy, just as Clinton and her supporters are asking us to consider racism to be the Achilles' heel of Obama's candidacy?

Tony: See the reaction to Pfleger’s words. How do you interpret ‘take away their 401ks’? I think it’s code for take their stuff. See also Obama’s father’s brilliant paper: Problems with Our Socialism.

This is really your best shot at demonstrating how Obama's church promotes a sentiment of "down with whitey?" You've decided to build your argument on a decontextualized sentence fragment that is a big stretch to contain the "coded" meaning you have crafted for it and an essay written by Obama's father, not a member of the church? This is seriously what you've got? Weak, man. Weak.

Excellent point, ara. Why is it that we're supposed to accept the argument that Clinton should be the nominee because white "Reagan democrats" won't vote for Obama, while the fact that some men won't vote for Clinton is horrible! and means we should also make her the nominee just to prove how wrong they are!

Can't have it both ways, methinks.

I think for feminists of a certain generation, the idea that they have to make the case is almost insulting. They feel they've been making it in one form or another all their lives, and it remains so obvious that anyone who isn't actively seeking to not see it, can. The Gloria Steinem op-ed about gender as the most restrictive force in American life from some time back would be an example.

I think there may be some bedrock sexism-is-worse-than-racism, thus-the-rules-are-different-for-us in there as well. Ferraro definitely seems to have some of that going on.

‘America invented AIDS to kill black people’ was another good one. It’s really not the words; it is Obama’s congregation’s reaction to them.

I consider you to be a HBD-denying, Bible-thumping Creationist that thinks that Almighty God put us all on the earth with identical plastic minds brent.

I consider you to be a HBD-denying, Bible-thumping Creationist that thinks that Almighty God put us all on the earth with identical plastic minds brent.

So BOB is, what, Steven Sailer as concern troll? With a dash Pinker by way of Murray and Hernstein for spice?

well done. i especially agree with the point that "racist" is more than being pro-segregation. sometimes people think or do things with race in their mind. whatever label you want to slap on it, it doesn't change that reality

I consider you to be a HBD-denying, Bible-thumping Creationist that thinks that Almighty God put us all on the earth with identical plastic minds brent.

Like most of the things you seem to believe, said belief is unsupported either by facts or logic and certainly not by anything I've stated. So... unsurprising.

When the Republican Party's inexorable tilling machine of political propaganda goes to work in these breathtakingly fertile fields, I fear Obama is toast.

His acknowledgment of these not, one or two but three spiritual advisors will, I'm afraid, prove deeply, profoundly problematic for him. Did I say problematic? Make that fatal to his candidacy.

Even an old hack adman like me could figure out how to spin this one.

Sadly, get used to President McCain.

Somehow I keep coming back to then-Senator Lyndon Johnson's explanation of the appeal of racial prejudice to low-income whites:

"If you can convince the lowest white man he's better than the best colored man, he won't notice you're picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he'll empty his pockets for you."

We are all different Russell. Because someone is different does not mean someone is a bad person.

That's a pretty bold position, Bill. Are you sure you want to go that far?

What I did not see was a "yes" or a "no".

Thanks -

Unfortunately, I recognize the folks Ferraro is describing. And I think understand all too well why they assume Obama is not there for them. My father was one of these. He considered politics a tribal matter. You tried to put in one of your tribe and they took care of you. If one of some other tribe (in his case Polish or Italian) got in, of course that politician would take care of his tribe (none of these pols were women then.)

Obama is from another tribe -- he'll take care of his kind, not them. That's simply the way of the world for some folks. Yes, it is racist -- and it is stupid and can lead to anti-democratic allegiances. A wildly successful Obama Presidency MIGHT get this kind to admit "he's not bad, for one of them." But he's not likely to get much more from most of the tribal types.

In the contemporary world, this is a style of thinking that verges on suicidal, but there we are.

Obama is from another tribe -- he'll take care of his kind, not them. That's simply the way of the world for some folks. Yes, it is racist

I agree with everything you've said here except for characterizing this as racism. At least, as necessarily racism.

Race, or at least ethnicity, is in this case one way to identify membership in one tribe or another. In other situations, it can be religion, or geography, or social or economic class.

I agree that this kind of tribalism is destructive, but I'm not sure it's necessarily racism.

How would you describe the behavior of Obama’s congregation?

IMO it was childish and foolish. Also IMO, Pfleger was pandering to the natural resentment that the largely black congregation might feel toward white privilege, and he should knock it off.

Over the last six months, Clinton has no doubt had the thought, "This was supposed to be mine", and she has no doubt resented Obama for usurping her as front runner.

What there is no real evidence for is Clinton thinking Obama has no right to do that because he's black. Pfleger was making that up.

We've had a couple of decades of right wing preachers spewing a steady diet of resentment and bile from the pulpit and the airwaves. I sincerely hope that we're not in for a trend of liberal ministers doing the same from the other side of the fence.

Thanks -

"I came out of college as a human biodiversity (HBD) denier. "

I think the less crackpotty-sounding euphemism for what 'non-"HBD-denier"' tries to prettify is "race realist". The actual word, of course, is . . . well, one which hilzoy thinks has outlived its usefulness, so . . . .

"Time in the military and private sector have changed my opinion on that."

See also: "Hunt-Grubbe stated that Watson's "hope" was "everyone is equal" but quoted him as having said "people who have to deal with black employees find this not true.""

And by all that's holy, I hope ObWi comments don't somehow end up sinking into the stinking cesspool that has swallowed up any and all comment threads on this issue over at Matt Yglesias' . . .

russell: "We've had a couple of decades of right wing preachers spewing a steady diet of resentment and bile from the pulpit and the airwaves."

Agreed. But what we haven't really had is any President or legitimate candidate/contender identifying three of the most radical and bombastic of these same "right wing preachers" as his "spiritual advisors."

I can visualize the RNC campaign against him (the ads write themselves), but I can't for the life of me picture any response by the Obama campaign or the Democrats adequate to the task of deflecting the death blows of his candidacy. Just as John Kerry's "I voted for the war before I voted against it," (or was it vice versa?) pretty much did him in, similarly, they don't have to beat Obama... they just have to quote him.

Wright, MeeKs, Pfleger & Moss have already done the rest.

I came out of college as a human biodiversity (HBD) denier.

"Now, what on earth is a 'human biodiversity denier,'" I asked myself. So I googled it and got the answer: a non-racist.

There went any shred of credibility that BOB might have ever had.

He used to be a non-racist, but his time in the military and the private sector cured him of that. Was he in the public sector before the military? Was he an HBD before college, or was that just the pernicious effect of the edu-communisto-fascist agenda, soon to be remedied by military service?

Oh, and BOB: Bruce was not calling white people racist, he was talking about YOU and people like YOU. That doesn't mean "white people," that means "people who think like you." He also doesn't seem to have gone so far as to actually call you a racist, but simply pointed out the continuing existence of institutional bigotry and YOUR lack of concern about same. Well, maybe he's just too polite to come right out and call you a racist. I'm not.

Oh, and about Reagan Democrats: the last time anyone voted for Reagan was 24 years ago. Can't we just call them "Republicans" now and finally say good riddance?

Reagan Democrats, more properly defined as Type 1 Democrats, are not dumb, and will see through Obama.

"Reagan democrats" are dumb - or they wouldn't have voted for Ronald Reagan and his Voodoo Economics. And they certainly wouldn't define themselves by that lapse of reason. And in your categorisation they aren't Type 1 Democrats they are Type 0 - people who vote through naked self-interest rather than any sort of idealism or respect for fairness. It's not a fairer shake they want - it's more being diverted to them. Which puts them squarely in line with the largest group of the Republican party.

If anyone listened to Ferraro's interview they other night, form your own opinions.

But I think she is speaking more Sense than anyone who has ever spoke from the pulpit of Trinity.

P.S. Thanks for quitting your church, Obama: too little, too late. It is unfortunate you will win our party's nomination because you are looking more and more Kerryish. Hillary would never look Kerryish. AND HILLARY WOULD WIN -- TAKE IT TO THE CONVENTION, GIRL!

"Reagan democrats" are dumb

I don't think this is true.

'Reagan Democrats', for lack of a better term, do vote against what would seem to be their own economic interest. IMO they don't do so because they are dumb, they do so because they resent the folks who advocate more progressive positions for a variety of cultural reasons.

Not an original insight on my part.

I wish it was a matter of being dumb or uninformed. The cure for that is, basically, information. The cure for ingrained resentment is much harder to come by.

Wright, MeeKs, Pfleger & Moss have already done the rest.

I agree completely that the thing that has done the most political damage to Obama has been his association with Trinity and with Wright. That's something he's going to continue to have to struggle with.

That said, I don't think the ministers or congregation at Trinity (or anywhere else) are under an obligation to tailor their statements or attitudes to fit Obama's electoral strategy.

My issue with Pfleger in this case is not so much how his statements affect Obama, as it is with Pfleger's statements themselves.

Thanks -

I agree with everything you've said here except for characterizing this as racism. At least, as necessarily racism.

I think the tribalist opposition to Obama is racist. Did Italians and Polish oppose Reagan because he'd take care of the Irish, not them?

Russell,

Pfleger's statements -- just as Rev. Wright's -- affect Obama and they reflect poorly on his judgment.

Until quitting Trinity today -- yesterday? -- Obama was a member of the church where these clowns pawned themselves off as members of the clergy.

Twenty years.

Twenty years.

Obama heard this crap for 20 years and didn't quit Trinity 10 years ago, 5 years ago, 5 months ago.

He just quit.

He is on track, unfortunately, to lose in the fall.

Give me Hillary!

'Reagan Democrats', for lack of a better term, do vote against what would seem to be their own economic interest. IMO they don't do so because they are dumb, they do so because they resent the folks who advocate more progressive positions for a variety of cultural reasons.

I consider cutting off my nose to spite my face extremely stupid myself. And taking a hatchet to both your own face and those of all your neighbours because you resent other groups is monumentally stupid.

I wish it was a matter of being dumb or uninformed. The cure for that is, basically, information. The cure for ingrained resentment is much harder to come by.

Again, what you are describing is bone-deep stupidity of the sort that needs to carefully taught. And I agree that the cure for such ingrained resentment is hard to come by. And I pity those who have it.

a member of the church where these clowns pawned themselves off as members of the clergy

Everything I have heard from Rev. Wright is pure Liberation Theology (or Black Liberation Theology). I don't believe in Liberation Theology, but can see its roots in the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Holding up the mighty for their sins rather than patting them on the back. Trying to throw the moneychangers out of the temple. Preaching things such as an accounting for both good and ill - and that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. While I believe they are guilty of excess and of blindness, they stick far closer to the gospel than e.g. Pat Robertson, or Ted Hagee does. (And that's without getting into issues such as Jack Chick or Westboro Baptist Church). And to be quite honest, given Rev. Wright's age and colour, I'm not surprised he denounces the US. Things have moved on a lot since the days of Jim Crow - but those are the years Rev. Wright formed his political awareness. So that is the lens through which he sees America.

The real clowns pawning themselves off as members of the clergy aren't anything to do with Liberatation Theologians. They are the preachers who think that hating gays is a good thing. The warmongering right wing priests. The various species of liars for jesus (the Creationists/Intelligent Design lobby being an obvious case). Brad Hicks has a theory about how they took over the American church. But the fault of the Liberation Theologians is one of excess and lack of awareness. It is those other groups I have mentioned who are deliberately and willfully perverting the gospel of Christ rather than just getting carried away and failing to respond to a changing world.

Give me Hillary!

she's not going to be the nominee. quit playing games.

I think the tribalist opposition to Obama is racist. Did Italians and Polish oppose Reagan because he'd take care of the Irish, not them?

KC, I'm sorry but I don't follow the sense of your example here. Can you explain it to me?

Until quitting Trinity today -- yesterday? -- Obama was a member of the church where these clowns pawned themselves off as members of the clergy.

Look, Wright is not a clown. I don't know that much about Pfleger, but chances are he is not one either. They are not 'pawning themselves off' as members of the clergy, they both have very long and credible resumes as ministers, and have both done a lot of good work.

Wright, specifically, comes out of the black church tradition. The reason there is a 'black church tradition' is because for most of the time that blacks have been on this continent they've been unable to attend churches with white people as anything other than either property or second class attendees. So, they started their own churches, and have developed their own styles of worship and their own readings of the scripture. They are not alone, lots of demographic groups within the country have unique styles of worship and theological traditions.

Obama has been very clear during his entire campaign that, although he was a member of Trinity and was personally close to Wright, he does not share all of Wright's views, particularly on racial issues. That really ought to have been the end of it. Unfortunately, it was not, because the idea that one can attend a church while not agreeing with everything the church and/or minister preach seemed to be so incendiary that the collective brains of the American public exploded.

I'm not sure how we've survived the shocking revelation that many Catholics practice birth control, but there you have it.

Here's the deal, bedtime. Obama has more delegates than Clinton, and is likely to have a majority of pledged delegates by the time the convention rolls around. Normally the candidate with a majority of the delegates is considered to be the winner, and their opponents stand down in the greater interest of the party.

Sometimes opposing candidates will take it to the convention in spite of having no reasonable chance of winning. Usually when they do this, it's because they represent a different point of view than the apparent winner, and they want to make sure their point of view is represented in the party platform.

There is no such significant difference in policy between Clinton and Obama. She just doesn't want to give it up.

Clinton's big claim at this point is that she appeals more to blue collar Democrats. That's likely true, and to the degree it's true, it's a situation she has worked mightily to create. It's also a situation that is going to be very destructive to the party as a whole, and in fact to the nation, no matter who gets the nomination.

The Republican electoral strategy for the last 40 years has been to stoke and then exploit racial and class resentments between different groups of people in this country. They explicitly have sought to divide the country along whatever lines would leave them with 51%. It's a stupid, destructive, and self-serving strategy, and it has cost us a lot.

Clinton is running on exactly the same strategy. It's like the resurrection of Lee Atwater, dressed in a pants suit.

I don't want it. There's nothing good in it. The result is going to be either four more years of Republican presidency, or a Democratic presidency that is significantly weakened by internal bickering and infighting.

That's what Clinton's legacy is going to be.

I have no personal animus toward Clinton, and generally wish her well, but she's acting like a jerk. There is no process by which she can win that doesn't involve the worst kind of sleazy insider politicking. By all reasonable concepts of fair play, she's lost.

It's time for her to STFU and stand down.

Thanks -

Cleek,

Yeah, she is probably not going to be the nominee.

But Obama is looking less and less like a winner to me.

Sorry.

TG

Russell, in the comment you were replying to, janinsanfran wrote that "If one of some other tribe (in his case Polish or Italian) got in, of course that politician would take care of his tribe (none of these pols were women then.)".

Being a person of what's taken as the default ethnicity in the US and living in a city in which the local politics are much more about blacks, whites, Hispanics, and gays than about Polish, Italians, Irish, Puerto Ricans, and blacks, I have no experience with the sort of ethnic factionalism among groups that are (at least nowadays) considered white that Jan mentions. But it seems to me that the negative reaction to Obama among a certain segment of white "ethnic" voters is stronger than the reaction they'd have to a white candidate who was from a different ethnic group (a Polish candidate sparking fears among Italians that they were going to miss out in the ethnic spoils system).

Maybe I'm wrong, though. Maybe the opposition to Ferraro or Giuliani among non-Italians was just like the opposition to Obama among non-blacks.

Cleek,

P.S. --- I HOPE I am WRONG.

If Hillary isn't our nominee, I will vote for Obama and certainly hope he wins.

Cheers, Cleek.

Lunch break over. Back to hot, sweaty work.

Bedtime, if you plan to vote for Obama and you recognize that he's the likely nominee, might it not be better to refrain from posting your observations about his church based only on sermons and only on the few minutes you heard (presumably the most inflammatory few minutes available, because that's what will be selected) out of those 20 years of attendance?

KCinDC: In many ways, your advice to btfb sounds like the ostrich approach to political discourse. But you are right about this: "the most inflammatory few minutes available" WILL be selected for what I'm now visualizing as the RNC's "These Are MY Spiritual Advisors" attack ads.

If I were counseling the advertising, marketing and PR arms of the Democratic party my advice would be simple: Move IMMEDIATELY to craft the "These Are MY Spiritual Advisors" attack ads you would most hate to face in the fall (because you know they're coming and you know they'll cost you the election) then produce the two or three very best counter ads you can possibly create and produce; then gather together a semi-neutral, blue-collar-leaning focus group and play the ads for them . If your VERY BEST counter ads are not enough to get them past the very best "These Are MY Spiritual Advisors" attack ads, AND if you don't have (or can't raise) enough money to outspend the RNC by at least 3 to 1 in air time, then move quickly to do all in your power to convince Obama to step aside.

He will not be able to win.

Because, sure as the Arizona summers are hot, the "These Are MY Spiritual Advisors" attack ads are coming, complete with a tag-line that will sound something like: "In a time of war, economic instability, recession and the social crises of abortion, gay marriage (etc), who the president chooses for his spiritual advisors is critical to the security and future of our country..." Juxtaposed with video of Wright (God Damn America!), Meeks (House N---R, this and House N---R that!) and Pfleger and Moss... Well, you get the picture.

And absent an adequate and compelling counter, prepare to welcome President McCain.

I think it's not strictly a tribal thing, but more a majority/minority thing. Most white people (majority in the US) are aware that many white politicians haven't cared about the impact of their policies on blacks (and other minorities). Therefore some can easily imagine that if the situation is reversed, a black president won't care about the impact of their policies on whites. But in fact, any president from an ethnic minority (or from a religious minority, or a gay president) would have to keep the majority onside to be elected or re-elected.

If I were counseling the advertising, marketing and PR arms of the Democratic party

xanax,

Your idea to focus test Obama vs. Reagan "Democrats" and have him drop out if they are not sufficiently impressed with him would have produced interesting results if applied to say, every nominee since 1980. Who would have passed this test in say 1992? Certainly not Bill Clinton, since he failed to win a majority of blue collar white voters in that election. Ditto for Geraldine Ferraro and Mondale in 1984.

I have a different idea: why don't we try having the Democratic nominee and party stand for something other than advertising, marketing and PR?

ThatLeftTurnInABQ: First, Clinton in '92 didn't have the crushing liability of "Spiritual Advisors" that Obama does and the country was not at war (a time when spiritual advisors tend to be looked and listened to); second, unless I'm missing something in your intention, Mondale/Ferraro lost in '84.

And I trust you're not suggesting that I endorse the D nominee "standing for" nothing but "advertising, marketing and PR." But the reality IS that those are the methods by which their messages are disseminated and the way in which the public becomes familiar with them. And these days, he/she with the most agile and ruthless message "machine" wins the election. That strikes me as a reality that cannot be denied or ignored.

xanax,

Do you find it at all strange that the one profession you think is absolutely vital to winning the Presidency happens to be your own? I mean, what are the odds that sort of thing would happen? I'm sure you're very skilled at your job, but have you looked into the political science research that weighs just how large an electoral effect PR and marketing have compared with other factors?

I appreciate your professional evaluation of the situation, but I'd like to suggest that fundamentals may have a larger role in determining election outcomes than any particular advertisement. From this perspective, Kerry was always very unlikely to win: challengers facing a wartime incumbent in a good economy tend to do very poorly, regardless of how their messaging goes. The fundamentals are rather favorable towards Obama this year. In addition, the people most attuned to electoral messaging, those Democrats on down ticket races seem to prefer Obama over Clinton.

Clinton in '92 didn't have the crushing liability of "Spiritual Advisors" that Obama does and the country was not at war (a time when spiritual advisors tend to be looked and listened to)

The country is not at war now. The Army is at war. The Marine Corps is at war. But the country is not. 9/11 has long since faded into the background. Every year, more and more people grow hostile to organized religion.

xanax,

My point was that the "win back the Reagan Democrats" strategy has been tried, and never actually worked, since 1980. It either produced a loss (I choose 1984 as an example because Geraldine Ferraro is one of the highest profile Hillary supporters currently pushing this idea), or in the one case since 1980 where a Democrat did win, he won in spite of not being able to pull it off.

I think the more realistic option is for Democrats to stop hankering after a demographic group which they have no more chance of winning (as in getting a majority share of) than they do of winning say Kentucky or West Virginia. That ship has sailed, and it is time to get about the hard work of assembling a new majority coalition which does not depend (for the keystone of our electoral strategy) on a group that we consistently lose.

I don't think Obama or any other Democrat should go out of their way to insult this group (for that matter the same applies to any demographic group regardless of their poltical leanings) and I think he should reach out to them and address their concerns as much as possible simply for the sake of being a better President once in office, but to suggest as you implied in your 3:40 pm post that they should be given veto power over the nomination strikes me as not a very good idea.

If anything, I think this would merely reinforce the meme that Democrats are spineless and will give in to any interest group which shouts at them loudly enough. Why should we trust the Democrats to stand up for our national interests against Iran, if they can't even stand up for the person who won the nomination fairly and by the rules against the demands of a not very loyal interest group? Wouldn't that just be another form of appeasement?

Turb: In your second paragraph you refer to Bush as a "wartime incumbent" then later you say the country is not at war. Was "the country" at war in '04 but is no longer... is that what you're saying?

And me being in advertising (my degree is in creative writing... wanted to be a poet so wound up waiting tables which evolved into a copywriter's job and so on...) is strictly coincidence. It's not something about which I am particularly proud nor is it an activity to which I am particularly attached.

And, honestly, I attach exactly zero self-importance to my profession.

It is a reasonably creative way to make a living and has afforded me the opportunity to provide jobs and professional career-track experience to dozens of fabulous people over the years which has been most gratifying. Any other connection between me and what I do for a living and the role marketing et al plays in presidential politics I assure you is purely and entirely coincidental.

As for poli sci research, sadly, no... none. I haven't the patience nor the intellect for wonkery at the level of geniuses like hilzoy (who does?).

As for this: "fundamentals may have a larger role in determining election outcomes than any particular advertisement." You may be right. But, honestly, can't you just hear the RNC attack dogs growling and snarling and chomping at their collective bits (mixed metaphor, I know) to get at Obama?

Can't ya?

And I trust you're not suggesting that I endorse the D nominee "standing for" nothing but "advertising, marketing and PR."

No, I wasn't trying to slam you personally for holding those views. You did however appear to be concern trolling a viewpoint that these are the crucial factors in deciding elections.

I can guarantee you would get a very hearty rebuttal from movement conservatives if you were to suggest that all the victories they've won since 1980 were driven by advertising, etc. and had little to do with the superiority of their ideas. I think we should turn the tables on them and campaign on the superiority of our ideas. I think a too obsessive focus on marketing and PR is part of the defensive crouch that Democrats developed in the 1980's and 1990's and has become a crippling liability now that the GOP brand has been so heavily damaged by the Bush administration.


But the reality IS that those are the methods by which their messages are disseminated and the way in which the public becomes familiar with them. And these days, he/she with the most agile and ruthless message "machine" wins the election.

I would make the case that your statement above is partially correct in that both agility and ruthlessness are generally assets in an election, but those two traits are not always present in equal degrees in any given campaign staff, and each election differs in the balance of which of them is a more powerful asset.

In the Democratic nominating contest just finished, the most ruthless message machine did not win, unless you think that Obama's campaign is more ruthless than Hillary's (in which case what is your point exactly?), which suggests that this year agility matters more than ruthlessness.

I just don't understand the idea that Hillary's campaign is so much stronger that they will do an obviously better job of facing the GOP, but somehow so weak that they (with huge built in advantages at the start of the nominating contest) were unable to put away Obama's campaign. That makes no sense.

The nominating contest was a much easier test for Hillary, because Obama's campaign did not dip into the opo-research cesspool vs. the Clintons which we know the GOP has been honing for more than a decade. Only one of these two Democratic campaigns has already faced a simulation of GOP dirty tactics, and that is the Obama campaign, because Hillary has been mimicing both the tactics and the specific memes we should expect from the GOP, and his campaign has not returned the favor.

At the start of this contest, Hillary liked to say that only one campaign is ready to face the GOP slime machine. I would say that 6 months later her claim has been vindicated, but it is the Obama campaign which is ready, not hers.

ThatLeftTurnInABQ: Your (and Turb's) points are very well taken and you're both way smarter than I am. But let's take a step back for a second and let me just ask you: Do you really think in a general election against John McCain that Obama can overcome the liability of his cadre of self-acknowledged spiritual advisors?

I mean, you're not suggesting that television advertising is NOT key to presidential politics... are you? And if you agree that it is, can you not visualize the ads that will be run against Obama down the stretch? And if you can, do you really think he can overcome them?

Calls for speculation!! (I know). But really, I'm not talking about winning the vote of Reagan Democrats. I'm talking about earning the votes of mainstream, everyday people in the Democratic party - white, black, Latino and otherwise - who, I believe, could be made to feel very, very uncomfortable by Obama's choice of spiritual advisors. So uncomfortable, in fact, as to be willing to either sit this one out or defect.

And ThatLeftTurnInABQ, I'm not sure what, exactly, "concern trolling" is but it doesn't sound good. And if I'm doing it, it's not deliberate. In fact, if it's inappropriate for me to bring these issue to this forum in this manner I can certainly back off.

KC in DC,
you need to brush up on your history a bit more. White ethnic rivalry over political power has as long a history as white/black or white/other minority rivalry over political power and gets just as ugly just as fast. Boston brahmin vs. boston irish? check. As I just found out an ugly election here in Somerville was called the "garlic vs gaelic" election because it pitted two ethnic groups, the italians vs the irish. The italian in the election was accused of being a fascist stooge despite the fact that he was a decorated wwII veteran who had fought in italy against the axis. Its not called the "spoils system" for nothing. As I watch the hysteria over the notion that obama is going to "give something" to "the blacks" I remind myself that this kind of ugly winner take all assumption has always been there, only suppressed in polite company or politely ignored because of some notion of "turn taking." Bush brought his texas mafia to the Capitol and nobody thought anything of it. But you can bet your boots that the number of black appointees under Obama will be given special scrutiny and what was business as usual before will be presented to us as a kind of racial payback on Obama's part.

aimai


I mean, you're not suggesting that television advertising is NOT key to presidential politics... are you? And if you agree that it is, can you not visualize the ads that will be run against Obama down the stretch? And if you can, do you really think he can overcome them?

xanax,

That is a very good question which really cuts to the core of what we are debating here.

The way I see it is that politcal advertising of the negative variety (because we really seem to be talking about attack ads here) is effective in inverse proportion to the seriousness with which the electorate perceives a given contest. I think one reason why the slime machine attack ads of the 1990's were so effective is that following the fall of the USSR the American electorate just didn't take politics very seriously in the absence of an existential threat to the US, culminating in the 2000 election during which both the press and the public basically sent their brains on vacation.

Now you might ask, why didn't the circumstances of the 2004 election concentrate our minds? I would answer that they did - people take Kerry's failure to unseat Bush as an indicator that the politics of attack ads was still working just fine, but I beg to differ. No incumbent US President has ever been defeated in a general election campaign during wartime, and IIRC Bush's margin of victory over Kerry was the slimest ever under those circumstances.

Fast forward to today. The war is still a problem with no end in sight under a Republican administration. The economy is in dire straits, and by November will probably be well into the 3rd quarter of what is probably going to be the deepest downturn since the 1930s. The FRB has already cut rates down into negative real interest rate terrritory, which means any chance that they can stimulate the economy just prior to the election to enhance the GOP's chances is already gone, and many observers are already concerned about runaway inflation or stagflation.

I think this general election campaign will be taking place under the gloomiest circumstances since the 1970s (and I take no joy or pleasure in any of this BTW), and consequently I expect the electorate this year to have much less patience with the usual circus acts than in a normal year. This is not going to be a good year for political attack ads because people are (or will be) pissed off and in a mood to blame somebody, and politics as usual is already a marked suspect.

One of the candidates has locked onto the theme of "change" and remained remarkably consistent at hammering that theme home. I expect that to be a sufficiently powerful message to deflect the usual battery of attack ads, especially those which have nothing to do with the economy.

Turb: In your second paragraph you refer to Bush as a "wartime incumbent" then later you say the country is not at war. Was "the country" at war in '04 but is no longer... is that what you're saying?

I think that around the 2004 election, Bush was able to whip up some amount of war fever. 9/11 was much more on people's minds and Iraq/Afghanistan were still very much in the news. Since then, media interest in Iraq and Afghanistan has simply plummeted. The wars have receded into the background which has dampened their salience I think. Moreover, I think that what war fervor existed in 2004 was amplified by the perception that we were winning, at least in Afghanistan if not yet Iraq. To the extent that people still pay attention to the wars, I think they appreciate that we're not winning.

Do you really think in a general election against John McCain that Obama can overcome the liability of his cadre of self-acknowledged spiritual advisors?

Yes.

I think that in the general election, pastor issues are going to be less problematic for Obama than during the nomination fight. First of all, McCain has his own pastor issues. Reasonable analytical Americans might not be swayed by accusations of "he did it too!", but most people will hear competing attack ads about pastors and assume that both candidates are about the same. That neutralizes the issue for Obama.

In addition, harping too much about Obama's church reinforces the meme that he's not Muslim. I suspect that "Obama is a Muslim" is the most powerful weapon that McCain can deploy against him. Undercutting your most powerful weapon in order to bolster a less powerful weapon seems like a risky strategy to me.

Also, as I said before, every year fewer and fewer people identify as religious. Recent events like the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal and Ted Haggard and Falwell/Robertson blaming America for 9/11 and Terry Schiavo have left a bad taste in a lot of people's mouths regarding religious leaders. Obama has cut himself off from his church; in a way, lots of Americans have made the same choice at some level and they'll be primed to identify with him in that regard.

Another issue is that I think advertising by itself may be less problematic than a newsmedia blitz. If McCain runs those ads, he has to pony up cash and it will cost him dearly. It would be much better for him if he could use the media as a force multiplier by getting them to explore these issues obsessively while giving him tons of free air time as they discuss the ads over and over and over. However, the media gets bored easily and they've already done the whole pastor thing to death. That doesn't mean they won't touch it, but it does mean that they'll be more susceptible to discussing newer shinier things about the race.

Finally, I think most Americans understand that lots of churches have kind of nutty leaders but churches are like families and occasional pulpit nuttiness isn't grounds for leaving a family. If Obama goes on TV and says: "how many Catholics here have left the Church even though they disagree about contraception?" or "how many people have left their churches even though they disagree with their minister's positions regarding Terry Schiavo?", I think he'll be able to change some minds.

Now, none of this is certain. But these are my reasons for thinking that harping on the spiritual leader issue is much riskier for McCain than it may appear.

I mean, you're not suggesting that television advertising is NOT key to presidential politics... are you? And if you agree that it is, can you not visualize the ads that will be run against Obama down the stretch? And if you can, do you really think he can overcome them?

I think advertising can be a major component in electoral success. However, I'm not sure that we're very skilled at analyzing when and how advertising campaigns will play out ahead of time. For example, when the republicans went nuts with Schiavo, they really seemed to believe that it would be a huge electoral winner for them. Many republicans went all out and couldn't accept the fact that a large chunk of the country were repulsed at a really visceral level. The fact that so many republicans pushed so hard in the wrong direction suggests to me that even top flight political organizations can't predict public reaction terribly well. Now, that wasn't an advertising campaign, but the point about underappreciated limits of public response still stands.

Sure, I can visualize some nasty ads, but nasty ads that McCain can't afford to air don't worry me overmuch. I think the impact of those ads will depend a lot on whether McCain can use the media as a force multiplier, how Obama responds, how much money the two candidates have, and lots of other factors. It all depends. Given that, I'm not freaking out about pastor issues just yet. The Muslim issue worries me a lot more because it is underground and can't be refuted directly.

Calls for speculation!! (I know). But really, I'm not talking about winning the vote of Reagan Democrats. I'm talking about earning the votes of mainstream, everyday people in the Democratic party - white, black, Latino and otherwise - who, I believe, could be made to feel very, very uncomfortable by Obama's choice of spiritual advisors. So uncomfortable, in fact, as to be willing to either sit this one out or defect.

Most people are used to feeling uncomfortable about others' religion. But a lot of that discomfort will melt away once Obama starts talking about McCain's plans to cut social security.

you're both way smarter than I am.

I didn't say that and didn't think that. You strike me as both smart and polite, and I appreciate both regardless of whether we agree or not.


And ThatLeftTurnInABQ, I'm not sure what, exactly, "concern trolling" is but it doesn't sound good. And if I'm doing it, it's not deliberate. In fact, if it's inappropriate for me to bring these issue to this forum in this manner I can certainly back off.

Please don't back off, I shouldn't have used a term which sounds pejorative. "Concern trolling" is a debating techinque using the viewpoint of somebody else who holds views different from yours and which you don't agree with, as a rhetorical technique. As in:

"Well personally I think people should be able to put yard gnomes anywhere they want, but I am concerned that some other people may see that as being in bad taste, which would lower the neighborhood's property values"

The point is, if you think an opinion is sufficiently valid to carry weight in an argument, then be willing to take credit (or discredit) for holding it yourself rather than deflecting responsibility for taking that position onto somebody else (usually somebody else not present in the current discussion) and then using them to bolster your argument by proxy.

It seemed to me that you were arguing that voters are influenced primarily by advertising, PR and marketing, while disclaiming that you yourself would be so naive as to think that way, but the term "concern trolling" was too harsh a way for me to characterize that difference, so I'm sorry if I offended you and regret that in my haste I failed to find a gentler and more neutral way of remarking on the disconnect I saw between your views and the views of the larger electorate you were concerned about.

But, honestly, can't you just hear the RNC attack dogs growling and snarling and chomping at their collective bits (mixed metaphor, I know) to get at Obama?

Of course I can. I can also hear the RNC attack dogs growling and snarling and chomping at their collective bits (mixed metaphor, I know) to get at Clinton. Both of them. Again.

The fact is that the Republican Attack Dogs would maul Jesus of Nazareth if he was elected the Democratic candidate with a mixture of a limited amount of truth, a lot of serious distortion, and some flat lies. Hell, look at what they did to John Kerry - painting him as a coward when he volunteered for a second tour of duty in Vietnam.

What is needed is not someone who has no negatives. Such a person does not exist - negatives will be manufactured and spewed out about anyone. What is needed is someone with the charisma, the media savvy, and the sheer bare knuckle brawling ability to kick the GOP spin machine's arse back round its ears. Hillary Clinton is not that person.

As for the ruthlesness of the campaigns, I think Obama has been far more ruthless. He hasn't given an inch most of the time. He's been ruthless enough to sieze on any weakness in the Clinton campaign and spend money and time to win that state - which is why Obama and not Clinton won Texas. He has been ruthless enough to not try and portray McCain as a better potential president than Hillary Clinton whatever his feelings - realising that Clinton is the opposition, McSame is the enemy. He's been ruthless enough to support the Florida bid, realising it cuts Clinton's legs out from under her on her last throw of the dice. What he hasn't been is vicious. Which is why the Clinton campaign is still trying to work out what hit it - and despite Clinton's best efforts is failing to play the victimisation card effectively.

tltiABQ: First of all, I really admire the quality of your writing and the rhythm of your thinking. I wish I could agree with you, but I just don't. Like it or not, elective politics is largely a brand-driven activity. What I mean (and what I think is conventionally understood) by brand is the emotional relationship between consumer (voter) and product (candidate). See Tom Asacker for an excellent discussion on branding.

In and of themselves, good, bad, or otherwise, political ideas tend to just sort of lie there until they are brought to life by a person. And as compelling and resonant as the idea may be, it is the person that persuades and the person (with whom the idea is associated) that we either elevate or excoriate.

And it is - absolutely - the person for whom we vote.

While I agree with you that Obama's theme of change has remained consistent, it's the person, Barack Obama, not the theme of change, that has been powerful and compelling. And whether or not the person/brand of Obama can withstand the assault of the Republican slime machine remains to be seen.

And just so you know, I love Obama's candidacy. I support him on every level and want desperately to see him elected. Because I think he has the potential to be among our best presidents ever. Which is precisely why I'm so concerned about how his campaign plans to respond to the attacks I see as inevitable.

So when you say you expect Obama's theme of change "to be a sufficiently powerful message to deflect the usual battery of attack ads, especially those which have nothing to do with the economy," all I can say is, from your mouth to God's ears.

Except I don't believe in God.

Uh oh.

turb: Isn't that like some twisted form of litotes? Show how utterly screwed up all his Christian religious & spiritual advisors are in order to prove he's not Muslim?

It might work (and you might be right)... but I'm just not seeing the assertion that he's Muslim as having any legs at all in this campaign.

And remember, I'm not just referring to Wright as being the problem; it's him, Meeks, Pfleger and Moss. And in light of these "spiritual advisors." I'm much more concerned about voters fearing the Putney Swope effect than the Muslim connection.

TLTIABQ: First, I can vouch for xanax not being a concern troll. (Also, he's plenty smart.)

I think I take an intermediate view. On the one hand, I don't think we have much choice about having a candidate about whom the GOP can make awful ads. For one thing, they could make them about anyone; for another, I suspect there's a lot more dirt on Clinton than has come out to date. (There are ways in which Obama has not been ruthless. One is that he has not brought up any personal anything. Such names as Marc Rich, and such questions as 'I wonder whether Bill has been completely faithful since 2000?' have not been raised by him.)

Also, as you note, it's not as though McCain has no preacher issues of his own. One could make some delightful ads out of Hagee saying that God sent Hitler to shepherd (cough) the Jews to Israel, for instance.

On the other hand, I think xanax's point about branding is very, very important. It's not the Obama brand I think will be crucial here; it's the Democratic brand. There is a whole raft of things that people have been made much more ready to believe about Democrats than about Republicans, through decades of repetition: that we are effete, that we are anti-American, that we have strange scary views, that we want to take people's money and freedom away, that we bitterly resent successful people while being willing to tolerate anything from anyone we can identify as a victim, and so forth.

The GOP ads against Obama will operate against this backdrop, and it will make them a lot more likely to succeed. By contrast, a lot of the direct answering ads (my ad about Hagee, for instance) will be a lot less likely to work, both because the underlying brand-based suspicions aren't there and because people to some extent assume that Republicans have evangelical preachers with odd views behind them.

I think there are two real questions here. First, to what extent has the Republican brand become toxic, and/or their habitual modes of attack lost their effectiveness through overuse? And second, how much of a difference will it make that this time, I think we have a candidate who will give as good as he gets?

Luckily, I don't just have to passively watch this play out; I can try to actually go out and produce my favored outcome. ;)

I think there are two real questions here. First, to what extent has the Republican brand become toxic, and/or their habitual modes of attack lost their effectiveness through overuse? And second, how much of a difference will it make that this time, I think we have a candidate who will give as good as he gets?

I think there is a third question: How much do voters associate John McCain with the now-toxic Republican brand?

Despite efforts to market a McCain presidency as "the third Bush term", the still-persistent 'Maverick' image may insulate him from such charges. Plus, the vitriol directed towards McCain from base GOP constituencies (eg, Evangelicals and libertarians) also tends to place him (at least superficially) outside the party mainstream. These conditions, along with a successful push of the notion that the "successful" (McCain) surge equals a welcome respite from years of war mismanagement on the part of the Bush admin, might be enough to convince some voters that a McCain presidency would in fact equal a change from the status quo.

Thanks for the voucher, hil. And by the way, I can't wait to see the cosmic axis-shift in the blogoshpere when you hit Denver.

TLTIABQ: First, I can vouch for xanax not being a concern troll. (Also, he's plenty smart.)

xanax, I'm sorry for ever saying that. It was a very poorly chosen phrase made in haste which I deeply regret. Please upgrade my apology (see comment at 6:45) to abject. hilzoy - thanks for the prompt.

Please continue with commentary. I may revert to lurking mode (I say this so my silence is not mistaken for disinterest) for a while as I've already spent more verbiage than I prefer on these threads today and would like to enjoy reading what other people have to say, which is hard to do at leisure when one spends most of the day composing hasty and ill-digested comments. Also, I think my family misses me.

TTLIABQ: I didn't mean what I said harshly; I just wanted to vouch for xanax, so that we could get to the other questions you raised.

xanax wrote:

I can visualize the RNC campaign against him (the ads write themselves), but I can't for the life of me picture any response by the Obama campaign or the Democrats adequate to the task of deflecting the death blows of his candidacy.
Biblical quotes that match the more radical statements the RNC deplores would probably do it. Attack ads aimed at religious people carry a great risk for the Republicans; they risk alienating the conservative evangelical base.

However, neither racial nor tribal nor cultural resentments will determine the course of this election; the actual fate of the American middle class will do it.

The policies pursued by the United States government since Ronald Reagan's election have led to an unbroken trade deficit for more than a quarter century now. Logic indicates that a country. like a person, cannot spend more than it takes in indefinitely; sooner or later, a painful day of reckoning will come. When that happens, the so-called Reagan Democrats will stop worrying about radical Black preachers and cultural resentment, and start worrying about how to get their lunch money back.

I didn't mean what I said harshly

You didn't, and it wasn't.

The harshness comes from my internal critic, who woke up in part because of your gentle reminder that I was doing a poor job of emulating those on this blog such as yourself who somehow manage the superhuman task of writing with both passion and humility at the same time.

KCinDC: In many ways, your advice to btfb sounds like the ostrich approach to political discourse.

I am not at all suggesting that we ignore the preacher problem or not talk about it. I'm suggesting that it's not helpful for Democrats to be conducting Republican attack ads against Obama in blog comments, which is what btfb seems to be doing at 10:30.

To amplify my last comment: I suspect that the RNC will never air attack ads aimed at Obama's church. The Democrats could easily counter mild attack ads with, as I said, much more radical quotes from Jesus of Nazareth, St. Mary, St. Paul, and St. Luke.

And if the Republicans went all out with attacks on Rev. Wright et. al., the Democrats could go nuclear: quote those ads, and then cut to a picture of the Branch Davidian compound bursting into flames, with FBI tanks rolling to and fro. Because the core of the Republican base, conservative evangelicals, have a gut terror that only the passionately religious know: that someone with power will tell them: compromise your deepest beliefs or we'll kill your children.

Conservative evangelicals will cheer like sixty if you promise government action to support their moral agenda. But political, or government, meddling in religious disputes, however little they agree with the pastors the politicians attack, raises the specter of political interference with religion. I predict that attack ads aimed at pastors-- any pastors-- will make core Republican supporters very uncomfortable. If those attacks go too far, and the Democrats can crystallize that discomfort effectively, then the Republicans will lose a large chunk of their base, probably for more than one election cycle. I honestly don't think the RNC will risk it.

Plus, the vitriol directed towards McCain from base GOP constituencies (eg, Evangelicals and libertarians) also tends to place him (at least superficially) outside the party mainstream.

I can understand that helping him with independents, but if there's that much vitriol, then what's happening to the vote among those base constituencies? He can't afford to have them stay home in droves or vote for Bob Barr or whoever.

John Spragge has a point. Remember that Huckabee defended Obama on the Wright issue more than most Democratic leaders did.

"xanax, I'm sorry for ever saying that."

TLTIABQ: Please, for gosh sakes, don't give it another thought. Let's move the nuclear force-field of all this energy & intelligence toward a Democrat in the White House & Barack Obama as the next President of the United States.

In the "word" of John Lennon:

Imagine!

"When the Republican Party's inexorable tilling machine of political propaganda goes to work in these breathtakingly fertile fields, I fear Obama is toast."

First link: that James Meeks is an anti-gay campaigner is something that I disagree entirely with him about, but the notion that the Republican Party will hurt Obama with their supporters because of six degrees of separation with "Focus On The Family" seems to me to be in need of elaboration before I'd worry about it.

Ditto Pfleger; I don't understand everyone's, or anyone's, interest in who said what at some church a candidate attended: I'm not voting for a minister some candidate listened to, and I'm certainly not voting for that minister's political views. So I don't follow the relevance of such matters.

The third cite is video, and I'm afraid I have no time for that sort of thing: if you have a transcript of what you want to talk about, please link to it, or otherwise give me text I can read and quote.

"His acknowledgment of these not, one or two but three spiritual advisors will, I'm afraid, prove deeply, profoundly problematic for him. Did I say problematic? Make that fatal to his candidacy."

Okay. Perhaps you're right. We'll see. I certainly don't discount the possibility of racism, and its use, sinking Obama.

I wonder if there is any African-American spiritual advisor whose views would be safe from the sort of attack discussed. If not, how would we apply some neutral standard to say that what is being condemned is not based in racism, but in a fair and just evaluation of the advisor's views?

"LJ: One thing I've seen some friends do is talk about racism (and other prejudice) in association with actions and statements rather than people."

Just to point out, again, that this is a core principal of General Semantics.

The system advocates a general orientation by extension rather than intension, by relational facts rather than assumed properties, an attitude, regardless of how expressed in words, that, for example, George 'does things that seem foolish to me,' rather than that he is.
I got this stuff down when I was around 9, and it's served me well ever since. (I confirmed that I got when I took a senior-level college seminar when I was 16, and the wizened old Japanese professor gave me an A+, after having told me after the first week that I understood everything in the book, and all the concepts, and could relax. The principles of GS have served me well all my life, and I only wish everyone were clear on the key nature of these distinctions.)

If I had to hang out on an island for the rest of my life, I’d probably choose to hang out with Hispanics on that island. People like the Bush family get on my nerves. Always posturing.

But if I were to set up a series of staffing offices and had to make a profit; I would probably have the mechanized army division in northern Europe, the long-distance running division in Kenya, the sprinting division in Zambia, and the champion chess division in Tel Aviv.

Fortunately, you don't group people primarily by "race" or ethnicity, rather than as individuals.

Pshew.

"Pfleger's statements -- just as Rev. Wright's -- affect Obama and they reflect poorly on his judgment."

btfb, what's that about judgment?

"LJ: One thing I've seen some friends do...

Just to avoid any confusion, that was Bruce addressing me, not me writing.

I am pro-Clinton -- and I DO NOT believe Obama has played the race card.

That said, I feel Ferraro is getting a raw deal.

Clinton lost because of her ego: Pride comes before the fall. Clinton enjoyed and 20 point lead and blew it. Why? For severa reasons. Mainly she did not plan beyond super Tuesday because she thought she would receive the nomination, 2 She did not campaign in the caucus states and now wants to deny that people voted, even though she states all votes should count, 3 she mismanaged her fianances, not once, but twice! And she wants to be Prez? 4 She brushed Obama off as a light weight. Bad move! 5 She didn't have a platform. She did not know what she stood for. How can you run for president and not have a platform 6 she hired people who did not know what they were doing.

"That said, I feel Ferraro is getting a raw deal."

By whom, where, how, as regards what?

How do you expect us to discuss it if you won't tell us? Or do you have no interest in discussion, in which case why are you announcing your feelings to us? What's your point? What is it you want to us talk about here? How you feel?

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