The New Meme

I’m pretty sure I’ve said this a few times in the past, but I think it bears mentioning at the very least one more time.  I have always believed that there was something fundamentally flawed with the idea that the core message regarding McCain should be that he would be another four years of George W. Bush.

It’s obviously a popular idea; the Obama campaign is with it, and you’ll find no shortage of bloggers on the left side of the sphere that feel as though everything can be fixed if Obama just goes back to tying McCain to Bush, but this is itself a flawed strategy.

For one, doing so does not address the flaws of the policy or the ideology, but instead the flaw of the person.  Think about it this way; Bush is seen as such a great failure, his approval ratings are so low, that you have to reasonably assume that people aren’t displeased with his general governing philosophy so much as how he executed it.  80% of the country feels this nation is on the wrong track; you have to look at that number very closely, and cautiously.  If we assume that a full thirty percent of that 80% is made up of conservatives (itself a very conservative estimation), that would mean that over half of the conservatives in America have turned against Bush.

But have they turned against the ideology?  That’s the point.  It’s not just that the Bush presidency was an abysmal failure, but that it was so abysmal, and the personality at the head of it so iconic that the actual policies and ideologies aren’t being rightfully blamed, but the man is instead.  This leaves a high probability for a great number of people to believe that Bush policies are fine, as long as someone smarter and more competent than Bush is running them.

Thus, if your prime message is that McCain is the same as Bush, you’re going to find a lot of people that are fine with that, so long as he isn’t ACTUALLY the same flesh and blood person as Bush.

Beyond that you have a potential of leading to ballot confusion; Bush won’t be on the ballot, and thus I fear that running a campaign that is centered too much on the Bush administration as opposed to a potential McCain Administration could result in some crossed wires when voters actually step into the booth and see McCain there and not Bush.

And finally, if McCain succeeds in moving away from Bush, and let’s face it, he has done everything in his power to do just that, then you’re sunk.  This “McSame” mantra has, to me at least, always seemd perilous.

But there’s a new meme building that is a twist on the old McCain=Bush saw.  McCain would be worse than Bush.  Paul Krugman, recovering ODS survivor, sees the connection in the campaign styles.  It’s a great piece and bears reading, but the short of it is that McCain is running a dirtier presidential campaign than Bush & Co. ever did.  For all the talk that people govern they way they campaign, what we could learn from this election season is that John McCain would be more deceitful, lie more, have less shame, and govern with less honor than we have seen from the Oval Office for the past eight years.

As Josh Marshall points out, with the itchy trigger fingers over Russia over at Team McCain, we are talking about a potential presidency that would also be more adventurous, and thus less safe, and more trigger happy than the Bush Administration as well.

And unlike the distortions and outright lies forwarded by the McCain campaign, this analysis has the virtue of being for the most part true.  McCain is not the same as Bush, he would be far worse than Bush, and that is messaging that I feel would be far more effective as we head turn towards the home stretch of this election.

6 Responses to “The New Meme”

  1. rawdawg says:

    seems like he doing all he can to distance himself from buch – especially covering for SP ill informed self

  2. Mark says:

    It’s posts like this that make me happy to have you back, even if you’re not posting as much. I’ve been following the horse race less and less of late, but still, this is a good point that I had never thought of….I’m a little jealous that you figured it out, because I think you’re (largely) right. There’s more to this, of course, since most philosophical conservatives (as with most philosophical liberals) are not “pu-pu platter” Republicans. But conceptually, I think you’re exactly right.

  3. DrGail says:

    This dovetails nicely with the new theme Obama has taken up, that “the American people are smarter than that”. The out-and-out lies being pushed by the McCain campaign are so breathtakingly blatant that only the very stupid and ill-informed could possibly believe them. Unfortunately, “stupid and ill-informed” encompasses a significant portion of the electorate (thanks, corporate media!).

    The meme that McCain/Palin would be worse than Bush/Cheney (or is it Cheney/Bush? I can never remember) has an added advantage that it is very difficult for McCain to rebut. What does he say? “I’m no worse than Bush?”

  4. fattigmann says:

    Obama doesn’t limit himself to “Bush.” He repeatedly mentions the failed policies of the previous administration. It’s brilliant. Bush the buffoon is the shorthand figurehead for those policies. Obama cut through everything with simple black and white slogans. Change. McCain=Bush. Don’t overestimate the attention span of the American voter, Kyle. Obama knows exactly what he’s doing with this one.

  5. HEY GUYS!

    Looks like I got a little visit from our libertarian brigade. RDB, Mark, I think we and some other cooler heads ought to get together and have ourselves a little chat when this whole shooting match is over with.

    RDB-Agreed, he couldn’t be running from Bush any faster if the current president were chasing him down with a knife. This calls to mind something interesting though; occasionally you’ll hear one of the not so shrill conservative pundits remark on the fact that McCain ISN’T like Bush, but that begs the question: Really, especially over the course of the past two years, McCain has been very much like Bush in policies, yet selling him as though he isn’t is applauded. If he really is like Bush, shouldn’t these same conservative pundits withdraw their support for him?

    Why do this?

    It’s about winning. For some it may be as a result of actually believing their own ideology so much that they still can’t find faults in it. But I think for a vast majority it is simply about winning, there is not conscious thought to actual governance.

    Mark: THANKS! I saw you left a comment a few weeks back and I’m really sorry for not replying. You know I don’t usually get into the comments section that much, though, and when you drop a full blown essay on me, well… Sorry! And to add on to our discussion, you bring up the fact that not all Republicans are the modern three legged stool types, and that’s why after this election I really want to focus my energy on the liberal/libertarian coalition. I won’t get into detail here because I’m very busy at the office today and I still wanted to post two more posts today, post the next chapter to my book at my personal blog, AND I have to work on another project for the gaming blog I contribute to. I’m in the final stages of that project, and that one is supposed to pay me some money, so I’m eager to get things ready to go!

    So, I’ve got a full plate, but I think you are definitely right, if we are to see political success and a return to responsible governance, we absolutely MUST start working on Republicans who may be disillusioned with where the neoconservatives and social conservatives have taken their party.

    Gail. I think it does fit in nicely. I don’t think it is a message that Obama can reasonably employ, though. I think Obama can definitely hit hard against the attacks that have been leveled at him, but he also did at one point say that McCain would be better than Bush. Plus, he is trying to actually follow through with running a more distinguished campaign, so I think this message of McCain worse than Bush has to be one that really grows from the grassroots, and the surrogates.

    Fat: Sometimes I feel like one of the few left bloggers that still has faith in the idea that Obama knows exactly what he is doing, nor do I EVER overestimate the attention span of the public, though one should not underestimate the ability of the media to carry water for one candidate or the other.

    In any case, I think we are largely in agreement here, for Obama, my one suggestion might be to simply tweak the message a bit, not change the whole thing. It is about policy, and that is what Obama uses to tie everything together. Thankfully, he seems to have telegraphed that he is going to be hitting a little harder from now on, so we’ll have to see how that works.

  6. Angellight says:

    This is too Priceless!

    McCain: Mayors & Governors Do Not Have National Security Experience! Then why did he give us Sarah Paliin?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CzhFDQIgGSg

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