Knife to a gunfight

So yeah, there's a bit of trepidation on the progressive side that we might actually lose to Grandpa McMaverickâ?¢ despite how terribly the Republicns have performed these last eight years.

And it occurred to me, watching the last series of ads play out, why that is: McCain is vicious. Obama isn't. McCain makes shit up and shrugs when the media call him on it. Obama gently points out differences and appeals to our better angels. McCain wants to scare you. Obama won't. Even Obama's attack ads are weak; in a sense, it demonstrates that he is actually practicing that whole "new politics" thing he's preached the last few years.

But the sad truth of it is, this election isn't being fought on issues, or reform, or even change any more. The McCain folks have given up talking about anything substantive, because they have nothing to talk about. Instead, every 12 hours or so, they release an outrageous, usually blatantly deceptive ad that sucks up the media attention so we don't talk about the failing war in Afghanistan, the continuing problems in Iraq, the rising unemployment levels, etc. It's a hell of a strategy. It's visceral and appeals to that most primitive of instincts - fear. In this case, fear of the unknown. Fear of the other. Fear of the different. And yes, implicitly, fear of the black guy with the Muslim name.

Obama hasn't responded in kind. McCain's up in the polls. Those two events are directly correlated. Check out the latest series of ads from both candidates: Even Obama's attack ad - McCain's an old fart who can't use a computer - is still cerebral (and not very clever, to be honest). McCain, however, creates out of whole cloth an image of an Obama who has almost violently attacked Sarah Palin, even though anyone who's been paying attention knows that isn't true at all. And that cut line: "How disrespectful!"

Sorry, but that is a subtle racist appeal - a dogwhistle if you will. A white woman scolding the black man who needs to learn his place. Maybe I'm wrong, or overly sensitive. But I think the McCain folks know exactly what they're doing, and it's disgusting.

I think the best summary of the situation was given by a commenter on the site linked above:

The gist of Obama's commercials is that he respectfully disagrees with John McCain's policies.

The gist of McCain's commercials is that Obama is a black monster who attacks poor defenseless white women and sexually predatorizes children.

Sadly, that's not much of an overstatement. We're bringing a knife to a gunfight, and we may well do the same "honor in defeat" thing that did Kerry in four years ago. Republicans know how to campaign. They don't play by rules. They don't care if their attacks are honest. They go for the jugular, and never let go until you fight back.

And so far, we haven't done that. 53 days to go.


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