Stoking the fires of resentment

>> Sunday, September 7, 2008

The way the McCain campaign is going to play the remainder of this election has become crystal clear. Thy are going to try to mobilize their base while pitching themselves as breaking from the party. If the McCain campaign has its way the election will be focused on personality, as McCain campaign manager Rick Davis said, "This election is not about issues,". The McCain camp personality war will be centered on the GOP's go to tactic since the days of Nixon. The manufacture and exploitation of a victimization identity. To do this they try to latch on to everything and anything to play this up.

The Huffington Post Reporting

Days before the anniversary of September 11, on the same morning that John McCain and Barack Obama released a joint statement pledging to avoid politics in light of the anniversary of the terrorist attacks, McCain's campaign accused Democrats of throwing away 12,000 American flags.

"The campaign says the flags were recovered from Invesco Field after the Democrats concluded their convention there," Fox News reported, "and they are going to be used as part of the warm-up ceremonies before McCain takes the stage" for a rally in Colorado Springs, Col.

But according to a senior official involved in organizing the Democratic convention, the McCain camp is simply lying about the flags.

"All of the flags at Invesco were picked up and put in bags and into storage, along with the unused flags and campaign signs. The flags were going to be donated, and the signs were going to be sent out to be used elsewhere," the official said, speaking anonymously since he was not authorized to talk to the press.

The above example is the GOP trying to take something the public at large admires, american flags, and make the case that Dems hat the flag, they hate america. Literally, that we trash the flag. It is patently absurd and incredibly insulting. It is this kind of crap that acts as a distraction. The politics of resentment is be playing played in three distinct ways with the Palin pick.

First they are trying to make it appear as if Dems hate or look down on people from "small town America". Sarah Palin's acceptance speech was geared towards this end. She made numerous references to "small towns" and used Obama's "bitter" comment to make her case. When she compared small town mayor to community organizer she was also making a distinction between urban and rural. Community organizers are, in general and possibly eroniously, perceived as people who work in urban areas. The subtext of her comment was that Obama was an "agitator" where she was a responsible person in authority. He was a dirty hippie when she was helping people.

My own perception is that the small town victimization is supposed to spark a tribalism. Her, and by extension the GOP, argument is traditionally that small towns are actually better than the city dwellers and that they have right to look down on the rest of us. There is an insecurity that revolves around ideas of culture and knowledge, symbolized by evolution and gay rights. In today's mass media world and global economy this distinction between small town people and urban people is a myth. Even if it had some bases in truth, again i dont think it does, the leaders of the GOP have no place making the argument, as Krugman points out,

Can the super-rich former governor of Massachusetts — the son of a Fortune 500 C.E.O. who made a vast fortune in the leveraged-buyout business — really keep a straight face while denouncing “Eastern elites”?

Can the former mayor of New York City, a man who, as USA Today put it, “marched in gay pride parades, dressed up in drag and lived temporarily with a gay couple and their Shih Tzu” — that was between his second and third marriages — really get away with saying that Barack Obama doesn’t think small towns are sufficiently “cosmopolitan”?

Can the vice-presidential candidate of a party that has controlled the White House, Congress or both for 26 of the past 28 years, a party that, Borg-like, assimilated much of the D.C. lobbying industry into itself — until Congress changed hands, high-paying lobbying jobs were reserved for loyal Republicans — really portray herself as running against the “Washington elite”?

Whether or not the GOP has a factual basis to speak for small town people is almost a side issue. The real issue is terms that the right uses to speak about small town values.

Conservatives have dominated the battle over populist rhetoric so long that even Americans who mistrust it bring up “elitism” and the “common-sense values” of “ordinary people” — as if they were objective realities instead of partisan talking points.

If i had my choice i would have Obama go right after these concepts. Is is common sense that you bring the cost of gas down by drilling for oil you wont get for a decade? Do ordinary people own 8 houses? Are the elitist the people who give you a plan for health care or the people who take your vote every four years with false promises and come back with nothing to show for it? Does the ordinary person wear $300,000 outfits? Is it wholesome to lie your way into a war?

In many ways though the small town voter is a myth. When Palin talks about being from a small town she mentioned her husband is a world champion snowmobile rider. That's not exactly a cheap sport. Hockey is not actually that cheap a sport either. The skates and the pads and the sticks cost money.

A different side to this idea of small town america is how white it is. When many people consider the ideal picture of a small town they think southern. They think football games, fried food and church. What they dont picture in the ideal small town is a great number of black people. Black people are referred to as "urban". This too has played a role in the politics resentment, especially in the south. The racial undertones are simering just below the surface and sometimes they seep out as they did when Georgia Republican Rep. Lynn Westmoreland called Obama uppity

Westmoreland was discussing vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin's speech with reporters outside the House chamber and was asked to compare her with Michelle Obama. "Just from what little I have seen of her and Mr. Obama, Sen. Obama, they're a member of an elitist-class individual that thinks that they're uppity," Westmoreland said.

Asked to clarify that he used the word "uppity," Westmoreland said, "Uppity, yeah."

A number of commentators have made the point about the paucity of AA delegates at the convention. Only 36 of the RNC delegates were black, less than 2% of the total. At the Democratic convention in Denver 1,087 delegates were black, about a quarter of the total.

Here, from their own mouths are the values of small town people,

Beyond the small town resentment the GOP is also trying to tap into resentment among women over the loss of Hillary Clinton in the Democratic Primary. It is blatant and obvious. Any one who saw Bill Maher the other night might have noticed Michael Steel trying to stoke those fires. McCain and Co went directly to charges of sexism to try and protect against the legitimate questions about Gov Palin's record. they hoped that they could get women to identify with Palin like they did with Clinton. Woman are an essential part of the Democratic coalition and splitting a significant chunk of them off would be a coup for the GOP. I do not think this will work but you never know.

Another prop in the GOP resentment play is the use of the Media. The pick of palin plays into this as the press tries to vet her the GOP will try and claim they are going to far out of bias against republicans. Claiming that the media are biased or liberal is a rallying cry for the GOP base. Part of what i think drives this is that people like to think that common sense and simple solutions exist for every problem and situation. This is not true. It used to be that the media would point this out and things like off shore drilling would be non-starters. The right successfully convinced people that their simple solutions or empty mantras were possible and then attacks on the policies became attacks on the people who held them. They would be too humiliated to admit that the policies were a bad idea so it instead it morphed into the world of balance where there really are two sides to every objective fact.

It also helps that the media and the press are on TV. TV is something that most people will never be on. It is a symbol of fame and worth in our society. People on tv and the writers in newspapers are the "big fish" of the country and every one wants to be a big fish. It is part of the egalitarian nature. If every one is equal then i should get to be on tv too, i am just as good as that person.

Finally i want to come back to the patriotism thing. The flag story at the begging is one example but it happens every day. Claiming that Obama would rather lose a war to win a campaign or that he fails to properly show his love for the country. All of this is total crap. People who screwed up the country, people like Sen James Imhofe should not get to question anyone's patriotism and yet they do,

Regardless of what polls show, Inhofe said, voters will have to ask themselves a question once they get behind the curtain in the voting booth on Election Day.

"Do you really want to have a guy as commander in chief of this country when you can question whether or not he really loves his country?" he asked.

"That's the big question.''

The GOP will continue to try to stoke the fires of resentment among the voters of the country. they have nothing else. They will try to exploit the divisions among our fellow countrymen turning brother against brother for their own purpose. If a house divided against itself cannot stand does that mean that the GOP wants to destroy America? Personally i dont want to tell other people how to live their lives. if they want to go to church or not have abortions thats fine. If they dont want to take advantage of programs designed to help those struggling to make ends meat then they dont have to. Just dont insist on making me do everything your way. I might start to resent it.


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