Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Winning Narrative

Change is passé. Barack Obama squeezed all the juice out of the change orange since announcing his candidacy in February 2007. Personally, I never thought much of the “change you can believe in” slogan but there is no denying Obama went far with it.

However, Sarah Palin’s selection as McCain’s running mate has convinced the public change is coming no matter who wins. Even worse, the very same corporate media that complained Obama only offered “words” compared to Hillary Clinton’s policy specifics during the primary season now argue that McCain’s lack of specifics does not diminish his stature as a maverick. Is that fair? Of course not! But there is no sense whining about it. These are the cards we’ve been dealt.

So how do we change the narrative? The solution is to present the voting public with a stark choice: progress or calamity. Change vs. more of the same is stale and no longer resonates.

The public does not equate John McCain and Sarah Palin with George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. That’s the sense I have from phone banking since both conventions. The GOP pulled off a Houdini escape from their record and the media is letting them get away with it. Sarah Pallin is an inexperienced right wing ideologue. But she has made the McCain brand fresh again whereas the public has been watching the Obama campaign for almost two years.

It’s time to replace change vs. more of the same. Instead, every day until November 4th the Obama campaign needs to hammer two messages:
  1. Obama-Biden equals progress.
  2. McCain-Palin equals calamity.
That is the message that needs to be repeated in every advertisement, stump speech, interview, news conference and reinforced by campaign surrogates. One virtue of the progress or calamity narrative is that it happens to be true.

If McCain-Palin is elected more bridges will collapse, as local governments are fiscally incapable today of modernizing our infrastructure. Our roads will remain in disrepair resulting in fatalities. Modernized infrastructure prevents disasters. However, the McCain-Palin ideology favors crony capitalism and bridges to nowhere instead of upgrading our electrical grid, replenishing our shrinking reservoirs and building a mass transit system for the 21st century. McCain-Pallin's inattention to infrastructure will put America on a collision course with multiple catastrophes. America is confronting a water shortage crisis in its southwest as well as more Hurricane Katrina disasters and the deliberate wrecking of FEMA that was professionalized a decade ago under President Clinton.

An Obama-Biden administration will propose creating a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank to help finance revitalizing our transportation. Overall an Obama-Biden administration will prioritize strengthening America’s infrastructure to provide a more stable foundation for a 21st century economy.

Every day millions of Americans are living on the abyss of catastrophe as their HMOs drive them into fiscal insolvency. Under McCain-Palin the plight of the uninsured and under-insured will metastasize as illnesses are not properly treated and families are battered into financial submission paying for treatment. More of the elderly will be forced to choose between paying for food or prescription drugs as the medical industrial complex is strengthened at the expense of wage earners and small business entrepreneurs.

An Obama-Biden administration will propose a national health plan that makes available for all Americans affordable health coverage similar to the benefits enjoyed by members of Congress. Obama’s plan includes the self-employed and small businesses. Click here to read more details.

As the purchasing power of regular folks continues to erode, crime will rise with more people out of work. More children will grow up in households where one or both parents are working multiple jobs and not home to provide supervision and nurturing resulting in an increase in juvenile crime. Local governments under McCain-Palin will be too under-funded to address these challenges because of tax cuts to the rich instead of providing federal aid. Meanwhile, state correctional facilities that sustain itself through incarceration of non-violent criminals for recreational drug use will parole violent criminals due to overcrowding. This is a ticking time bomb in American society that will be exacerbated under McCain-Pallin.

If elected, an Obama-Biden administration will invest over $1 billion to empower low-income wage earners in transitional jobs and career pathway programs that are proven to help low tech laborers succeed in the workforce. An Obama-Biden administration will also work to better help integrate ex-convicts into society with job training, substance abuse and mental health counseling, and ensuring access to employment opportunities. Click here to read more details.

McCain-Palin’s “drill baby drill” energy policy means America will be at Saudi Arabia’s mercy as they continue to buy American real-estate. The very same Saudi Arabia that eighteen of the 9/11 hijackers came from. We will also have no leverage against the evil KGB spy-master Vladimir Putin as he tries to become a 21st century Peter the Great through the power of Russian oil.

Click here to listen to Obama’s August 4th speech in Lansing, Michigan about energy policy.

A McCain-Palin administration would be stocked with delusional zealots who hope to prosecute war with Iran while our overextended military is burdened with two military occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan. If these zealots have their way, Iran will respond by attacking Israel and Israel will respond with nuclear weapons. Meanwhile if McCain-Palin is elected the Taliban is more likely to prevail in Afghanistan and al Quaeda will once again have bases there and Pakistan to launch terrorist attacks on American soil. Even worse a McCain-Palin administration will further radicalize the Islamic world and make it impossible for moderate voices to emerge.

Click here to either read or watch a video of an October 2007 speech in which Obama outlines a forward looking foreign policy based on rationality and diplomacy.

If McCain-Palin is elected the damage to the federal bench will be irreversible for decades. Not only the Supreme Court is at stake but the entire federal judiciary. McCain-Palin will appoint judges presiding over legal controversies with respect to new technologies and civil liberties. Their Supreme Court will be stocked with more John Roberts, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas extremists that will protect the rights of government agencies and private industry to retaliate against whistle blowers. And if that isn’t enough, a McCain-Palin administration will ensure America returns to the days of back alley abortions.

Consider what The Nation had to say on June 12th:

“When the U.S Senate voted in September 2007, on whether to restore habeas corpus protections for those detained by the United States, the senators who would emerge as the presumptive Democratic and Republican nominees for president parted company.

Illinois Democrat Barack Obama embraced the basic Constitutional principle that individuals who are detained by the U.S. government have a right to challenge their detention -- no matter where they are held.

Arizona Republican John McCain rejected the wisdom of the founders of the American experiment and voted against restoring habeas corpus protections for foreign suspects held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and others who are detained by U.S. authorities.

Today, the Supreme Court said Obama was right and McCain was wrong.”

It is infinitely preferable to have a president who believes in habeas corpus nominating justices for the Supreme Court.

And let’s not forget global warming. If McCain-Palin is elected the civilized world will lose the shrinking window of opportunity to reverse global warming. That means the polar ice caps will melt and Manhattan Island will be underneath the sea.

Click here to watch Obama’s video about energy plan to combat global warming.

McCain-Palin is not simply more of the same. McCain-Palin means irreversible calamity for America and the world. Electing Obama-Biden means progress and hope that America will address the challenges ahead and establish cooperative relationships with the civilized world. The future of civilization may well come down to how effectively we persuade undecided voters in Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio and Pennsylvania on November 4th. That is the sort of urgency we need to convey. Indeed that is the sort of urgency Obama himself must convey.

This isn’t reality television. This isn’t kids stuff. This is a choice between progress or calamity. Starting tomorrow we have fifty-four days to ensure the American people understand that choice.

1 comment:

upinVermont said...


It strikes me that if Obama were to follow your advice he would make the same mistake every Democrat has made since Reagan, with the exception of Clinton (at least according to Drew Westen ). And, as far as I'm concerned, Drew Westen is dead right. If Obama pursued your path he would probably win the argument and lose the election. 10 point plans and appeals to rational policies are not going to win the election. Republicans have known this for decades.

Obama cannot cede the "change argument" to the Republicans. He simply can't. And he absolutely cannot let McCain and Palin squirm out from under comparison with George Bush. If he lets them walk off with any of this the election is over. Obama has to hit back hard. Right where the Republicans live. He needs to hit them on "Patriotism". He needs to hit them on "Oil". He needs to hit them on "Small Town Values", Guns, Abortion, and their racism and sexism. He needs to take these chestnuts away from the Republicans.

And he needs to hit their dearest asset: Sarah Palin. As Westen writes: "The Obama campaign appears to have decided that two male candidates at the top of the Democratic ticket can't touch a hair on Sarah Palin's head while she emasculates them with regularity because "women" won't like it or Republicans will cry sexism. Let the Republicans cry sexism, and propose legislation that eliminates it. That will shut them up in a heartbeat. Or call attention to their support for anti-affirmative action ballot initiatives that make it more difficult for women (who also happen to be men's wives and daughters) to break glass ceilings. Think chess."

This fear or reluctance to take on Sarah Palin is toxic and stupid.

"Democrats have offered many lofty reasons for their failure to respond to thugs and bullies from the right with a bludgeon, some of which have merit, such as Obama's obvious desire to change the way politics is done, but all of these reasons are intermingled with fear and avoidance, and all of them project cowardice."

Appeals to policy and rational behavior don't work. The evidence is all but indisputable.