Sunday, January 27, 2008

Rock breaks Scissors

One of the lessons from South Carolina

Dirty politics can backfire.

It's only my opinion but ...

The Clintons have been victims of slime politics for the better part of three decades. As such, they have become expert practitioners. They probably know more about how to manage a dirty campaign than anyone who isn't Carl Rove.

Obama got slimed by the best and still he overcame. Sometimes the underhanded, dirty-dealing of retail politics is seen for what it is ... and in South Carolina it was. And it didn't work.

I'm not sure why it didn't work this time, but it didn't and I'm glad it didn't. It worked so well against Kerry when he was Swiftboated. The lies were no less obvious then. It worked when the slime machine was turned against Gore. The slime stuck long enough to help bring him down. (Interestingly enough, he's held in much higher regard everywhere else on the planet than he is here ... proving the old axiom that one cannot be a prophet in one's own country.)

All the spin, all the quotes taken out of context, all the the mischaracterizations and misrepresentations, all of the hype and hyperbole used against Obama this time around were seen by the voters as the BS it was. They were paying attention and the BS only works when people aren't paying attention. Maybe that's it. Maybe people are simply engaged and paying attention this time around. By listening to what the candidates are saying, by paying attention to which of those things match up with reality and which bits and pieces are spun out of all recognition, they're getting an education. And if that's the case, then they are becoming the educated electorate the Founding Fathers hoped and prayed for ... and that's the best thing that could possibly happen.

If I were a Republican of the Rovian School of Winning Elections, I'd be frightened. Political warfare has been taken to a new level and the old weapons of insinuation, innuendo, misinformation, and outright lying aren't working as effectively or as efficiently as they used to. The Clintons in South Carolina can testify to that. If there's truth in it, then the Republicans have lost some of the most effective weapons in their campaign arsenal. Heaven knows, the ideas they're offering as a platform can't stand up to much scrutiny.

Already the opposition on that side of the aisle has been forced to sing choruses of Change by a charismatic upstart filled with hope and ideas. They talk about being Change Candidates while they support a war that 70% or more or the people oppose. They talk about being Change Candidates while they support making the current administration's tax breaks for the rich a permanent thing. They talk about being Agents of Change and offer more of the same thing that has brought us all to the brink of military, financial and economic disaster. They call themselves candidates of Change and offer continued fear; a fear of the future without hope. The only real Change they seem to be offering is a Change of Face. They all want to be seen as the reincarnation of Ronald Reagan. How back-to-the-future is that? The more distance we have from that era in time the more Reagan begins to look like a bad actor who did more damage than good. Besides, it's foolish to try to turn back the clock and relive the past. The moving hand of history has written, and having written, everything has changed. There is no path back to the past. The only way is forward.

Obama is offering real change. And real change begins with a change in attitude. Obama is a formidable challenger to "the way it's always been done". He's a breath of fresh air in the smoke filled rooms of politics as usual.

Winston Churchill said of Americans, "You can always count on Americans to do the right thing ... after they've tried everything else." I submit that Bush, the Republicans of the last 45 years and American "politics as usual" have pretty much exhausted all of the other possibilities. I certainly hope that's the case.

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