Posted in Elections by Peter W. Schramm
This Shelby Steele
piece considers the problem Obama poses for Republicans: there has always been a
disconnect between his actual performance and his appeal. Steele puts it this way: "There have really always been two Barack Obamas: the mortal man and the
cultural icon. If the actual man is distinctly ordinary, even a little flat and
humorless, the cultural icon is quite extraordinary. The problem for Republicans
is that they must run against both the man and the myth. In 2008, few knew the
man and Republicans were walloped by the myth. Today the man is much clearer,
and yet the myth remains compelling." Read the rest and ponder it, keeping in mind his recent European trip and performance.
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I believe that Shelby Steele, who has written some excellent books, is exercising wishful thinking. There is no myth as Obama has managed to destroy that as well as every one of the promises he made while campaigning. He has a record now - a record on wild spending, broken promises, flip-flopping on issues, causing division not only among party lines, but along race and ethnic lines, hating America and her principles and in general, complete incompetence and an unwillingness to learn from his mistakes.
If the Republican presidential nominee stays on the issues affecting Americans today, i.e. inflation, jobs, taxes, entitlements - that nominee will will hands down.
Wall of worry.
In some key respects Obama the cultural icon is far more important, and at least arguably contains as much of a proximate cause, especially if you are already conceding/stipulating that the European trip or performance is something tangible that he does. That is the media empire that surrounds Obama, the presidency, and narrative formation. The copyright that obscures the trade secret, the principle that veils the technique. The extent to which the presidency itself becomes a sort of prop or narrative device. Lets just say that cultural icon is huge business, in many respects it swallows politics altogether, in another respect it is politics, as Obama is a sort of lightning rod for the static electricity generated by the complex of administrative law/agency storm clouds, brewing on K-street only to roll across the plains. Obama the Trademark if you will.
Shelby Steele has writen some excellent books, and no doubt he is engaged in wishful thinking. But what is wishful thinking? What is writting with a modicum of creativity, and fixing it in a tangible medium of expression? What is Copyright.
Why do folks bother to praise good rhetoric, good dress, virtuous habits? Indeed there has been a precipitous drop off in cultural pieces criticizing rap music, as if doing so would might lead one to sheepshly admit hypocrasy in failling to praise Obama, or perhaps the current governor of Mass.
Indeed considering Mass. and Harvard and MIT, and Boston and Romney, the original tea party and all it is as a state...That is History, and Culture, and IP, and in some sense also Character, and everything that would be prohibited from entering into evidence on relevancy or undue prejudice or trade secret grounds.
And just to clarify again. this is taking 401 and 403 out of context and linking them to proximate cause or the need to cut off the chain of causation. To say Obama is responsible and not Bush, or FDR. But was FDR responsible? FDR responsible for the four freedoms? He pulled them out the air? (or is this simply a convention of plagerism, the academic administrative version of copyright?(note the state of the union is not copyrightable.)
So if the republican focuses upon inflation, jobs, taxes, entitlements, he is focusing upon 3) Freedom from want and 4) Freedom from fear?
So he said(the republican) FDR's methods were wrong! But you will never get to the methods, because that is what principle and copyright are for. You are just playing a margins game, and that is why it is also the End of History:)
Most of the essay lacks his usual clarity, but his last lines are gold:
"In other words, isn't there a fresh new social idealism implicit in conservative principles? Why not articulate it and fight with it in the political arena? Such a message would show our president as unevolved in his social thinking—oh so 1965. The theme: Barack Obama believes in government; we believe in you."
The reality is that he has a built-in (racist) voting bloc. It really doesn't matter how he performs, millions will vote for him because he is the first minority president. It's a lot to overcome, particularly when you have only standard whitebread politicians to throw against him. We may need to fight fire with fire this next election.
In 2008, few knew the man and Republicans were walloped by the myth.
1. In this country, political parties seeking a third turn at the wheel of the federal executive are usually unsuccessful,
2. all the more so when the incumbent president is disparaged by most of the voting public.
3. Please note also that a wretched banking crisis erupted six weeks before the election, and the prisms through which most of the electorate was given to viewing public life ensured that the incumbent administration would be stuck with the blame.
Even so, Sen. McCain's performance was better than that of Hubert Humphrey in 1968 or Adlai Stevenson in 1952.
The Republicans were not walloped by a myth. Mrs. Clinton's primary campaign was walloped by clever organizing and advertising. There should have been a bloc of weakly aligned voters sufficient to deny Barack Obama the presidency on the grounds a deficit of preparation for the office. There was not, and that is regrettable. Alternative hypothesis: not the appeal of a myth, but the general shallowness of people's electoral choices.