Thursday, August 21, 2008

Striking Back: What Obama Must Not Do

Everyone can now see that McCain has elected to run a nasty campaign, and pretty much everyone agrees that Obama has to strike back.

But what, IMHO, Obama cannot do is get as nasty as McCain. First, Democratic voters are more easily turned off by that sort of thing. But, perhaps more importantly, striking back in nasty ways will allow the McCain camp to say, in essence: see, he's no different. Typically what happens in these cases is that the Republican runs a vicious campaign, the Democrat strikes back with a little nastiness, and then people conclude that they're both the same. Even a fairly small bit of nastiness can do the trick, so it has to be avoided.

That's why I suggested earlier that the retaliation take the form of statements and ads that focus on McCain's viciousness itself instead of going after something else about him. That's one thing that it would be very hard to turn around on Obama.

These Morris-Rove tactics are despicable in part because one of the things they are designed to do is to depress turnout, and they do this, in effect, but undermining people's faith in democracy. They also help to convince people that all politicians are crap and crooks. But, of course, it's the crappy politician who gains by convincing people that all politicians are crap. My first, dim political memories are of Nixon, and I remember my father and grandparents reciting this like a mantra: they all do it, he just got caught. But of course they don't all do it or anything like it. But that's what Nixon and his political heirs would like you to believe, in case you ever start thinking that there might be some honest and admirable politicians out there. Sure, this will undermine our faith in democracy, but that's a small price to pay to win an election, right?

At any rate: don't fall for the trap, Obama folks! Strike back against the slander, not against any other juicy targets of opportunity.


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