Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Fear vs. Hope

With its unprecedented pair of energetic candidates, Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama, never has a presidential primary season been so reported upon as this one. As the two Democrats’ political messages get cooked down to bare bones, through the repetition of stump speeches, sound bites and commercials, the propaganda flowing out of their camps this far into the process has to all be on-message.

Their themes have been reduced from pithy paragraphs, to high concept, down to one word each: Clinton is selling “fear.” Obama is selling “hope.”

When Clinton says she and Republican Sen. John McCain have crossed the “threshold” to be qualified to be Commander-in-Chief, she is clearly trying to make people worry about that other Democrat, the young one without so much baggage. The same goes for her 3 a.m. ringing telephone ad.

Clinton’s language is being aimed at voters in the upcoming primaries, somewhat, but perhaps more at the Super Delegates. She seems to be suggesting to them that Obama will be way too vulnerable to a fear-driven, swift-boat campaign from McCain or others acting on his behalf in the general election.

When Barack Obama says he wants to change the way Washington works, his words have extra meaning. He is less beholding to traditional Democratic power brokers/king-makers than any candidate who has gotten the nomination in a long time. He is calling for “change.”

While change might sound like a good thing to people without power, change can be a scary word to folks with something to lose. That would include some Democrats who might still prefer a more seasoned donkey at the top of the ticket, especially one that owes them a favor.

Obama is telling the Super Delegates most of the voters want to see a more collegial and results-oriented style in the way programs and policies are put together in DeeCee. Moreover, Obama is telling them his leadership style and momentum will produce coattails to help them win their elections in November.

Clinton’s “kitchen sink” strategy has, at times, seemed rather unconcerned about whatever damage it might do to the Democratic Party. It’s hard to believe many of the Super Delegates have enjoyed that part of the race.

Maybe the only thing that could make it OK to shamelessly slime a fellow Democrat in the primaries would be if it was being done to save the party from a blowout loss in November.

More fear.

Clinton's easy use of fear tactics in this campaign has not been so different from the way the Bush administration has milked fear every way it could after the explosions of 9/11. Her idea of change seems to be going back to the 1990s, back to when The Clintons were in The White House. She’s selling change as safe nostalgia, rather than what she might say would be a blind plunge into an uncertain future.

Fear or hope?

It’s a classic choice.

-- Words and art by F.T. Rea

4 comments:

Katey said...

Clinton's easy use of fear tactics in this campaign has not been so different from the way the Bush administration has milked fear every way it could after the explosions of 9/11.

You said it. And her threat to take this all the way through the Rules and Bylaws Committee (which would have it land in the lap of the Credentials Committee in August) is yet more of the same pedaling of fear. It's extortion: "Give this to me now or I will make it VERY ugly all the way to the convention".
That's a "fear" argument aimed right at the super delgates

F.T. Rea said...

Katey,

How about this implied fear gimmick -- If you don't stick with me, you'll not see a female president in your lifetime? Hasn't Hillary been working her baby boomer/feminist sisters with fear in this way?

Howling Latina said...

This is the most offensive, sexist image.

No excuses!!!

Here's a copy & paste of a post that perfectly expresses my outrage with Obama supporters and with Obama for not condemning same.

Enjoy!

_____________________________

Why I will not vote for Obama even if he’s the nominee — and why you shouldn’t either
The Obamabots are under the delusion that if Obama wins the nomination (which he hasn’t yet, by the way), all of us in the Hillary camp will forget about the misogyny and come over to their side. Make nice for the sake of party unity. Forgive all the abuse.

Nope.

Several of us have tried over the past couple of months to explain why that won’t happen, but the Obamabots don’t seem to understand. And I know why: it’s because they don’t take sexism seriously. When women say we will not reward misogyny, we’re laughed off. The Obamabots just tell more jokes and hurl more insults and write more crass articles about how the little lay-dees have their little pan-tees in a twist.

The only “ism” the Obamabots take seriously is racism. So I’m going to try to explain the situation in terms they’ll understand, using a racial analogy.


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Imagine this scenario:

The shoe is on the other foot, and Obama, not Hillary, is the punching bag of the media — a media that is blatantly and unapologetically racist. And I do mean blatant. Jokes every night on the cable news shows about Obama’s hair and his fondness for fried chicken. Pundits laughing about what a problem uppity Negroes are.

Across the country, racists openly ridicule Obama and his candidacy. In mainstream stores there are gag gifts playing on racist themes: maybe a (water)Melon Baller with Obama’s head on the handle, maybe a Barack Obama Shoeshine Set — you get the picture. 501c groups invoke the most grotesque racist slurs with their advertising; T-shirts say “Quit Running for President and Shine My Shoes!” Anybody who protests is branded a fool and a spoilsport.

Online, Hillary’s supporters constantly refer to Obama and his supporters as n—–s and c— -s and all the other epithets I refuse to type out. Blogger Boyz blog about those stupid lazy Negroes who are still wallowing in memories of the Civil Rights era, too dumb to get with the program and vote for Hillary.

And the lies: Obama is constantly lied about, belittled, demeaned. His record is distorted, his character impugned. Every day the pundits and the Blogger Boyz urge him to drop out of the race, to remember his place, to give up his seat to the white woman. All in the interest of “party unity.”

And nary a word of reproach from Hillary herself. No denunciation at all of the relentless racism. In fact, she actually cracks a few racist remarks herself, albeit subtle ones. She jokes and nods with the media about “letting” Obama run as long as he wants to. And when she makes speeches about American values, she talks a lot about women’s rights but never mentions civil rights. She’s strikingly silent on the subject. Even when she delivers a major address on the importance of rooting out bigotry, she neglects to mention racism at all.

Just to make the analogy even more apt, let’s further imagine that some key civil rights issue is on the table — say, voting rights. For forty years the Democrats have been on the side of the angels with that one, but Hillary goes out of her way to say how much she admires and respects those Republicans who don’t think African-Americans should have the right to vote. She says judges with a record of opposing voting rights are good candidates for the nation’s benches — even the Supreme Court.

And the Democratic Party goes along with all this, pushing Hillary as the nominee, ignoring the anger of African-American voters, smugly assuming that they’ll “come back to the fold” by November. After all, say the pundits and the Blogger Boyz, where else are they going to go? The Republicans are even worse.


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If you’re an adult American with even half a lick of sense, you know damn well that there is no way black folks would stand for that crap. There is no way any self-respecting African-Americans in this day and age would take that from the Democrats. It’s inconceivable that anybody would expect them to.

Because dig it: if the Democrats carried on like that, they wouldn’t be any better than the Republicans. And they sure as hell wouldn’t deserve the African-American vote.

Why should it be any different with women?

If Barack Obama and his supporters become the new Democratic party, then the Democratic party will no longer be the party of women’s rights. There will still be women in the party, naturally, but basic respect for women as citizens will be a dead letter. It will be the party of John Roberts and anti-choicers and the most virulent outbreak of public misogyny I’ve ever seen. All the sexism of this campaign will be rewarded instead of repudiated.

And that Democratic party will not deserve my vote.

And it’s not just women’s rights at stake. Social Security, health care, sticking up for the working class — those things are important. The Democratic Party is supposed to be the place where those things are defended, not dismissed. The place where those values are embraced. The place where, at every turn of American history over the past century, underdogs and reformers and humanitarians have found shelter.

That’s why I won’t vote for Obama. I’ll be sending a message to the Democratic party: if you want my vote, then you need to earn it. If you throw me under the bus — me and my sisters and my grandparents and my friends and everybody in this country who isn’t a rich man — then to hell with you.

Go on, Democrats, try to get elected without me — me or any of my friends. See how far you get. Go on with your bad self.

And when you figure out that you need my vote, give me a call.

Katey said...

Good grief, Latina! What a rant. I disagree with your assertion that Obama's campaign has been misogynist or that he's not been a punching bag of racist media, but that's not the most important point I want to make.

I think it's shockingly selfish when people regard voting as some sort of free therapy, a way to express their personal hurts or frustrations. Voting is a civic responsibility. It's not meant to be a selfish, narcissistic pity party. Do you care about the future of this country? Or are you more concerned with pouting about something someone said to you on the internets? Vote for whomever you choose to, but don't try to justify your choice to me (also a woman) by blaming it on something a supporter said that hurt your feelings. There's been plenty of shit thrown during this primary, and believe me, HRC's supporters haven't been angels either. I've seen some very disappointing comments from Democrats during this process, on both sides of this struggle. Politics ain't beanbag. You should really consider getting over yourself and remembering that votes, elections, the future, and civic responsibility all matter a hell of a lot more than your bruised feelings.