Friday, August 01, 2008

The “popular” candidate

The McCain Campaign is now running ads attacking Barack Obama for being popular. The suggestion that someone should be resented simply for being popular reminds me of junior high and high school, as I suppose it does most of you. But it also stirs up childhood memories for me of an elderly relative that I imagine are not so universal.

I was a child and he was an old man. He had been a Protestant minister his whole life and not a particularly successful one. Even his wife and children admitted that he needlessly offended and insulted people, apparently through an inability to understand what others would take offense at (or perhaps an obstinate refusal to care.) As a result he never stayed for very long at one church and was never promoted to larger churches or greater responsibility. By the end of his ministerial career, when I knew him, he had developed a scorn for successful ministers and churches with large congregations. He would call someone a "popular minister" as if he were calling them a bad name, full of disdain and disapproval. He would imply that all "popular" ministers were lacking in conviction and principle, and that ministers who were focusing on what God wanted were never "popular."

That is how I see John McCain now, as a result of these ads. A bitter old man, like my elderly retired minister relative, railing at those younger, better-looking people who know what to say and how to carry themselves so that most people like them. I wonder if they are going to start referring to Obama, with disdain and scorn, as the "popular candidate," in the same way my relative did "popular ministers?"


lyrl said...

McCain's campaign is trying to win, and they will pursue arguments they believe will resonate with the American voters. I don't know that their tactics are representative of his/their actual views; I'm curious what their target audience is with these ads, though.

I have read two blog entries by people disturbed by the strong feelings Obama elicits in his supporters. They believe his movement verges on being a cult, where the followers will without question do anything and everything the leader asks.

Giving a person absolute power is not good for government. For myself, I don't believe Obama would abuse any undue influence he might have as President due to his vehement base. But I wonder if that's the fear this ad is trying to elicit?

Dave Barrett said...

Huh?!? Obama's supporters like "a cult", "will without question do anything and everything?" What in heavens name are you talking about?!? What are you seeing that I am not seeing? Give me some examples.

lyrl said...

They lack examples of Obama supporters doing anything unusual for a supporters of a political candidate.

But I've seen many statements by people who find the emotional intensity of Obama supporters over the top. Hillary Clinton's "heavenly choirs" comment is one; Michael Feldman (the host of "Whadyaknow" on public radio) commented on it during the primaries.

The record crowds drawn to his rallies are often cited. On message boards I read, blinkies and avatar photos supporting Obama outnumbered such images for Hillary and McCain by four or five times, even though polls on those boards show political support is more closely split.

Nothing that holds up to close scrutiny. But most voters don't scrutinize their choices very carefully, so ideas like "Obama would have corrupting levels of power because he's so popular" can (I believe) have influence.

Dave Barrett said...

You seem to be saying that although there is no evidence that Obama is attracting a cult-like following his opponents may be able to convice some undecided voters that there is reason to worry about such a thing.
Well, if that is all you are claiming then I agree. You can get some people to believe absolutely outlandish things. I was not saying that attacks on Obama for his "popularity" would not work. I was just saying that they SHOULD not work.