GOP 2008: McCain talking about his life? Raaaaaacist!
The notion the McCain’s current “biography tour” is some form of race-baiting is so dumb that even Matt Stoller has admitted he was wrong about it (he is also wrong about the “history”Ã‚Â he cites, but that’s a topic already addressed).Ã‚Â Yet Matthew Yglesias has been pushing the “soft” version of this idiocy at The Atlantic:
Ed [Kilgore] notes the analogy to Bob Dole’s 1996 campaign, the last time the GOP thought having an old man talk fondly about long-past suffering was a good way to win elections. Relatedly, I think it was Matt Stoller who pointed out recently that the candidate with the more impressive military record lost in 1992 and 1996 and 2000 and 2004 so there’s reason to doubt that McCain’s genuinely impressive military record will serve as an ace in the hole for his campaign.
What I’ll say on behalf of this strategy is that it’s the best way I can think of to try to take advantage of older people’s potential discomfort with the idea of a woman or a black man in the White House that doesn’t involve exploiting racism or sexism in a discreditable way. McCain’s putting together an identity politics counter-narrative steeped in nostalgia; it didn’t work against a white southerner running on a very cautious agenda, but 2008 is going to see the Democrats nominating an unorthodox candidate running on a more liberal agenda.
Jon Henke is properly disdainful:
So that’s it, then? Democrats – whether due to paranoia or calculation – are going to see racism under every rock, and they’re going to exploit the hell out of it. This, as long as political points can be scored for it, will be our “conversation about race.” That won’t exactly help heal, ease or erase racial problems, but that doesn’t seem to be the goal of such accusations…
Of course it isn’t.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â Although Barack Obama may be positioning himself as a post-racial candidate, his supporters will play the race card at every possible opportunity.Ã‚Â Politics ain’t beanbag.Ã‚Â Accordingly, the Yglesias version of the argument should be debunked.
As to the biographical point, Kilgore wasÃ‚Â not the first to note the possible parallel to Bob Dole’s 1996 campaign (nor was I.)Ã‚Â But as Patrick Ruffini coincidentally noted yesterday, “Bob DoleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s biography was moving, but running onÃ‚Â a 50-year-old war record in a peacetime election was a nonstarter.”Ã‚Â I would add that in elections like 1972, 1980, 1996 and 2004, the factor of having a referrendum on the incumbent cannot be easily dismissed (particularly when given dovish candidates like McGovern, CarterÃ‚Â and Kerry).Ã‚Â Moreover,Ã‚Â Al Gore won the popular vote in 2000, though that is aÃ‚Â inconvenient truth for the Stollers and Yglesiases in this context.
Furthermore,Ã‚Â the Yglesiases of this nation, huddled in their Flophouses, bathed only in the glow of their laptops, may want to get in closer touch with the vast segment of the public who are not political junkies.Ã‚Â McCain’s biography is well-known to Ygelesias, but when voters were recently asked to describe him, words like “veteran” or “P.O.W.” did not make the list, and “Hero”came in sixth.Ã‚Â “Old” led the list, most likely because more people watchÃ‚Â David Letterman than C-SPAN.Ã‚Â Thus, it is not surprising that McCain would take the opportunity to remind the public of his biography while Obama and Hillary ClintonÃ‚Â remain busy fighting each other.
Finally, I must admit that I am vaguely disappointed in Stoller and Yglesias for not being paranoid enough in playing the race card.Ã‚Â McCain’s biographical speeches are very much about the father-son relationship.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â To fullyÃ‚Â reverse race-bait, Stoller and Yglesias should have claimed McCain’s father-centrism is a subtly-coded contrast with Obama’s black absentee father.Ã‚Â After all, if you are going to be nitwit, don’t be a half-wit about it.
Update x2:Ã‚Â Insta-Lanche!