As I look down upon American society…literally and figuratively… from my perch up here in Canada, I must admit that it’s politics and political figures fascinates me to some extent. The higher up the political ladder one goes, its becomes more and more like following a t.v. reality show, where as we know, “style over substance” is the premise of all the various plots. The continuing drama surrounding U.S. presidential politics is the highest stage where this phenomenon plays itself out. Where “American Idol” meets “America’s Top Model”, to create figuratively, “A perfect storm”.
What I had found most fascinating about the 2008 U.S. presidential election but for whatever reason didn’t feel moved to comment on at the time, was the treatment that Sarah Palin received from the so-called “mainstream media”, made up primarily of the so-called “liberal” participants. For me, it was an intriguing contrast when compared with the A-list starlike adulation, Manchurian candidate Obama received. Maybe because the difference was so blatant I didn’t feel the need to state the obvious… and not surprisingly a year later, it still continues.
Obama has always been the media’s “guy”. They created, nurtured, directed, marketed and protected, “The Obama Brand”. When he first popped up on the national scene during the 2004 Democratic convention, I remember saying to myself, after listening to the t.v. commentators heaping praise on his speech, that this dude is a media creation. However, let me be clear: Barack Obama was and is no mindless stooge. As a political strategist, the man is brilliant. He used them also for his political advantage. I saw during the 2008 campaign how, depending on the audience he was catering to, he would mesmerize them with conflicting speeches… and the mainstream media would fall all over themselves saying how inspiring he was, while never calling him out on his inconsistencies. Sure, the right-wing zealots over at Fox News like Sean Hannity and radio talkshow personalities, like Rush Limbaugh would rail against him, but outside of their diehard supporters, their rantings fell on deaf ears. No-one took them seriously… especially the majority of those within the Republican Party itself, much less the majority of Americans as was proven at the end of the election.
Obama’s greatest political feat was not winning the Presidential election against John McCain. That was a given. Whoever won the Democratic nomination was going to be the next President of the United States of America. Obama’s greatest political triumph was defeating the Clinton machine, (in February 2008 I wrote this post predicting that he would beat her). So after he won and Hillary got onboard “The Obama Train”, it was pretty much smooth sailing for the Obama campaign. Not only did he have the overwhelming majority of Democratic base in his corner, but more importantly, the Independents, primarily moderate conservatives, were supporting him.
All was well until… “uh-oh!”… John McCain picked a nationally unknown female Alaskan Governor, a Sarah Palin, as his running mate. Although everyone was lambasting McCain on this choice, I saw it as a clever political move on his part. I still didn’t think he would win, but it was a choice he needed to make to put some life… to give his sinking campaign a boost… which it did! For a time at least. He desperately needed someone to galvanize the Republican base, especially the social conservatives. McCain is a moderate. He therefore appealed primarily to moderate Republicans and Independent conservatives, so having Joe Lieberman as a running mate would not benefit him much, plus it would alienate him even further from the more right-wing segment of the Republican base. There was no way he was going to get the Black vote, so asking Colin Powell would be a waste, plus there were already indications that Powell was going to support Obama. Mitt Romney’s religious beliefs would further alienate the more right-wing segment of the Republican base, so who was really left?
Well as the saying goes: “desperate times call for desperate measures”. By choosing Sarah Palin, the McCain campaign hoped to solidify the support of the more right-wing elements of the Party, such as the social conservatives; gain the support of White middle and upper class women who felt betrayed by the Hillary loss; and win over the “Walmart” constituents, who were primarily conservatives, if not necessarily Republicans, but weren’t being inspired enough by the campaign to vote for John McCain. Most importantly however… and I don’t know if during the vetting process of Sarah Palin they took this into consideration… she was very photogenic! This added greatly to her appeal. Ever since the Kennedy-Nixon television debate in 1960, it is a given that within Presidential campaigns, being “camera friendly” is more important to getting elected, than any policy position a candidate may have!
So it was very interesting observing how, as the “Palin phenomenon” took hold and gained momentum, the mainstream media, although rattled in the beginning, got it’s “shit together” to make sure that this upstart wouldn’t derail their guy. Did they really believe that Palin could seriously spark enough excitement into the McCain campaign to pull off the upset? I doubt it… but they weren’t going to take the chance! In the beginning no one gave the relatively unknown junior Black Senator from Illinois a chance against the Clinton machine… and look what happened! The lesson was learnt:
“Never underestimate your opponent!”
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