Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A letter to Obama supporters

You desperately want to re-gain the White House. You’ve endured eight, long years of President Bush, wherein he pushed forth the Patriot Act, soiled our global reputation, got us into an illegal war in Iraq, failed to act while New Orleans was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, cow toed to Big Business, failed to act on global climate change and illegally spied on Americans.

That is what you believe. And not only that, you want Democratic nominee Barack Obama to win, so that we can finally rejoin the global community, take on climate change and get out of the Iraq quagmire. Achieving that task of getting Obama elected is not as easy as it might sound, and not everyone in the country is buying what Obama has to say. He didn’t get the Democratic nomination easily, leaving a lot of possibly disaffected Clinton supporters, and a lot of people in this historically center-right country who have concerns about this charismatic newcomer.

That means you have to put your money where it counts to get the man you want in the White House to win. There’s very good reasons to trust that Obama will use his campaign resources affectively, since he was able to bring down the Clinton Machine while being a relative newcomer to nationwide politics. You may disagree with Obama’s campaign on a few things, or don’t feel comfortable giving to the Democratic establishment, so you decide to invest in a political campaign organization better aligned with your beliefs, like the 1 million strong Moveon.org.

This is your big mistake. Politics isn’t about talking to constituents like you would your politically similar friends. It’s about convincing the undecided of the merits of your argument by relating to their own lives, something Bill Clinton did and John Kerry failed to do. Ads such as Moveon.org’s recent “Not Alex” ad is exactly an example of something that may be effective to your friends, but is going to be offensive, angering and ineffective to those you’re trying to get on your side.

The campaign ad, which Moveon.org has laughingly called its “most effective ad,” shows a mother holding her young baby, Alex. She is addressing Republican nominee John McCain, speaking about how much she adores her son before saying, “John McCain, when you say you will stay in Iraq for 100 years, were you counting on Alex? Because if you were you can’t have him.”

First, this ad is dishonest. The 100 years quote came after a questioner in New Hampshire asked him about staying in Iraq for 50 years. McCain replied, “Maybe a hundred. We’ve been in South Korea. We’ve been in Japan for 60 years. We’ve been in South Korea for 50 years or so. That’d be fine with me as long as Americans aren’t being injured or harmed or wounded or killed. It’s fine with me. I hope it’d be fine with you if we maintain a presence in a very volatile part of the world where Al Qaeda is training, recruiting, equipping and motivating people every single day.”

You can view McCain’s “100 years” statement unedited on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFknKVjuyNk.

This quote was used before, not just by Moveon.org but also by the Democratic Party itself in its “100” ad. While watching this ad on TV, an acquaintance of mine praised the ad. I told him it was dishonest, illustrating that they had obviously taken him out of context, to which he replied that it may be dishonest but it is naïve to believe that we can stay in Iraq without anyone being killed. That may be true, but that is not the argument that Moveon.org and the Democratic Party are touting. They are trying to make McCain look like he wants to have a massive war in Iraq like we’ve seen in the previous five years continue for a century, something anyone who pays attention to what McCain actually said can tell is not the case.

Second, the “Not Alex” ad makes no sense. As a grown man of military age, Alex would be legally free to make his own decisions independent of both his government and his mother. He could join the military, he could work at McDonald’s, and he could go to college or work for a presidential campaign, in addition to countless other avenues. There is a volunteer army and no draft, as there presumably would be when Alex is an adult. The ad is intended to grab for emotions and throws reason out the window.

Finally, third, it could very well be taken by those in the military or with family in the military as very insulting, as it insinuates that enlistment is somehow not a voluntary decision. This is a group of people that Obama would benefit greatly from having behind him, and would certainly be harmed by having against him.

On the Moveon.org website, next to a video clip of the “Not Alex” ad, it says, “Our new Iraq ad is the most effective ad we've ever put together. This isn't your average political ad--it lays out the truth about McCain's Iraq policy in a personal and compelling way. We just got the results back and polling shows that voters found it to be more persuasive than any other ad we've tested before.”

If they really believe this is their “most effective ad” they’ve ever put together, then I really wonder what kind of voters they showed this ad too. I can believe that people who voted for Kerry in 2004 and are already inclined towards Obama would cheer it on, but I highly doubt that Bush voters in Ohio, New Mexico, Florida or another swing state who don’t necessarily always vote Republican and are leaning towards Obama would have the same response.

Barack Obama would be wise to back as far away from Moveon.org as he possibly can if he wants to win over those voters, and those of you who want him to win would be wise to direct your money away from Moveon.org. Otherwise this “most effective ad” and others like it will result in being effective for John McCain’s campaign.

These Moveon.org ads could tilt the election by alienating swing voters. The leftists who make up Barack Obama’s core base will inevitably become convinced, if they manage to lose to Barack Obama after failing to speak to average Americans, that McCain stole the election, wondering how on earth John McCain got elected when Obama was riding so high and the incompetent Republican riding so low. I’m not emotionally invested in an Obama victory, or a McCain victory for that matter, but that would also drive me crazy for at least four years. Even if I’m no longer living in the Bay Area, and have relocated to a more libertarian-friendly city like San Diego or Nashville, I’ll have to hear whacked out conspiracy theories from my family members of how John McCain and the Republican Machine stole the election. I can already hear it in my head, and it’s already annoying.

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