The Conventional Wisdom is jelling fast around a general election contest between St John McCain and the New Kid in Town, Barack Obama. The alleged collapse of the Hillary and Mitt campaigns has opened the way for something else altogether. The Crotchety, Crusty, Old Warrior against the Young, Untested, Charming, Inspirational Organizer. Now this is a contest our Media Stars can get into.
Brooksie opens the door:
Both Barack Obama and John McCain attract independents. Both have a candor that appeals to voters and media-types alike. Both ask their audiences to serve a cause greater than self-interest. Both offer a politics that is grand and inspiring.
But they are very different men. Their policies obviously conflict, but their skills, world views and moral philosophies set them apart, too. One man celebrates communitarian virtues like unity, the other classical virtues like honor.
Obama’s great skill is his ability to perceive and forge bonds with other people. Everybody who’s dealt with him has a story about a time when they felt Obama profoundly listened to them and understood them. One of mine came a few years ago.
I was writing columns criticizing the Republican Congress, but each time I’d throw in a few sentences slamming the Democrats, subconsciously trying to make myself feel good. One morning I got an e-mail message from Obama that roughly said: David, if you want to critique us, fine. But you’re just throwing in those stray sentences to make yourself feel good.
I felt like a bug pinned down in a display case.
The key to the quote is the last line, and it helps explain why Media Stars are captivated by Obama. He nails them -- in a way they like. The other candidates, particularly Hillary and John Edwards -- criticize the Media, but so what? Everybody does, and with the same tired old complaints about "bias" and "obsession" and whatnot, who cares? Brooksie reveals why Obama does so well with the Media and why they listen to him: he "knows their heart." It's not about what they do. It's how they feel.
This could be a lesson for all the blogospheric Media Critics. Fret less about what the Media Stars DO and write, and pay more attention to how they FEEL. Maybe they'll start to change their ways. Then again, maybe not.
And Brooksie has this to say about St John:
McCain’s weakness is that he flies by the seat of his pants. If elected, he will have to live in the cocoon of the White House and build an organized and predictable administration. As a pilot, he got used to taking off from aircraft carriers. But as president, he’ll be the guy steering the aircraft carrier.
And who does that remind us of? And the nation wants more of that? We've already had eight years of seat of the pants piloting; how has that worked out? Do we really want to maintain the status quo, more bloodshed, more debt, more despair -- because it's been so good to us so far?
Brooksie may not have realized what he was writing there, just feeling the moment and all, but we should not forget. Ever.
The Obama Surge (as they say) is breathtaking, his crowds are huge, his presence (at least when he is "on") is electrifying. Sounds Dean-ish to me, but Dean was never able to translate the Performance into votes. As has been pointed out, young people said they'd turn out for Dean in Iowa, but ultimately they didn't do it, and there was no real post-mortem to figure out why.
Obama, on the other hand, has not only marshalled the young, he is drawing them into the game by the truckload, and they are going out and casting their votes. Is it because they know now what the consequences are for not participating and they don't want to make the same mistake twice? Or is it something else?
Could be. Mostly, Americans just want the Bushevik nightmare over.
The Times tries to posit and equivalent Youth Appeal between the Codger and the RockStar, but the result is an ugly piece of fiction at best. The equivalence is found at Dartmouth where some hundreds turn out for St John, while some thousands turn out for Obama. See? Youth Appeal! Well, nobody showed up for Rudy! and John Edwards only draws an older crowd, so nobody needs to pay attention to him. Hillary? Hillary who?
But still, there might be some merit:
Mr. Obama challenges young people daily, urging them to prove pundits wrong by turning out in vast numbers. Booming applause greets his words.
“It would be such a shame after seeing the great turnout in Iowa if we weren’t working as hard as we could to make sure that story continues, because I think that was the biggest story out of Iowa,” Mr. Obama told an audience on Monday. “That transcends any individual candidate.”
The precise alchemy of this attraction is uncertain, as often is true in politics. It owes perhaps to Mr. Obama’s youthful look and multicultural persona, his soaring words and a message tinged with liberal politics and talk of uniting partisans.
“It’s not something he’s doing.” Professor Bafumi said. “It’s something he’s being.”
Being or Doing? You decide.
While the Codger plots and plans and makes much of the fact that his Surge in Iraq has saved American lives, the New Kid is working the Kenya Problem to save African lives and maybe a whole lot more. If he can pull it off, what's to stop him from going all the way to the White House besides Mr. Testy Flyboy, whose legendary Anger Management problems will likely get us into four more wars before he keels over from his stroke in the White House Bunkers if he's elected. Then one supposes St John's VP, Rudy! (wouldn't he have to pick him for "balance?"), would inherit the Autocracy and start speaking from balconies and such.
Do Americans want that? No. Obviously not. But will they elect Barack Obama in November?
That remains to be seen. First he's got to get the Democratic nomination; then he has to survive the pack of media hyenas that will dog his every word and act; then of course there will be the endless brickbats, maybe poorly aimed, from the R candidate (and if it is McCain, they'll probably stink to high heaven, too); and then of course he'll have to dodge the resurgent racism of the outraged Confederacy -- which is by no means confined to the South.
If he can get through that, sure. The People will happily elect him. Now the question will be: will their votes be counted?
The questions never end.
On the other hand, even if they reject St John's warmongering and temper tantrums and all the rest of the baggage McCain will bring to the election, would the American People really reject him when the chips are down? Could they?