One of the political tactics the Republicans are brilliant at is stamping Democratic presidential candidates with an undesirable character trait that sticks in the American psyche. Think about it. Al Gore the pompous windbag. John Kerry the aloof elitist. Even Bill Clinton, who managed two victories, was still successfully labeled as a slippery womanizer. Now, these work because theyâ€™re based in truth â€“ the Republicans just expand the negative quality into caricature and then make that caricature the shorthand description of their opponentâ€™s character. If the Democrats had spent more time painting George Bush as a bumbling fool (believable) and less as Hitler (not believable) they may have won in 2004.
So far, the labeling of Barack Obama has been inexact. Effete? Not quite right. He shoots hoops, he doesnâ€™t wind surf. Maybe suffering from a messiah complex? No, thatâ€™s too over-the-top. How about: arrogant? Thatâ€™s the one I see beginning to stick. Itâ€™s actually a brilliant label from a Republican perspective. Itâ€™s non-racial and itâ€™s one of the most despised characteristics of the Bush administration. Who wants four more years of arrogant leadership?
Plus, it fits well enough. You canâ€™t describe your nomination as, â€œthe moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to healâ€ without getting some catcalls about your lack of humility. Obama speaks in grandiose language, itâ€™s not hard to assume he too is a bit pompous.
I really donâ€™t know how Obama can fight this label. Perhaps by perfecting the Democrats own labeling initiative â€“ the one that has McCain as McSame. Or as the angry old man. Heck, Bill Clinton escaped his labeling in 1992 by painting George H. W. Bush as out-of-touch and uncaring.
But, in the meantime, maybe Obama should just hold off on the healing the planet language.