A fellow poster over at Politcal Derby makes a few “FACT:” based points about the “you’re a celebrity” silliness that’s gone back and forth between the McCain and Obama camps. He’s quite right, but here’s the bottom line:
FACT: An election, is quite literally, a popularity contest.
It follows then, that mocking popularity is essentially misguided, and I’ll tell you why.
Before I start: yes, I understand that McCain’s attacks haven’t been maligning Obama for his popularity per se, but rather trying to paint Obama as merely a celebrity. And yes, as Mark Penn wrote in the Politico, attacking Obama through a perceived strength makes defending the criticism considerably more difficult. But I think think the implications of mocking popularity should be considered more deeply.
The risk McCain runs, and especially with ads like this, is that when you attack popularity, you’re also attacking those who engender popularity. That is, celebrity is a reflexive notion, and by tarring Obama as a “hollow suit” — to use a preferred jab of one of the Political Derby readers — you’re implicitly suggesting that his supporters are at best delusional and at worst plain stupid. I’m not entirely convinced that antagonizing and caricaturing voters is such a great political strategy. It would be pretty easy to throw together a video of McCain supporters spouting all orders of ignorance, but it wouldn’t be in Obama’s best interest to equate McCain voters with ignorant hysteria. In other words, it’s a difficult proposition to win votes by attacking voters. I suppose we’ll see how this evolves in the long run.
UPDATE: This post is on Political Derby (though pre-edits). As always, comments appreciated.