The Resistance to Change


What a difference a week makes! The daily Gallup tracking poll had Obama up by nine points last week. Now, his lead is down to three points.

Last week, this blog referred to the Rove Effect, and it solicited a number of responses. Does anyone still think Rove is not involved? Innuendo, subtle messaging, and turning an asset into a liability is his style—and the Obama camp had better realize it. When Rove referred to Obama as a pretentious snob a month ago, he knew where he was going with this, just as he did with the Swift Boat strategy after the Democratic convention promoted John Kerry’s military record. If you recall, the Democrats wanted to show that Kerry could be a stronger commander-in-chief than Bush, and he was believable until the Swift Boat ads. Rove and his operatives decided they would raise doubts and they succeeded. The Paris Hilton/Britney Spears spot was intended to mock the rock star image Obama cultivated on his overseas trip by associated him with vampish celebrities of dubious reputation. It also had subtle racial overtones—blond, white girls with the black rockstar. This ad and the one that followed—with Moses parting the waters—had as a goal to narrow the gap. It worked. (In 2004, Kerry took a full two weeks to respond to the Swift Boat accusations and, by then, he was 8 points behind.)

After the Denver convention, you can be sure the 527s will kick in. (Watch for a reappearance of Pastor Wright.) Does anyone think Rove won’t be involved? Like him or not, Rove is a genius when it comes to these Machiavellian, ‘the ends justify the means’-type tactics. He learned from Lee Atwater, the late master-strategist of Bush senior. The Obama camp had to know this would happen. It is all to do with the resistance to change.

The Obama camp must not allow itself to be mesmerized by the Rove effect. However, while some naïve bloggers have failed to recognize Rove’s voodoo magic because he is not officially on McCain’s payroll, it would be a tragic mistake to see these latest ads as merely tactical. They are strategic and are aimed at reinforcing fears and doubts about a first term senator who just celebrated his 47th birthday this week and who has limited experience. He is up against an experienced legislator who happens to be a war hero. And with 527s, it will only get worse. McCain’s camp recently accused Obama of injecting race into the contest with his off-the-cuff remark about the Republicans painting him as different from “all those other presidents on the dollar bills.” A smart move by McCain’s people and an error by Obama. But make no mistake about it, race will be on the ballot, as will doubt. And it will not be the Democrats’ doing.

Barack Obama has demonstrated that he is a  viable candidate who has captured the imagination of an important segment of the electorate with his message of change and hope. This election should be about the state of America, both domestically and internationally. The people want change badly and the outgoing administration is the most unpopular in history. McCain is a fine man and is giving his best shot, but he supports policies that will continue America’s current situation. Are Americans better off today than they were 8 years? Do they want more of the same for the next 4 years? This is what this election is about, not whether Obama is greeted by 200,000 Germans.

The fact is Obama is able to mobilize and inspire new voters and people who had given up on politics. That is what he must do rather than spend two days commenting on Rove-inspired ads. Making one of his own to respond was fine in the short term, but this is the Rove agenda he is responding to. The best way to combat the resistance to change is to push change even more: Remind voters why they want and need change; propose an agenda of change; and repeat, repeat, repeat! Reagan did it in 1980 and so did Clinton in 1992. Both were change elections, and Obama should adopt the same strategy.


The Resistance to Change

  1. I don’t think Rove is involved. McCain recently hired Steve Schmidt to run his campaign and there is no evidence Rove is involved, though Schmidt undoubtedly learned some lessons from him.

    I think you are reaching when you write “It also had subtle racial overtones—blond, white girls with the black rockstar.” Most people understood what he was talking about. The Harold Ford commercial a few years ago would be closer to what you are talking about but I personally thought the Ford ad was funny.

    Why don’t you mention Obama playing the race card when you look at the reasons for his drop in the polls? When Obama basically says all white people are racist, many in the msm seem to take it as fair comment but they get the vapors when a couple of ads point out that Obama has a messiah complex.

  2. Oh please, John Parisella, this is amateurish and silly.

  3. It’s a well known fact that Steve Schmidt was a Rove protege. Rove may not be on the payroll, but it’s pretty obvious that he is having some influence here. As Rove and Bush remain unpopular, it would unwise to advertise his involvement in McCain’s campaign. But to believe that he is completely estranged from the MCCain camp is naive, bordering on willfully ignorant.

    Also, Happy Infidel, your comment is what is silly and amateurish. If you have a valid criticism, let’s hear it. If not, stop wasting our time with childish opinions.

  4. Gillian,

    Here’s an example of a researched and factual analysis of Obama’s record in Chicago by Stanley Kurtz in the Weekly Standard:


    This, on other hand, is an example of a “talking point” based on conspiracy theory:

    “But make no mistake about it, race will be on the ballot, as will doubt. And it will not be the Democrats’ doing.”

    Hence the comment “amatuerish and silly.”

  5. Maybe it wasn’t the ads (which I don’t think were that great), but Obama’s reaction to them.

  6. John,

    It seems to me that the punditry industry will take any political ad and draw some sort of hidden meaning from it. There’s always a hidden agenda/angle to find, even if one was not intended.

    You write:”The Paris Hilton/Britney Spears spot was intended to mock the rock star image Obama cultivated on his overseas trip by associated him with vampish celebrities of dubious reputation.”

    So, I’ve been racking my limited knowledge of rock stars and celebrities for some more suitable examples that you or others could not make similar inferences about racism or other inuendos.

    So, instead of Paris and Britney, can you give me some examples of celebrities that could have been used without hidden meanings or overtones?

    Michael Jackson? Male, black, rock star. But you’d be suggesting Obama is weird and perhaps enjoys too much the company of young men.

    Pamela Anderson? OK, still white and racist, but wouldn’t you be suggesting Obama isn’t quite all real below the surface?

    Tommy Lee, her on again, off again husband? Freudian penis envy.

    I’m stumped. Give me an example of rock star/celebrity where, if I tried hard enough, I couldn’t draw some sort of inference or hidden meaning.

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