BTC: Summer reading

From McCain’s Promise by David Foster Wallace.

Going Negative is risky. Polls have shown that most voters find Negativity big-time distasteful, and if a candidate is perceived as getting nasty, it usually costs him. So the techs all agree that the first big question is why Bush2000 started playing the Negativity card. One possible explanation is that the Shrub was so personally shocked and scared by McCain’s win in New Hampshire that he’s now lashing out like a spoiled child and trying to hurt McCain however he can. The techs reject this, though. Spoiled child or not, Governor Bush is a creature of his campaign advisors, and these advisors are the best that $70,000,000 and the full faith and credit of the GOP Establishment can buy, and they are not spoiled children but seasoned tactical pros, and if Bush2000 has gone Negative there must be solid political logic behind the move

“The Shrub’s attack leaves McCain with two options. If he does not retaliate, some SC voters will credit McCain for keeping to the high road. But it could also come off as wimpy, and so compromise McCain’s image as a tough, take-no-shit guy with the courage to face down the Washington kleptocracy. Not responding might also look like ‘appeasing aggressing,’ which for a candidate whose background is military and who spends a lot of time talking about rebuilding the armed forces and being less of a candy-ass in foreign policy would not be good, especially in a state with a higher percentage of both vets and gun nots than any other (which SC is). So McCain pretty much has to hit back, the techs agree. But this is extremely dangerous for by retaliating—which of course (despite all Murphy’s artful dodging) meanings going Negative himself—McCain runs the risk of looking like just another ambitious, win-at-any-cost politician, when of course so much time and effort and money have already gone into casting him as the exact opposite of that. Plus an even bigger reasons McCain can’t afford to let the Shrub ‘pull him down to his level’ is that if Bush then turns around and retaliates against the retaliation and so McCain then has to re-retaliate against Bush’s retaliation, and so on and so forth, then the whole GOP race could quickly degenerate into just the sort of boring, depressing, cynical, charge-and-countercharge contest that turns voters off and keeps them away from the polls…

“The techs say well OK maybe but what the really important tactical point here is that John S. McCain cannot afford to have voters get turned off, since his whole strategy is based on exciting people and inspiring them and polling more voters in, especially those who’d stopped voting because they’d gotten so disgusted and bored with all the Negativity and bullshit of politics. In other words, RS and the Detroit-free-weekly kid propose to the techs, it’s maybe actually in the Shrub’s own political self-interest to let the GOP race get ugly and Negative and have voters get so bored and cynical and disgusted with the whole thing that they don’t even bother to vote. Well no shit Sherlock H., the ABC techs in essence respond…”

“Assuming you are demographically a Young Voter, it is again worth a moment of your valuable time to consider the implications of the techs’ last couple points. If you are bored and disgusted by politics and don’t bother to vote, you are in effect voting for the entrenched Establishments of the two major parties, who please rest assured are not dumb, and who are keenly aware that it is in their interests to keep you disgusted and bored and cynical and to give you every possible psychological reason to stay at home doing one-hitters and watching MTV on primary day. By all means, stay home if you want, but don’t bullshit yourself that you’re not voting. In reality, there is no such thing as not voting: you either vote by voting, or you vote by staying home and tacitly doubling the value of some Diehard’s vote.”