Sour Grapes

Making It turned out to be a great article and a goldmine for bloggers like me, who thrive on political deconstruction. But the reaction to the cover is a shame. The reaction has been so outrageous, so over the top, and so indicative of black cultural paranoia (yes, I said it) and its twin, white guilt, that the contents of the article associated with it will never get out, or discussed. Perhaps, as Dr. Socks suggests, that’s just the point of all this outrage. Making It is not a very flattering portrait of Obama, or Chicago for that matter. But truth is a casualty for the Obama campaign.

At 15 pages, the article is way too big to discuss in one post, so I’ll be writing about it in chunks, starting, oddly enough, at the very end. There are a bunch of “tells” in this article (to use a metaphor Obama can actually understand), talking points that can be used to open eyes and ears, and today I want to start with a very important one: Discrediting the internal opposition. Here’s the quote that ultimately led to this analysis:

Obama’s establishment inclinations have alienated some old friends. During the 2004 Senate primary, Obama sometimes reminded voters of his anti-machine credentials, but at the same time he shrewdly wrote to Mayor Daley’s brother, William, who had backed one of Obama’s primary opponents, asking for his support if he won the primary. As he outgrew the provincial politics of Hyde Park, he became closer to the Mayor, and this accommodation, as well as his unwillingness to condemn the corruption scandals ensnaring Daley and Blagojevich, both of whom he supported for reelection, have some of his original supporters feeling alienated and angry. “I am not thrilled with Barack, simply because we elected him as an Independent, and he switched over to Daley,” Alan Dobry said. Ivory Mitchell, speaking of Obama’s Senate race, said, “When he won the primary out here and he went downtown, it appears as though Daley took over the campaign for him. . . . We were excluded.” David Axelrod told me, in response, that some of the Independents on the South Side blame Daley for just about anything. “I think there’s kind of this Wizard of Oz mystique,” he said. “Daley had virtually no role in the Senate campaign.”

Did you notice that, right at the end? That’s David Axelrod selling sour grapes. And then lying about the Mayor’s roll in Obama’s political history.

People have a hard time identifying and articulating exactly what it is about Obama that they find unacceptable. I have a hard time articulating it myself, and I have a B.A. in English with a 4.0 G.P.A. in the major. But what this dynamic does—this befuddling dynamic—is it allows the campaign to attribute feelings of dis-ease and legitimate intellectual objections to something petty, to be sold down the line as sour grapes. Easily discounted. Nothing legitimate here. Except it is entirely legitimate for people who’ve worked for years on behalf of Obama’s political career, and who are part of his constituencies, to feel lied to when he lies to them. And lie is what he did—he suggested he could and would deliver some goods, and then he failed to even try. That’s lying, and opportunism, the kind of deliberately ambiguous double-talk that was so efficiently described by George Orwell in his famous 1946 essay Politics and the English Language. Obama’s political double-talk is pretty offensive. And it’s so smooth that it takes a discerning ear to pick up on it immediately.

This is a different strategy than the one used for “outsiders” or those they are seeking to push to the outside, such as white women over 30. For those people, or for anyone in the press, the fallback is the charge of racism, which we have discussed before. This strategy is particularly effective with the press. It’s been gratifying to see the New Yorker fighting back on this confusing and demeaning, as well as utterly false charge against them. Talk of the Nation was very interesting yesterday afternoon for discussion of this particular employment of this strategy.

These two strategies have to be considered and response strategies have to be developed before this gets away from us. We have to be able to reveal to average US voters the real Obama, a way to peek behind the curtain at the Obama campaign. We have to push the backstory into the present, with all the elements of the narrative revealed so that people can’t suspend their disbelief. And we have to develop those strategies now, before the convention and the juggernaut of the MLK Anniversary, and during the actual campaign afterward if he succeeds at the convention (not a given at this point). Part of that involves calmly and rationally repeating our arguments to as many sources as we can find. A few of us are developing strategies behind the scenes to lobby superdelegates in that vein, because they matter first.

If we don’t work on this, if we fail at the convention and Obama is elected he will never even try, as his record clearly shows, to implement most of the double-talking promises he’s making now. The only promises he’ll keep are the promises that help him, or that help the people he owes who can still help him. Guess who will not be in that group should he win the presidency? Average voters. So-called Progressive. Working class people of every color. Women. Democrats. You get the idea. The sour grapes meme will grow to include ever-growing groups of people, people who resent his old style, or his new style, or who hold grudges because their candidate lost, or who hold grudges because their party has been on a losing streak, or whatever it is to do with the people, not Obama. Of course it’s not Obama. It’s never his fault. It’s just sour grapes. And nothing is more easily discounted than sour grapes. We can’t let that happen.


5 comments on “Sour Grapes

  1. annabellep says:

    Sorry I’ve been offline for a day. Still moving, and now am working on an interview for Friday for a new job (an opportunity came out of the blue). Posting will sporadic until next week. If anything really important happens within PUMA and associated movements, please drop me a line so I can stay in the loop. I’ve felt so out of time for the last few days…


  2. Steven Mather says:

    Outstanding work!

    My first red flag about Obama was raised when I heard him say that he was not go to engage in the type of negative politics that his opponents practise. I was surprised that people did not recognize that this statement was a backdoor attack. Later in the campaign I heard him conjoin a similar preamble with a comment that he would also be different than his opponents because he was going to tell people the truth.

    I appreciate the Orwell link.

  3. Steven Mather says:

    oops. “going to engage”

  4. bluelyon says:

    Yes Steven, if he wasn’t going to engage in negative politics, why constantly point out what others are doing. Just be the positive example and if you are the real deal?

    Instead he engages in name-calling behavior designed to take the scrutiny off of him while he sticks a knife between the ribs of his opponent(s).

  5. bluelyon says:

    Okay…let me try again:

    Yes Steven, if he wasn’t going to engage in negative politics, why constantly point out what others are doing? Just be the positive example and trust us to figure it out.

    Instead he engages in name-calling behavior designed to take the scrutiny off of him while he sticks a knife between the ribs of his opponent(s).

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