The Retro-Campaign

The above video is the song they chose to play as President Obama took the stage Thursday night. The opening refrain are the only two lines that played: The more you see the less you know / The less you find out as you go. More than the irony and hilarity of those two lines playing for Obama, the song itself is about heartbreak and loss. Seriously, loss in homemade rags basically sums it up. Who is in charge of picking the music at these things anyway? This choice was as bad as the RNC playing Sweet Home Alabama to introduce Condi Rice. WTF? Anyway…

For his talk of moving forward, Barack Obama is running a retro-campaign. As he walked us down the circular staircase into his preacher’s voice in his acceptance speech, I couldn’t help but notice his over-reliance on the simplistic three-point structure I teach my students in remedial college writing. 40 minutes is a long time to keep using this strategy, but he did. Over and over again he would assert a broad topic, then hit on three major details of that topic. This is how he has hypnotized unthinking Democrats over the course of the last five years. They are still held in thrall by his elementary trinity strategy.

But beyond his well-entrenched form, Obama didn’t offer much new in the way of substance. He has definitely earned the nickname I gave him: Rerun (remember What’s Happening!!?). He invoked FDR and Lincoln, being careful to add an ironic line regarding the former about how not every problem can be solved by a new program or dictate from Washington. This from the man who gave us Obamacare. Regarding the latter, he added a self-serving flourish about his own failures, as if that could make him as great as our 16th president. But this is not the Civil War, and it’s not even the Civil Rights era, facts that Obama finds much to his disliking.

His speech was riddled with ironies. Obama gave lots of bullet-pointed items on what he’d like to change in a second term, but he didn’t provide any substance anymore than Romney did the week before. That’s the nature of modern campaigns and conventions, and Obama looked rather silly complaining about Romney doing it while he did it himself. He mentioned a million new manufacturing jobs he would like to create and expected applause for what hasn’t happened yet while a mere 23 million people remain out of work. He talked about reducing oil imports without ever mentioning that gas prices were so high and that so many people were out of work that of course we were using less gas. He just wanted to take credit for the reduction without owning the causes. He talked about environmentalism and coastal safety without mentioning the disaster of the BP Oil Spill that happened on his watch and which his administration floundered in addressing.

He also stole many, many ideas from other people. This is what Obama does, and he’s usually pretty good at it, but this time he was too transparent. He talked of having “held in his arms” the parents of our dead soldiers,  a line he cribbed from Jesus Himself. His talk of government reform leading to a leaner, more efficient government was stolen straight from Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney. He also stole Romney’s “Believe” slogan, and attached it to his rerun idea about this election being about you, not him, even as he claimed to be the voice of you. He talked about “getting back to basics,” a marketing strategy that is being used by countless companies trying to find purchase in this disastrous economy, and preached from the pulpits every Sunday. He’s going to move us forward by getting back to basics. Change you can believe in, huh? I don’t think so. I think it sounded like he put his old ideas and the ideas of several others into a centrifuge and gave it a whirl. Whatever it spat out is what went into the speech.

It was quite a lot to take in if only because it was such a manifestation of his own arrogance and hubris and that tends to wear on people after a while. I watched so much of this Convention, at least as much as I watched the RNC in Tampa, and here’s the message I’ve decided they tried to sell: We think we’re badasses. So please, please, please don’t destroy our convictions and assumptions with logic, please don’t take our teddy bear away from us! This is the way toddlers and teenagers think and act. Compare that with Tampa’s message of We’re adults and we can help, so at least give us a listen and a chance. Neither one is necessarily a winning message, but I know which one I’m more inclined to take seriously and support.

It’s important to keep in mind here the facts on the ground of the electoral landscape. Obama needs at least the numbers he got in 2008 to meet the renewed enthusiasm on the right. No one on the right who stayed home in 2008 will do that this year. Paulbots will have less potency than PUMA did, quite frankly. There are zero McCain voters moving into Obama’s column while there are plenty of Obama voters moving into the Romney column. Independents, by most major polls, are surging toward Romney more and more. And Team Obama doesn’t have quite the GOTV effort that the media would like you to think he has, or else they wouldn’t need to open up twice as many field offices in New Mexico, for crying out loud, just last week. Meanwhile, events like this are happening across the country. And while Independents and the GOP are energized, Obamacrats are depressed, especially younger voters, despite this convention. It won’t budge the real numbers in any meaningful way.

Obama’s campaign is retro because it looks back, not forward.

It is about two things: social issues and a Republican Party that doesn’t exist as he would like to sell it anymore. The promise of Romney is that he threatens a new paradigm for the GOP and for America itself. While Obama is busy with invocations of FDR, Romney actually is the FDR of the GOP. Not in policy, of course, but in being the kind of person who is confident and competent enough to actually solve the problems that need to be addressed, and the vision to try the kind of bold actions that are called for. He can rebrand the GOP with that confidence, competence, and vision. I have little doubt he will.

What Obama doesn’t understand about social issues is that they have no value this year. They are like Confederate money circa 1888: quaint and collectable, but they won’t purchase a damn thing, not even a hold on the electorate anymore. They are nails he can hammer away at, but they fly into thin air. The only people they matter to are the people Democrats told them to matter to–gays, blacks, Hispanics–and those constituencies aren’t enough to cobble together a win. Because Dems left women out of this equation for so long, that has come back to bite them and they are not a special interest group that can be captured in the same way these others groups have been. And Dems really have no one to blame for that but themselves. Hillary and Sarah are too fresh in our minds, as is the utter hypocrisy of the Democrat’s idea of a war on women just four years after they executed the equivalent of a World War on Women.

As far as the GOP being the party Obama wants them to be–the party of Nixon, Reagan, and W. Bush–that is not who they are anymore, and that is a narrative that has been fed into the subtext of our consciousness for several years now. It won’t resonate with anyone but hardcore Obamacrats, those zombie Democrats who are operating on some sort of thoughtless instinct and in search of flesh, who tune out all other interference but what they want, which is more Obama.

Over and above the promise of being the GOP’s version of FDR, Romney also holds the promise of being finally able to get the party past the Nixonites. You don’t see them on the scene anymore. They are all old and too feeble now to work in any administration, and the bridge that is Condoleeza Rice is far to savvy to let the stink of the old-timers stay upon her. He has tamed the Tea Party after the Tea Party, like Rome’s lions, ate the old guard Christians, a constituency you also don’t hear much from anymore. It is the GOP, not the Democratic Party, that is looking and moving forward, and the great moderate middle of the electorate understands this on some level.

I still think that middle, led by the boomer and Gen-X constituencies in the Midwest, will lead Romney to victory. They will do this not so much because they like Romney or buy his message, but because that message resonates a bit more than what Peggy Noonan called the “soft extremism” of the left these days. These voters, especially those Gen-xers like me, have a message to deliver, and it is a retro-message to be sure. It is a message about convictions, assumptions and teddy bears and just who it is a President should serve.

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27 comments on “The Retro-Campaign

  1. wmcb says:

    Excellent, Lola!

  2. 1539days says:

    I think Sweet Home Alabama is a kick ass song for any occasion

    • Anna Belle says:

      LOL! Well, I do love it, but it comes across as out of touch for introducing Condi, IMHO.

      • angienc says:

        No, it doesn’t — she’s from Birmingham, Alabama & the b.s. that the song is “racist” is from misinterpretation of it on the left — in the same way that Born in the USA or Rocking in the Free World is misinterpreted on the right. (FTR, the refrain “boos” the reference to Wallace re: “In Birmingham they loved the governor” & the song ends with “Montgomery got the answer” re: civil rights march).

        Sweet Home Alabama was a “response song” to Neil Young’s Alabama & Southern Man wherein he took the (usual) left-wing view that Southerns are nothing bunch of hick racists. Sweet Home Alabama is a “thank you for your ‘concern’ now get lost and stop making such broad generalizations about things & people you know nothing about, Canuck.”

        • Anna Belle says:

          Okay, but how do you feel about Blinding Lights as the intro to Obama? That’s what’s really important here.

        • 1539days says:

          Ironically, Neil Young has said he likes the song and it was better than his Alabama songs.

          “Well I heard mister Young sing about her
          Well, I heard ole Neil put her down
          Well, I hope Neil Young will remember
          A Southern man don’t need him around anyhow”

        • angienc says:

          @AnnaBelle — well, what’s important to me as a Southerner is the repeated, casual assertion that Sweet Home Alabama is a racist song. But, frankly, I think reading too much into what song is used in a campaign is a trivial pursuit — it may be interesting to talk about but I don’t think song choice should be extrapolated too far.

          @Days — well of course Young has to admit that, because it’s true. Sweet Home Alabama is not only a better song than his Alabama songs, it’s better than *any* of his songs. He’d be a laughingstock if he didn’t admit that. 🙂

        • Anna Belle says:

          Angie, I understand where you are coming from, but you aren’t the only authority on being southern here. I was born in KY and raised in Texas. Not trying to being pissy, but you are coming across kind of pissy. Do you have nothing whatsoever productive to say about the contents of the 1300+ word essay itself, or did you just stop reading at the end of the first paragraph?

        • angienc says:

          And I’m the one being pissy? Pfft.

          Now you are going to try to out-Southern me when you talk ALL THE TIME about how you are a Midwesterner and how that gives you special insight into the Romney “Midwestern values” plan? Which is it, because you sure as heck can’t be seriously claiming Southern cred by stating you grew up in Texas — that would make you TEXAN — just ask any Texan (or Southerner for that matter).

          And sorry, didn’t realize there were rules on what one was allowed to comment on here. I won’t make that mistake again. ‘kthanksbye!

        • Dan Sh1138 says:

          Don’t even get me started on the whole U2/Obama thing….it just saddens me 😦

        • Anna Belle says:

          Angie, I have lived in the Midwest for 25+ years. But I grew up in the south. This is silly. It’s my subjective opinion on a song, for christsakes, but you act like I tore up your fucking Quran. Get over yourself and stop for a minute and ask yourself: what if I was at work and I wrote what I thought was a really good brief and one of my co-workers was all shitty about some inconsequential part of it?

          This is not my hobby; it’s one of my jobs. I take this seriously. I let my commenters say what they want, but when they get their bitch on and try to hijack the thread about something that isn’t even on topic, I’m also going to say something about it. I tried to be polite about it, but you won’t have it. I have no idea what got stuck in your craw, but it ain’t about me. And if you’re so thin-skinned you’re going to stalk off a blog about it, that says more about you than it does about me. GBCW, says Angie. What-the-fuck-ever.

  3. Thia says:

    I loved your simplification of the two conventions’ messages and couldn’t agree more – I just couldn’t articulate it nearly as well 😉

    FYI Condi Rice is a very proud daughter of Alabama – hence the song. She loves it.

    • Anna Belle says:

      I knew why they played it, but with its reference to Birmingham and the Governor, especially in light of her talk of growing up with segregation, it was tone deaf at best.

  4. kanaughty says:

    i would like to say…. love nine inch nails! perfect and trent reznor so passionate. thanks for reminding me of this song.

    also i love how you compared ob to confederate money after the civil war. perfect.

    he is not a man of the time, never has been, but people drank the kool-aid.

    romney is not perfect, but i think he is better than ob. he has proven to actually lead in his career unlike ob. i think history dictates people’s character and future actions, so i think romney can and will get things done to help the economy.

    ob is flailing and just has no idea how to fix it except to keep pulling people out of the unemployment numbers in order to fix the rate and make it look like the the percentage is going down when in reality it isn’t going down. people are just giving up looking for work and falling off the rolls. people are underemployed too.

    there really is no hope under ob right now. i think romney will do what he says he will do because his past has shown results. so i am willing to give the guy a chance personally.

    i believe romney has more integrity in one of his hair follickles than ob has in any of his being at all past or present. he is one lazy guy who should never have been given the toughest job in the world. this isn’t an internship job, and he sure treated it like one.

    all he does and all he has done is campaign. so really what would he do the next four years since he doesn’t have to campaign anymore? i think he would do absolutely nothing and pay lip service to everything and take all the credit but none of the responsibilities. he would be a lame duck president for all four years. playing more golf, etc. etc.

    thanks for your blog 🙂

  5. Dan Sh1138 says:

    Awesome post.

    I think what the Republicans did in 2008 was take the lesssons they learned from the 2 terms of Bush and from McCain’s defeat and craft enough of a new ideology through the Tea Party and marry that to enough of the traditional Republican ideology of old to give the party itself a more competitive message for this election. As much as I’ve seen the “old” Republican ideology, this “new” aspect is I think different from anything the Democratic party has faced… the last big shift in Republican Party was the influence of the religious right in the late 70s and into the 80s

    What Obama tried to do in 2008 campaign, and ultimately failed to do in his first term IMO, is take the traditional ideology of the Democratic party (poor/working/middle class) and marry it to the effette academic ideology of the upper class/intellectual left…that is why we are seeing such a schism in the Democratic party right now..Obama gives lip service to the traditional Democratic base while being a member of the “new Left” but I don’t think he connects with the base on the same visceral level that Bill Clinton did (who also grew up fatherless and at the very least poor/working class) or even Biden (probably middle class Scranton upbringing). The idea that Obama, due to his international pedigree as a youth and his academic pedigree as a man, was going to lead us to a new Golden Age of American Utopia looks hopelessly naive at this point, but that’s how it was sold and in 2008 people bought it.

    The best thing to happen to the Democratic party at this point would be to lose, lose big, and then take a few years and pick up the ashes of the party and craft it into something new that resonates to the people that it claims to represent.

    I don’t agree with most Repubican politics, and I certainly don’t agree with Romney/Ryan, but it’s clear to see that their message is resonant with the voters that they are targeting. For better or for worse.

    I don’t know what Obama’s message is at this point, I don’t know what the Democratic party message is at this point is other than “Were not the Republicans”.

    But AnnaBelle, I do think you’re spot on in your assesment of Romney and the Republicans re-inventing themselves to a large degree in the past 4 years. I don’t think Romney will be the Republican FDR/Clinton or the next Reagan, and honestly if I’m wrong I’ll happily be wrong and hopefully the country overall will be better as a result of that.

    I do think you’re right, the Democrats are facing a Republican party that is markedly different from the type of Republican party that has existed in the past..while the Democrats are struggling to get a message across at all.

    • Anna Belle says:

      The best thing to happen to the Democratic party at this point would be to lose, lose big, and then take a few years and pick up the ashes of the party and craft it into something new that resonates to the people that it claims to represent.

      Stellar comment overall, but I especially agree with this. If this happens, Obama-ideology gets stopped in it’s tracks, instead of becoming dominant and that is necessary because it is such a bad ideology. If they lose this year, and I think they will, they will have to reinvent themselves just as the GOP is having to do. I’m glad you’re at least open to Romney bringing real change. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

      • Dan Sh1138 says:

        I think it’s fair to say, paraphrasing the words of the man himself:

        “If elected, I’d want Romney to succeed because I’d want America to succeed.”

        The Obama Left HAS to be repudiated, that wing of the Democratic party has to go away.

        That SHOULD have been obvious to Democrats after the 2010 midterms.

        In 2010, when Obama had the BALLS to say: ‘Well, the big difference here and in 1994 is that now you’ve got me.” and the Democratic party proceeded to get ANNIHILATED in the midterms, alarm bells should have been going off on every level of the Democratic party, but here we are, two years later and Obama is still trying to sell the same BS, the same excuses and the same hollow and warmed over promises from his campaign? That’s just pathetic.

        Not only do the Democrats NEED to lose, they DESERVE to lose…Obama needs to be given a one way ticket to his compound in Hawaii and whatever is left of the brains of the Democratic party have to go back and say “Hey what are we all about?” and then come back in 2014 and 2016 and be that.

        I think in the longrun if we are stuck with a two party system that’s the only way the Democrats get back on track.

  6. 1539days says:

    If Obama gave his speech at the stadium, they could have used “MacArthur Park.”

  7. […] Cross posted (and slightly edited for the Skynyrd fans ) from P&L. […]

  8. DeniseVB says:

    Sweet Home Alabama is one of my fav Reese Witherspoon movies and there were no black people in it, except for a minor gay guy role. Love the song.

    Did you see where R.E.M got upset with Fox for playing one of their songs? Here was the response:

    “FOX News Channel’s use of an R.E.M. song during Thursday’s edition of Fox & Friends was in full accordance with its license agreements with all appropriate parties. Nevertheless, we’re always flattered to have this much attention for a song selection and we hope R.E.M. was able to satisfy their publicity fix.”

  9. I just love your writing Anna Belle. You chew a phrase and turn it over so similarly to the poetic phrasing of Christopher Hitchens, a writer I always enjoyed and am sorry he is gone from us.

    also, it is so apt to juxtapose the accusations of the ones bringing us the “War on Women” with the REAL world war on women that they set loose in 2008.

    The times they are a changin……

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