Tuesday, August 05, 2008


In a post this morning about the Republicans' inane campaign to ignore Barack Obama's energy plan and focus on (and mock) his statement on tire pressure (which was, after all, in response to a question about what individuals can do themselves immediately in the gas crisis), Steve Benen wrote this:

I was talking to a friend of mine yesterday about all of this, and he said I was overly concerned with facts and truths. Republicans win elections because they don't care -- in a case like this, the only thing anyone will remember is the stunt/prop, not the fact that they were blatantly lying and blatantly wrong.

That may very well be. Indeed, it probably points to a vicious cycle -- Republicans make up a lie. We point out how insane the lie is, and feel better about being smarter than Republicans. Voters, not knowing better, believe the lie. Satisfied with the reward, Republicans feel encouraged to make up a new lie, which again leads us to point out how insane the lie is....

The problem is, Steve is skipping a step. After "We point out how insane the lie is, and feel better about being smarter than Republicans," what happens is that voters (or at least some of them) resent us for being smarty-pants -- and resent the politician we're defending for the same reason.

Ta-Nehisi Coates addressed this today in response to another issue -- the sneering reference by a McCain campaign spokesman to the herb tea Obama likes and the power bars he eats. Coates says:

What the elitism slur banks on is the idea that people don't resent those who have more than them, they resent those who know more than them. Or at least seem to.

I think something like that is going on with regard to Obama and energy. When he downplays what must seem to a lot of people like the obvious immediate windfall to be had from "drill here, drill now," when he says (correctly) that it wouldn't be immediate and wouldn't be as much of a windfall as is widely believed, and then when he adds that a simple adjustment by individual drivers can achieve a lot, it's quite possible that people think he's just a smart guy trying to bamboozle them. Hunh? What's he saying? Obviously drilling here and drilling now would be the solution ... er, right?

They resent his fancy logic, which says that changing oil supply isn't as simple as it looks. So they want him brought down a peg.

That's why this part of Obama's response isn't going to cut it with those voters:

"Now two points, one, they know they're lying about what my energy plan is, but the other thing is they're making fun of a step that every expert says would absolutely reduce our oil consumption by 3 to 4 percent. It's like these guys take pride in being ignorant...."

Yes, that's precisely what the McCainites are taking pride in. They're reassuring voters that there's nothing to be gained from paying attention to the smart-sounding guy, and, in fact, it's better to just make fun of him.

The only question is how many voters feel good in response to the McCain approach -- and how many can listen to someone who's offering nuanced solutions without feeling diminished.

No comments: