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Obama's Response to the McCain "Celeb" Ad and What it Reveals About What Obama Thinks of the Electorate

Rod Dreher has penned some good observations on the latest dust-up in the race contest for the presidency. You can read it here. I published these comments in the combox:

What is particularly interesting about Obama's response is that he is implicitly suggesting that the electorate is latently racist and that when McCain, et. al. make ads like this they are in fact stirring what should remain latent. In other words, Obama is not insulting McCain's campaign, but he is actually complementing it! He is saying, "You sneaky bastards, you're manipulating the dumb and malleable unwashed masses that should legitimately be mine." Obama is insulting the electorate and employing that insult to shame and bully them into voting for him. If I may use a Platonic allusion, Obama is procuring the tactic, "Mandatory diversity training writ large." That's not "hope." That's fear; fear of shame, fear of being called a racist, fear of others thinking you may not like the black guy. So, when Obama says he wants "change," he is talking about you. You need to change, to become more "enlightened," unlike your Reagan Democrat parents who were probably racists. Obama does not want to dialogue with you, since to do so would imply that you may actually have a rationally defensible position that has a point. He wants to shepherd you through the transition out of your benighted red state moronic worldview. In Obama's universe, it's okay to talk down to people who are in fact beneath you. You are beneath him. Get with the program or he'll call you a racist.

There's a pattern emerging: Obama seems to instinctively resort at every turn to his one-size-fits-all explanation for why certain people and groups in our society would disagree with him: they are fundamentally irrational and need to be taught by the enlightened like him. From his comments about "clinging to guns and religion" to his prophesy that his opponents will say "he has a funny name" and "he is black" to the ease by which he appeals to "divisiveness" to account for the beliefs of the citizens of California who want to protect their understanding of marriage by means of amendment, Obama is suggesting that opposition to his candidacy and the ideas he holds dear cannot in principle arise from legitimate and serious disagreement by well-meaning fellow citizens.

The only audacity is calling this "hope."

(cross-posted)

Comments (6)

What is particularly interesting about Obama's response is that he is implicitly suggesting that the electorate is latently racist...

Hear Ye, hear Ye: The lot of you who DON'T vote for Obama come November are, in fact, RACIST!

As the Omnipotent Greeley remarked in all his Glory:

In fact, only a little more than half of the Democratic voters chose the senator from Illinois as their candidate. Were the other voters racist? Influenced by racism? Inclined to racism, which they hide even from themselves? Surely all of these factors were at work, but it is virtually impossible with the current research technology to sort them out. Moreover, is the voter a bigot who says -- to himself or others -- "He's too young for it," "I don't know anything about him," "He's an elitist," "He's just a lot of fancy talk," "The country isn't ready for a man like that," "He's weak in his support of Israel," "He's Muslim, possibly the anti-Christ!" Are these hints of lurking prejudice? Are the voters of regular members of the Democratic coalition -- Hispanics and union members -- against Obama partly because of racism?

So what's new ? Don't the sheep need the shepherd? Coursing through the veins of liberals is the almost genetic belief that the dolts they share the planet with are here to be led, given their morally spotted natures, not a pleasant task for a NY Times reader but one they assume with a kind of stoic heroism albeit with a dash of impatience.

If Barack/Michelle has made but one mistake it is to have expressed more than once the utter contempt they feel for the rest of us. Most liberals are much better at hiding their distaste but this pair feel that they are giving the nation a chance to redeem itself and will not suffer our ignorance and turpitude.

As well is this a set up wherewith to smear McCain as racist should he but find the tiniest imperfection in the god who would save us from ourselves.

What is particularly interesting about Obama's response is that he is implicitly suggesting that the electorate is latently racist and that when McCain, et. al. make ads like this they are in fact stirring what should remain latent. In other words, Obama is not insulting McCain's campaign, but he is actually complementing it! He is saying, "You sneaky bastards, you're manipulating the dumb and malleable unwashed masses that should legitimately be mine." Obama is insulting the electorate and employing that insult to shame and bully them into voting for him. If I may use a Platonic allusion, Obama is procuring the tactic, "Mandatory diversity training writ large." That's not "hope." That's fear; fear of shame, fear of being called a racist, fear of others thinking you may not like the black guy.

Many American voters have latent beliefs that're both false and hostile to black folk. The more salient those beliefs are made, the harder it is for black folk to be assessed on the merits. The possessor of a latent belief that black men permanently lust after white women isn't necessarily a racist, since it might well be that whenever such a belief is made salient, s/he is able to overcome its affective charge, and treat black men on the merits. Still, making the belief salient makes it harder for its possessor to do the right thing. Those latent beliefs shouldn't be made salient. (And especially not as crudely as McCain did: juxtaposing phallic symbols and white women of easy virtue with a black politician really is over-egging the pudding.)

Concerning Obama's comments:

Personally, I'd rather vote for Condalisa Rice, who's both black and female, before voting for either Obama or McCain. Why? She's more of a conservative than either. I don't care about color of skin as much as I care about color of ideology. Pink, Green, or Red, White and Blue. I choose the candidate who most closely align with my conservative (read the founding fathers intents) beliefs.

Francis, I say you've nailed it. Kudos!

My feeling has always been that it is Conservatives who have nothing but contempt for the "ordinary" citizen, and who therefore would like to pass reams of legislation to force people to make the correct choices. Conservatives more often try to restrict moral choices than economic ones, but want to restrict freedom in any event. Restrictions on homosexual behavior are the most obvious example here. I may believe that my sexuality is fine, but conservatives believe that I do not, in fact, know what is best for me (apparently I do not realize that acting on my homosexual impulses is bad for my soul and my body, or ignore what I know is best for me in order to act on my desires), and therefore want to prevent me from acting in a way that they do not regard as normative, or to punish me if I do. Similarly, the Catholic Church would prefer that I not read the Bible for myself, and interpret it for myself, as I lack the skills and wisdom to do so correctly.
Finally, it would be hard to imagine a politician with more contempt for the voters than GW Bush (although I understand that many in the R party would like to deny the label "conservative" for this man). He and his cohorts do and did believe that manipulation of the people's fear was the way to get them to vote for what Bush and others believed (possibly truly believed) was best for them. The whole political theory of Strauss is predicated on the idea that the ordinary people, the great mass of voters, have to be manipulated into doing what is best, because they will fail to perceive their true interests. So Bush and his neoconservative followers have actually adopted a political philosophy whose base premise is that the voters should not be told the truth because they cannot understand it.
I do not agree with you that Obama's comments regarding latent racism evidenced contempt for the electorate, but even if they did, such contempt would be on a drastically smaller scale than that evidenced by the neoconservatives and the Christian right wingers. I've noticed this site is hardly pro-Bush or pro-neocon, but I think your above post really missed the mark.

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