The Power of Narratives

August 31, 2008

The incomparable Bob Somerby at Daily Howler often talks about narratives.  His background in teaching is apparent because he repeats his lessons over and over until they sink in.  Some people never learn.

Although Somerby’s focus is on the media and the way they make up stories to force Democratic candidates into their preconceived narratives, that is not my topic here.

Narratives are a form of story-telling shorthand.  They set the stage, identify the characters and usually determine the ending of the story.  In the old Hollywood westerns, the good guys wore white hats and the bad guys wore black hats.  If the character was wearing a white hat, you knew right away that he was a brave and virtuous protector of the innocent, and that he would triumph over evil before the movie ended.

Over tha past several decades, the Republican party has been very successful in establishing narratives that give them an enormous advantage in electoral politics.  The first narrative is that Republicans are “regular people” and that they are brave and patriotic people of faith.  They also can be counted on to protect America from criminals and foreign threats.

The other narrative is that Democrats are hypocritical elitists that are unpatriotic, immoral and corrupt.  They are weak in the face of foreign aggression and they care more about the rights of criminals than they do about victims. 

I am not saying that either of those narratives is true, in fact I know that they are not.  But those narratives exist, and they affect the way people perceive events and evaluate candidates.  You can think of them as “default” settings or rebuttable presumptions.  That puts the burden on each Democratic candidate to prove that both narratives are false, otherwise the Republican candidate wins by default.

If you take those narratives and apply them to the last few weeks of this election campaign, you can see that the Democratic party and the Obama campaign seem determined to prove that those narratives are true.

First you have Senator Obama, who is the poster child for arrogance, building his own Greek temple at Invesco Field to give his acceptance speech.  After the earlier flaps over the “Great Seal of Obama” and the cult-like nature of his supporters, that was the height of political tone-deafness.  He continues to reinforce the “elitist” narrative over and over. 

Obama is trying to sell himself as a person of faith in order to court the fundamentalist vote.  But his credentials on religion are tied to Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who says things like “God damn America” and “U.S of KKK-A” which don’t appear very patriotic.  Obama’s relationship with William Ayers strongly reinforces the idea that he is unpatriotic.

The sexism and misogyny directed at Hillary Clinton from within the Democratic party reinforces the “hypocritical” narrative, and the sham roll-call vote fits the definition of “corrupt.”  The wankfest over how many house John McCain and his wife own just helped to reinforce the “corrupt” narrative because it allowed McCain to bring up Tony Rezko. 

Which brings us to John McCain.  When the angry chihuahuas of Obamanation started yapping about the false allegation that McCain plagiarized the “cross in the dirt” story from Aleksandr Solzhenisyn, they were pushing a story that involved McCain’s experience being tortured as a POW during the Vietnam War.  IOW – to attack McCain over what was at most an irrelevant lie, they reinforced the “brave,: “patriotic” and “protect America” narratives.  And now that the plagiarism issue is debunked, it turns out they also reinforced the “people of faith” narrative.

So on Friday, when John McCain announced the selection of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his Vice Presidential nominee, what did Obamanation immediately do?  They attacked her on issues that reinforce the narratives.

They criticized her for being from a small town in a sparsely populated states, which was a two-fer because it reinforced the “regular people” narrative for her and the “elitist” narrative for the Democrats.  They picked on the fact that she is a working mother (“regular people” and “Democrats are hypocrites”) and launched misogynistic attacks on her (hypocrites)

Then to top it off, they started a wankfest dubbed “Troopergate” where they accused her of acting inappropriately to get her abusive ex-brother-in-law fired from his job as a state trooper.  The message that the non-Koolaid drinking public will hear is that Sarah Palin will protect them, and that Democrats don’t care about victims.

So what have the Democrats and the Obama campaign done to rebut the narratives?

I’ll have to get back to you on that.


Don’t Go There!

August 31, 2008

Oops, too late, you already did.

John Avarosis is living proof that kool-aid causes brain damage.  In this post he claims that the presumptive Republican Vice Presidental nominee, Sarah Palin, conceived her oldest child (Track) out of wedlock.

Dumb move John,  D-U-M-B

Let me tell you why:

Stanley Ann Dunham and Barack Obama Sr. were married on February 2, 1961.  Barack Obama Jr. was born on August 4, 1961.

Do the math.

Sarah Palin married her high school sweetheart (a Russell Crowe look-alike) and is still married to him.  That was in 1988, when she was 24 years old

I seriously doubt that she will lose any votes if it turns out she wasn’t a virgin on her wedding day.


Fair is Fair!

August 30, 2008

If you are a feminist, womanist, or a liberal/progressive who thinks women should cast their votes based solely or primarily on “woman’s issues” then you cannot rightfully criticize any woman who casts her vote in order to help a woman break the glass ceiling and become the first female Vice President.

If you have argued or agreed with the idea that there is nothing wrong with African Americans voting for for an African American candidate over a white candidate, even if the white candidate has a longer record of working to advance the interests of African Americans and advocates policies that are more beneficial to the African American community, then you are a hypocrite if you criticize a woman who votes for another woman based on gender, even if the male candidate advocates policies that a more beneficial to women.

As a white male, I don’t have a dog in this fight.  I have never criticized the overwhelming support given to Barack Obama by the African American community.  I think it is perfectly logical and reasonable for them to support an African American candidate in the hope of seeing him become the first African American President of the United States.  I also understand why so many women supported Hillary Clinton.

My issues with Barack Obama have nothing to do with the color of his skin, and my support of Hillary Clinton has nothing to do with her gender.  But anyone who supported Barack Obama in whole or in part because of his race, cannot criticize anyone who supports Sarah Palin in whole or in part because of her gender.  Fair is fair.

The primary campaign was historic because it saw one of the two major political parties select a Presidential nominee who is African American.  It would have been just as historic if Hillary was selected as the nominee, because she would have been the first woman to reach that milestone.

This election continues to be historic because the “highest, hardest” glass ceiling that has kept women and minorities from either of the two highest offices in the country will be shattered regardless of who wins in November.  If the person who shatters that glass ceiling is Sarah Palin, I will have mixed emotions.

I will be happy and proud to see a woman reach the nation’s second highest office.  I will be sad because that woman is a Republican, and because Democrat Hillary Clinton deserves the honor of shattering that barrier.

If the Democratic leadership had not been infected with CDS, they would have given Hillary the Presidential nomination that she both deserved and rightfully earned, and had he run a clean campaign they could have selected Barack Obama as her running mate. 

Had the Democratic leadership done so, both candidates would have blasted the glass ceiling to smithereens in November, and a more experienced Barack Obama would be perfectly positioned to follow Hillary into the Presidency eight years from now.  That would be sixteen straight years that the Oval Office was not occupied by a white man.

But the Democratic leadership was too full of hatred for the Clintons, and Barack Obama too arrogant and impatient to wait or to allow a woman to go first, so John McCain and the GOP have seized the golden opportunity presented to them.  Until yesterday morning I thought John McCain would more likely than not defeat Barack Obama in November.  Barring any unseen developments, I am now certain of it.

Four years from now, the Democratic party will have a final opportunity to ensure that the first woman President of the United States is a Democrat.  They can nominate Hillary Clinton, and watch her beat either McCain (if he runs for reelection) or Palin (if she is nominated to replace him.) 

She would also beat the stuffing out of any other Republican the GOP could nominate.

So if you supported Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Presidential nomination, don’t come whining to me about “McSame” or “4 more years of Bush” when McCain and Palin open a big can of “Whoop-Ass” on Obama and Biden this November. 

If you do, this will be my response:

“I TOLD YOU SO!”


McCain to Obama: “You got SERVED!”

August 29, 2008

Meet GOP Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin and her family.  Is that family good-looking or what?

This was a master-stroke by Johnny Mac.  All that misogyny by the He-Man Woman Haters Club known as Obamanation just came back and took a big ol’ bite out of Teh Precious’ skinny butt.

For months the women supporting Hillary Clinton have been told to shut up and fall in line because they had nowhere else to go.  John McCain just sent them this message:

“I WANT YOUR VOTE”

This was a brilliant move by McCain.  Sarah Palin is young and telegenic, and any attack on her lack of experience opens up the GOP counter-punch of attacking Uh-bama’s lack of experience.  When the He-Man Woman Haters Club launches misogynistic attacks on Palin (and they have already begun) it puts the GOP in the position of supporting and defending women.

When McCain retires in 4-8 years, Sarah Palin will be the natural front-runner to replace him, thus extending GOP control of the White House even longer.  Hillary bashed her head bloody on that glass ceiling, leaving 18 million cracks.  Sarah Palin will be the one who finally breaks through.

Thanks for nothing, Howard, Donna and Nancy.  It could have been Hillary Clinton, instead it will be a Republican.

UPDATE:

Democratic party takes careful aim, shoots themselves in both feet by putting out message that Sarah Palin is too rural and too inexperienced.

UPDATE II:

Obamanation appears to have been caught with their pants down on this pick.  It took nearly two hours for their trolls to start making cookie-cutter negative comments about the nomination of Governor Palin.  McCain had them totally faked out with rumors that he was going to select Pawlenty or Romney.  Obamanation had nothing ready on Palin, and their initial shoot-from-the-hip reaction was D-U-M-B:

“Today, John McCain put the former mayor of a town of 9,000 with zero foreign policy experience a heartbeat away from the presidency. Governor Palin shares John McCain’s commitment to overturning Roe v. Wade, the agenda of Big Oil and continuing George Bush’s failed economic policies — that’s not the change we need, it’s just more of the same,” said Bill Burton, Obama Campaign Spokesman.


What’s next?

August 28, 2008

Many PUMAs are depressed and angry today.  I understand how you feel, even though I expected this result.

The nomination was rigged, long ago.  The people responsible for ignoring the will of the voters and selecting Barack Obama as the nominee have been plotting and planning for years.  This was no accident.  The full scope of what happened may never be known, but in hindsight some of it is obvious.

We were caught by surprise, and have been playing “catch-up” for months.  But we have made tremendous progress.  PUMA is less than three months old, and we have already made the national news.

So we lost this battle, but it was one they didn’t even expect to have to fight.  Now we have to regroup, get organized, and figure our and strategy and goals for the future.  There will be a need for local, state and national activities.  We need to be ready next time, so that things like caucus fraud don’t occur. 

This struggle will take a long time.  It will last at least four years, maybe longer.  Women’s Suffrage and the Civil Rights Movement took decades.  Considering the progress we have already made, I expect that we will achieve victory much sooner.

Meanwhile, life goes on.  We have jobs, families, and lives to live.  We need to pace ourselves, so we don’t burn-out.

Our next goal?  Making sure that Barack Obama is defeated in November.

PUMA


Purging Dissent Is Not Democratic

August 28, 2008

Are “lefty” blogs purging dissent?

Today at TalkLeft:

The primaries are over. Sen. Barack Obama and Joe Biden are our nominees.

This is a historic day for the Democrats and for Denver. TalkLeft fully supports the Democratic ticket. I’ve resolved my conflicts and will both vote for as well as support Obama-Biden in 2008. A Republican-led Justice Department and a Supreme Court with another right-wing ideologue would be the worst possible outcome for me.

If you are unhappy with the ticket, I’m sorry. But, this is a blog, and it’s my blog. TalkLeft will do its part to ensure victory in November. In fact, I encourage everyone to make a donation now to Obama-Biden 2008.

[…]

Each of our posts can only accommodate 200 comments. So, for those of you who are remain unhappy with the ticket, please find another place to express your dissatisfaction and negativity. Those critical of the ticket will be limited to four comments in a 24 hour period.

Gee, Jeralyn, perhaps you should change the name of your blog to “TalkObama” since it will be restricted to his campaign-approved talking points.

I am a liberal and I have liberal values.  That means I “talk left” all the time.  To me, party is far less important than country or ideology.  If the Democratic party doesn’t reflect my values, I won’t support it.  Right now it doesn’t, so I don’t.  If that means I get deleted or banned, so be it.

Earlier today, Lambert Strether blocked my account at Corrente.  What was my sin? 

I mentioned William Ayers.  You know, the unrepentant domestic terrorist that is a known associate of Barack Obama.

Says Lambert:

It’s the PUMA equivalent of Bill Clinton shutting down LAX to get his haircut — a zombie talking point, repeated over and over and over again, gaining even its truthiness solely through currency.

[…]

And the amazing thing is — and here’s where teh stupid really, really burns — there are all sorts of reasons, right or wrong, not to vote for Obama that are actually important. That have to do with real people’s lives and real issues.

After the convention is, mercifully, over, I hope the PUMAs individually and severally have a come-to-Jeebus moment on truthiness and truth, and figure out whether “any stick to beat a dog” is the right way to blog, or not.* And whoever thinks anything, anything at all can be built on truthy foundation is a lost cause.

Lambert is one of the leading advocates of “Progressive Blogosphere 2.0” and likes to talk about blogger ethics.  So what does he do here?

First he compares the known association of Barack Obama and William Ayers to an urban myth.  LAX was never shut down so Bill Clinton could get a haircut.  He also implies it is strictly a PUMA talking point.  Then he refers to the documented association with the word “truthiness” implying it’s a lie.

When I argue with him, he insults me and calls me names: 

A more pathetic and futile attack on Obama’s judgment is hard to imagine — especially when there would have been so many more ways to attack. FISA’s about judgment. Heck, holding no hearings on Iraq is about judgment. But all we get is this lame-oh shit from wankers — as evidenced by their behavior — who seem totally unable to elevate their game. And this from the inventor of the great Obama Golf! Sweet Jeebus!

And the futility of repeating it, long after it’s clear it’s not getting any traction, doesn’t help matters at all. In fact, it makes you look, as I have pointed out, stupid.

The bright side is that at least we’re dealing with amateurs.

So when I object to name-calling, Lambert says:

Calling names? Oh the humanity. Thank you for sharing your concerns. How about polluting five years of work and thousands of posts with unevidenced, unlinked, sloppily reasoned, tendentious zombie talking points? Over and over and over again? How does “calling names” stack up against that? I’ve reached my gag limit on this. Put up or shut up, and stop making the blog look bad. That goes for the whole load of zombies, all of them: Ayers, Rezko, all the signs hung round the necks of all the zombies. Do the analysis. And it had better be real, unlike whatever No Quarter’s been peddling this week, and better than what that Diamond guy was peddling. Do the work. Not, of course, that it will make any difference now. Well done, all. Deliver me from “friends.”

Finally, he tells me this:

I await the investigative report with interest. Seriously.

Then he promptly blocks my account, making it impossible for me to respond or post the report he claims he is awaiting (seriously.)  Good thing I have my own blog, isn’t it?

As Denisie commented on my earlier post:

It feels like he’s preparing to jump the shark and all week has been about his Thursday night or Friday morning post of “Barack got my vote.”

Earlier this year we saw the purging of dissent from DailyKos, MyDD and other sites.  That’s what led to the creation of The Confluence and Alegre’s Corner, along with many other new sites.  Lambert was one of the people lamenting that purge.  Now he does the very same thing.

Looks like we need PB 3.0

So, are any other “progressive” sites now requiring people to drink the kool-aid in order to gain admission?


That was chickenshit, Lambert!

August 28, 2008

First you call names and insult me.  Then you tell me this:

I await the investigative report with interest. Seriously.

Then you promptly block my account.

So much for the high ethical standards of PB 2.0