McCain-Palin: The Perils Of Promoting The Past As Prologue? genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

It seems to me that a significant question will emerge in the aftermath of the 2008 election. The crux of that question has been framed by the inflammatory rhetoric of the McCain-Palin campaign in recent days. In its effort to sway voters and win this election, the McCain campaign has chosen to ignite animosities that will undoubtedly linger beyond November 4th...animosities that have the potential to unleash the very kind of violence that typified the groups and individuals the McCain campaign has attempted to link with Barack Obama.

At the core of the conflicts that marred the sixties and seventies was an immense divide between those who supported the continuation of the war in Vietnam and those who viewed it as an act of unnecessary imperialism. At the same time, issues of racial equality and morality were drawn into the equation...pushing many to embrace increasingly radical avenues of dissent.

Let me be perfectly clear, I am in no way offering a defense of those who perpetrated the destruction of property and acts of violence in order to deliver their message of disapproval. At the same time, prudence requires us to identify circumstances that could encourage members of our current society to feel justified in fomenting more of the same.

Each time Sarah Palin and other McCain operatives frame this election as a choice between preserving the status quo (patriotism, capitalism, and exceptionalism) or the emergence of a radical new order (postnationalism and socialism), the mechanisms to spark the fuse of righteous rebellion are accelerated. The tenor has the potential to trigger untold turmoil.

Take a look at the rhetoric being offered by Sarah Palin at yesterday's rally in Florida and note how it seeks to portray the above distinctions.

From The Chicago Sun-Times:

So I'm reading the New York Times, though, and I was really interested to read about Barack's friends from Chicago, as the New York Times (put it ?).

(Applause.)

Now it turns out one of his earliest supporters is a man named Bill Ayers.

(Boos.)

And according to the New York Times he was a domestic terrorist and part of a group that quote, "launched a campaign of bombings that would target the Pentagon and our U.S. Capitol."

(Boos.)

And then there's even more to the story. Barack Obama says that Ayers was just someone in the neighborhood, but that's less than truthful. His own top adviser said that they were quote, "certainly friendly." In fact, Obama held one of his first meetings of his political career in Bill Ayers living room.

(Boos.)

And they worked together on various projects in Chicago. And, you know, these are the same guys who think that patriotism is paying higher taxes.

(Boos.)

Remember, that's what Joe Biden had said. And I am just so fearful that this is not a man who sees America the way that you and I see America, as the greatest source for good in this world.

(Applause.)

I'm afraid this is someone who sees America as imperfect enough to work with a former domestic terrorist who had targeted his own country.

(Boos.)

This, ladies and gentlemen, has nothing to do with the kind of change that anyone can believe in, not my kids, not for your kids. What we believe in is what Ronald Reagan believed in, and that is America is an exceptional nation.

Many in the media have argued that John McCain has failed to craft an economic message that resonates with a majority of Americans. While conventional metrics suggest the pundits may well be right, I contend they are missing the fact that there is an economic (and political) ideology contained in the McCain campaign's fundamental framing of this election. The fact that this message has elicited cries of "Terrorist", "Treason", and "Kill him" from members of an agitated audience is frighteningly foreboding.

Yes, I think it's safe to say that it may be impossible to discern the underlying motivations of John McCain and his minions. While the possibilities are limited, the outcomes are ominous. On the one hand, one might assume that the spoken words match the essence of the ideology supported by McCain, his handlers, and the base of the Republican Party. On the other hand, McCain and his handlers may simply be exploiting the fears and beliefs of the party's base in the hopes of political advantage. Regardless, once the cogitated cat is out of the bag, walking it back in will be problematic...and perhaps impossible in the short term.

Here's the issue. Should this tactic be allowed to blossom...and Barack Obama wins this election...the McCain campaign will have played an integral role in legitimizing any ensuing acts of anarchy designed to unseat those who are viewed as promoting a new and unpalatable paradigm. The fact that race could be a consideration serves as an acrid accelerant. By characterizing the opposition as the impetus for dismantling our long standing societal structure, the McCain campaign will have arguably participated in fueling the fires and offering tacit acceptance of those acts undertaken in obligatory opposition.

Ironically, by invoking the unacceptable acts of those associated with the unnerving unrest of another era...and attempting to attach them to Barack Obama...the McCain campaign may be laying the foundation for its repetition...albeit manifest as the mirrored opposite in its construction. When Joe Biden, during the vice presidential debate, suggested that the "past is prologue", I doubt he understood how prescient his words may have been.

As one looks back on the last ten years, one will invariably see the emergence of a short-sighted scorched earth strategy. The election of George Bush, along with the belief by Karl Rove that his politics-by-division would grant the GOP unbridled political dominance, set in motion a maelstrom capable of inflicting great damage.

When Sarah Palin playfully suggests "the heels are on, the gloves are off", she may not realize the harm her heated hyperbole may unharness. The fact that John McCain, once the victim of these wicked waves of wrath, has chosen to embrace it in Sarah Palin and employ many of Rove's mercenaries to execute his own tectonic triangulation may well be seen by history as the trigger that pushed America to the precipice of partisan political armageddon.

That brings me back to identifying the question that will fundamentally define the 2008 election, "At what point did John McCain forego putting country first and at what cost?"

Tagged as: 2008 Election, Barack Obama, Bill Ayers, Joe Biden, John McCain, Karl Rove, Sarah Palin

Daniel DiRito | October 7, 2008 | 1:28 PM
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John McCain’s decision to attach the imagery of Bill Ayers to Barack Obama is reckless. By casting this election as a continuation of the ideological conflict that characterized the unrest during the era of the Weathermen, John McCain may well be fomen... [Read More]

Tracked on October 7, 2008 5:05 PM


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