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September 08, 2008

Re: Unforced Errors « Politics As Usual »

Something occurred to me today at work. I wasn't 100% clear in my post about the Democrats unforced error.

See, I don't think the flags getting left behind say anything about Democratic Party patriotism, or Obama's ability to lead.

But while I won't go so far as to say "perception is reality", I will insist that perception matters.

Like it or not, Democrats have a perception problem.

There is a perception that Democrats don't love America for what it is, they love it for what it could be. There is a perception that when America is attacked by terrorists or criticized by Europeans, Democrats (and/or liberals) respond by wondering what we did wrong, rather than thinking maybe we're resented because we're right and a great nation. There is a perception that Democrats think Europe and socialism are just swell, and they want to make the US exactly like Belgium and/or Sweden.

Republicans take advantage of this perception to make Democrats appear less patriotic.

Democrats often make things easier on Republicans who want to do that. Such as refusing to wear a flag lapel pin after 9/11 (or even now) because it might be perceived as too jingoistic. They come up with terms like "flyover country." They make disparaging cracks about non-urban dwellers who "cling" to guns and religion.

Democrats forget two things:
1) Due to the balance between population and geography built into our Constitution (brilliantly, by the way), Montana and Wyoming have just as many Senators as California and New York.
2) There isn't quite enough population in the urban areas like San Francisco, Seattle/Portland, Chicago, New York, and D.C. to get elected President. So Democrats condescend to and disparage the people they need to win elections. They claim to be the party of the "little guy", the worker, the lower income...but only as long as they vote and are not heard.

How else do you explain liberal and/or Democrat disdain (if not hatred) for Wal-Mart? That's the middle-class store of choice.

So the flag thing was an error, plain and simple. Call it an error of not making a smart decision in dealing with unused flags. I think it far more likely that it was an error of someone not paying attention to details, or fulfilling their responsibility.

Because all spin aside, they flags were "in and around" trash dumpsters, and they sat there for one week and one day before anyone even picked them up. There's no possible way that can be considered theft, or dishonest.

Now, is it right that this hurts public perception of Democrats? [shrug]
As was pointed out, one under-emphasized aspect of a political campaign is it demonstrates the organizational and performance skills of your administration.

Like it or not, the American flag (and these were good-quality, cloth flags here) is seen as an extremely important symbol of the United States to a huge number of its citizens. Being careless of it would be like someone tearing up all your family pictures, and then saying, "Eh, it's nothing! I didn't hurt your family! Those pictures don't represent your family in any way, it's just pixels on paper! What, are you some yokel who thinks photographs capture your soul or something?!?!? What a rube!"

But in any case, like it or not (again), perception does matter. This was a blunder. Democrats are attempting to minimize the damage with spin, but I don't think it was very effective. And it was not a blunder that was caused by trying to do anything to Republicans, or prevent Republicans from gaining ground or anything. It was a complete mistake.

Now, for balance, I'll point out something I don't like much:
Misrepresenting truth.

Go read that. I saw the original transcript, and Obama isn't trying to shift the battle to a basketball court. He was asked a question by someone in the audience, and I thought that in that sort of context, his answer was very good, very human, and not arrogant at all.

Look, people, there's enough stupid stuff going on, like Obama and his campaign ignoring Sarah Palin's successes as governor of the largest single geographical space in the US to label her as just being a mayor of a small town. She actually accomplished quite a bit as Alaska's governor, whereas Obama has spent most of his Senate career to date campaigning for President. When he hasn't been campaigning, he's been avoiding taking any stand that could hurt him politically (and that goes back to his Illinois congressional days).

So do we really need to distort what Obama said about basketball? No.

Posted by Nathan at 05:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)