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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Truthiness Gone Wild

Byron York of National Review spent some time at a McCain rally in Northern Virginia, and came away with a very revealing look at the strange relationship between the GOP base and, well, objective reality.
Wonder why McCain and Palin are still beating the Joe the Plumber drum despite the abundant evidence that the whole “story” is a complete scam? York explains it:

In recent days, the Joe the Plumber phenomenon has taken on a deeper meaning for McCain’s audiences…. [H]e is a symbol of their belief that Barack Obama is going to raise their taxes, regardless of what Obama says about hitting up only those taxpayers who make more than $250,000 a year. They know Wurzelbacher doesn’t make that much, and they know they don’t make that much. And they’re not suspicious because they believe that someday they will make $250,000, and thus face higher taxes. No, they just don’t believe Obama right now. If he’s elected, they say, he’ll eventually come looking for taxpayers who make well below a quarter-million dollars, and that will include them.

York goes on to explain at some length that these base voters are angry at “the media” for “investigating” the facts about Joe the Plumber. Stands to reason, if you think about it: Who cares about “facts” when Joe was really unveiling the deeper truth that Obama wants to raise his taxes no matter what he’s saying about it?
There’s a lot of this “thinking” going at present, and McCain and Palin are clearly responding to it. “Obama’s a socialist!” we hear over and over from grassroots conservatives. He would not only raise taxes on the middle class, but would give “welfare” to deadbeats who don’t pay income taxes, through refundable tax credits. And his “socialized medicine” plan would crucify small businessmen (sic!) like Joe (sic!) the Plumber (sic!).
In reality, Obama’s tax plan would place rates pretty much where they were under the Clinton administration, when the economy created not only the most astonishing number of very wealthy people in American history, but the first mass upper middle class in human history. Refundable income tax credits for people with no income tax liability, but with payroll tax liability (the larger tax burden for a majority of working Americans) was an idea once championed by that well-known socialist Ronald Reagan, and initially pioneered by another lefty, Richard Nixon. Obama’s health care plan is based on expanding private health insurance, against the advice of a clear majority of Democratic health care wonks who favor a single-payer system. And small businesses are generally exempted from its coverage mandates.
But once you have decided that Barack Obama’s actual proposals are irrelevant to what you “know” are his “real” intentions, all these objections are just annoying distractions from truthiness. And hence the fury at the news media for “protecting” Obama with facts that are actually lies.
No wonder the McCain-Palin campaign continues to serve up half-truths and outright lies about Obama, or that the really crazy stuff–Obama’s a secret Muslim, or secret terrorist, or an agent of the Antichrist–seems to lurk right under the surface at every GOP grassroots gathering.
I did a radio show recently in which another guest–a Republican as it happened–suggested that McCain’s handlers know his candidacy is doomed, and are focused on keeping the base excited in order to put a floor under his numbers and avoid a down-ballot landslide. I was skeptical at the time, but the theory is beginning to make sense. The truthiness-gone-wild at the core of the GOP effort, which makes the smears of past Democratic candidates look like patty-cake, isn’t working among persuadable voters, and McCain doesn’t have the resources to outshout the Obama campaign with a parallel-universe story line about the candidates, even if the fundamentals of the election weren’t so damning to his case.

One comment on “Truthiness Gone Wild

  1. Cugel on

    McCain’s campaign is NOT trying to focus on the base to keep his loss down.
    McCain long ago decided to run a Karl Rove campaign after the infamous “Green Screen” speech, when he fired his campaign staff and hired Rove disciple Schmidt! He immediately began to go with highly negative attack ads and abandoned his pledge to “keep a positive tone.”
    The Rove strategy is a BASE strategy. He can’t suddenly abandon it 2 weeks before the election just because he’s losing. He’s locked in by the last 3 months of campaigning, his pick of Sarah Palin, and what he’s done and said.
    If he wanted to run a different campaign, he should have picked Joe Lieberman back in June the way he wanted to. Then he could have had 3 months to rally his base and undermine Obama with conservative Democrats.
    Too late now! His attacks have done exactly what they did in 2004: rallied his conservative base, but ALSO rallied Democrats to Obama (Bush got 93% or Republicans, but Kerry got 89% of Democrats). Now Obama has about 88% of Democrats too, and there are at least 7% more of them than there are Republicans this year!


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