A few weeks ago Barack Obama in one of his campaign stops ridiculed the vacant policy prescriptions of John McCain and the shallow but mean-spirited attack ads of the Republicans by saying to the audience, ” They must think you’re stupid.” With those five words Obama condensed the McCain and Republican strategy for winning the White House- treat the voters as uniformed children and distract them with meaningless cliches.
Obama to his credit does not see the voters as stupid and has actually defined how he will change America once in office. The McCain handlers, however, are convinced that they can win again by not telling Americans how they would make this country richer, stronger, safer and better, but rather how they will make the country feel richer, stronger, safer and better. The McCain approach is right out of the Bush-Rove playbook using patriotism, fear, false promises and misdirection to stop the Obama juggernaut and retain the White House. This strategy is the ultimate in cynicism and elitism as the party of the wealthy and corporate America are banking on their ability to put one by the hapless and stupid voters.
Of course the American voter is not stupid, perhaps a bit distracted, but not stupid. The Obama strategy in the next days and weeks must be to convince Americans that he’s committed to improving their lives, not make them feel better. He must remind them that they have been ignored by the Republicans for eight years and treated as if they are without any understanding of how and why this country is in the dumps.
As many Democrats will recall, there is precedent for using the tag line ” They must think you’re stupid” since James Carville lifted Bill Clinton into the Oval Office with his now memorable observation, ” It’s the economy stupid.” In Carville’s slogan he was reminding Democrats that pocket book issues are all that matters in an election. But this year its more than the economy, its a clever campaign of the McCain camp to use empty bromides to divert attention away from what really matters, all the while believing that the voters won’t notice or care.
Don’t expect the Obama campaign to repeat ” They must think you’re stupid” in television advertising or in battleground state speeches. The McCain people, using their penchant for misstatement and misdirection, will immediately charge that the Democrats must really think the voters are stupid. But it is important for Obama to constantly remind the American voters that they are being treated as ignorant robots who can be programmed to vote the flag, motherhood and lipstick with ease.
This is still Obama’s election to lose and his win can be secured just by simply reminding Americans that they are being taken for granted and treated as if they were stupid.