What follows are thoughts on strategy for the general election:
If you want to look at the definitive weblog posts to combat the impression that Obama is all rhetoric and no substance, then you’ll have to go to Hilzoy of Obsidian Wings.
Here’s a post from October 2006 talking about the unsexy wonky issues Obama has involved himself in. Then, there’s this more recent post which adds Obama’s work on reform. When he says we can change Washington, he’s actually very specific about the proposals. (Hat tip to Lloyd for the links.)
I have no intention on writing definitive essays on this subject when it’s already been done. These essays are long, though. It’s hard to win a debate when you refer someone to a weblog post. What I need to do is to distill those accomplishments into a list of important talking points and then some less important talking points.
Another thing I need to do is more research. What is actually law and what isn’t actually law? What has Obama been working on and what has Obama accomplished? Undoubtedly, Obama will not have the legislative record that McCain has, but all we need to show is enough to convince people about what Obama has the ability to accomplish in the future.
The flip side of this is listing McCain’s recent and ancient legislative record. One line of attack I’ve been thinking about is listing McCain-Feingold, his work on comprehensive immigration reform, and more, to show how he has betrayed his party. Now, some people might like this because it shows that he’s a “maverick”. (Note: From now on, maverick as applied to McCain will appear in scare quotes.) But if you shoot that the Republicans seem to suffer battered-wife syndrome with John McCain, who constantly betrays conservative principles, then it will be disheartening for a hard-core Republican. Those votes are needed for the Republicans to win. The last two elections have relied heavily on getting out the vote for the base. I’m unsure if I will actually pursue the line of attack in the way I have characterized it. It could be too low a blow and that’s not what I want to do.
The most effective tactic I think will be to actually demolish the “maverick” image of McCain. His pandering to the anti-Catholic bigot Hagee betrays McCain. The other thing is to point out the discrepancy between his words on his torture and what he has actually done — that is, being instrumental in passing the Military Commissions Act. I plan on scouring the blog Balloon Juice. They created a neologism: Spectering. It refers to how Arlen Specter raises concerns about bills that a moderate would have and then completely caves on the issue, saying that his concerns were all met; this hoodwinks more moderate voters. The trick is to catch McCain in this act as much as possible.
There’s a difference between illegitimate personal attacks and raising legitimate concerns about McCain’s character. When lapses in his character and judgment have led to disasters such as the Military Commissions Act, which has given the President free rein on torture and obliterated the right to habeas corpus, then one has a right to criticize his character and judgment.
One may wonder why I’m particularly fixated on this issue. After reading Robert Greene’s book, The 48 Laws of Power, I’m convinced that McCain is following one of the laws there. Namely, he’s found a trait (maverick/straight-shooter) and associated himself with it. It’s a powerful association which resists counter-evidence. I’m convinced it was a conscious move after he was implicated in the ethics violation way back when (see New York Times). He’s not a maverick; it’s just a useful tool to portray himself this way.
Another idea I’ve been toying with is bringing up McCain’s witchhunt against the UFC. The UFC appeals to young males, and I’m hoping to turn them off from McCain. Not sure if this is actually a good point to make.
Finally, I turn my attention to the war and the economy. It may be good to link the two issues. Why? Because they are actually linked. The war is costing us over $3 trillion. We can’t afford to stay in Iraq as John McCain would want us. We need a YouTube video collecting all of the clips of McCain showing how stubborn he will be on this issue. McCain will not withdraw us from Iraq and the idea that he might must be purged. Plus, the war is what has driven up oil prices so much. This hurts struggling families. McCain is also notoriously uninformed about the economy, which is an impression I got from the Romney campaign. This will be really good to use against McCain.
Miscellany: Hitchens on “Real Time with Bill Maher” said that Obama matured a lot over this campaign and appears as if he will still mature when in office. Good point.
EDIT: First, it doesn’t really make sense that McCain both betrays his party and kowtows to the party, does it? My two lines of criticism seem to be contradictory and so one or both of them is wrong to some extent. McCain is more complicated. Second, I disavow my previous statement that McCain somehow made a Machiavellian conscious decision to be a “maverick.” I forgot about this rule: â€œAs a general rule, people, even the wicked, are much more naive and simple-hearted than we suppose. And we ourselves are, too.â€ â€” The Brothers Karamazov.
Frankly, though, I do not think McCain is a “maverick” (as evidenced by my continued use of scare quotes). On certain very important issues, he did not stand up to his party, when he should have.