Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Lipstick Politics

American politics has degenerated from the gutter to the sty.

As if the Obama campaign hasn't been set back enough in the past week, he had to bring lipstick and pigs into the electoral equation yesterday. Whatever his intentions, he's going to set himself back by a few more days in a calendar that is counting down to November 4, and he has probably lost forever the halo that he does not play politics.

Obama tried to come out swinging this week, as he was urged, but he seemed to have crashed his hockey stick on his own shin. Why are Republicans so much better at attack mode, Democrats are wondering?

It doesn't even matter that McCain once used the same words against Hillary Clinton, because voters make associations with words, and right now, many (enough) potential voters have conjoined "lipstick" and "Sarah Palin" because of her oft repeated line that the difference between a pittbull and a hockey mom is lipstick. In this context, it was simply foolish for Obama to play with fire, or in this case, lipstick. At least in this round, Obama failed to discern the pulse of our politics, and the chain of conceptual and rhetorical associations (logical or implied) that constitute it.

"Lipstick on a pig" is a common colloquailism taken more literally than it should have been, Obama people say. Ah, but if you have to explain something in politics when the other side insists on playing visceral politics, you've already lost. It was too easy for a Republican or Independent voter to assume that Obama was mocking Sarah Palin. How ironic: a professor trying to embrace colloquailism, but succeedingly only in tying himself up in a politically incorrect knot.

The Obama campaign is brushing all this off as "swift boat politics," but the fact is they are struggling to move past the fog of lipstick and smelly fish. Swift boat politics works: but, as Obama is learning (and as the Clintons always knew), there is art even in the task of smear.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

this lipstick issue demonstrates yet again that McCain's strategy for winning is based on personal attacks and distracting people from the main issues...