Following The Script
I wrote this back in the beginning of February:
Chris Matthews personally deplored Bill Clinton when he was president, loathed Al Gore in 2000, hated John Kerry in 2004 and right now despises Hillary Clinton. And there are huge hints of what's to come if Obama does get the nomination, particularly if McCain, the man who Matthews has already said "deserves to be president" becomes the Republican nominee. He has the narrative already primed:Later in the month I wrote this:
One idea in the notebook was something a congressman had told Mr. Matthews years earlier. The congressman had said that every so often in life, the galloping horse of history comes by and you have to make a decision. “You have to jump on that horse or you miss your turn,” Mr. Matthews had said. “The country is facing that. Do I want to jump on the horse, or not? It’s too tricky. It’s too scary. It’s moving too fast. I’m not ready.”
The galloping campaign, in Mr. Matthews’ estimation, was that of Senator Barack Obama. He had the momentum, was in the saddle, was holding the reigns. But had Mr. Obama become the avant-garde candidate? If so, he was in trouble. The middle-class workers would pull back in suspicion. Who was this Ivy League guy on his, um, high horse? They wouldn’t get on board. The galloping horse of history might pass them by.
Matthews sees himself as the voice of the working man, so this is his pivot point. Just wait....
It was only a matter of time before the media began to trivialize Obama and his campaign as a bunch of latte sipping left-wing hippie elites. That's the 30 year conservative rap on liberals and it's been fully internalized by the MSM and a whole lot of Americans, including some Democrats. When you start to hear the pundits talking about "beer track/wine track" this isn't far behind...
You'll note that this was before Wright and before the so-called "bittergate."
This is a Village meme that has been used over the course of thirty years.(Fifty, if you want to go back to Stevenson.) It has been so internalized among the media elites that the Republicans don't even have to say it out loud anymore. It was inevitable that it would happen.
However, when Obama started to look like the probable nominee, and the media were looking a bit like they could fail to recite their lines, they did prime the pump. The opening salvo came from none other than David Brooks on February 8th:
Obama’s people are so taken with their messiah that soon they’ll be selling flowers at airports and arranging mass weddings. There’s a “Yes We Can” video floating around YouTube in which a bunch of celebrities like Scarlett Johansson and the guy from the Black Eyed Peas are singing the words to an Obama speech in escalating states of righteousness and ecstasy. If that video doesn’t creep out normal working-class voters, then nothing will.
Here's the cover of Newsweek today:
That's arugula vs beer, btw. The cover says "Obama's Bubba gap" and the story is called "Obama's Otherness," (which I earlier referred to as the "Barack ain't quite right" theme.)
I'm not trying to tout my incredible prescience here, but simply pointing out that this was always going to happen. It's the way the modern political narrative is structured and it's the most fundamental thing we have working against us. They did it to Bill Clinton too -- he was a pot smoking hippie, draft dodger you'll recall. Al Gore was portrayed as a little rich girl who grew up in a fancy hotel. Here's Time magazine from November 1999:
Al Gore's childhood is the stuff of classics. Specifically, the children's classic Eloise, by Kay Thompson. Both Al and Eloise lived in a hotel, both were born in the late '40s, both had busy parents, both have had to wage wars on boredom. And this month, the Eloise licensing campaign heats up with dolls, furniture and collectibles. How the two kids match up:
[Eloise] A top-floor suite at the luxurious Plaza Hotel in New York City
[Al Gore] A top-floor suite at "Washington's Family Hotel," the Fairfax, now the Westin-Fairfax, in Washington
The story was a giggling GOP oppo plant, but that didn't stop the kewl kidz from running with it. I don't need to remind you about John Kerry and his "butler" and the "green tea" and the "wit-whiz" psuedoscandals of 2004. If Clinton were still the front runner, she'd be portrayed in the press as a cross between Dalmation draped Cruella DeVille and Evita Peron with her 100 million and Bubba trophy husband. (Actually, she is -- they aren't taking any chances.)
Meanwhile, you have a temperamental, fabulously wealthy, flip-flopping, seventy one year old warmonger on the other side who's being called "the coolest guy in school" by 20-something reporters.
Nobody should be surprised or unprepared for this by now. I think Obama's campaign people underestimated how this label could be applied to their guy and they allowed it to play out in Pennsylvania in ways that should have been anticipated. But then I have always wondered why Democrats are always off guard every time this hits them.
Maybe this election will change all that. I hope so. But so far, I'm seeing the narrative playing out exactly as I thought it would and it leads me right back to where I started. I believe that Democrats are nearly guaranteed to win due to the fundamental forces driving this election. But I'm not so sure the Democrats will win with any kind of progressive mandate if they let the media frame the election in these terms and I'm definitely not so sure that our new president will be able to enact a progressive agenda if he (or she) moves right thinking to disable this narrative. (That's the whole point.) The silver lining is that it's being deployed early in the game due to the long primary and that offers a chance to change the storyline before the general. They need to get to it.