As the conventions, and indeed the election, draw near, the campaigns seem to get nastier and uglier
Politics in the United States has always been war without bloodshed; words are the weapons of choice and the battlefields include stadiums, auditoriums, churches, television studios, radio, newspapers and now the internet.
After Senator Barack Obama became the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party, one commentator said, “It seems like Obama knows how to run a campaign, but does he know how to fight a war?” Of course, the commentator was referring to the upcoming battle between Obama and Senator John McCain for the presidency. Let the battle begin.
The latest attacks by McCain stem from Obama’s assertion that fear mongering, especially when it comes to experience and maybe even his cultural background, would be the best the Republican campaign could come up with in the last months leading up to the 2008 election.
“What they’re going to try to do is make you scared of me,” Obama told the public in response to a McCain ad comparing his ‘celeb’ status to Paris Hilton and pop star Brittany Spears but questioning his experience and ability to lead. “[They’ll say] ‘you know he’s not patriotic enough, he’s got a funny name, you know he doesn’t look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills...”
According to the Obama campaign, McCain said he is “proud” of the aforementioned attack ads.
“They’re not just attacking me; they’re attacking you,” Obama responded. “We’re facing some serious challenges in this country. And given the seriousness of the issues, you’d think we’d be having a serious debate. But instead, John McCain is running an expensive, negative campaign against us.”
McCain accused Obama of “playing the race card from the bottom of the deck” with his statements.
“I’m disappointed that Senator Obama would say the things he’s saying,” McCain to reporters in Wisconsin last week.
“It’s divisive, shameful and wrong...”
The 47-year-old senator denied that race had anything to do with what he said and that he was simply referring to his age and accusations that he lacks the experience needed to lead the country. Mudslinging has been the norm since the beginning of American politics but this is the first time in U.S. history that it has involved race. Both candidates have said they would try to step around the issue and run campaigns that “focus on the issues.”
But race continues to come up in subtle and not so subtle ways. Last month, Black leaders spoke out against the New Yorker magazine cover where a cartoon characterized Obama and his wife Michelle as ‘super militant,’ Obama wearing a turban and Michelle with army pants and a gun strapped across her back.
“When a campaign turns nasty, that’s a sign of desperation... that John McCain’s campaign desperate,” California Democratic Party Secretary Reggie Jones-Sawyer told the Sentinel.
“It’s desperate for attention, for new ideas and very desperate for both. That’s why the campaign has turned ugly.”
“Once we show that unless we change, we’ll be in the same position we’re in now... once Americans understand that a fresh person with fresh ideas and a fresh face is the only way we can make it through the next years, then you’ll start to see Senator Obama pull away [from the divisive politics].”
“The thing is [as far as racism] a lot of people are unaware that they do have basic tendencies,” said Cliff McCain (no relation to Senator McCain) who is Republican and African American.
“But it seems to come out often when people begin to think about Obama’s candidacy. Even to the point where trivial complaints are [taken out of ] proportion, I feel.”
Obama did not comment on the drawing, except to say that the artist had freedom of speech according to the constitution. Despite the attacks, Obama’s camp said they would press on with their message of hope and change for a country at war and mired in a sluggish economy.
However, another McCain ad made fun of that message, telling voters “not to hope for change, vote for it.”