Monday, March 03, 2008

Comics and Politics? Has the World Gone Mad?

On the comics weblog The Savage Critics, Jeff Lester impressively uses comic lingo and the Sandman storyline as pretty spot-on political commentary. Go read his entry and come back to see my response to his excellent post:

I think that the way to tie it back into Sandman is that the entire work is that we create our own story, even when we insist that fate or forces outside of our control has driven us down a particular path not of our choosing (and for Morpheus, perhaps like Clinton, that path was to get out of the job). Like Morpheus, Clinton has to some degree had her narrative disrupted (historic change) by an outside force, but what has she done with that? She has gone defensive and negative largely, becoming more insular (like Morpheus), only showing hints of personality and likeability (are the lessons of Al Gore, a man supposedly charming, but deadly cold and humorless during his presidential bid, so soon forgotten?)

Some psychological research shows that positive candidates win. The more positive you authentically are and your message genuinely is (optimism can only be faked in short bursts), the more likely you are to be elected. I think this is where she has fallen down: Obama has stayed "above the fray" for the most part. Yes, he responds to attacks and does himself attack from time to time, but the delivery doesn't sound venomous like it does from Clinton. Hope may be the defining characteristic of leadership and Obama, less experience or not, seems more hopeful. People want to mock this (and Hillary did herself a huge disservice making fun of this, I think) but I think it's incredibly powerful.

I think you see this in Bush I v. Clinton I. Bush became sour and cynical and it hurt him. He became less personable, likeable, and optimistic.You are also right about the way information and news impacted the Clinton/Bush fight. The excellent book The Way to Win: Taking the White House in 2008 talks in-depth about the "freak show" the bloggers and the rise of Matt Drudge as a watershed movement that changed not just the way information about candidates was shared, but what kind of information was shared, and what was considered suitable information to share. TV news has since largely followed suit and some print news media as well. Certainly now a million politcal blogs and sites exist catering to everything from political gossip and speculation to partisan talking points to (rarely) balanced, informed information or analysis. Clinton, the book correctly is the best to handle the freak show (as is McCain on the other side).

It's a real potential weakness for Obama, the furies on his heels that he must learn to deal with without having his kingdom crumble around him. I think he has the potential to handle it okay, but am concerned for him in this respect unless he receives good guidance from the Clintons, should he be the nominee. (I don't think we'll still know this until convention, unless by some miracle he takes both Ohio and Texas, which doesn't seem likely at this point - maybe Texas).

As a running mate, Clinton would do well to pick Obama, but the reverse is not true. Running as a change agent, Obama would seem hypocritical picking Clinton (not that I think she would accept if offered). She would also alienate those independents that like Obama but hate her - Clinton is strongly polarizing in a way neither McCain or Obama is.A Veep Obama would help smooth out Clinton, however, an unify Democrats and draw some independents. I would be fearful that our society is not yet progressive enough, however, to vote in a woman-black man ticket.

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