September 11th, 2008

operesque

Minting memes for Obama

It's September 11th, 2008, and things are not looking too good, pollwise, for the Obama campaign. McCain has taken the lead, at least momentarily. As a member of the four-to-one majority of people in the world who want to see Obama win -- and as someone convinced that this election may be America's last chance to avoid a slow decline into malicious, resentful, imperial failure -- I thought there might be something that I -- that we -- could do.



I'm a writer, that is, someone who can generate memes and turn sentences. Now, this doesn't mean that I can connect with the Americans in midwestern swing states who'll control the outcome of the election on November 4th -- I admit that their mindset is somewhat alien to me. But it does mean that I -- and anyone else reading this -- might be able to brainstorm some rhetoric -- generate some memes -- which might help the Obama campaign. Possibly my "help" will be about as useful as Gordon Brown's apparent endorsement of Obama. But something useful might come out of this.

Meme 1: A vote for McCain is a vote for Bin Laden Unlike either presidential candidate, I was actually in New York City on September 11th 2001. I watched the whole thing happen from my rooftop and -- more importantly -- I witnessed the way the feeling of America changed as a result: it went from a playful, secure, creative, open and liberal nation to a fearful, insecure, reactionary, closed and dangerous one. It seems quite clear to me that Bin Laden wanted to provoke the US into stupid acts of aggression -- exactly the ones it went on to commit -- in the hope of draining its resources and bringing about a Soviet Union-style meltdown. And it seems to me that McCain will continue not just the Bush agenda, but the Bin Laden agenda. McCain's foreign policy needs to be connected in the public mind not just with Bush, but with Bin Laden. His hawkishness is exactly what America's enemies want.
Soundbite: A vote for McCain is a vote for Bin Laden.
TV Spot: A Bin Laden impersonator tells the audience: "Last time, the Republicans produced a fake Bin Laden who told you to vote for Kerry. This time I'm here -- the real Bin Laden -- to say that McCain is my man. McCain is the guy who'll continue the wars which strengthen my recruiting drives and weaken The Great Satan, America. Put him in power and you're putting me in power."

Meme 2: It's the economy, stupid. This can never be rammed home hard enough. The economy does better under Democrats. And so does the stock exchange. Republican policies help only a tiny majority of the massively rich. Clinton presided over unprecedented surpluses, Bush has turned them around into catastrophic losses. It makes no sense at all, economically, to vote for McCain unless you're earning more than $150,000 a year.
Soundbite: Hello, elephant in the room! It's the American economy, biggest in the world... for now! (Shorten this slogan, over time, to "Hello, elephant!")
TV Spot: Show a huge room full of people. Voice-over: "We asked all the people whose pocket books will be better under a McCain administration to stay in the room." Everyone except a tiny group of fat cats leave the room. The camera pans round to show an enormous elephant in the room. Slogan: "Hello, elephant! It's the economy. America is richer under the Democrats, and more individual Americans are richer under the Democrats."

Meme 3: The Republicans want to supersize Washington! Whatever they may say, it's the Republicans who are the party of big government. As Tom Gallagher showed back in 2003, "even the Bush administration's own budget projections show no material decline in federal spending as a percentage of the gross domestic product -- even before the inevitable costs of the Iraqi war, occupation and reconstruction are included." The Republicans expand government spending, and expand government interference in private life (wire-tapping, surveillance, snooping).
Soundbite: Who expands the government? Who's snooping on you? The Republicans do, that's who! (Rap version: "Who snoops on you? Who tells you what to do? Who supersizes government? The GOP do! G.O.P: what does it stand for? Government Oversizing Party!")
TV Spot: Voice over: "Who really increases government spending -- and government spying -- in America? Let's look at the pie charts." Charts show Republican expansion of government. Then they turn into a huge hamburger topped with the Capitol dome. Caption: The Republicans want to supersize Washington.

Meme 4: Old America! McCain is 72. If he wins once, he'll be president at 76. If he wins twice, he'll be president at 80. A vote for McCain is a vote to make America sclerotic, geriatric. Vote McCain, and America walks through the world with a Zimmer frame, mumbling to itself. Rumsfeld's slogan about Old Europe will be turned around: it'll be time for "old America".
Soundbite: Don't let America grow old!
TV Spot: Black and white footage of a May Day missile parade in Red Square. Ancient, geriatric, sclerotic Soviet generals raise creaky hands to wave, assisted by young helpers. At the centre, with Sarah Palin moving his arm for him, sits a decrepit John McCain, covered in dust and cobwebs. He smiles wanly down at the passing missiles, then falls back to sleep.

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Some other ideas, in brief:

Coalition of the unwilling: Show the polls that reveal how massively people in the rest of the world want Obama to win. Make a TV spot based on Aesop's fable of The Wind and the Sun: things go so much better when everyone's on your side. That's how you get your way.

Sicko: Pack a 60 second TV commercial with the most shameful scenes from Michael Moore's Sicko documentary.

Civil War: Show how the people against Obama all live in the states which were on the wrong side during the American Civil War. Slogan: "They lost in 1865. Don't let them win in 2008." (Okay, okay, I know you can only make gestures about healing that huge divide, never rub salt into the wound. But we can dream, can't we?)

While we're on the subject, I decided to test statistically my theory that if the US divided into two nations -- the nations of the two parties -- the Democratic nation would be much richer than the Republican one. I took two Wikipedia pages, the one listing which states voted for Bush and which for Kerry in 2004, and the one listing US states by Gross Domestic Product (also known, in this context, as Gross State Product).

Results: The 31 states which voted Republican in 2004 had a combined output of $6653339 million dollars. The 20 which voted Democratic had a combined output of $7089701 million. My hunch was right, but -- in 2004 at least -- there wasn't much in it.