Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Politics at the Laundromat

I have been laid low by a stomach virus for three days. This is the last week of our stay here in Pennsylvania and I'm missing all kinds of lovely outdoor activity because I'm chained to the bathroom. Yesterday I emerged long enough to go to the laundromat with four bags of laundry, sheets, comforters, and everything else we need to clean before we leave.

At the laundromat yesterday, the TV was tuned to the local ABC affiliate. I saw two political commercials during the afternoon programming, twice each.

Here's one:

Message: If you liked Hillary but don't like Obama, John McCain wants to be your new best friend. Highlight: This woman, straight out of my demographic, looking at me, acting a little ashamed, a little conspiratorial, saying "It's okay to vote for McCain. A lot of us are doing it." Or whatever. Lady, if you talk to me like that, I'm expecting you to try to hand me a wrinkled ziploc bag, not a wrinkled Republican candidate. This ad made me feel ill all over again.

Here's the other:

Now I know that Obama has tried to get this ad blocked and some stations have blocked it (Fox News for example). It is certainly a low, cheap smear that plays fast and loose with the facts. I look at it and I can't imagine how sitting on a board with someone who was a radical 40 years ago but is now a distinguished professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago could merit such an elaborate attack ad. It just seems ridiculous to me, like a Sean Hannity wet dream come to life. However, I listened to the clucks and tuts of the people around me in this laundromat, and I realized: the ad is effective. Obama is, for them, dangerous anyway.

Here in extremely rural PA, there are very few people who personally know someone who isn't white.

Watching the depths to which the opposition is willing to sink, and the effect these attacks have on people around me, I can't help thinking that the Obama campaign and the Democratic party in general was a little naive, a little too optimistic, about how serious these issues were going to be in the general election. This wasn't paid for by the McCain campaign. McCain won't have to do this dirty work. There are plenty of people who will do it for him.

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