Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Pre Mortem PM Thread: McCain Campaign Mistakes

In this tense last week until the election itself, I suspect a lot of people are too nervous to write or comment much, hoping that they won’t somehow jinx the encouraging news from the polls.

But without jumping the gun and prejudging the election, it’s surely safe enough to look at some of  key ways McCain’s Hate Talking Express has come off the rails.

I recently got a message claiming Obama was ‘The One’, the AntiChrist, and would unleash the End Times. Though these batshit crazy smears come from all quarters, they mimic the erratic and self cancelling attempts of the McCain Campaign to ‘frame Obama’

Once you’ve made a narrative choice, you do have to stick with it – you can’t just keep bouncing around, or people become confused.

If you are telling the story of a scary vampire, you can’t decide in chapter 2 that he’s also 500 feet tall and radioactive and bent on destroying Tokyo, in chapter 3 that he is actually a giant man-eating shark, and in chapter 4 that he is all this and a super-terrorist trying to plant a nuclear bomb in Los Angeles.  All of these things are, indeed, scary, but taken together they add up to a muddle.

This is the problem.  It’s not just the McCain campaign’s problem – although their inability to pick a narrative and stick to it is a special kind of inexcusable –  it’s a problem for the entire wingnut noise machine.  Obama is a Marxist Muslim Arab Jesus Black White Terrorist Technocrat Racist Do-Gooder Liberal FDR Stalin Hilter [me: Chamberlain!] Commie Fascist Gay Womanizing Naive Cynical Insider Noob Boring Radical Unaccomplished Elite Slick Gaffe-Prone Pedophile Pedophile-Seducing Liberation Theology Atheist Etc. & Anti-Etc. with a bunch of scary friends from – wait for it! – the Nineteen Hundred And Sixties.  

It makes no sense.  It’s a jumble sale of fears and scary associations from 50 years of wingnut witch hunts and smear campaigns, a flea market of pre-owned and antique resentments, and if one does detect a semi-consistent 1960’s motif running through it all, that’s because that’s when most of these ideas were coined.

So what do you think the McCain campaign’s biggest mistake has been?

I’m bagging the most obvious one for myself: the moment I lost all residual faith in McCain as an independent politician was the moment he nominated Sarah Palin as VP. It was such a cynical and transparent play of the identity politics card – her looks (designed to appeal to men), her gender (designed to appeal to disaffected Hillary supporters) and her politics (designed to appeal to the right wing base).

Apart from that, what were your favourite/most despised McCain mistakes?


  1. NavyBlueWife

    Where to begin…I too thought that Sarah Palin was the nail in the coffin, but I think now that she was teh coffin itself.  I think the real last nail in the coffin was the “suspending” of the campaign.  His polling numbers have never come back from that moment.  I have more, but I have to think about the truly bad ones.

  2. fogiv

    I’ve got a draft dairy languishing on my hard drive, entitled “Perimortem:  The Legacy of John McCain”.  Work and baby duties have prevented completion, and now you’ve stolen my thunder!  😉

  3. sricki

    He is willing to put a monster second in line for the presidency because he knew it would bring out the fanatical portion of his base. One of the most selfish political moves I’ve ever seen.

    But aside from Palin? Perhaps I felt the greatest disgust when he flipped on torture or immigration. Saying he wouldn’t vote for his own bill — pathetic pandering.

  4. GrassrootsOrganizer

    so I’m going with the point where my disgust tipped over into sheer revulsion.  

    It was in the last debate when he put finger quotes around “health” of the mother.  My jaw dropped and I seriously couldn’t believe the network didn’t break in to announce him a complete utter fucking waste of humanity.  

    Then I went the rest of the debate sort of spaced out, fully expecting the pundits to declare him the winner on “points” or some garbage — but I found myself every couple minutes or so looking up from my computer at the TV and muttering without thinking “he’s such a bitter nasty old fart”.  It wasn’t until I studied the split screen the next day that I realized that wasn’t just my partisanship mumbling — he really WAS coming off as nothing but a bitter nasty old fart.

    He had that one last debate to save himself somehow — put some sort of PLAN out there, behave, I dunno, like a PRESIDENT, project gravitas and wisdom — and his failure at that was nothing short of spectacular.  

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