Take a close look at this bumper sticker that apparently was created by an Arkansas Times blog reader.
It’s a clever enough little piece of grassroots paraphernalia, if somewhat confusing as a political message. For the bumper sticker to make sense, a reader has to know of both John McCain’s divorce from his first wife and the fact that he and his second wife Cindy own multiple homes. If you don’t know those things, you’re scratching your head. That’s kind of abstruse for an article of political persuasion.
But what I find most intriguing about this bumper sticker is that it’s a tangible symbol of where this race has ended up over the last three weeks.
Somehow, since McCain’s announcement that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin would serve as his running mate, Barack Obama supporters have completely lost their ability to articulate a reason for why their candidate should be elected, except to point toward McCain and Palin.
Instead of making a case for why voters should send Obama to the White House, many of his supporters have grown obsessed with pointing up what they see as McCain’s failings, sniffing out reasons why Palin is “unfit” to serve as vice-president and building briefs on the limitless perfidy of Republicans in general.
Essentially, liberals find themselves in the spot conservatives were in in 1996, when they could tell you everything in the world about why Bill Clinton should not be president but were stunningly inarticulate in telling you why Bob Dole should replace him. All the energy on the Republican side was negative, and Dole lost.
Look more closely at this bumper sticker, and that’s the story you’ll see: Nothing positive about Obama, but, man, don’t you just hate John McCain? For a political movement, this is not a good place to be in, especially with just 7 weeks until Election Day.
In political terms, Obama has received an opportunity this week with the financial meltdown at Lehman brothers and the nightmare on Wall Street, which gives him a chance to talk about how he would respond and shift the focus back to the positive elements of his agenda and vision that have been invisible for the last three weeks.
That’s good for him, if he plays it right. It might even shift the momentum of this extraordinarily fluid race. But will his supporters follow him out of the slough of despond?
Oh, and another thing: Given the divorce rate these days, it seems kinda nuts to sneer at people whose marriages fall apart, as this bumper sticker does. Really, it’s just a guaranteed way to offend a large segment of the voting population. I asked my ex-wives about it, and all four of them agreed that it simply wasn’t very smart politics.