I just got back from 4.5 days in Mexico. I kept up with the news each night before bed, unfortunately CNN is the only English-speaking news station I could get.
Watching the Obama infomercial on Wednesday was surreal. I kept wondering what Neil Postman would say if he were still alive. Just a few days before election day, I think we may be witnessing the best and worst campaigns in the post-TV era.
On one hand, there is the masterful campaign of Barack Obama. He has handled every aspect of his long run for president with discipline and skill. He has fund raised like no one has ever seen before. He has exploited his massive media advantage to the absolute fullest. He has various grassroots service groups working as his minions (Many pro-Obama internet efforts as well as the "Rock the Vote" city to city tour and others like it- which are basically campaigns to register first time voters to vote for Obama). When the various attacks have come from the other side (Ayers, "lipstick on a pig", his various non-supportive statements about the war and our troops, Jeremiah Wright, his mysterious birth certificate, Joe the Plumber, "share the wealth", etc.) he fends them off and even turns some of them around to his advantage (apparently lots of people like his Marxist economic theory). He even muddies the water with some "Christian" voters when he was asked what book influenced him most and he responded "The Bible". Now I think that's hogwash because of his numerous misquotes and clear ignorance about the content of Scripture, but compared to McCain's answer- "For Whom the Bell Tolls" (oh come on!), he clearly had a better answer. There are many Christians who are going to ignore Obama's radical pro-abortion promotion because of his carefully worded seeming promotion of his brand of Christianity/spirituality. He also out-Christianed McCain when asked what he would like written on his tombstone. He said: That "he was a good man, and an honest man." And that "he was a good father and a good husband." And that "he tried to give something of himself to make the world better" McCain's answer? "He served honorably...and he put his country first." Sorry John, "country first" is too nebulous any more- it dates you. Obama scores big points in such comparative interviews. Obama's 2008 campaign for president may well be the most well organized, best strategized and executed campaigns the post-TV era has ever seen...if he wins on Tuesday.
On the other hand, there is the dull and depressing campaign of John McCain. I will vote for John McCain on Tuesday based on some core principles, not because of his campaign. Very frankly, every time I see side by side interviews with McCain and Obama I am amazed Obama isn't ahead by 25 points in the polls. McCain has been totally knocked off message since the week after the Republican Convention which is partly a credit to Obama, but his own lack of discipline and unclear communication about how he would be different and better than George Bush has been burying him. Some have blamed the choice of Palin as the reason for McCain's slide over the past 30 days. I say that's a total joke. Palin gave McCain the lead over Obama for the week after the convention. Her tangible energy solutions were starting to gain traction and expose Obama's real dirth of a plan for this very important issue. McCain's decline has come because he has not been able to clearly articulate how he is different and better than George Bush especially since the so-called financial crisis hit. His choice to go after various weaknesses of Obama (mentioned above) has seemed to be his main message, not a vision for the future with him as president. Like Obama, he should have been stumping his particular vision of governance with his right hand and jabbing Obama's weaknesses with his left hand. Instead, he looks like he's got nothing in the leadership column so he's going to convince us all we shouldn't vote for Obama because of his socialistic, terrorist friendly ways. Sure, that's enough for his shoe-in voters, but for a great many others, it doesn't work. Then, the mother of all mistakes- McCain votes for the bailout. He says he's different and better than George Bush economically then votes for the bailout? That may well have sealed his fate. The bailout doesn't hurt Obama, he's a spend-happy democrat who salivates whenever the government can gain an interest in the private sector. The bailout was McCain's chance. He blew it in a monumental way. The last 30 days of McCain's 2008 campaign for president may well be the most poorly focused, mismanaged, and uninspiring campaign in the post-TV era.
Yes I still think John McCain would be a better president than Barack Obama. Admittedly I base this on Obama's clear message concerning who he is, what he values, and how he proposes to govern and not because McCain has offered a radically superior alternative. Unfortunately I can't see how McCain can overcome Obama's mastery of these past months and his own botching of the last 30 campaign days.
Why do I keep using "post-TV" era as a description of these campaigns? Because I seriously doubt that either of these candidates would have been chosen as representatives of their respective parties before the "Age of Entertainment". See Neil Postman's "Amusing Ourselves to Death" for more...