JAY ROSEN/HUFFINGTON POST: John McCain’s convention gambit is now a culture war strategy. It depends for its execution on conflict with journalists, and with bloggers (the “angry left,” Bush called them last night) along with confusion between and among the press, the blogosphere, and the Democratic party. It revives cultural memory: the resentment narrative after Chicago ’68 but with the angry left more distributed. It dispenses with issues and seeks a trial of personalities. It bets big time on backlash.
At the center of the strategy is the flashpoint candidacy of Sarah Palin, a charismatic figure around whom the war can be brought to scale, as it were. In fact the Politico is reporting just that: Palin reignites culture wars. I have no idea if the ignition system will work; nor do I claim that “this is what they were thinking” when they made the decision to nominate Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. Other interpretations may turn out to be truer than mine. This post is my look at the bets McCain and company seem to be placing. I am not recommending the strategy. I am not predicting it will succeed. I think it was improvised, like my description here….
The storm around Sarah Pailn overtakes the story of the Republican convention and merges with it, like a smaller but stronger company taking over a larger but troubled enterprise. Behind the storm a “wave narrative” builds as her appointment generates headlines on multiple fronts. The irresistible force of fact-fed controversy meets the immovable enthusiasm for Palin as cultural object: charismatic everywoman straight from the imaginary of conservative America.
* The basic strategy is: don’t fight the “crisis” narrative. Rather, do things that bring it on; and in that crisis re-divide the electorate hoping to grab the bigger half.
The evangelical wing, and other social conservatives are strongly moved by her candidacy. More and more of their commitment to McCain is vested in him through her. As Andrew Sullivan writes: “The emotions involved — especially among the Christianist base who have immediately bonded on purely religious and cultural terms with Palin — are epic.”
* The strategy: sell the epic version of her candidacy. Allow her to become bigger than McCain in narrative terms. And let the two mavericks together overawe the Republican party, a damaged brand.
Continued bad news on the investigation front adds further drama, new fact streams and more protagonists to the Sarah Palin story. As more comes out about the decision to name Sarah Palin to the ticket, it’s harder to see how anyone on the inside thought it McCain’s best choice for president-in-waiting.
* Strategy: Give no ground, pile on the praise for her performance in Alaska, pump up her governor’s experience to death-defying extremes, hope for theatrical confrontation with characters in the mainstream media who can star as the cosmopolitan elites in the sudden politics of resentment the convention has been driven to. MORE