Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Subtlety is not a McCain strength

Why have the McCain's attempts to play to nativist tendencies failed:
What went wrong with McCain’s attacks? The audience’s shouted slurs ruined the classical Republican approach of plausibly deniable racism. Imagine if at the old boy's country club someone said, “Well, I’m not sure the Cohens would fit in here.” Wink wink. And his buddy responded, “Oh yeah. You mean because they’re Jews, right?” It ruins the ruse, like the sitcom stooge who asks “Hey, why are you kicking me under the table?”
The Southern Strategy was always predicated on the idea that you never make the racism and nativism explicit. This was necessary because there are a large percentage of Republicans who don't want anything to do with racists even though they like the general policy approach of their party. They had to be made to feel comfortable with the party despite its veiled appeals to the cockroach set.

That's why the Trent Lott story blew up several years back and that's why the McCain attacks of the last few days have failed. Both were examples of the uglier side of the GOP strategy coming out into the light. McCain's strategy may have succeeded with the group it was designed to win over. But the ugliness of it was so obvious that it turned off those who don't want to have anything to do with the "off with his head" crowd.


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