21 October 2008

The same old politics of fear

With the election less than a month away it seems the ‘respectful campaign’ that John McCain promised for 2008 has become a distant memory. The mud-slinging and race-baiting this week hit a new high with concerted efforts from McCain, Palin and their Conservative friends over at Fox News to open up a debate over who the ‘real Barack Obama’ is. Governor Palin’s accusation that Obama ‘pals around with terrorists’ coupled with Obama consistently being mentioned using his middle name, (Hussein) is a step up from the Karl Rove attack politics that smeared McCain in 2000 and questioned John Kerry’s service in Vietnam. When Rove openly criticizes Republican candidate’s methods on Fox it’s clear that they may have gone too far. This week has seen supporters at McCain’s rallies screaming ‘terrorist’, ‘traitor’, ‘off with his head’ and one even shouting simply ‘kill him’. In a nation with a history of assassinations this is extremely disturbing.

This method of campaigning has not just been used recently but has correlated in a crescendo like form since Karl Rove protégé Steve Schmidt took over the campaign and the economic crisis saw McCain with ever decreasing poll numbers. Schmidt was originally credited by the New York Times as having transformed the McCain campaign into an ‘elbows-out, risk-taking, disciplined machine’. There is no doubt that the aggressive stance taken by Schmidt was effective and worked at first, but it was also trying to turn John McCain into George W. Bush. Despite similarities in policies the President and the man who wishes to full his shoes are very different political animals.

The politics of fear has risen this week to a whole new high with senior civil rights veteran John Lewis accusing McCain and Palin of "sowing the seeds of hatred and division". At a rally one man claimed he was scared for his unborn baby that there could be an Obama presidency, whilst a woman suggested Obama was actually an Arab. This prompted McCain to defend his opponent which simply undercut his campaigns message, showing that amongst the Conservative base of the Republican Party the campaign of demonising Obama has been too effective. It’s looking now like bar a special moment in the debate, Barack Obama will be the next man to sit in the White House, Senator McCain now has to decide if he’s really going to try to win at any cost.

By Chris Tarquini

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