Thursday, January 15, 2009

Why Obama Won - By Derrick Shapley

The reason Obama won can be boiled down to four main reasons. The first reason is Howard Dean. When Howard Dean’s campaign ended its members did not leave the Democratic Party but became an integral part of it. Creating and maintaining blogs that challenged the right wing media of talk radio, Fox news, the Wall Street Journal and others.

No longer could the right wing go unchallenged in the media with its often-unfounded allegations of Democratic candidates being either elitist, who are out of touch with the American public or calling Democrats immoral and godless. Anytime there was an allegation by the right wing media the blogs and other form of Internet media was there to counter the allegation, which was then disseminated through traditional media outlets.

Another way Howard Dean helped Obama was when he became chairman of the Democratic Party he created the fifty state strategy. Democrats were no longer going to cede parts of the country to Republicans. This led to Obama challenging every state in both the primary and the general election.

In the primary fighting in caucus states that were small and that Hillary thought were not worth fighting in and in the general fighting in states such as Indiana, North Carolina, and Virginia, states that used to be hostile to Democratic presidential candidates and winning. If it wasn’t for the fact that both Howard Dean and Barack Obama saw that Democrats had to expand the electoral map Democrats may still be in the minority in congress.

The second reason Obama won is because the American public was tired of not only Republican Party ideology but also there campaign tactics. In this election the tired old traditions of the Republican Party in branding people Liberals and tax and spenders didn’t work.

With the problems of the economy, social issues within the campaign became almost irrelevant. We heard almost nothing on gay marriage, abortion rights, gun control, and other wedge issues this campaign cycle. Republicans and even Hillary tried to make wedge issues throughout the campaign with Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright but combined with McCain’s lack of enthusiasm about those issues and the American public’s distaste with this sort of politics of association these wedge issues did not succeed in the last election.

The third reason Obama won was because of the McCain campaign itself, like Dr. Shober said before me. McCain’s campaign made three crucial mistakes. First, it thought it could win on McCain’s record as a Prisoner of War, Senator, and as a reformer of campaign finance without offering much in the way of any ideas about what to do about the future. The McCain campaign set up a campaign theme that rarely acknowledged issues and, in which even their campaign manager Rick Davis declared, “This election is not about issues.” Unfortunately for the McCain campaign this election became about issues like fixing the economy, and restoring our standing around the world.

When the McCain campaign attacked Obama with almost trivial and sometimes disgusting advertising it went over like a lead balloon with the American public. Every reputable poll conducted during and after the election showed the American public viewed the campaign ran by McCain as negative.

The second mistake by McCain was to nominate Sarah Palin for Vice President. This took away McCain’s argument about experience. McCain was arguing that people should vote for him because of experience but then put somebody who was a heartbeat away from the presidency who had never been on a national stage before. The majority of America did not view Palin as experienced and after the pick Obama always could counter the experience angle with Palin. Palin herself did not do McCain many favors.

Yes, she did energize the conservative base, however this was at the expense of alienating moderates and even conservative democrats. Her lack of ability to address questions in interviews brought to the American public memories of a soon to be former president and her polarizing effect on voters was not the message McCain needed when people were wanting something to get done in Washington and to move away from this era of partisanship.

The third mistake McCain made was saying, “The fundamentals of our economy are strong.” After he said this and then a week or two later suspending his campaign and coming back to Washington the American public perceived him as not understanding what is going on in our economy. They viewed him as out of touch with economic issues and were really something McCain could never recover from.

The fourth reason Obama won was because of a certain person in the White House named George W. Bush. I could go over the list of failures of this administration but it would be too long to count. The bottom line is the American public lost confidence in the government’s ability to deal with major crises and the party in charge was the Republican Party so the people who get the blame are going to be Republicans. The almost abysmal favorability ratings of Bush was like a cloud that stood over the entire Republican party this election cycle and one from which they could not recover.

Do you agree or disagree with Derrick? Be sure to leave a comment!

Derrick Shapley is a graduate student in sociology at Mississippi State University. He has formerly worked for numerous campaigns across the country as a field operative.

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