Friday, August 01, 2008

Shoes and slips and selling works

The blogosphere was burning up over John McSame’s campaign’s latest attacks trying to brand Barack Obama as an effete elitist, culminating in one of the dumbest TV ads I’ve ever seen, clearly a slip-up in their campaign.

Then came the revelation that McSame wears Ferragamo loafers that cost about $520—and here I thought they were just cheap, ugly shoes. Liberal bloggers started posting about the shoes. Most stuck to the main point, that Republicans are hypocrites calling Obama an elitist when their candidate wears $520 shoes. The shoes weren’t the issue, nor the cost, but how McSame has no right to call Obama an elitist when he wears $520 shoes.

Ultimately, it’s futile to try and make McSame’s shoes an issue, and for two reasons. First, the Republicans are experts at character assassination, negative politics and Orwellian Doublespeak. They can make buying a bottle of Diet Coke sound elitist when a Democrat is doing it—while they guzzle their own bottles.

The other reason focusing on the shoes will probably fail is that most ordinary people aspire, if only secretly, to be able to afford $520 shoes (or equivalent). By attacking the shoes, one is attacking the secret aspirations of millions of ordinary people, especially after the Republicans have framed Democrats as being effete, elitist snobs who want to take things away from ordinary people, or prevent them from getting the stuff in the first place.

So, if a Democrat has $520 shoes it's bad and elitist, if a Republican does, it's a reward for hard work. Double standard? You bet. But Republicans know what sells and how to sell it.

To their credit, the Obama campaign has responded appropriately, and on point, as their response ad shows. It looks like the Obama campaign won’t do a John Kerry and let McSame and the Republicans get away with their party’s usual tricks and smears. This is a very good development.

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