Friday, August 22, 2008

Campaign Convergence Culture

MIT professor Henry Jenkins has a post on his blog that does a good job of deconstructing the anti-populist rhetoric of the McCain campaign's recent "the one" ads against Obama. He argues that the ads mock the trend towards what he calls convergence culture, in this case the blending of politics and popular culture. He points out that the ads ridicule the enthusiasm of new voters by inferring, like Hillary Clinton did, that their support is superficial and not informed by policy. Why has Obama not countered this charge the way he did Clinton's similar charge? He could use it to re-energize his base by saying "McCain is making fun of you."

Jenkins also points out the effectiveness of the Rovian strategy of taking a strength and making it a weakness. The McCain campaign has effectively neutralized Obama's enthusiasm gap against McCain. The Democrats have squandered a summer by not turning any of McCain's strengths into weaknesses. If McCain wins this campaign, it will be yet another object lesson in the importance of social construction over empirical facts. It is impossible for economists and political scientists to model a clever framing like the "Obama as Messiah" effort. But it very well might be that these factors, and not economic indicators are the true determinants of campaign success.

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