» Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]


 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]


 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum

September 17, 2008
With a little under eight weeks left before the general election, Barack Obama's campaign message is old news, and his momentum is certainly waning. And what's more, John McCain has succeeded in adopting many of Obama's messages, taking them on as his own and blurring the lines between them. Thus, whether he wants to or not, Obama must retool and restart, or at least modify his message. The announcement of Sarah Palin has re-energized the Republican Party, and by all accounts brought a number of outsiders into the GOP fold for 2008. The latest polls do not favor Obama in November, and, just as McCain has deftly done with Palin, Obama's campaign must adapt or die.

Over the painfully drawn-out primary season and into the current general election, I've had numerous political conversations (some regrettable, others insightful) with people regarding the Presidency of the United States and, in turn (and more importantly), where America is headed. My most recent strategy in these conversations, during which I am generally promoting Barack Obama, has been to ask the question: What makes (or, increasingly, did make) America great? In response, people have cited a number of things, from the country's long-standing commitment to state-provided education to the championing of human rights, and from a dominant military to a world-leading economy. On the history of modern America common ground was indeed easy to find, as most could agree on the basic tenants that have made the United States the world's lone enduring super power.

After establishing a historical consensus, (if possible) I then prompt my counterpart to analyze the current situation regarding these core issues, and what direction they felt the United States should take in the future. More often than not such discussions revealed a deepening frustration with not just one but several issues, with disagreements over the policies of the Bush Administration being a common bone of contention. In fact, a USA Today/Gallup poll taken between August 21st and 23rd revealed that these frustrations aren't limited to people I know; 81-percent of Americans said they were dissatisfied with the direction of the nation. With such a huge portion of the population unquestionably convinced that their country is headed in the wrong direction, in order to bring the country together and take the White House in November Barack Obama needs to modify his message from one of political safety to one of populist outrage.

From this point forward Obama's primary emphasis should be shifted, scrapping his stylized sloganeering for a realism that is adaptable to the specifics at hand. The Senator's arbitrary campaign message - "Change You Can Believe In" - has come to embody his ambiguity, meaning too much and too little at the same time. Instead, to capitalize on the majority sentiment, perhaps Obama's slogan should be "Changing Directions to Restore Greatness." Such a deviation would be both in keeping with his past rhetoric and a clearer, more precise message at the same time. Election day is fast approaching, and Obama needs to begin focusing on specifics regarding where he wants to take the United States - "Changing Directions" and how he plans to steer the country away from the course set by eight disastrous years of Republican control. The addendum of "Restoring Greatness" not only repeats his key sentiment, but stresses Obama's potential - one that few think McCain has or wants - to return the United States to a place of admiration both at home and abroad.

What makes America great? is a question which Republicans don't seem to have a real answer to, because it re-directs to what people care about most: the issues. Religion didn't make America great. Neither did pre-emptive war, extraordinary rendition, tax cuts or Freedom Fries. By focusing on Sarah Palin, who is not even his opponent, Barack Obama has been sucked in to a diversion from the issues. To get back on track, and subsequently secure votes, Obama must emphasize a change in direction and a plan for restoring America to greatness, issue-by-issue.

An obvious place to start is with America's once-great economy, which this week sunk to depths so perilous as to begin dragging European and Asian markets down with it. Republican policies of deregulation and special interest control led directly to the economic mess, and Obama must clearly distinguish his plans from those policies, which John McCain will continue to support. As former President Bill Clinton, who experienced astronomical favorability ratings, famously said: it's the economy, stupid.

Likewise, Obama should press the issue of education, and how American primary schools continue to fail on a number of levels. McCain continues to support the failed policies of the Bush Administration, such as the No Child Left Behind Act.

Rather than cower in the face of McCain's military record, Obama should instead press for a return to the strong military of the nation's past - not the lobbyist system of mercenaries and contractors - which intervened in crucial and significant conflicts (WWI & WWII) with the world's blessing, respect and admiration. Additionally, he should emphasize a foreign policy that starts with meetings and handshakes, and only escalates when necessary; not a foreign policy that starts with bombs and threats, and then moves to fake handshakes and smiles. As another famous American adage goes, it is most effective to talk softly and carry a big stick.

Another point of vulnerability for the Republican ticket is their so-called moral values, which should certainly cover more than abortion and gay marriage. The fact of the matter is that when the smoke of conservative fire & brimstone speeches clears, most Americans have similar beliefs. The traditionally left-leaning side of the abortion debate is referred to as Pro-Choice rather than Pro-Abortion for a reason, and the singe most affective method of reducing the rate of abortions, as has been repeatedly shown in scientific studies, is not the myth of "abstinence-only," but true sex education. That the rights of homosexuals in America is even under debate is an affront to the Civil Rights movement and the Constitution. The division of voters along "all-in" or "all-out" lines on issues of morality is, quite simply, a political invention. Polarization and ideological regression - exactly what conservatives claim to be fighting in the "War on Terror" -are not cornerstones of American greatness and are not the way of the future.

"Changing Directions to Restore Greatness" is both a throwback to the pre-Bush past, the memory of which many Americans can embrace, and a promise for the future, which most currently see as bleak. To win in November, Barack Obama must adopt a message that is more than an abstract allusion to change; he must embrace specifics of a fundamental change to steer the course for the future, based on the greatness of the past. Sloganeering is a large part of the current problem (e.g. the USA PATRIOT Act; the No Child Left Behind Act), which has eschewed sound policies for the sound bites of bumper sticker politics. Americans must look to the values and ideals that made their country great, and only then will we be able to erase the last eight years of carnage and divergence from the spirit of the Constitution. America needs a fresh start to solve the colossal problems both at home and abroad, and to get there Barack Obama needs to modify his campaign message.

SEE ALSO: www.barackobama.com
SEE ALSO: www.johnmccain.com
SEE ALSO: www.pollingreport.com

Brian Christopher Jones
A student living in Scotland and working toward a PhD in law.

See other articles by Brian Christopher Jones.



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