Obama & McCain: Social Reframing in Action


Human psychology & Behavior, as well as social dynamics have always been a hobby of mine.  It goes beyond just dating.  It plays itself out on the global scale.  This blog often covers dating between men and women, rules of attraction and the like.  Observing political candidates is no different.  In fact, watching the presidential candidates jockey for position and try to set ridiculous frames is sometimes as entertaining as it is gut wrenching.

It is social dynamics and reframing at work.   You have the same thoughts watching “campaigning” these days as you do watching a ridiculous Jackie Chan movie: “Come on!  At least keep it somewhat realistic.”

I should preface this all by saying that this isn’t about my personal agenda for one candidate or the other.  I am not really a fan of either party [duopoly]  these days.  Yes, I find it fascinating to watch both sides’ attempts to paint a picture of themselves that is blatantly contrived to win the emotions of their potential constituents.   It really is like watching a conman or even a “Pick up artist,” a whole lot of façade, not a lot of substance.

So let’s play along and see they’re feeding us in their carefully prepped meals.  

A major theme of this campaign is to appeal to the common man.  That’s every election but with a second Vietnam war on our hands compounded by one of the worst economic crisis, the appeal to the common American become of paramount importance.

We have Obama:  The Hope for Change.  He is smart; he has a multi-ethnic background and because he is half-black, he can relate to the experiences of the Average American through his specially coded DNA.  He is just like you and me, except when he has his handout taking campaign contributions.   In fact, to even better relate to the Average Joe, he announced he won’t take public funding, but instead he’ll rely on private contributions. 

We have McCain.  The dedicated war hero who kept crashing every plane the military gave him.  Someone forgot to tell him that “Kamikaze” missions were not acceptable U.S military policy.  Yet, he is grittier, and he comes across sincere.  He also seems like the type of guy you could have a beer with in your local dive bar.  Problem is that he doesn’t come across too much smarter than the fellas in your local dive-bar.  Like the local bar-fellas, he too thought a beauty peagent’s dream of world peace should grant her vice presidency. He is the friend of the common man, who umm…err…gulp,  was part of the Keating 5. 

The social reframing started long ago with these guys but it’s how they jockey for position to appeal to you and me that is fun to watch. 

If you had to pick a party who has been more clever in how they present themselves in the past 10 years, you’d have to pick the Republicans. The GOP is pretty darn good at setting traps for the Democrats who are suckers at taking the bait.  This is all reframing at work.  Let’s examine it in more detail.

There are a lot of issue we could dissect but for starters, let’s look at their choice for Vice President of the Nation:

The Republicans don’t address the fact that a gun-touting vindictive bimbo isn’t really qualified to be vice president of the United States.   Instead, they frame/portray her as a people’s person.  [Again, we are back to the common man theme!!]  She is a hockey mom who can relate to the common man/woman/family. 

 Obama, they say, is an intellectual elitist.  He went to Harvard and how could he ever understand the troubles of the average American?  In the age of Space Stations, Lasik Surgery, Nuclear weapons, Ipods, and Tivos, being a smart intellectual is being portrayed as a detriment to success.   This is a masterful REFRAME by the Republicans.  The fact that more than 5 people buy into it, is a sad statement on our society.  Either way, the Republicans have pulled a nice reframe and now the democrats have to deal with it.

The Democrats fail in that they start to justify themselves and start qualifying themselves about how they really CAN actually relate to the common man.  In having done so, they’ve played right into the Republicans hands.  The issue has been obfuscated.  Instead of discussing why a religious fanatic bimbo who believes in “Creationsim” isn’t fit to be President (should McCain’s health takes a plunge,) the Democrats are on their hills backtracking trying to convince people why they really are good for the common man.

This is where the Democrats fail.  They’ve failed to show balls.  What they could have done was go after the bimbo-Palin with the same ferocity. 

Ya know, I once knew a guy who was a security guard.  His dream job was to be an elevator operator.  We are talking old-School elevators.  The ones where you got in and told the guy, “5th Floor please” and he’d use his extreme expertise and years of training to push a lever that’d take you to your desired floor.  The brokenhearted security guard complained that they don’t have elevator operators anymore.  Modern elevators have buttons that stop on the proper floor and the passengers operate the machinery without the supervision of the glorious elevator-operator.

But man, could that guy relate to the troubles of the common man.   He ate junk food, had no health benefits, and felt out of place.  Maybe he ought to be running for president because he is even more in touch with the people that the hockey mom governor. 

She gets the best health benefits for her entire family, a mansion to live in, and large walk-in closets where she can hide her Hitler statues.  Not to mention a nice salary and the power to govern a state of the Union.  How can she relate to the common man?  The poor bastard security guard who worked for 7 dollars an hour with no healthcare whose dream job has now become obsolete is the real deal.  He is in touch with the people and the masses. He can sympathize far better with the middle class, the lower class, and the simply broke.  He ought to be in Office.  

Again, this is where the democrats fail.  No one shows ball.  Wouldn’t be refreshing if for once someone got on stage and said,

“Hey, answer me this:  What if your father had to have open-heart surgery?  Do you want the best person for the job?  One of the most qualified surgeons from one of the most prestigious university programs with a track record for success?  Or would you have your plumber whose father needs surgery too, do it??  After all, your plumber can sympathize best since he is going through the same woes you are.  While we are it, why do you still have your clothes on?  Didn’t I see you in a Bukake video??”    (OK, so I added that last thing for added effect, but you have to admit, it’d be cool!) 

The Republicans are masterful of framing themselves in an appealing manner.  8 years ago, they put some jeans and a saw in George W. Bush’s hands walking on ranch in Texas, chopping wood like the rest of us.  Wow, Dubya is a throwback to the 1800s. 

Meanwhile, they guy grew up and the New England area, and went to Yale.  He knows as much about the ranch life as he knows about foreign policy, which seems to be as much as Dick Cheney knows about not shooting your friends while hunting deer. 

But it worked.  (Ok, not counting the Florida debacle.)

The democrats fail to capitalize on this.  They also are afraid to take a stance.  Everyone wants to garner support and win votes so badly that they waver on positions on an issue between breakfast and lunch.  What they don’t realize is that, historically, the most popular people have always been those who had passion for a certain cause.  That means you have to be willing to fail while sticking to that cause.  If  you’re against the war in Iraq, then you ought to stick with that despite what the polls show.  No one is willing to fail for his or her ideals.   This isn’t to imply that Obama is the hope people have made him to be, but wouldn’t it be cool if he showed some balls?  

Two weeks ago, I was watching the 4th quarter of the game between the Denver Broncos against the San Diego Chargers.  After scoring a touchdown at the end of the game, Denver had a choice: Kick an easy field goal (to get 1 point) to tie the game, or go for two points which was far riskier and harder to accomplish.  Under the circumstances, Denver Coach Mike Shannahan saw fit to roll the dice and go for two points to win the game, instead of opting for overtime.  If you’re not familiar with American football, you have to understand that going for two points is extremely difficult.  It’s essentially having to score a second touchdown.

It was the right call.  The way his defense was giving up points, coach Shannahan saw no other choice.  And it worked!  Denver scored the two extra points and Won the game, and avoided overtime.

Everyone in the city of Denver celebrated (except for the San Diego players probably) and praised Shannahan.  However, here is the key lesson: 

What if Shannahand had failed?  The odds were against him.  It is rather difficult and rare to score two consecutive touchdowns to get the extra two points.  Mike Shannahan had to be willing to fail.    “Stick to your guns” as they said in the old West.  He had to be willing to live with the consequences of his decisions and the media/fan scrutiny that came with it.

This is what’s missing from modern politics.  The only people who show dedication to their cause are the organized religions zealots who basically want to kill the other side.  The sane misplaced their balls.  Only exception to this rule in this current campaign would be Ron Paul who does show balls of steel in opposing the Patriot Act, the Iraq War, and the Federal Reserve.  (The latter being a topic that our modern day candidates wouldn’t touch in a 100 years.)  People with balls, however, don’t get the major party nominations.  Instead, we get the wolf in sheep’s clothing who are socially reframed to fit our ideal images.

Again, while I see a lesser evil each election, I am not a fan of either party.  Both seem to serve their corporate masters who contribute loads of cash $$ to their campaigns.  They don’t care about you or me.   Neither really cares about the American public all that much.  They forgot about the average American decades ago.

What’s interesting is to watch them jockey for positing and how they portray themselves each election cycle!!    The dog and pony show they put on and the strategists behind the scenes who plan each move.

McCain’s campaign is to appeal to the common man.  Again, he comes across as genuine and sincere while wearing his POW badge on his sleeve.  He does not come across as a super intellectual, and that’s probably because he is not one.  (This is not implying that he is a moron like W.)  He does seem to show more grit than Obama.  He doesn’t seem  like the most knowledgeable guy either, but boy, he seems like a good guy. 

Obama, on the other hand, has one equalizer:  He has some charisma.  Charisma can make up for a lot in social platforms.  He does need to develop some balls, however.

For the democrats to become more successful, they have to grow more balls, and at the same time appeal to the general public more.  Perhaps this is the greatest time of irony in American history. 

The Democratic Party, traditionally known for more liberal and social ideas, Social welfare, universal health care, rewarding the middle class, exercising more taxes on the rich in the upper brackets, IS NOW being painted as elitist. 

The republicans, known for giving tax breaks to the rich, creating bail outs for fortune 500 companies, and cutting down social programs ARE NOW being framed and portrayed as the party for the people; “The friend of the common man.”

This is once again, great social reframing.  You may ask, “Why do people accept such obvious carefully contrived shenanigans?  Well, mostly to their social-conditioning and self-image identification.  (But that’s a whole different topic for another day.) 

One thing is for sure.  It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.  Let’s do a recap. This is how they have presented themselves to the public thus far:

Obama: The intellectual who thus far has shown that he perhaps he lacks balls. He represents change, however.  Trying to capture people’s hearts by filling the void that was left after John F. Kennedy was assassinated.  He represents hope, as he is depicted as the outsider who is not part of the club. (ummm, not counting the handouts he receives.)    He brings a fresh new perspective.  He is half-black, and portrayed as “Black” which will cost him votes in certain regions of the U.S.   He does have some Charisma, which is his great equalizer.  He tried hard to liken/associate himself to JFK. 

McCain:  The dedicated war hero/POW, appeals to the common man, as he understands their plight.  Not as smart as Obama, but probably has more balls.  Comes across as a nice guy.  Has a gun-touting bimbo for vice-president, which scares the heck out of a lot of people, even the hardcore McCain supporters. Yet she appeals to the religious zealots of the country who had a hand in electing Bush as well.

So we have the fresh new face who presents change from politics as usual, versus the older grittier ex-Vietnam POW, who at age 72, has his last chance to run for Presidency.

This is the image they have constructed and their handlers have carefully orchestrated.  It’s doubtful that this’ll change between now and the election in 6 weeks. 

Who will win?