Archive for June 6th, 2008
Talking Points Memo has the story:
John McCain is stepping up the rhetoric in his effort to pitch himself as the candidate of substance against Barack Obama’s empty style, making an interesting historical reference in an interview with USA Today.
“I believe that people are interested very much in substance,” McCain said, contrasting himself against Barack Obama’s charismatic style. “If it was simply style, William Jennings Bryan would have been president.”
It’s unclear just how relevant this comparison will be to the average American. No voters alive today can remember Bryan’s campaigns for president, which occurred in 1896, 1900 and 1908.
Except, of course, John McCain. Get it? Cause he’s old?
Personally, I think it’s an intelligent and appropriate jab at the junior senator from Illinois. Even if it doesn’t resonate with the average voter — TPM uses relevant, the wrong word entirely — it’s a clear way to get across the style-over-substance angle which will be a centerpiece of his campaign against Obama.
Just because McCain uses his youth as a backdrop — get it? Cause he’s old? — that doesn’t mean that he can’t resonate with many voters with his message of substance. Comparing Obama to Carter, Mondale, Dukakis and even McGovern should be effective way to capture the larger part of our electorate’s middle-aged voters. Comparing Obama to William Jennings Bryan, on the other hand, will inspire the respect of history buffs everywhere, though not necessarily their vote.
I’ll probably vote for Obama in this election, and I’m a supporter not excited by the color of Obama’s skin. What excites me is a more common historical rarity.
Unlike every election cycle since about Adlai Stevenson’s second run for president in 1956, the electorate can safely vote for a candidate, rather than against one. Two genuine, decent men seek the White House, and anyone who disparages the character of either of them just wants something to complain about.
My vote for Obama will be a vote for Obama, rather than a vote against McCain. hopefully, this will be one election where one candidate’s charisma won’t smokescreen attacks on the character of the other guy. If nothing else, this election will be a historical oddity.
Not even William Jennings Bryan thought like that.