One sure sign that the Republican party has taken notice of Barak Obama's fame, is the fact that they have already begun to steal Obama's frame. And to make matters worse, the Republicans are doing a better job with Obama's...

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Jeffrey Feldman, Editor-in-Chief
Frameshop, 12/12/2006
One sure sign that the Republican party has taken notice of Barak Obama's fame, is the fact that they have already begun to steal Obama's frame. And to make matters worse, the Republicans are doing a better job with Obama's frame than Obama himself.

That's probably because the "common sense" frame at the heart of much of Barak Obama's and John McCain's rhetoric is actually an old idea from Ronald Reagan.

Going all the way back to his 2004 bid for the Senate, Obama's campaign used a "common sense" frame in an attempt to define the logic of the campaign:

"If I just focus on the stories I'm hearing from people back home in Illinois," he said, he'll get his point across. It's a message of common sense, he added, not the "slash and burn politics" so prominent in today's discourse." (from "The Democrats' Calm Rock Star," by Todd Leopold, CNN, August 6, 2004)

Two and half years later, Obama is still using the "common sense" frame, but John McCain is Mitt Romney using it, too. And he seems to be doing a better job.

Why? Because the GOP is grounding their "common sense" frame in the history of American rhetoric and the history of their own party, while Obama has not given his "common sense" frame any roots at all--neither in his own party nor in the history of American ideas.

Instead, Obama's idea of "common sense" seems to be his way of talking about a politics that does not involve an arguments--a politics of happy productivity.

Someone should tell Obama, however, that whenever John McCain talks about "common sense conservatives" he is being explicitly ideological.

In a recent GOP dinner, McCain talked about "common sense" as if he were reviving an old ideological movement:

“I am convinced that a majority of Americans still consider themselves conservatives or right of center. They still prefer common sense conservatism to the alternative. They want their government to operate as their families operate, on a realistic budget, with an eye on the future that spurns self-indulgence in the short term for the sake of lasting prosperity, that respects hard work and individual initiative, and that shows no favoritism to one group of Americans over another. Americans had elected us to change government, and they rejected us because they believed government had changed us. We must spend the next two years reacquainting the public and ourselves with the reason we came to office in the first place: to serve a cause greater than our self-interest.

Common sense conservatives believe in a short list of self-evident truths: love of country; respect for our unique influence on history; a strong defense and strong alliances based on mutual respect and mutual responsibility; steadfast opposition to threats to our security and values that matches resources to ends wisely; and confident, reliable, consistent leadership to advance human rights, democracy, peace and security.

We believe every individual has something to contribute and deserves the opportunity to reach his or her God-given potential. We believe in increasing wealth and expanding opportunity; in low taxes; fiscal discipline, free trade and open markets. We believe in competition, rewarding hard work and risk takers and letting people keep the fruits of their labor.

We believe in work, faith, service, a culture of life, personal responsibility. We believe in the integrity and values of families, neighborhoods and communities. We believe in limited government in a federal system, individual and property rights, and finding solutions to public problems closest to the people.

We believe in the rule of law and equal justice under the law, victim’s rights and taxpayers’ rights, and judges who interpret the Constitution and don’t usurp, by legislating from the bench, the public’s right to elect representatives to write our laws.

Common sense conservatives believe that the government that governs least governs best; that government should do only those things individuals cannot do for themselves, and do them efficiently. Much rides on that principle: the integrity of the government, our prosperity; and every American’s self-respect, which depends, as it always has, on one’s own decisions and actions, and cannot be provided as another government benefit." (full text here)

That sure looks like an ideology to me! Actually, McCain's speech sounded like a séance with Ronald Reagan from the 1980s. Back then Reagan used to say things like:
We will simply apply to government the common sense we all use in our daily lives. (Republican National Convention, July 17, 1980)

The American people joined us and helped us. Let us ask for their help again to renew the mandate of 1980, to move us further forward on the road we presently travel, the road of common sense, of people in control of their own destiny; the road leading to prosperity and economic expansion in a world at peace. (Republican National Convention, August 23, 1984)

They called it the Reagan revolution. Well, I'll accept that, but for me it always seemed more like the great rediscovery, a rediscovery of our values and our common sense.

Common sense told us that when you put a big tax on something, the people will produce less of it. So, we cut the people's tax rates, and the people produced more than ever before. The economy bloomed like a plant that had been cut back and could now grow quicker and stronger. Our economic program brought about the longest peacetime expansion in our history: real family income up, the poverty rate down, entrepreneurship booming, and an explosion in research and new technology. We're exporting more than ever because American industry because more competitive and at the same time, we summoned the national will to knock down protectionist walls abroad instead of erecting them at home.

Common sense also told us that to preserve the peace, we'd have to become strong again after years of weakness and confusion. (Farewell Address, January 11, 1989)

Of course, just like Reagan, McCain's "common sense" means tossing working Americans to side of the American dream like so much garbage, outsourcing jobs, military build-up, religious and social intolerance, and a general culture of greed and arrogance.

But what does it mean to Obama?

Well, it seems that Obama is just using "common sense" to talk about a politics that has no partisanship in it--as if such a thing has ever or could ever exist. In his recent not-a-presidential-candidate stump speech in New Hampshire, Obama invoked the "common sense" frame:

We’ve come to be consumed by a 24-hour, slash-and-burn, negative ad, bickering, small-minded politics that doesn’t move us forward...Sometimes one side is up and the other side is down. But there’s no sense that they are coming together in a common-sense, practical, non-ideological way to solve the problems that we face. (read the whole article here)

So, while the Republicans want Americans to hear "common sense" and think "Ronald Reagan," Obama wants Americans to hear "common sense" and think "no more negative ads."

Well...I am watching Senator Obama like everyone in the country right now, but it seems pretty clear to me that his use of "common sense" is dead on arrival.

Believe it or not--and we must believe it--John McCain will use the same immoral gang tactics on the Democratic candidate that the GOP used on John Kerry and that George Bush used on him. If Barak Obama does turn out to be the 2008 Democratic nominee, 18 months from now the GOP will turn his public image into something that looks worse than Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden, Hitler and Freddy Krueger all rolled into one. In fact, by the time the GOP finishes with him Obama will probably be smeared as a racist politician who hates black people. Yep, America. The GOP is that immoral. And they will do anything to win.

In the midst of the inevitable hate and smear campaign to be hurled at him, Obama's "no negative ads" approach will wilt like an orchid in the desert.

Just like it wilted for John Kerry.

Just like it did for Al Gore.

Just like it did for Michael Dukakis.

Just like it did for...

© 2006 Jeffrey Feldman, Frameshop

© Jeffrey Feldman 2006, Frameshop

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