Sunday, September 14, 2008

"Remain calm! All is well!"

Not wanting to sound too much like Kevin Bacon at the end of Animal House, but this week, seeing the panic among Democrats and and Obama supporters reacting to the polls, all I can say is calm the fuck down.

Not only isn't it as bad as it isn't bad at all. Really.

Back when McCain announced Palin as his VP pick, I wasn't alone in thinking it a Hail Mary. Of course, that was wrong. Right idea, wrong sport. The Hail Mary is an act of last-minute desperation--something you do when there's nothing left to lose. The Palin pick happened at the start of the contest. That leaves us searching for a better sports analogy.

Cycling anyone?

To understand what's going on, and why there is no need to panic, bicycle racing offers us a fitting analogy. Most experienced cyclists, or fans of the sport, have had the frustrating experience of, one hour into a six hour race, being asked by a casual fan, "Who's winning?" It's a frustrating question because you know you're going to spend the next five minutes explaining that, right now, no one is winning, it's a long race, and what's going on is simply tactics. And, at the end of that explanation, they're going to look back at you and say, "Yeah, but who's winning?"

The first weeks of the McCain campaign--the Palin pick, and the constant repetition of cheap and easily refuted lies--remind me of the Suicide Break in cycling. Unlike the Hail Mary, the Suicide Break is an act of first-minute desperation. It's the sort of thing you do when you know you're not the biggest, fastest, strongest team out there. It's what you do when you expect to lose. The suicide break only works when the other teams fuck up. If the chasing teams let the breakaway get too far up the road, or wait too long before starting to reel it back in, the break has a chance. Likewise, if the chasing teams let the breakaway change their tactics, and waste their energy reacting rather than racing their own race, the break has done its job. Usually, those things don't happen, and the break fails. That's why they're called Suicide Breaks. In the end, they garner a little drama, and some television exposure for the team sponsors, but little else.

Right now, it's early in the race. The break has gone up the road. But I've seen little to suggest that Obama is panicking and foolishly changing his tactics. Nor is there anything to suggest he underestimates the potential for danger. He's reacted as needed to keep the lies and misrepresentations from gaining ground. Instead, it seems the meme that McCain and Palin are desperate liars seems to be catching on. The media--always in search of an overriding narrative that will allow them to not actually have to do their job--seems to be buying into this.

Remember back to the primaries? After Ohio, and again after Pennsylvania, Obama supporters started to panic. They wondered why he didn't react. Why he didn't change tactics. They forgot, or didn't understand, that Obama is an Alinsky acolyte. He understands tactics. He didn't panic. And, in case you didn't notice, he won.

So, for now, stop worrying about who is winning. No one is winning. It's a long race. Let the tactics play out. Hand me a beer, sit back, and enjoy it.

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