Augustine C. OhanweThursday, September 13, 2012




nalysts who had waded through the turbid waters of the US politics would admit that it is hyper-partisan in nature. This system had been so since the country was born. Negative campaigning do feature in all political system worldwide, but it seems unprecedented in the US politics. In the US, a political candidate’s secondary school peccadillos are often exhumed and used for negative campaign speeches. How political opponents treat their pets and nannies are used as campaign tool. Whitewashing the guilty and blackmailing the innocent are common political gimmicks associated with the US politics.

In many cases, such premeditated or intentional efforts to smear one’s political opponents, or the opposing political party is done with unprintable expressions. For example, a journalist asked President Harry Truman why he fired his five-star General from office. President Truman’s response was: ”I fired General MacArthur because he wouldn’t respect the authority of the President. I didn’t fire him because he was a dumb son of a bitch, although he was, but that’s not against the law for generals….”

One has to visualise the mood of the General in order to grasp the psychological injury such unhygienic expression impacted on him.

During the 2008 US senate race in North Carlina, Republican incumbent Elizabeth Dole noticed that her Democratic challenger Kay Hagar was slightly leading in the polls. Realising that religion matters a lot among American voters, she labelled Kay Hagar an atheist. She placed the inscription, ”There is no God” over the picture of Kay Hagar’s face. She did it in order to reduce her chances of winning. She knew how one’s religious belief can sway American voters.

Mrs Obama’s New Political School of Thought

But in her Democratic National Convention delivered recently in Charlotte, North Carolina, appealing to the American voters to reelect her husband, Mrs Obama broke rank with the vitriolic mudslinging common in the US politics and charted her own path. Her speech was not only elegant but decent and civil. She gave no space for name calling or innuendos. She refrained from overt political attack on Mitt Romney or the Republican Party. However she did attack Romney, and she did it in the most sophisticated subtlety. She did it with velvet gloves. The attack was delivered when she recounted the Obamas’ past. She told Americans that she and her husband were both raised by families who didn’t have much financial and material blessings. They struggled to make end meet. And that her husband was raised by ”a single mother who struggled to pay bills, and by grandparents who stepped in when she needed help.”

The hidden message she wishes to sell to the American voters is that the Obamas had passed through the path of penury, and through trials and triumph. And that having graduated from social and economic purgatory to the pedestal of hope they have been conditioned to identify Americans in similar situation, hence President Obama’s antecedent helps him to take decisions that would have positive impacts on Americans of all categories – students low interest loans, free med cares, the elderly citizens, etc, unlike her husband’s Republican opponent who should be identified with the affluence, hence out of touch with grass root realities affecting the downtrodden.

The speech was down-to-earth clean and flavoured with emotion.