Last week I was pretty amazed at just how quickly the McCain campaign's decision to reach into the gutter of identity politics, 60s culture wars, and fear-mongering backfired. Their remaining supporters, already primed by the right wing disinformation machine, were ready to take Palin's references to Bill Ayers and conflate it into a giant bogey man of the Angry Black Radical Muslim Terrorist Socialist Who'll Raise Your Taxes And Take Away Your Guns, a stereotype the McCain campaign thought it could control. But not in this economy, not with defeat looking imminent for the loyal (and aptly named) "base". By the end of the week McCain was visibly pained in his favored town hall meetings as he listened to hysterical audience members regurgitate their ill-informed fears — though the pain was not a reflection of some offense to his innate decency (cracker, please!), but a realization that the Elusive Middle, which this time of the election season is meant to attract, will see the CNN footage and attribute the lunacy of his supporters to the candidate himself.
And, really, why not? If you hire campaign advisers who were the same hell-spawn who spread racist and nasty rumors about you in South Carolina 8 years ago, well ... chickens come home to roost. The post-9/11 fear and hate message doesn't work anymore; only the most deluded, the most ignorant, and the most resentful will play into that crap anymore.