Over the past year, we’ve witnessed the Obama campaign inject an unprecedented dose of identity politics into the presidential race. It’s become an increasingly important part of their re-election strategy due to the absence of a successful first-term record to run on.
We’ve seen the shameless pandering in many forms. When enthusiasm and fund-raising efforts were lacking from the president’s liberal base, he announced his grand evolution on gay marriage (which was actually the third of forth time he had flip-flopped his personal stance on the issue). When it was time to shore up the Hispanic vote, the president bypassed congress to essentially grant amnesty to hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants (which was considered by many legal scholars to be constitutional malpractice). With young, single women being perhaps the most important demographic in this year’s election, we’ve seen the president’s surrogates fabricate an entire “War on Women” campaign – a phony battle that we’re supposed to believe is being waged by Republicans.
Being a white male, and thus a seemingly unimportant demographic to the president, I haven’t found myself being catered to in such a manner. But if I were, I’m pretty sure I’d be insulted by attempts to generalize and stereotype the things most important to me, based not on my life, but rather on how I was born. It’s one thing for campaigns to try and appeal to shared interests and concerns, but defining people specifically by their race or gender? It just seems ridiculously obvious and pretty darned condescending.
Yet, it apparently must work to some extent or they wouldn’t bother doing it.
Last week, we saw a particularly bothersome example of identity politics in the form of a new, official Obama campaign advertisement that targets young women. The commercial features a woman, who looks barely older than 18, telling viewers about her experience voting for President Obama. She describes how she reached her decision to vote for him, and we find that it really had nothing to do with the economy or the future of the country. Through hip and cutesy innuendo, she explains that she voted for him because he’s essentially the kind of man young women should consider losing their virginity to. I wish I was joking. Again, this is an official advertisement from the Obama campaign – not some independent organization or a school project.
Now, I’m sure Obama supporters will insist that critics of the commercial are merely prudes who are taking the message too seriously, but let’s get real here. This is pretty darned appalling – maybe not to its intended audience, but to the millions of parents out there who have to be mortified by the notion that their college-aged children are being courted in this way. Is this really Obama’s case to young, female voters in this country? Voting for me is like having sex for the first time?
Parents have a hard enough time coping with their little girls turning into women, as the person in the Obama ad put it. They certainly can’t appreciate some political campaign playing the part of their daughter’s pushy boyfriend.
How ironic that a political party that has long demanded that the government get out of their bedroom is now suggesting who voters should have sex with.
Can you imagine the media firestorm that would have taken place if this were a Mitt Romney commercial? The criticism would be relentless, and there would be no amount of explaining and backtracking that would get his campaign off the hook. Heck, the media currently shines a spotlight of criticism on Romney whenever some random politician in the Republican party makes an asinine comment about sex. How would they treat Romney if he was claiming that voting for him was like actually having sex?
In the grand scheme of things, this goofy commercial and its annoying narrator are toward the bottom of a very long list of reasons not to re-elect President Obama. I think it’s important, however, that voters (especially parents with daughters) look at this condescending appeal to young women, and ask themselves if this is how Barack Obama, himself, genuinely views that demographic? Is this how he values our daughters’ vote?
Being that it’s his official campaign that put out the ad, I think the answer’s pretty clear.
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