The 2008 Presidential race promises to be among the more grueling in American history because regardless of who wins either the Democratic or Republican primaries, there is little doubt that the Republican nominee will not be competing against simply a candidate but against political correctness itself.
Regardless of any myth that the race will be run on issues, the Republican candidate will actually be running against the "Historic Opportunity to Elect America's First Black/Woman President". Right now Obama and Hillary are busy sparring to see who wins the PC Olympics that are the Democratic primaries, whether gender will trump race or race will trump gender. Among the press and the cultural elites, race has always trumped gender which is why the wave of Islamic rapes tends to get swept under the carpet and Islamic oppression of women is the subject of numerous apologetics.
But matters didn't go so smoothly with the voting public in New Hampshire which lacks the kind of bland population that could be browbeaten into voting for Obama out of some misguided sense of fair play, as happened in Iowa. Instead New Hampshire became the perfect place for Bill Clinton to once again cast Hillary as the victim of something or other while Hillary deployed the crying game. Of course that was only Phase 1 of the Clinton machine's tactics. Phase 2 depended on the willingness of Conservative and even Conservative Democrat talk show hosts to fall into the trap by supposedly kicking her while she was down, generating a torrent of sympathy for a woman who plausibly has actual blood on her hands but managed to put on a show of emotion in order to generate identification with her as a victim.
Hillary Clinton became New York State's Eva Peron by supposedly being victimized during her 2000 debate when her opponent extended something for her to sign. In New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton did her best to try and become America's Eva Peron by showing a carefully calculated spot of emotion in her otherwise artificial facade and it worked. New Hampshire though should be a wake up call to Republicans that they have been taking a victory against Hillary Clinton for granted.
Yes most of America hates Hillary Clinton but most New Yorkers hated her too and she's well into her second term as New York's Senator. Underestimating the Clinton machine is a bad idea because it is extremely ruthless and extremely adaptable. In New Hampshire, the Clinton camp reacted to the Iowa backlash that came when the Obama camp successfully painted her campaign as "negative", studied all the data that showed that voters saw her as robotic and cold and rather than trying to do a 180 degree turn, they set up a chance for her to show the "woman" within while staging sexist incidents like the "iron my shirt" moment. The program achieved its results and Clinton solidly carried the female vote that she had lost to Obama in Iowa. So of course Obama's camp responded by generation a Martin Luther King related controversy for Hillary Clinton on the next phase of the campaign and the PC war went on.
What Republicans now need to understand is that a Presidential race against Hillary Clinton will be one "iron my shirt" moment after another and a Presidential race against Obama will be full of MLK moments. It will be a fundamentally cynical race run on strictly PC principles. If the Republican candidate fails to say anything damaging, somewhere the Obama camp will arrange to have some racist graffiti scrawled and the Hillary camp will arrange for some more hecklers to stop by, all in the name of maintaining the perception that their candidate is part of a historic moment that will allow Americans to absolve themselves of prejudice by voting for an official victim. Both Obama and Hillary are too subtle to come right out and say it but that is the that will be played.
This is going to be a tough race and a difficult one. It's also going to require balance. Gender and race will allow Hillary and Obama to play specific roles that when weakened will quickly allow them to morph into victims. The Clinton machine in particular is adept at making even people who hate them feel sorry for them, as the impeachment disaster should remind anyone. Plenty of conservative pundits are salivating at the idea of going after the Clintons again but those same kind of tactics can quickly turn self-destructive because Hillary is not just Kerry or even Bill Clinton and neither is Obama. The cult of victimology has been bred into the American public for over a generation and it will be a factor even on the Republican side, whether we like it or not.
The hate that many in the Republican camp have for Hillary is a weakness and it is one that she knows quite well how to exploit. New Hampshire and the backlash against John Edwards and Chris Matthews for comments that were factually accurate but came off as "insensitive" should be a reminder of that. Not falling into that trap again is important because the electorate is more dissatisfied and uncertain than ever, which means it's also much more pliable and manipulatable. Republicans rightly think of Hillary Clinton of as the "Bad Guy", but New Hampshire is a demonstration of how easily her critics can become the "Bad Guys."
Obama and Hillary Clinton have not won races on their records. They have won because their opponents either dropped out or were forced out or self-destructed. The 2008 Presidential race will be a repeat of that. The power of a politically correct candidate is their ability to turn weakness into a strength, incompetence and inexperience into an advantage and hostility into sympathy and identification. PC candidates represent the ultimate political form of asymmetrical warfare and the conventional attack rhetoric of political campaign only deepens the identification with them as oppressed and disenfranchised by people and groups who themselves feel oppressed and disenfranchised.
Defeating a PC candidate in turn requires understanding that frontal attacks can and will backfire. It requires understanding the root of the identification and countering it at the source.