Imperial County: A Case Study
Imperial County, California, might give us a little clue about how elections are won these days. Imperial County is heavily Catholic and 75% Hispanic. Here’s how they voted:
McCain – 37.3%
Obama – 61.1%
Prop 4 (parental notification)
Yes – 73.2%
No – 26.8%
Prop 8 (restore marriage)
Yes – 70.0%
No – 30.0%
Very high numbers for Props 4 and 8, and yet the county still went for Obama by a significant margin. Why? Why did they vote for a man who is so overtly hostile to their fundamental values? The answer is that presidential elections are not driven by issues anymore, they are driven by image – pure and simple. Barack Obama is an attractive and compelling media figure. He’s good looking, intelligent, articulate, smooth, and appears to be knowledgable and passionate. For many voters, there is also a strong symbolic attraction due to his race. Few voters look beyond image, and it is unrealistic to expect them to.
I have said before that the Obama campaign was more issues-oriented than the McCain campaign, but that’s only because Obama had the image contest totally locked up. Image is priority; issues are luxury.
Imperial County was simply duped. America may have been duped as well. In a media-controlled electorate of 300 million citizens, this is how every presidential election in the future is going to be run. There’s got to be a better way.
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