February 22, 2007
POLITICS: Barack Obama's Symbolic Appeals to Cannibals
To the average American, it may have seemed that Senator Obama intended to invoke Abraham Lincoln by announcing his presidential candidacy in Springfield, Illinois. But Springfield has another history - which raises certain suspicions about that announcement speech. You see, Springfield was the origin of the infamous Donner Party, whose trip to the West ended in cannibalism. And that's not all:
Also ill-fated were the 850 Pottawatomis who trudged through Springfield in 1838, past the Old State Capitol, then being built. Under armed military guard, the Native Americans were on a forced march, later known as the Trail of Death, from Indiana and Michigan to Kansas. It was part of the U.S. government's effort to resettle all tribes west of the Mississippi.
The 660-mile journey, also commemorated in a plaque on the kiosk, took 10 weeks, and the death toll is estimated to have been at least 40.
Was Senator Obama secretly using coded appeals to cannibals, and conjuring up the wistful nostalgia of some Americans for the days of forced resettlement of Native Americans?
Ridiculous, you scoff. But how well, really, do you know liberal Democrats' secret desires? Probably as well as The New Republic's Rick Perlstein knows those of conservative Republicans. As Perlstein writes of Mitt Romney's decision to announce his candidacy in Dearborn, Michigan in front of the Henry Ford Museum:
As the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) immediately observed, its location, the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, is a "testament to the life of ... a notorious anti-Semite and xenophobe." Some observers wondered if perhaps this wasn't intentional: If you want to prove to conservatives you're no liberal, what better way than to announce on the former estate of a man who, as the NJDC also pointed out, was "bestowed with the Grand Service Cross of the Supreme Order of the German Eagle by Adolf Hitler"?
Well, that makes precisely as much sense as seeing Obama's choice of location for his announcement as a coded appeal to those voters with a taste for man-flesh.
Or maybe Perlstein's just responding to dog whistles.
Long time reader, seldom commentor. Yet I find myself commenting twice in one night. Why Because I'm VERY troubled with how divisive and close-minded you've become lately.
Please, re-read your words here. Secret deisres? Appeals to cannibals? Adolph Hitler? Jeez.
Let's try to stick to discussions that ave some kind of tie to reality today. How about criticizing Obama for his stance on issues - and not for something so meaningless as where he announces his candidacy.
Posts like this just make many mainstream MOR voters turn you off. Which is sad because you used to have so much more to say.
Obama will get better, and the media will give him room to grow. He does need better handlers. Mrs Obama's statement about him being unsafe, as a black man, to gas up his car, ain't gonna play. On the issues, I don't see anyone besting Richardson. It will be quite the watch.
Sarcasm, DD. More help? Nonsensical reading into symbolism, no? As referenced above, there's utter garbage being tossed by the candidates and spouses. To all voters the baseballcrank turned off the process, I plead COME BACK!
Dave, if you can't get the fact that I'm doing a parody of Perlstein here, you might as well give up. And frankly, I'm tired of the "I used to like this site" schtick you have been peddling for the past 6-8 months now. You like the site, fine. You disagree with me and come to argue, fine. But if you can't stand it here, leave already.
Cannibals play a crucial role in the early primaries; the trick for candidates is in throwing them a few bones early, while not alienating those with more traditional diets. Look for Obama to explain his dinner plans coyly as, 'I'm having an old friend for dinner' and to denounce Jodi Foster as a two faced double crosser.
Sadly, after Reagan's "I believe in states rights" announcement in Philadelphia, Miss., coded messages and dog whistle announcements have become indicative of what that candidate is trying to get across.
I would love to track where all of the candidates announce, maybe even going back a few years.
As a Jew and a cannibal, I'm really torn now.
I see what you're saying here, but there is a slight difference between the two. While I doubt Romney is trying to appeal to racists, it does seem stupid to announce in front of a museum dedicated to a racist.
I got a kick out of what Bill Maher had to say last week, saying the primary process has become Survivor, with candidates being voted off for infractions such as these.
It's yellow journalism for the new century. The worst part is how every underdog candidate has to continually address retarded things written about them on a daily basis. Romney may have all the qualities needed for a 21st century President, but I'll bet 30% of his time and energy is currently consumed with how to present in a proper way rather than substance.
Perhaps handling the domestic media is more important to an administration that I think. It certainly feels as if too much focus is placed there.
The museum was chosen as a backdrop with no thought of Ford's dark side. If Perlstein was following the race, he'd understand Romney needs his home state of Michigan which McCain has put a lot of time in securing ground support. People in NY may think first of Ford's anti-semitism, but in Michigan Ford still has mythic status. Bottom line, to the voters Romney was appealing to Ford isn't thought of as a racist who happened to build a car or two. He is thought of as symbol of the industrial might of a once great state who happened to hold eccentric political positions. Crank's point remains valid that reporters will bend over backwards to find negative symbolism when a Republican candidate is involved.
Ford also hired Jews, as well as being the first major manufacturer to hire blacks (and handicapped people). He just didn't do it for altruistic reasons, but rather because he felt the latter two groups would work for lower pay.
As well, in some years the turnover in his factories approached 400%.
that reporters will bend over backwards to find negative symbolism when a Republican candidate is involved
You mean "Democratic party-leaning reporters," Large Bill. GOP leaning reporters will bend just as far backwards to find negative symbolism in Dem candidates.
It's going too far to say that Romney was sending a coded message to conservatives by speaking at the Ford Museum - but I don't think it's unfair to say that Henry Ford isn't just the great historical figure that the Museum probably presents him as. (I've never been there, so I can't really judge the place.) It's a minor gaffe, fair to point out but not a big deal.
And after seeing the Perlstein quote, I don't think the Crank's response was unfair at all, even though I pretty much completely disagree with him politcally.
"GOP leaning reporters will bend just as far backwards to find negative symbolism in Dem candidates." Yes, all five of them, and Brit Hume of course. And I like the site.
He thought he was in the same Springfield where the Simpson's live and was going after that tough Yellow-American vote. He must have been disappointed when Mayor Quimby didn't show his support.
Great post, Crank. I was stunned when I read Perlstein's article, incredulous that at least several editors at TNR thought his paranoid conspiracy theory (the article is nothing more than a paranoid conspiracy theory) was worth publishing. What an embarrassment.