Annals of Communications -- How Public Officials Communicate, and What Everyone Can Learn From Them
If you grew up in a 60's inner-city neighborhood -- I did -- you're probably familiar with the pitch. A few tough kids knock on your apartment door and ask if you need hubcaps. You say "no, I don't need hubcaps," and they answer, "um -- I think you do, mister. Go look out the window."
I was reminded of the hubcap business this week when trying to make sense of the Clinton campaign's incessant attacks on Barack Obama's integrity, readiness, and most important of all, electability. The real power of the hubcap pitch is that it is based on a simple but timeless economic principle: scarcity. Like the hubcap pitch, the campaign to cripple Obama creates a real scarcity in the Democratic primary -- if Obama is destroyed, the party's superdelegates will have no choice but to go with the only candidate left standing.
But the resemblance doesn't end just there. Like the hubcap pitch, the Clinton campaign against Obama is a clever act of misdirection that distracts the buyer (the voter) from the fact that a crime has been committed by the seller. Might makes right in the ghetto, and perhaps that's true of intra-party politics, too. The buzz is that there are many superdelegates who are way impressed with the Clinton campaign's ruthlessness and determination to win. And I have to say, I am impressed, too. But only in a way that a tenement dweller might feel when he realizes he's been mugged in the most clever of ways. Impressed, but really pissed off, too.
For many Democrats who support Obama, it may be very hard to get over that anger, even if the party elders do. This is something that the elders will need to worry about, because the market for hubcaps may not be that great in November.