Filtering Out the Background Noise

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In a column for Pajamas Media, conservative scholar and essayist Victor Davis Hanson fights back against the trickle of conservatives who’ve bailed on John McCain. Hanson notes that the “nasty McCain campaign” isn’t particularly loathsome in historical context and that Barack Obama supporters have smeared McCain and Palin just as harshly.

He touches on a lot of points, but here’s the one that interested me:

Obama, as I have said ad nauseam, has brilliantly prepped the battlefield to such a degree that a Farrakhan endorsement or surrogates calling Palin a quasi-Nazi or a bimbo, or smearing McCain as near senile is irrelevant; yet one screamer in a crowd of tens of thousands is proof of McCain’s and Palin’s racism and hatred.

I have been irritated at the way Obama supporters have used a few ignorant McCain supporters to tar the entire McCain campaign. I don’t excuse McCain for taking the low road on a few issues, most notably the spurious “Obama is Ayers best friend” attack, but if what someone shouts at a McCain rally can be used as a proof of McCain’s unsuitability to be president, than why isn’t – to pull from Hanson – Farrakhan’s endorsement of Obama relevant? I mean, if what unsanctioned supporters say can be used against a candidate, doesn’t that leave both candidates open to the accusation that they are unfit to serve?

The Obama campaign has excelled at righteous indignation since early in the primaries. The McCain campaign has just looked silly when they’ve tried the same maneuver. But Hanson’s column reminds us that, when it comes to what does and what does not offend you in a campaign, your partisanship will likely account for 90% of your reaction. As someone who isn’t easily offended, I’ve spent much of the campaign scoffing at both side’s episodes of mock outrage.

I won’t let the fact that a few McCain supporters are ignoramuses or even racists affect my vote. I will let matters like the choice to run deceptive ads about Obama’s relationship with Bill Ayers affect my vote – but that’s a separate issue. I am being careful to separate what the campaign’s themselves say and do from the background noise of what unsanctioned supporters say and do. It’s far too easy to treat elections as a matter of us vs. them. But I’m not looking to join a team.