Why Guilt By Association Did Not Work?

It all started with the South Carolina debate between Clinton, Edwards and Obama. Clinton interjects Tony Rezko in the conversation by stating that “I was fighting against those ideas when you were practicing law and representing your contributors Rezko in his slum landlord business in inner city Chicago.” There began the guilt by association spin.

It wasn’t long before Fox News anchor, Sean Hannity, included his efforts by looping a 3 minute segment of Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Although, McCain insisted that he would not include Jeremiah Wright as a part of his smear campaign, Bill Ayers was of focus because his participation in with the Weathermen in the late 1960s.

During the entire campaign, Obama was defending himself or having to denounce someone because of their statements or actions including Rapper Ludacris, Minister Louis Farrakhan and Congressman John Lewis.

Ludacris released a rap about the election. Although he is a supporter of Obama, he was not in any way affiliated with the campaign, but of course Obama was expected to denounce the lyrics. The lyrics were tainted with:

“Said I handled his biz and I'm one of his favorite rappers
Well give Luda a special pardon if I'm ever in the slammer
Better yet put him in office, make me your vice president
Hillary hated on you, so that bitch is irrelevant “


“Paint the White House black and I'm sure that's got 'em terrified
McCain don't belong in any chair unless he's paralyzed
Yeah I said it cause Bush is mentally handicapped
Ball up all of his speeches and I throw 'em like candy wrap
'cause what you talking I hear nothing even relevant
and you the worst of all 43 presidents”

During the Ohio Debate, NBC’s Tim Russert read a headline from the Chicago Tribune which stated that Louis Farrakhan backs Obama from President at Nation of Islam Convention in Chicago. Russert proceeded to ask, “do you accept the support of Louis Farrakhan?” Obama exclaimed that he has been clear in his denunciation of Farrakhan’s anti-semitic comments. He further noted he did not seek out his support.

Farrakhan tackled this subject during his Savior’s Day message by asking the question, “What is wrong with Farrakhan that you have to make Farrakhan a litmus test? For any black person who strives for betterment for society, let’s give them the Farrakhan test. Now, I’ve taken test. I’ve never been in a class where the test is given to one person. Don’t single out one man and give him the Farrakhan test. Why not give it to Hillary?”

Minister Farrakhan had a valid point. Why does Obama or any other Black have to be compared or aligned with the other when all Blacks have individual perspectives and views? It’s as if all Blacks are identified as one, therefore, as a group it is interpreted that all Blacks think as one. Once society moves pass this perception, the closer we unify as a nation.

Then, Governor Sarah Palin hit the campaign trail as McCain’s VP nominee. At every stop she would say that Obama pals around with domestic terrorists (i.e. Bill Ayers). At one point, Obama’s middle name, Hussein, was added to the script, as well as, implications that he was not patriotic and maybe Muslim. For many who gathered, the formula equated to terrorists + Hussein + Muslin = Arab which was verbally indicated by a 75 year old supporter at the rally speaking with McCain. In addition, in the midst of the crowds you could hear shouts of “Treason,” “Terrorist,” and “Kill Him.” Clips began to circulate on YouTube and the internet of supporters prior to the rallies which looked like a scene from the clips from the 1950s integration of Little Rock High School where people were yelling obscenities.

For John Lewis, a civil rights pioneer, it was just too much. Lewis released a statement comparing McCain's campaign to that of incendiary segregation advocate George Wallace in the 1960s. "What I am seeing reminds me too much of another destructive period in American history. Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin are sowing the seeds of hatred and division, and there is no need for this hostility in our political discourse."

Because Lewis compared McCain to Wallace, again Obama was pressured to denounce his statement, although it was given as a separate entity of his campaign and merely the opinion of the congressman.

With this said, for the Right (conservatives), there was a concerted effort to make Obama viewed as radical and just to simply put it, “an angry Black Man.”

The insinuations regarding statements and associations did not work. With 24-hour news cycles, the vast majority of the general public began their own analysis and scrutiny of the candidates. Once the debates began, Obama ease of temperament exuded and most began to see him as presidential. His staffers even tagged him as “No Drama, Obama.”

His denouncement of his associations with Rezko, Wright & Ayers and statements from Ludacris, Farrakhan & Lewis were dissected by the media and Republicans until the day of the election.

Just for argument sake, I do not recall the same scrutiny of Senator Clinton or Senator McCain as it relates to associations. For instance, John McCain has been a Senator over 20 years with Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms and Robert Byrd. Would it be safe to assume that because he was friends and colleagues with these gentlemen that his outlook on the world is parallel with their own? Also, McCain sought the endorsement of Revs. John Hagee and Rod Parsley, who in their own right are controversial. Does this mean that he is agreement with all the words echoed by them in their sermons? The answer to these questions are no.

When voters logically viewed the efforts of the media and the opposing campaigns efforts to apply guilt by association with in regards to Obama, they were able to sift through the commentary and derive at their own viewpoint. Therefore, when the above questions were pinned at Obama, again the answer was a resounding no. Regardless, Obama prevailed despite these obstacles, as well as, the underlining tone of this issue which is Race.


ISCZ said…
Well said.

Perhaps the best thing that happened with this election is exactly this - the guilt-by-association ploy didn't work. If nothing else the success of the Obama candidacy, which refused to follow this play book, may make future candidates think twice about trying to deploy it again.

Those who tried to urge Obama to engage in tit for tat - McCain does it, so should you - were wrong. I'm glad they were. Obama emerges from the campaign battles with even more respect because of it.

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