Thursday, October 16, 2008

Debate Analysis Addendum: Check the Plumbing

While I stand by my instant post-debate analysis below, there is an addendum that needs to be shared and discussed: the importance of Joe the Plumber.

Joe Wurzelbacher, the person, is a seemingly hard-working American who owns a small plumbing business in Ohio. Obama ran into him during campaigning and they had a discussion around Obama's tax plan. Joe's view on taxation is fairly representative of the cultural norms in America: he should not be taxed more (i.e., penalized) for being a successful businessman. Obama tried his level best to explain how his policies were fair and for the greater good, but Obama's pitch is better made to a crowd than to an individual. After all, the crowd represents the "greater good" and Joe represents the individual.

Obama seemed to have forgotten Democratic policies appear to favor large groups, and Republican policies appear to favor individuals. The realities don't necessarily equate to the appearances, but appearances are what elections are all about.

Unfortunately for the Obama campaign, Obama handed McCain a campaign lifeline -- Obama helped turn Joe Wuzelbacher, the person, into Joe the Plumber, the symbol, by being led into the "I care about Joe" frame during the debate.

It would be shocking if the McCain campaign didn't campaign almost exclusively on the shoulders of Joe the Plumber for the remainder of the campaign. Why? Because Joe the Plumber gets at the heart of one of many important American self-images: the idea of a successful entrepreneur. Many liberals will not comprehend that Joe Wurzelbacher, the person, is no longer at issue, nor will they understand why the whole 95%/5% tax cut plan Obama has outlined appears to fade from the narrative. They do so at their own peril.

Joe Wurtzelbacher might not even be a licensed plumber, but Joe the Plumber matters. For those who don't believe me, go out and google "Polish Plumber" and learn about how this mythical symbol sunk the European Union constitution in 2005.