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Three Cheers for the Obamaphone Lady



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Call it racist, call it unfair, call it whatever you like: As a political ad, the Tea Party Victory Fund “Obamaphone lady” ad is a masterpiece.

The genius is in combining the simple facts-and-figures stuff (one in seven Americans on food stamps, etc.) with the way-out-of-left-field Obamaphone lady, who, even though she doesn’t seem to know that the phone-subsidy program was launched under the Reagan administration, expresses something true (in gross, cartoon form; i.e., in perfect political-ad form) about the entitlement mentality that anti-Obama (as opposed to pro-Romney) voters abhor intensely. The music is an inspired touch, too.

This ad is airing in Ohio, which suggests to me that the real key phrase here is: “Everybody in Cleveland.” 

Is the ad racist, as its critics say? I have long been uncomfortable with the use of the word “plantation” to describe the entitlement state and related slavery tropes, and I wish conservatives would not do that. But if Joe Biden can tell black voters (in a ridiculous fake cornpone accent) that Republicans “gon’ put y’all back in chains!” without being drummed out of public life, then the use of the word “enslave” here seems to me well within the rhetorical bounds the Obama campaign has defined, even if it is grossly hyperbolic. When the tea-party protests were at their height, every peckerwood-trash misfit with a misspelled sign was held up by the media as the true face of the movement. I’d say that the Obamaphone lady is an example of a turnabout’s being fair play.

Is the ad misleading? Not really. The point isn’t that Obama gave the lady a phone, it’s that she says people should vote for Obama because she believes he will give them free stuff. She obviously does believe exactly that. In that sense, the ad is anything but misleading. It is pinpoint accurate. What is Sandra Fluke but a sophisticated version of the Obamaphone lady, insisting that the point of the federal government is to shunt free stuff in her general direction? There really are two fundamentally different views of the role of government, and the Obamaphone lady, like it or not, is a very good representation of one of them. The fact that she does not know what she is talking about makes her more representative, not less representative.



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