Election coverage this week has shifted from the blaze town hall draw to the
cascading economic slide (i.e., a crash dragged out for a few days) to the
McCain campaign’s great efforts to weave strong ties between Obama and
Ayers. Am I riled up about any of this? Not really. I had the
debate on in the background as I did other work, I have watched the
paltry TIAA-CREF nest egg I micro-accumulated over seven years at Park U. suffer
disfigurations akin to Humpty Dumpty, and I don’t for a second accept that Obama
is terrorist-like for the company he kept with Ayers.
So what, then?
I have been interested in the way the campaigns try to establish ties and
linkages. Palin and other McCain surrogates have tried mightily to forge a
strong tie between Obama and Ayers. If they succeed, if they get people to
believe that such a tie is strong, that, in effect, Ayers of old and Obama of
late think alike, then they will have sprung from thin air a damaging blow:
probable guilt by the company one keeps. Yet, nodes perform ethos. Obama
can simply say, "No tie," or "weak tie," and the burden of establishing a
linkage falls on the accusers.
There are other interesting questions here about temporality and, perhaps,
about how the ties suggested by associative technologies (e.g., Facebook) will
function as evidence of strong ties in the future. Serving on a board
together, dinner at one’s house: these are time-constrained connections.
They do not live on in quite the same way as some more recent developments.
Maybe we’ll see more of it in the weeks ahead, but so far this election cycle
has seemed to me to dwell on whose network is more presidential, more executive
in its constitution: McCain’s? (a network of houses, a claim to be a Senate
boundary-spanner, a hand in the Keating Five heist) or Obama’s? (a recklessly
pastor in Wright, a radical former colleague in Ayers, generous
friends in F. May and F. Mack). Campaign: another name for the high stakes
practice of network building at breakneck pace–a rhetorical production of ties and associations
that will trip one candidate into second place and vault the other into the
Somewhat related (via). Warning: Cover their ears or the innocents will pick up a cuss at the end: