Denver - With new polls showing Barack Obama's once-commanding lead over John McCain all but evaporated, the Obama campaign announced today it has begun deploying its vast volunteer army of downtown hipster douchebags to help reconnect the presumptive Democratic candidate with middle-American voters.
"Unlike Iraq, this is one surge that is actually going to work," said Obama campaign manager David Axlerod.
Sources within the campaign say the new strategy was prompted by recent national poll trends indicating McCain pulling even with, and in some instances even overtaking, Obama. More troubling for the campaign were internal tracking polls that show the candidate losing significant ground in key Midwestern, Southern and Western battleground states. As the numbers dropped, some within the campaign were left in stunned disbelief.
"It really didn't make sense," said Carly Voorhees, an East Village experimental performance poet, Cooper Union graduate student and member of Obama's 600-expert foreign policy team. "We knew in theory there were a handful of stump-toothed biblebillies and neocon dead-enders out there, but by all rights we should have had at least a 60%-75% lead. Even after Barack threw that awesome victory rave in Germany, the numbers kept deteriorating."
"At first we were stumped," she added. "Then it dawned on us -- McSame's subliminal attack ads were stoking the deep-rooted, latent racism of white middle America. We needed to warn these uneducated simpletons that McSame was exploiting their superstitions and genetic bigotry. The big question was -- how?"
A Few Good D-Bags
At first, the Obama team looked into major media buys in key battleground states. But with a campaign budget already strained by price increases in arugula and Hawaiian airfare, the impact was deemed to be minimal. Instead, they turned to a key campaign asset -- a dedicated cadre of young urban hipster douchebags willing to take Obama's message of change to America's small town streets and rural blacktops. An intensive eVite recruitment campaign on websites like the Daily Kos and Huffington Post yielded over 1,500 volunteers for the potentially dangerous mission.
"I couldn't be prouder of all of you wonderful young indy rock assholes," said Axlerod at a swearing-in ceremony at the campaign's official training center in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. "You represent our party's finest, the best of best -- you are our Douchebag Delta Force."
Highly motivated, and with skills ranging from post-modern gender theory to espresso cafe blackboard chalk art, the volunteers were eager to get to work on the campaign trail. But before deployment Obama officials insisted that all recruits undergo an intensive training regimen to prepare them for the rigors of life in Red Country.
"A lot of the plebe douchebags come in here full of swagger, thinking all it takes is a few hours of FM country music endurance training, and I have to tell them they have no idea what they're up against," says Ethan Dodge, a Seattle conceptual theater set designer and veteran douchebag of Obama's Iowa caucus campaign. "Believe me, I've been to Dubuque. I know."
To toughen up the recruits for the task ahead, Dodge and other drill instructors take a direct approach.
"We tell them straight up: we aren't your mommy or daddy or your au pair. There aren't any independent lesbian film festivals in Youngstown, and just because Iowa has a lot of farmers it doesn't mean they are going to see a lot of Sunday chill-out farmers' markets," says Voorhees. "After that shock wears off, we tell them about how the natives drink Pabst unironically."
"Sure, it scares some recruits off," admits Dodge. "But the ones who stay are much less likely to crack under the pressure of a two week isolation from American Apparel or Urban Outfitters."
According to trainers, one of the toughest obstacles to building a cohesive field team is overcoming natural hipster douchebag one-upsmanship.
"Most douchebags take pride in being in on trends and bands before anyone else, and abandoning them before anyone else," says David Forrester, a grant composer for an Austin non-profit community public radio art advocacy outreach agency who serves the training center chaplain. "When we tell them their conversion target is fat middle-aged western Wisconsin Wal-Mart moms, it creates an ethical dilemma in many of them. They have fears that the mission success conflicts with their own finely-tuned sense of douchebag exclusiveness and superiority."
"I counsel them that they are serving Obama, and a greater hipness," he explains. "Still, I admit some harbor thoughts of abandoning the campaign for edgier, more-out-there bands like Nader or Ron Paul."
Fighting Back for Barack
While training continues at the Williamsburg facility, an advanced detachment of Obama hipster douchebags is already on the ground in several electoral hotspots throughout the Midwest and the New South's notorious "Nascar Triangle." Led by Los Angeles guerrilla marketing douchebag Benjamin "Benjamin" Lorenz, the elite edgy squadron contains some of the Obama campaign's top flamewar-hardened Farktards and Digg dipshits, and has been spending several days preparing the American election battlefields for the Obama douchebag airlift expected later this week.
"After all those hours simulating, training and trolling on wingnut message boards, it's good to finally be on the ground," said Lorenz, landing at the airport in Wisconsin's hotly contested Fond du Lac province. "Which way to the free public yellow bikes?"
According to Lorenz, winning back fence sitters to the Obama column takes a disciplined three-pronged attack of sarcasm, irony and condescension, which he demonstrates on a diner at a Fond du Lac IHOP.
"Excuse me, who are you voting for?" Lorenz asks the elderly man.
"Oh, I don't know, McCain I suppose," the man answers.
"Yeah, I guess you senile old fucks need to stick together," says Lorenz. "That way you can stay safe from those scary Muslim nee-groos."
"See?" observes Lorenz. "Now that he's been properly shamed out of his racism, he'll think twice before pulling any lever for McBush."
Outside Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte, NC, elite douchebag and Berkeley environmental street theater expert Jeremy Bremer uses a similar approach -- with a green message.
"Hyuk hyuk hyuk, lookie me, Ima inbred Republican hillbilly drivin' round in circles, jist lak that thar Nafcar," shouts Bremer, pantomiming a race to boombox banjo music. The scene quickly draws a curious throng of onlookers, when Bremer suddenly stops.
"Except I'm not destroying the planet," he shouts angrily.
When a McCain supporter from the crowd responds, Bremer removes a video camera and begins filming her.
"Guess what, bitch?" taunts Bremer. "You just been rickrolled on YouTube."
"I'd like to see her show her face again after that," laughs Bremer after the incident. "Totally PWN3D."
In Perrysville, Indiana, special forces douchebag Meilani Cohen uses a softer sarcasm approach when wooing Hoosier swing votes to the Obama column. For the last week, Cohen has been conducting a traveling one-woman show of "Six Years of Tuition," the pink fiberglass rock that was her Yale Art School master's thesis.
"The piece is a great conversation starter with the local proletariat," says Cohen. "I use it to demonstrate how Obama is all about change and unity, and cutting edge postmodern sculpture, and how he will fund public arts programs to bring it to their dismal little hellhole towns."
"Occasionally I will run into a McBush supporter, and I will pull out two campaign posters and let them compare," she explains. "Obama: Shepard Fairey. McCain: Copperplate Gothic. Then I ask them - are you really going to vote for someone that out of touch with graphic design trends?"
In Urbandale, Iowa, a six-member Obama douchebag team seeks converts through music. Squad leader Xander-Kai Topher says the group was an outgrowth of a 2005 NYU Semiotics class student project, and describes their style as "Hopcore Acoustotrance."
"Semiotic theory shows that messages become persuasive through repetition," Topher explains as we walk the streets of this quiet Des Moines suburb. "To win back Obama voters, it will take a lot of chanting."
To demonstrate, the group rings the doorbell of Debbie and Mike Lefko's split level ranch, whose tidy lawn features several John McCain signs. When the Lefkos emerge, the group treat them to a 7-minute performance of the campaign's official headbobbing hypnochant "O-ba-ma, O-ba-ma," punctuated by soulful, if off-key, glissandos.
Clearly moved, Debbie Lefko retreats into the house and gives the group a $10 campaign donation.
"I had heard that schizophrenic homelessness was on the rise, but I had no idea," said a tearful Lefko. "My God, those poor people looked like they got their clothes out of a Salvation Army dumpster."
The Fog of War
Whether Obama's douchebag heartland surge will ultimately succeed remains to be determined, but longtime political analyst and What's the Matter With Kansas? author Thomas Frank thinks the basic strategy is sound.
"Unfortunately this election comes down to winning the hearts and minds of whitebread, middlebrow, middle-class, middle-Americans," says Frank."This effort shows that Obama troops are willing to reach out and condescend to them, one-on-one, no matter how pathetic and stupid they are."
"I think the energy and diversity of these young douchebags will really help Obama in the swing states," agrees longtime political watcher David Gergen. "It shows that the appeal of Obama transcends Chicago government union thugs and celebrity shitheads."
But others say the Obama douchebag surge is already stalling. New polls conducted after the surge indicate further polling losses, and the frustration is showing in the field.
"I've seen some poor morale," says Richard Greil, a Chicago Tribune reporter embedded with Obama's 131st Douchebag Infantry in Northeast Missouri. "It goes beyond the usual grumbling over lack of graffiti art and gritty-yet-trendy warehouse districts. These volunteers are being dropped into areas largely unfamiliar with irony and snark, and it can be completely disorienting. They call it the 'hundred yard Farm & Fleet stare.'"
Some volunteers worry that indigenous population has recognized the strategy and already adapted.
"After I talk with some of these morons, I'll ask them, 'so you're going to vote for Obama, right?' and they're like, 'ya, sure, you betcha,'" says a weary London Whitworth, 26, outside a Brainerd, Minnesota strip mall. "But in the back of my mind I can't help shake the notion that they're using sarcasm too."
In an ominous sign for the campaign, there have also been recent scattered reports of some volunteers going AWOL -- and even defecting. One such defector is Chael Martin, 25. The former Echo Park douchebag and Obama community organizer fled his post Wednesday and now spends his days sipping Miller Lite and playing skeeball at a Glenbeulah, Wisconsin tavern, where he talks about his dissolutionment with the surge.
"Dude, Obama like an hour ago," says Martin. "These Republicans are so far out, they're in."