Thursday, November 8, 2012
All Politics Explained
I read two interesting articles after the election. One said all the television ads and direct mail pieces made no difference at all. The most effective way to campaign was word-of-mouth, identifying community leaders and creating a herd mentality. For Obama's people, this meant sending community organizers to barbershops and beauty salons to talk up their candidate, leave brochures and posters, and train the shop workers to talk to their customers and encourage them to vote.
The other article was about Karl Rove's SuperPac, and despite its millions of dollars in funding that underwrote attack ads in a dozen campaigns, its success rate was 1 percent.
It appears that all these super PACs are just job creation mechanisms, creating jobs for the organizers of the PACs, that is, and the people who claim they are political strategists, the Josh Lymans and Toby Zieglers of the world. They subtract a great deal of money from the rich and the corporations, pocket some of it, and then inject that money into the media. Television and radio stations collected a bonanza in sales, as well as whoever printed all the oversized postcards I received in the mail.
We try to make politics and the art of winning mysterious and complicated, but I think it's very simple. It's all emotional.
In my lifetime, I can explain how every president got elected by emotion.
Eisenhower beat Stevenson because he was Gen. Eisenhower. We had just come out of a devastating world war, quickly followed by Korea. We were at odds with another superpower, Russia. We felt we needed a general, not the effete, divorced Stevenson. Curiously, the Democrats nominated him again in 1956 to be beaten by the same Gen. Eisenhower under the same world conditions.
Kennedy beat Nixon because he was young and handsome, and Nixon was sweaty and shifty looking, and after eight years of Republican rule, we were all excited for something new and different.
Johnson beat Goldwater because Kennedy was assassinated and we felt bad. Plus Goldwater looked like the 1950s, not that Johnson seemed any more modern. Plus Johnson made us feel like Goldwater might launch a nuclear bomb for no good reason.
Nixon beat Humphrey because Humphrey was a bigger joke than Nixon and supported the Vietnam War, which nobody liked anymore, and the Democrats really had too many guys in the field and split up their base. Vietnam was perceived as the Democrat's war, which was a problem. Robert Kennedy would have beat Nixon, but there was that issue with also being assassinated. Nixon didn't actually get us out of the war fast enough because he needed it to win reelection. McGovern was too liberal and too bald, and the real threat to Nixon, Ted Kennedy, although he was not assassinated, he did leave a woman to drown at Chappaquiddick, so the Democrats were too embarrassed to nominate him.
After having no choice but to vote for Nixon, we then got rid of him another way and ended up with the bland Gerald Ford, who was only vice president because Spiro Agnew was a crook. Jimmy Carter beat Ford because Ford pardoned Nixon, and was also bland, although we all liked Betty a lot.
Ronald Reagan beat Jimmy Carter because of the Iranian Hostage Crisis, which was embarrassing to us and launched Ted Koppel's career as the host of Nightline, which started out as a nightly special report on the Iranian Hostage Crisis. That's how embarrassed we were. Plus, Reagan was tall. Carter was not. At the debates, Carter looked like a midget. We needed a tall Hollywood guy to stand up to crazies like Ayatollahs.
Reagan beat Mondale because Mondale was a joke and had bags under his eyes. Not very Hollywood. The Democrats had nothing taller than Reagan to offer, and Gary Hart couldn't stand much scrutiny due to his sketchy past and womanizing. He was Bill Clinton, but without any political smarts or likeability.
George Bush beat Dukakis because of the goodwill of the Reagan years, and Dukakis' name was Dukakis. He also took a silly picture wearing a helmet and riding in a tank that political cartoonists loved, and he didn't react to a crazy question during the debates about what if his wife was raped. Then there was that thing about pardoning murderer Willie Horton. This was when political action committees actually did seem to work, and the politics of today was created by the evil Lee Atwater, the diabolical spiritual father of Karl Rove. If you haven't seen the documentary, "Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story," you need to. Atwater was punished by God, but successfully destroyed modern American politics before he was smited.
Bill Clinton beat George Bush because Lee Atwater was too sick to work his evil magic again, and Clinton had that Kennedyish charm. After 12 years of Republican rule, we were ready for the new and different. Plus Clinton had the Democratic version of Lee Atwater in James Carville. With Gore as his running mate, the "Double Bubba" ticket seemed charming.
Bill Clinton beat Bob Dole because Dole was a joke, a worn out politico who always seemed uncomfortable, and everything seemed to be going good under Clinton, so why change? Dole was a WWII veteran and Clinton got a deferment from the Vietnam War, but that didn't mean as much in the 1990s and was a poor strategy.
Bush beat Gore because Gore was not very charming, Bush had Karl Rove working evil magic, and there was that whole sex scandal around Clinton that somehow tarnished Gore. And yet Gore still won the election, but the Republicans pulled shenanigans in Florida.
Cheney beat Kerry because....oh wait a minute. Technically Bush was the president even though Cheney was really the president. Bush beat Kerry because of 9/11 and all the terrorists, and he made an impromptu comment at Ground Zero that made us think he was a fighter, but actually anything encouraging anyone said at that place in time would have seemed encouraging and inspiring. So we got into another war, and somehow, even though Kerry had been in Vietnam and Bush had not, Kerry was swiftboated to appear cowardly. That whole swiftboat thing was a work of evil genius. Plus, Kerry was married to a rich lady with ketchup money, and somehow Democrats need to be a little poorer than that, a little more like you and me.
Obama beat McCain because what were the Republicans thinking with that old guy candidate who looked like the Pillsbury Doughboy with a trophy wife and a vice presidential candidate who seemed handpicked to be ridiculed by the media and comedians. Plus Obama was young and kind of black, and different, and had that whole hope and change thing going and a cool looking poster, and any Democrat after Bush could have won, really. People who seldom voted, like minorities and young people, voted.
And I think that's what happened again. The minorities and young came back to the polls. Women were somehow convinced they were going to lose their right to have abortions, and that was more important to them at this moment in time than jobs and the economy. (When they're 10 and 20 years older, they will not care about that as much, trust me. They will figure out how not to get pregnant when they don't want to be pregnant. They will want a job more.) The Republicans, instead of nominating someone equally young and handsome and full of false promises of hope and change, picked the most plastic of candidates, another millionaire we can't identify with, who didn't even drink soda, for goodness' sakes, because of religious beliefs. Who can identify with a guy who won't drink a Coke?
And that explains all politics.