How (Not) To Get Elected

Hesiod has his plan to defeat Bush in 2004 mapped out. He argues that Bush is betting on the low expectations of the electorate in order to win. While Hesiod gets some things right, his strategy is a 100% guranteed loser for the Democrats. Here’s why:

First of all, expectations for Bush among the ignorant electorate couldn’t be much higher. Therefore, Bush has to keep producing hit after hit. This is only a problem, however, if Bush has a dynamic, articulate and well-financed opponent. Someone who can actually make Bush’s failings look pathetic instead of charming.

First of all, if you call the electorate "ignorant" right off the bat, you’re screwed. Politicians who approach their constitutents as being a bunch of ignorant savages don’t win. They talk down to the electorate, they act in an arrogant manner, and generally come off as boorish and condescending. A few politicians can do this and survive, but rarely for long, and never in a close election like 2004 will be.

If people expect Bush to personally vanquish the Democratic nominee…and that nominee is dynamic and competent, it will get ugly. People will realize what a mistake they’d be making to re-elect Dubyah. Especially if the Democrats label Bush as a liar [which implies cunning, and deviousness] as opposed to a bumbler. Bush may actually play up his dumb image to avoid that rap.

This is where Hesiod goes completely and utterly wrong. Label Bush as a liar and the backlash will ensure that the Democratic candidate becomes the next Walter Mondale. If the Democrats go on the attack, they’ll lose badly. But first, let’s see where Hesiod wants the point of attack to be:

…the Democrats HAVE to at least stay within striking distance in the money race, and MUST attack Bush mercilessly on the war. And I mean go for his gonads. AWOL, Veterans Benefit Cuts, WMD’s in Iraq, you name it. They have to throw everything they can at him to undercut his "Commander-in-Chief" credentials. If they don’t, they have no chance, expectations or no expectations.

This is the worst advice anyone could give a Democratic challenger to Bush in 2004. On the other hand, it’s exactly what they’ll do. If the Democrats attack Bush on the war, it’s over for them. All the Bush campaign has to do is start showing the images of the mass graves, the skeletal remains of Iraqi children still clutching their toys, and the horror of the Hussein regime. By doing so, it forces the question: are the Democrats saying that the war was wrong? If the answer is yes, then all the GOP has to do is point out that those graves would still be filled. If no, then the justifications for war are largely academic. Furthermore, if WMDs are found, or evidence that Iraq had a rapid-reaction capability to create WMDs once sanctions were lifted, the Democrats have screwed themselves. Not only were they attacking Bush mercilously for naught, but now they look like a bunch of ruthlessly partisan morons. The pre-emption argument still stands if Iraq did not have the weapons themselves, but did have the ability to produce them on demand.

Moreover, the military stands strongly behind Bush. The landing on the Lincoln caused apoplexy among liberals, but the military loved it. The Democrats can harp on the idea that it was all staged, but 1) everyone knows it was a staged photo op and 2) attacking it looks petty and excessively partisan. The more the Democrats harp on those issues, the more they get bogged down in minutiae and unable to stay on message. Such a strategy would grant the GOP the high ground on nearly every issue, taking any chance for the Democrats to gain traction.

The problem with the Democratic Party is the same problem that the Republicans had in 1996. The GOP has the message. They have a plan for national security, prescription drug benefits, health care reform, taxes, and every other issue. They’ve taken traditional Democratic issues like health care and education and coopted them effectively. The Democrats have one issue: George W. Bush is a bad man. People would be stupid to re-elect him. In essence their strategy is to accuse the more than 60% of the American public who support the President of either being stupid or duped by some evil Republican spin machine. That’s a strategy that can only be considered short-sighted, but also petty and politically suicidal. While the Democrats attack Bush, all Bush has to do is let them spout off while taking the upper hand on every key issue.

Then again, as a relatively staunch Republican, I take great enjoyment in watching the Democrats load the rifle pointed directly at their feet. The Democrats are possessed with a sense of partisanship and acrimony towards Bush that borders on the obsessive. By turning the election into nothing more than a personal referendum on the President they will quickly find that while rank-and-file liberals intensely hate the President, those who don’t have no reason to vote for the Democrats.

10 thoughts on “How (Not) To Get Elected

  1. One of the biggest ironies of the next election, I’m predicting, will be the the support of the military for Bush despite the fact he deserves absolutely none from them.

    “Label Bush as a liar and the backlash will ensure that the Democratic candidate becomes the next Walter Mondale.”

    Even if he is? That’s rather depressing to think about…

  2. First of all, I did not say you had to attack Bush on the war directly. You attack Bush for LYING about the war, and tie that, as William Saleton pointed out, and as Bob Graham is doing, into a THEME of lying, deceit and coverup being endemic in the Bush administration.

    You make Bush look shifty, and devious…which he is.

    You build him up…and then take him apart [or pop him like a high-surface tension balloon].

    At the same time you attack Bush on his lying about EVERYTHING [and I mean go for the jugular with ads everywhere based on the same “you can’t trust George W, Bush” theme]…you tie it in with the positive Democratic programs that people actually want. [They haven”t been “co-opted” by the GOP at all. Unlike Clinton, they didn’t actually adopt the best ideas of the other side and imnplement them. They created potemkin issues, that can easily be attacked for what they are].

    I never said this will be easy. It will take the right candidate, and enough money to hold off the Bush sleaze onslaught. But, it can be done. Bush’s support is a mile wide and an inch deep.

    If you pouncture his national security credentials, the whole edifice will collapse. It will be ugly.

    And, I’m not altogether certain that Bush will allow the elections to take place if he’s going to lose. I think the GOP would do anything they could to stop that from happening. And I mean anything.

    Your refernce to the military “loving” Bush is not a GOOD thing. This isn’t a banana Republic.

  3. The problem remains the same. If the only answer that the Democratic Party has for why they should be put into power is that "George W. Bush is a liar, a dictator, etc, etc." then the Democratic Party will not only lose, but they deserve to lose.

    Furthermore, to make the argument that the GOP would somehow stop the election is absolutely preposterous. If you really think that Bush would engineer some kind of coup you need to calm down and start looking at things objectively. Yes, there’s an argument to be said that things like the PATRIOT Act are unnecessary and they erode freedom, but to say that Ashcroft, as bad as he is, will turn the US into some Nazi police state overnight is hyperbole at best and paranoid at worst.

    That’s the problem with the Democratic Party. They’ve turned George W. Bush into some evil Hitleresque dictator. There’s nothing wrong with disagreeing with policy, that’s what democracy is for, and there’s nothing wrong with vehemently disagreeing with one’s policy. But when one paints their opponent as evil incarnate you lose all sense of what the debate is really about. I’ll be honest here, when you say things like that it makes you sound as paranoid and delusional as the people who thought that the UN was sending black helicopters to read their minds. I see sites like Eschaton and others creating these elaborate conspiracy theories and accusing any journalist who doesn’t ravenously criticize Bush as being part of some sinister conspiracy.

    I’ve seen that attitude in the fringes of my own party, and believe me, it doesn’t help. If you can’t have respect for the opposition, then democracy fails. There’s nothing wrong with disagreeing, but the constant stream of hyperbole, conspiracy, and innuendo from the Democrats is well beyond political grievances. It was inappropriate in the 90’s against Clinton, and it is even more inappropriate today.

  4. “The Democrats are possessed with a sense of partisanship and acrimony towards Bush that borders on the obsessive.”

    Were you in a coma from 1993-2000?

    I’d love your examples of acrimony coming from Tom Daschle. Go!

  5. Reading the Dem commentary on this thread is, for a Republican, heartening. You guys really just don’t get it.

    Which is good!

  6. Mitch, you have to elaborate on your cookie-cutter dismissal of Bush’s dissenters as “just not getting it” if you are to be taken as credible. Just what exactly are we “not getting” that you are? Please enlighten us, oh wise one.

  7. I’d say that referring to the American electorate as "frightening clueless" just because they disagree with the liberal worldview is a pretty good example of just not getting it.

    I’m starting to agree with P.J. O’Rourke when he said that liberalism is the philosophy of sniveling brats.

  8. Since when did you put so much faith in the average person’s intelligence Jay? As I recall you’ve agreed to the contrary on many occassions. And I can probably get witnesses. 🙂

    Most people niether know much about and usually could care less about politics, current events and history. Nor does anyone seem to care about correcting that. Then we expect them to make educated decisions at election time. No, that just doesn’t happen. Sadly I fear the best marketer will be the winner in 2004, and openly bashing your customer is not a good way to market.

  9. OK, I admit, you got me there.

    However, the voting public may not exactly be the brightest lot in all occasions, but they are self-interested. They’re not generally going to vote for someone who’s running on a platform of forced labor and eating babies. They’re going to vote based on their pocketbook and what they perceive to be in their best interests. They’re not going to vote against a candidate just because the other side makes that person into Evil Incarnate(tm) – unless they have a very specific reason to believe that the other side is right.

  10. If you’ll reread my post, I said that I could never be a politician because I would be condescending to voters, which is clearly an ineffective sales pitch. Much as many Americans need to be talked down to, they are perceptive enough to realize when they are being talked down to. And in so many cases in the Gore versus Bush race, people who had everything to lose by putting George Bush in the White House ended up voting for him simply because they thought he was “more like them”. They don’t have the mental capacity to understand the policy consequences that arise based on their votes, so their vote is too often based entirely on personality or “going with the flow.” Talking with many of these “swing voters” where I work has proven this point.

    And I wonder if you and PJ O’Rourke had such tremendous faith in American voters’ intelligence back when Bill Clinton was impeached and still enjoyed a 65% approval rating. If you can still say you were proud of the American voters’ savvy in January 1999, then you two can effectively make that argument.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.