As the world is about to read the Democrats’ obituary for the 2014 Election, an autopsy has already begun to find the why’s and wherefore’s. Of course, there are several reasons for the leading party’s defeat despite its demographic advantage. In a nutshell, here’s the crux: passivity. Passion (on the right) vs. passivity (on the left): which do you think will win? The right expresses passion – however unfounded and artificial it may be – while the left shows passivity.
When and why did Democrats become passive about so many issues? The year was 1968 when the party reacted to two major issues: resistance to the Vietnam War and the tumultuous Chicago convention. The dove candidate, Eugene McCarthy, inherited the mantle passed from the revered Bobby Kennedy who died from an assassin’s bullet that same year (same as MLK). But that wasn’t enough to overcome the establishment candidate, Hubert Humphrey. The youth at the convention reacted violently, and thus the election was lost to Nixon, albeit a nail-biter.
The party reacted in the next cycle by nominating a super-dove, George McGovern, who had only arrived as candidate due to Nixon’s covert assistance, the defeat of Edmund Muskie. The Maine senator’s loss is directly attributable to Nixon’s dirty tricks.
Tricky Dick’s team (which, in part, later became known as the Watergate burglars) forged a letter which implied Muskie was anti-French Canadian. Thus the forgery came to be known as “The Canuck Letter.” It was sent to the editor of the Manchester (NH) Union Leader, who in turn published it on February 24, 1972, two weeks prior to the primary. Muskie’s tears in reaction to the letter brought his campaign to a screeching halt – the exact result Nixon intended.
So, Nixon effectively eliminated his best competitors before they had a chance to face him in the general. Who knows what other dirty tricks, including political and actual assassinations, were “fair game” for the party apparatus during those decades with Nixon at the helm?
But the Democratic Party leaned passive, and this effect remains – leaving the voters to choose between the passive and the passionate.
Naturally there are extremes in both wings. However, Americans in most instances prefer strength. They admire politicians who take a firm stand and stick to it. The only reason the President is unpopular at this time is because he didn’t stick to the positions he took as Candidate Obama in 2008 and 2012. If his disillusioned followers were content with his performance, the 2014 mid-terms would look quite different. Unfortunately , he sacrificed his rock-solid promises to appease the right which would never have acceded to his wishes no matter what proposal was laid on the table – even if originally theirs. He took a gamble and lost, and some of the “chips” were the crown jewels of fundamental Democratic programs dating back to FDR’s 1930s.
Much of the difference is salesmanship. An attractive, much-in-demand product will fall flat if not marketed properly.
The contrast is amazing.
Karl Rove sold America an ignorant sap from Texas that couldn’t put two sentences together and ended up almost sending the country to the trash-heap. Yet Democrats can’t sell America an intelligent, suave leader. Plus the GOP “architect” did it for 2-terms while DNC counterparts couldn’t win two mid-terms in a row.
If Barack Obama can’t read Republicans, he can’t understand Russians. In the foreign arena, there’s strong evidence of lack of leadership. Not only the crisis in Ukraine, but Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Gaza, Somalia, and the list goes on. Any hint of weakness could encourage trouble spots – like North Korea, Hong Kong, or Taiwan – to erupt. The Chinese do read tea leaves. Taiwan’s annexation back to China would be another casualty of America’s perceived weakness.
Republicans are at fault for weakening the President, but so is the President himself. He allowed Republicans to trespass into forbidden territory when throwing criticism at him during foreign crises. No longer is it prohibited to speak unkindly about the President on international issues when our service men and women are at risk. We’ve long broken the “water’s edge” rule. Their hate for Obama exceeds their love for the country.
After the Senate is lost, his last two years will be most miserable. It’s a downward spiral politically, and the casualty may be Hillary Clinton’s defeat. If Obama’s numbers continue down, so will hers. Winners have coattails; losers have millstones.
In hindsight, I’ve now come to the conclusion – only the financial meltdown of September 15, 2008 salvaged the election for Barack Obama. Otherwise we’d be saluting Vice-President Caribou Barbie Sarah Palin and her mummy John McCain. Because Democrats don’t know how to sell; Republicans do.
Oh, it’s not all about marketing, to be sure. It’s about communicating the benefits you’re promising and providing – accentuating the good while downplaying the bad. Obama’s base is repressed to the level of low voter-turnout. The man made big, solid promises that he was willing later to use as bargaining chips with the very people that almost drove the nation off the cliff. In other words, he showed more respect for enemies than honor to friends. Key provisions of major issues were unilaterally surrendered before negotiations even began.
Language skills also play into politics. Are most ears attuned to short answers or long? When trapped in a protracted conversation with another person, does your mind tend to drift and wish for an escape or convenient interruption? Attention spans are limited. I think that’s basic human psychology.
But Democrats haven’t learned that lesson either.
Republicans simplify sentences, but say them with passion and conviction. And with religious fervency. Republicans use religion; Democrats run from it.
Democrats extend sentences with several modifying phrases, conjunctions, adjectives, adverbs, exceptions, additions, and dangling clauses. And they say them with little passion and conviction for fear of error or future revision – which would somehow tarnish their image down the road. “I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.” – John Kerry, 2004
After listening to both sides, the average person comprehends what the Republican says but doesn’t know what the Democrat is struggling to say.
Let’s take a typical question from a journalist of no-stripe: “How would you take care of ISIS to protect America?”
REPUBLICAN: “Kill ‘em all, clean out all the terrorists, and arm the Kurds so radical Islam will never come back. No military option is off-the-table. Fight them over there so we won’t have to fight them over here.”
DEMOCRAT: “Very interesting question. We should not have gone to war in Iraq knowing the information that we know today. Knowing there was no imminent threat to America, knowing that al Qaeda was not in Iraq until we invaded, I would not have gone to war. But, yes, I would have voted for the authority to go to war. I believe it was the right authority for President Bush to have at the time, although I would have done it very differently from the way Bush did in his diversion into Iraq. His illegal invasion caused ISIS to be born. Nevertheless, there is no advantage for us to put boots-on-the-ground in Iraq and Syria now, but we must arm an Arab coalition to maintain America’s respect around the world, and that means multi-national air strikes until the job is finished – which includes listening to our military leaders who’ll advise us when the job is finished – even if it means 2020 or beyond."
Who do you think wins the argument?
I could think of several more scenarios where Republicans score points and Democrats rack up minuses. It’s in the language, the nuances, the contradictions, and the terms that sell or don’t. If only we could get Democratic leaders to attend Basic Language 101. Or listen to old tapes of Will Rogers or Franklin D. Roosevelt.
In addition, Democrats seem afraid of being courageous in a time when courage is in short supply but on demand. The public, especially the progressive base, picks up on this. They long for competent, courageous and strong leadership, much like the rest of America.
We need an FDR in a Depression, not a compromiser with the Hooverites that drove America off the cliff. If Roosevelt would have caved to Republicans in the 30s, where would we be today?