The day after the election we received the following rant from a reader in Maine. (By the way, nice job on Question 1, Maine!) It’s funny and insightful and too good to remain private. Enjoy. Then watch that Rove footage again.
By Steve Faloon
What little understanding I have of presidential politics begins with FDR. Since then I can't remember a time when the American people have gotten a presidential election wrong. They've certainly elected people I dislike and disagree with…but if you're looking to predict a future presidential winner you only have to find the strongest message and the most effective messenger. The person who not only connects…but projects the greatest strength and sense of conviction. In terms of last night's election…I've only been able to confidently talk liberals off the ledge for the past few years from my strategic perch in Bangor, Maine because I was certain that once Obama finally put out his cigarette and started fighting for his life he would crush the empty suit that is Mitt Romney. The fact that the white-bread man with no discernible accent…from no discernible place…ended up standing for so little that he felt it necessary to describe himself to the base as a "severe" conservative…shows he not only lacked a sense of conviction…but common sense as well.
Severe? We're electing a President here…not submitting to a gag-ball.
The combination of Obama/Biden's strength on the stump and sense of conviction…along with Romney's comic lack of either…was always going to trump the issues of a bad economy....race…and even the President's weakness as a debater. At least I'd succeeded in convincing myself.
Everything is relative and everything is perception of course. Nixon lost in 1960 because he was sweaty and shifty and running against someone who was decidedly neither. But a re-tooled version returned with carefully calculated talk of "law and order" (speaking of irony)…and a country that was literally burning wanted nothing less. With Kennedy and Johnson gone he ran over a very squishy series of Democrats whose running mates were better known for their history of mental illness than their political prowess. If there's a weaker image than Thomas Eagleton shuffling the halls of a psych ward in one of those things they make you wear in a hospital…I don't know what that image would be. Mr. Eagleton, it's time for your pill now.
I loved George McGovern (and yes this diatribe is going to take the better part of your afternoon if you are committed to see it through). Beyond being a man of great integrity and wisdom he flew bombers in WW II for goodness sake. But he couldn't project any of that. He could only project weakness. When you've dropped bombs on bad guys in the "Big One" and still look like a total pussy next to a guy who frantically avoided service in that same war in order to drink…drug…and screw anything that walked…aka John Wayne…you're not only going to fail as a presidential candidate…you're going to fail as a president too. Americans get that…Americans are that. We're drawn to swagger and strength like a junkie is drawn to heroin. The only thing we like better than a President who's getting tons of tail…is a President who's smoking big fat cigars while they're getting it.
Beyond our love of strength…conviction…even machismo…we also tend to elect the candidate that least reminds us of the French.
The painfully honest Jimmy Carter was perfect medicine for a post Watergate world…but then he used the word "malaise" to describe the American people. It didn't help that he also crashed helicopters in a failed attempt to rescue hostages in Iran…but…in the end…his demise came from the fact that he used a French word to describe us. What we like least about the French are their words…and the snooty way they say them of course. The only French word American's have ever embraced is Chevrolet…and we had to change it to Chevy in order to do that. If you doubt any of this I urge you to rent the Will Farrell film Talledega Nights for further evidence. Those of you who have enjoyed that red-neck inspired romp may recall that Farrell's Ricky Bobby chooses to accept a broken arm rather than satisfy his French rival's demand that he say the word "crepe"…even though he readily admits to enjoying them for breakfast.
All of us know W is an idiot…but he spoke with conviction (albeit misguided) and in plain terms. He genuinely appeared to be an everyman…even though it's not possible for the son of anyone nicknamed "Poppy" to actually be that. A lot of people struggle to understand his election success. But by contrast…Gore and Kerry were like watching Francois Mitterand run for the American Presidency. Policy positions have almost no meaning for the 5% that decide our national elections. It's who you would choose to have a beer with…in other words it comes down to who is the least French. By these standards Gore and Kerry were awful. By these standards Romney was also awful…even though he himself tried to hang the French thing on Obama by saying the President was European in his philosophy.
The word conviction has appeared here several times…and though it's true that some form of it can be faked by the very best, the most compelling version obviously comes from a person's genuine belief in what they're doing. The period from FDR to LBJ convinced Democrats that their messaging work was pretty much done and that they really didn't need to respond to Ron Reagan's assertion that "government is the problem.....not the solution." One of the best things about this campaign for me was the sight and sound of the good guys finally finding their voice and fighting back. I'm delighted to see we could stop banging interns long enough to fit that into the schedule. Good advice in politics may sound something like…don't rely solely on the hope that your opponent's base will just die like old white men…while maintaining the same hope that your's will just expand with time.
I conclude this "Dispatch from the Unemployed" by urging you to use this email as your personal guide to correctly predicting winners in future presidential elections. Strength and conviction win every time…which is my expression of hope that we are not as a nation going to hell. As fun as election night was…I close by suggesting that it could not have been fully enjoyed without seeing Karl Rove lose his shit the moment Fox News called Ohio for Obama. I took from his response that raising and spending a billion dollars of Republican donor money with no affect on any election in the country is bad for future business.