I’m no political scientist, in fact I find politics so uninteresting that I place politicians on my list somewhere between used car salesmen and born-again evangelists. If I pay any attention to what’s going on in Washington I just get angry and who needs that. We used to be the greatest country on earth and now we’d be hard pressed to be in the top twenty or so. Why, because our politicians aren’t minding the store. Don’t get me started on what’s wrong with our country . . . but that’s a story for another day.
Although I loathe politics I actually enjoy our national elections. Maybe it’s because I am, or is it was, a marketer and these so-called candidates have the ultimate marketing job ― selling their sorry selves to us, the public. Here’s an old marketing guy’s simple guide to winning elections. The successful candidate will score high in every category. Just ask Bob Dole.
This I do remember from school. Eligibility is having a flawless background, a wholesome lifestyle and often having gone through tedious preparation to become a candidate. You can’t have three marriages, numerous reports of infidelity, a really nasty divorce, and be estranged from your two biological children and ever expect to get nominated let alone elected. Just ask Rudy Giuliani. Now take Newt. He had eighty-four ethics charges filed against him during his term as Speaker of the House. All were eventually dropped except for one and the House officially reprimanded him following a vote of 395 in favor and 28 opposed. He was the first Speaker ever disciplined for an ethics violation and now he thinks we’ll forgive and forget.
You can graduate 894th in a class of 899 like John McCain, or be a reformed drunk like George W. or you can be thought to be a functioning acholic like Ulysses, or be a known womanizer like Bill, or you can even protest a war in your military uniform like John Kery and still get on the ballot but you can’t be thought to be dishonest. You can now be divorced (Reagan) or a Catholic (Kennedy) or half black (Obama) but not a Jew (Lieberman) or a woman (Ferraro, Dole, Palin or Bachmann) and get elected. We’ll see if a Mormon (Romney) can win, but I wouldn’t bet on it. We’ll nominate and elect drunks, womanizers and policy protestors but not crooks, Jews or women.
We usually think charisma means personal charm or magnetism. John Kennedy had it. Newt Gingrich doesn’t. Got it? Many will tell you that this is the most important criteria of a candidate. Just look at: Bill Clinton vs. Bob Dole, Jimmy Carter vs. Gerald Ford, and Barack Obama vs. John McCain. In every case we voted for the guy with charisma and not necessarily the best candidate or the candidate that reflected our own personal beliefs. We voted for the nicest guy, or the guy that came across as the nicest. Nice guys finish first in politics.
Left – Center - Right
Much is said about conservatives and liberals in our political system but to win an election today you have to be a moderate. You can even lean a little to the left like Obama or a little to the right like Reagan but we don’t elect radicals, no matter what they’re radical about. You could radically support apple pie, motherhood and the American flag and we won’t vote for you. And, what’s up with these third party candidates. As best I can tell they only take votes away from the candidate they’re most closely aligned. H. Ross Perot took enough of George Bush’s votes for Clinton to win and the Ralph Nader did the same thing to Al Gore. Why do you vote for these guys? You are not only wasting your vote, you are taking votes away from the candidate you should have voted for.
Sometimes things are just so bad that we’ll vote for the candidate of the opposite party just because we’ve had it with the guys in power. We saw this when Jimmy Carter beat Gerald Ford. We were sick of Nixon, sick of Watergate and sick of all things republican. We wanted change; even it meant electing a Sunday school teacher. The same thing happened when Obama ran against McCain. We had so had it with Bush and Cheney, their failed economy and their winless wars, that we would’ve elected Angela Davis or Groucho Marx if they’d have run for the other party.
So there you have it. We elect candidates that have charm, squeaky clean backgrounds and take the middle of the road on most things. That’s if we haven’t had it up to here with the party in power. If we have, we vote for the other guy, regardless.
Psst – I’m batting 800. I voted for Goldwater rather than Johnson, Nixon over Humphrey, Nixon rather than McGovern, Ford rather than Carter, Reagan over the incumbent Carter, Reagan rather than Mondale, Bush over Dukakis, Clinton over the incumbent Bush, Clinton rather than Dole, neither George W. nor Gore, neither George W. nor Kerry and finally Obama rather than McCain. And by the looks of things I’ll be voting for him again.