Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Screw the Middle

Beloved blogger Angry Black Bitch (I hear there’s some type of movement to have her declared a National Treasure – It could just be a rumor) recently posted her criteria for choosing a presidential candidate. It got me to thinking about an academic discussion on the mid-term election that I recently attended.

By the way, I attend academic discussions often. In my mind, it counts as “working” instead of, you know, actually working. I am an academic. They are academic discussions. Therefore, it’s part of my job. Plus, being totally broke, they are free entertainment. Sometimes they even serve snacks.

Anyway, one of the key speakers had previously been a strategic consultant for Democratic candidates. Though Democrats clearly dominated the audience (It is Boston, after all), the general reaction was surprise at the recent win. This particular strategist argued that it was really not the Democrats who won, but rather Republicans who lost. He stated his belief that the only way for a Democrat to win the presidency in 2008 is to focus on “the middle” and ignore the lefty base. The key, he suggested, was for a candidate to figure out what all those undecided people in the middle wanted to hear.

See, here is where I start getting all pissy over the established Democratic leadership. Why should we cater to the undecided folk? If that can’t decide, why should they be given the power to decide for everybody else?

Being elected as a leader should involve showing and explaining why you are the best person for the job. I don’t like the idea of a candidate being elected because he mastered polling. To be honest, most Americans don’t have enough information to form solid judgments about the nation. We don’t have time. That’s why we elect people who are supposed to know more than us. Most Americans couldn’t even answer who the U.S.’s biggest trading partner is (Canada, btw) or when it acquired Puerto Rico (1898, fyi). So, why should we try to base a campaign on what they imagine to be the major world issues? Why not just break out a Ouija board? You would probably get more informed answers.

Republicans don’t bother listening to what Americans actually think. Instead, they just sell the hell out of their candidate. No matter which way you slice it, Georgie Bush should never have won any election, ever. Technically, of course, he did not even win in 2000. Somehow people managed to vote for him in 2004 despite his obvious inability to do the job.

Everything Bush junior ever touched failed horribly. Large sections of his life are unknown, even to him, thanks to some serious drinking between the ages of 16 and 40. I think that he currently divides his day between Playstation, coloring books, and trying to figure out why his etch-a-sketch won’t draw a diagonal line. He should have been unelectable.

Still need convincing about how unelectable Bushie was? Consider this – His own father has never shown much emotion about his son in the White House. Yet, today he broke down in sobs over Jeb. When it comes to tears, Bush Senior apparently feels more pride for the son who has been a mediocre governor of Florida than the son who is President of the United States. You just know it has to do with the fact that Bush, Sr. secretly suspects that Laura ties George, Jr’s. shoes every morning.

Yet, people voted for the dumb-ass in 2004. The Republicans didn’t bother to care about what direction that the “undecideds” thought the country should go. Instead, they just buzzed the local NASCAR stadium with Air Force One a couple of times. When that didn’t work, they tapped into people’s racism and homophobia. They delivered a message to the undecideds. They did not take one from the undecideds.

So, the Democrats should have it easy. After all, the basic goals of the party would actually improve the daily lives of most Americans. Yet, Democrats are scared to have a message. The Bush camp labeled Kerry a “flip-flopper.” How did he respond? Well, first he took some polls to find out how Americans wanted him to respond. Then he ran it by a focus group. After that, he did a few media tests. Finally, after several weeks, he had an answer.

Hey, Democrats, instead of running campaigns listening to polls, why not field a candidate who is actually ethical and committed to some basic civil rights issues. After that, learn to sell his or her actual strengths. If you have a candidate who is stiff, don’t toss him in a cardigan and call it a day. Explain why the nation would actually benefited from having somebody so level headed. If somebody says that they imagine that they would rather “hang-out” with the Republican, tell them that’s great! Remind them that the “boring” candidate wants to guarantee all Americans’ basic access to medical care and work on reducing the national debt. Or, just ask them who they would rather hire to watch the store. If the Democrat is more boring because she was never a drunk frat boy, she is likely going to be a better employee. At least use the same criteria to pick a president as 7-11 does to hire clerks: No lushes, no felons.

I recognize that "spin" and "selling" are part of the game. Winning elections, however, does not need to be about catering to the lowest common denominator. I am not even really sure when that started happening. I am going to guess that it occurred about the same time as when somebody invented the job title “Political Consultant.” Let’s try an old fashioned approach of trying to sell a good candidate rather than trying to make one out of pollster play-dough.

Or you all could just install GayProf as your new Emperor and Overlord. Whatever.


Anonymous said...

All hail GayProf - Emperor and Overlord. Excellent post.

tornwordo said...

You must hate your country. (grin)

ZaPaper said...

Reading this I got so mad all over again. I try not to think about politics too much for just this reason! But I have a question for you. Do you think that part of the dems' problem is the fact that their base is actually two very different groups whose interests are often at odds with one another, i.e., labor and liberals? Or is this a dated understanding of the situation? What really is wrong with dems anyway? Usually I figure I don't have to worry about it much, since I know how I'm going to vote and am not likely to be able to change anyone's mind. But various Chinese people have asked me, and it would be good to have an answer.

Anonymous said...

Truthfully, I think the dems need more than an overhaul in leadership. A policy overhaul would be nice. The 6 point plan for '06 glaringly omits civil rights--something that dems have traditionally fought for. And when it comes time to write the new platform, let's hope its something better than "Strong at home, Respected in the World."
And turthfully, gay rights is so far left that our middle-pandering party frequently won't even touch it--especially not on a national level. We talk about how the democratic vision would enrich the lives of Americans, yet we still have democrats who vote oppositionally on core issues like health care and education (cough, Hillary, cough).
I realize, of course, that I don't have a lot of room to talk. The only way I participate in politics is through my vote. Apparently, I need to spend a little more time giving input and making my voice heard at the party level.
Nah, I'm American. I'll just watch TV.

Doug said...

I hate politics. I only vote so I can complain. ;)

Anonymous said...

Hillary for President and Obama for Vice-President! I'm afraid that's the best we can do. Ethical? Issues? forget about it!!!

Anonymous said...

Next week: GayProf is Evita!

Dorian said...

But, Prof, what do you really think? There's no need to sugar-coat your opinion on your own blog.

These days I tend to view the Democrats as the lesser evil. I'm increasingly becoming a single-issue voter, and they're the party that seems the least likely to vote to put me into a camp of some kind, so as much as Democrat candidates keep pissing me off on important issues, I keep voting for them because the alternatives are so much worse.

Anonymous said...

When did intelligence become a bad thing in a leader?
Oh right,about the time we elected Ronald Reagan.
I remember thinking if we are going to elect an actor to the presidency, can't he at least have been a GOOD actor?
Most Americans including many college graduates couldn't pass a citizenship test given to immigrants.

dykewife said...

hey :D you've been tagged. to see the rules go to my blog and take it from there. :D

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the link to Angry Black Bitch. Rumsfeldian assholia ... ah, sweet!

The key for the Democrats to win in 2008 is: Kill all the strategists.

Then take out the completely useless pollsters.

This way candidates might actually tell people what the fuck they're for, what the fuck they're against and we'd have to something to work with.

Oh, and while at Wal-Mart, buy the Average American a frickin' brain so they can figure out who is and who is not worth voting for in 2008.

"Republicans don’t bother listening to what Americans actually think. Instead, they just sell the hell out of their candidate. "

We don't need anymore of that nonsense either.

How did he respond? Well, first he took some polls to find out how Americans wanted him to respond. Then he ran it by a focus group. After that, he did a few media tests. Finally, after several weeks, he had an answer.

Funny, sick, true... and Hilary et al will do the same exact thing. The Democrats need to get their heads out of their asses and stand up for what they believe, not what they hope they've figured out the rest of us think we believe in.

Or you all could just install GayProf as your new Emperor and Overlord.

If you promise me men in tuxedos 24x7x365 and cheesecake that will not make me fat, I'll be your new minion. But Angry Black Bitch may be a tough act to beat.

Anonymous said...

hmm. Political reform?

How about getting rid of the dreadful "first-past-the-post" system we have that guarantees our forever being locked into the Republican/Democrat paradigm - or until the Rapture comes and half the country is zapped up to heaven....!

I'd like to see some third parties (who btw, have more than a few non-idiots in their ranks) be able to put some congressmembers in the House or Senate, and possibly a President.

The Dems have little to offer other than shuffling money around to special interest groups, opening up the borders wide enough to drive the Seventh Fleet through, and perpetuating the Welfare State...

...whereas the Republicans want to eliminate the borders altogether (it's good for business... shocker!) to drive wages down even further, and shuffle more money into their own pockets.

The running joke being of course, that the only minority who isn't aware that he is a minority in his own land yet, is the middle-income/working-class white male (or as Kerry puts it - the NASCAR crowd).

Yeah, some choices, huh...?

GayProf said...

Steve: Please, no need to fawn over your new emperor. Just send cash.

Torn: You can take the American boy to Canada, but you can't take the American out of the boy. Or something...

ZaPaper: Well, labor proved very effective in getting out the vote in the 2006 election. I don't think that there is really a conflict of interest between these groups. We, though, have not had a good articulation about why they should all be united under one party.

Jeremy: I agree. The Democrats pander to (what they imagine) is the majority. If you are interested in preserving the rights of a minority, though, you can't leave it to the whims of the majority. That's what being principled is about, no?

Now slide over on that couch and let me watch the t.v. with you.

Doug: Well, your motive for voting is better than mine, which is mostly about revenge.

Ed: Whatever our individual opinion of her, Hillary will be a tough sell and will likely fail. Why doesn't she just become the queen of the senate? She could ultimately be much more powerful in the Senate than she ever would be as president, IMHO.

Chris: I am Argentina and always will be.

Dorian: Voting to stay out of death camps is a good way to vote. Yet, many of our gay brethren still vote Republican. It scares me.

Brian: The really sad thing is that Reagan seems so much more reasonable now that we have experienced Bush, Jr. Who knew we would long for the days of a senile president who thought communists were hiding under his bed?

DykeWife: So noted. ;-)

Laura Elizabeth: Sigh -- Everybody prefers ABB.

Seeker Onos: It seems to me that many white men vote for Republicans because they imagine they will one day be rich. They are sadly mistaken.

Anonymous said...

The only way Hillary can win is to tie a rope around hubby and keep him at her side from now until election day. Many folks alas will never vote for a female. Some can be pursueded if they know an experienced man will be at her side. I would vote for her for one reason. To see The Republicans stress out as Bill moves back into the White House. Priceless!!!

Anonymous said...

I do hate the politics of the middle, but I'm not particularly thrilled with any of the potential democratic candidates either. Whom would you suggest (I know you just can't be 35 yet with your boyish good looks)?

Anonymous said...

I adore ABB too. So much that I want to send her a truck load of smartie goodness.

When I read the word Emperor, I think of that fable from Hans Christian Anderson, a story I loved when I was a kid, and especially the ending, "But the Emperor has nothing on at all!" ... and I imagine a naked man walking down the street.

Yes, I'm weird sometimes.

Anonymous said...

I, for one, would like to welcome our new GayProf overlord!

Also, the "word verfication" word for me is "Sikhz." First I wondered if that was racist. Then I wondered why I should be wondering if it was racist. Then I wondered if I should question whether I was racist. Then I wondered how an automated computerized system could be racist.

The current state of race politics in North America has me scared. Sigh.

Anonymous said...

Yes, ABB really should've been in line before the Northern Hawaiian Islands, important as they are.

You know I agree with you that it shouldn't all about spin and selling...but I have a feeling it has always been thus. You know history...hasn't the goal of American "democracy" always pretty much been guarding power by manipulating elections? I sometimes think all that has changed since 1789 is the technology.

Margaret said...

I love you, GayProf.

GayProf said...

Ed: I see you have the vengeful notion of voting.

Kalvin: True, I still have a couple of years before I can be drafted to the presidency. Assuming, of course, we still bother to follow the Constitution. There are no age-limits on being Emperor.

Sadly, I don't have any additional insight into potential candidates than anybody else. The Democrats, in some ways, might be better served to select somebody that nobody has really heard of very much.

Cooper: Oh, I don't think that is so odd. My childhood often involved focusing on imagining men who had no clothes on at all.

Jamesdotca: Shall we start a rumor that blogspot has an anti-Sikhism agenda?

HuntingtonL: Yes, politics have always been dirty in the U.S. Alexander Hamilton, after all, didn't think people could really be trusted to vote in the best interests of the nation. Many nineteenth-century elections showed a viciousness that we don't even see today (calling a candidate's wife a dirty whore, for instance).

Still, with all of that, my impression is that average voters were also discussing the major issues of the day. Today, voters seem distracted. Maybe I am wrong about that.

MaggieMay: Do you love me more than your Dean?

Anonymous said...

They say that Dubya's always been his mother's favorite, while Jeb is GHW's. So you can add Oedipal issues as to why GW should never have been president!

Earl Cootie said...

Why should we cater to the undecided folk? If that can’t decide, why should they be given the power to decide for everybody else?

I remember during the 2004 (and 2000 for that matter) elections, when the news programs were all about the damned undecideds. One program interviewed a group of them, and I recall thinking that I had never seen a stupider bunch of people. You just wonder how these people could have made it to adulthood.

As for Senior's blubbering the other day, I wondered how much of that was over the failure that is his namesake.

Adam said...

I expressed this to my congresswoman's staff. I'd like to see a candidate from the Dems that has beliefs and owns them through thick and thin not because they are expedient but because he or she believes they are ethical and moral stances. In other words, someone with a backbone and not James Carville and Paul Begalas hands up their ass.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps both camps neglect the need to aggressively recurit the sea of middle opinion to a more distinct stand, instead of spending the bulk of thier time conniving ways to keep themselves permanently secured to thier congressional seats.

Sadly, politics is the last place where one could expect to find an altruistic sense of duty. But the "cover your hind-end" syndrome is easily found - like the e. coli on so much produce arriving on the shelves from California these days.

Anonymous said...

Voting to stay out of death camps is a good way to vote. Yet, many of our gay brethren still vote Republican. It scares me.

I attribute this to the continuing myth of the middle. Most talk of the middle or the center is coming from people who want to dismiss liberal ideas as "too extreme" while pretending there's no one on the right does that. So, only crazy lefties think that there's a possibility that such a thing might happen. Sensible centrist Know that such a thing wouldn't fly, so why give credence to the idea that stoking homophobia for political gain could end in such an Obviously Wrong place? No One would take it seriously, because a Sensible Centrists wouldn't think so.

Either that or they're an extremist that wants you to think the Right is just as bad as said extremist. They're just being melodramatic, the same way liberals irrationally are compelled to make Nazi comparisons.

"Center" "Moderate" and "Middle" are just strawmen that people continue to buy into. Maybe there is such a think as a political center, but not in our current discourse where finding a middle ground takes presidence over right and wrong (see Global Warming, evolution).


Seeker, I agree about supporting third parties and am often eager to find points to support the California Green Party, which has made a lot of gains in local offices, a step towards bigger things. I don't see them as a solution, but they are very much needed in places like Hawaii and California where Democrats have become the establishment.