The race for the Republican nomination has all the appeal of a three-legged sack race by a bunch of blindfolded angry drunks-- and it's not entirely the fault of the candidates. Elections used to be events, now they're a permanent process that begins some time after the last election wraps up. The long round of debates is the slow long road to the primaries that succeeds in making everyone seem unequal to the task.
We have inspirational candidates, we have candidates with ideas and we have candidates who project competence-- but we don't have all three in the same man or woman, and so we're left having to pick and choose between the negatives.
There isn't much for the candidates to do except make appearances, raise
money, get their name out there and figure out a way to edge out their
rivals. But where a genuine leader would have raised a banner of ideas,
instead we get petty attacks funneled through the gutters of the press. The wrangling and the soundbites don't reflect leadership, and that's the real problem here.
While Obama is assembling a campaign built around class warfare, there is no serious challenge coming from his opponents which means the left is achieving its mission of creating an Anti-Tea Party to take back the debate. The victories of 2010 rewarded the insurgent party. Now Obama's people are determined to present him as the insurgent fighting against a GOP congress and big business. It's a narrative tailored to peel away enough independents and conservative Democrats to score a win and it may work.
There's been a little too much complacency after the victories of the midterm election and the weak numbers for the White House have convinced some politicians that they're fighting over a carcass. They're not.
Obama's original victory was implausible, it took extensive work, planning and money. The idea that it can't happen again should be buried deep right now. It happened once. It can happen again if we let it. The other side is not going to play by any rules, it is not going to run a conventional campaign, it will pull every dirty trick it can think of and change the game as many times as it takes to win.
OWS should be a wake up call that this election will not be a cakewalk. The failures of the coffee party and every alternative to the Tea Party created a dangerous complacency. Now the mobs are abroad and the game is being changed... and this is just the first phase of what will be the ugliest campaign ever fought.
We can't wave a magic wand and turn the frontrunners into the men they should be or pretend that they aren't deeply flawed. What we can do is resist the gossipy insider echo chamber that has set the narrative of the race, the one that whispers snidely about every candidate as if the whole thing is a gladiatorial match for the entertainment of the 'in-the-know' spectators.
What we need is a standard bearer who merges that unapologetic and enthusiastic message with a sense of leadership. That's what Ronald Reagan delivered in his time. There's no use in wishing for a Reagan, but it's also important to remember that leaders don't emerge out of nowhere, they are shaped by the expectations of the people.
The media would like to reduce the Republican candidates to a bunch of clowns, so far they have gotten their way with the help of a conservative media all too eager to drive traffic with another controversy. But what they want and what we need are too different things. We don't need viral videos and controversies-- what we need are men and women who speak strongly about what is wrong with this country and what needs to be changed.
Short term victories can be scored with gimmicks, but the long term battle is not going to be won on those terms. Once the race begins in earnest voters will look to two men to see which of them has the answer. The media will do its best to make one of those men look like an idiot, a bigot, a buffoon and a complete failure. And it will do it best to make the other man who actually is an idiot and a failure look like an inspirational genius.
Will the public buy it? Last time around they bought into the idea that inexperience is an asset and that a state senator from one of the most corrupt states in America was more qualified to take the helm during a national emergency than a respected senator and veteran. They also bought into the idea that Sarah Palin was a dunce and Joe Biden.was a respected expert on foreign policy.
That doesn't mean the race is hopeless, it means that it's our race to lose. And it's going to be lost or won on ideas, not on personalities.
If the election is as devoid of substance and as fixated on personalities as it is now ,then Obama is as good as in the White House because the media will shape the narrative of personalities until the other man is widely considered to be an punchline. The only way to change that is to go back to the old rules and make this an insurgency of ideas.
The media is not afraid of Cain, Perry, Romney, Gingrich or the rest of the gang. None of them are Reagan and even if they were, the media could still destroy them. What they are afraid of is ideas. Men come and go, but principles count. The left isn't in this because they believe in one man, but because they believe in the revolution. It's the rise of "right-wing populism" that they are afraid of. They are arrogant elitists who look down on everyone else and condescend to them and fear them.
What keeps them up at night is a man who can step forward, lay out all the common sense ideas that they have worked so hard to discredit in front of the public and step off the stage to their cheers. They know it can happen and they expect it to happen because they know quite well how unpopular the menu of ideas on the left side of the plate are.
What frightens them is a conservative who doesn't look for common ground with them, but looks at them with good-natured contempt and tears up their arguments into small pieces with a few words. The words don't have to be well-chosen, the candidate doesn't have to be an articulate speaker, but he has to be a standard bearer for the deep rooted common sense beliefs of the country. That abiding sense of right and wrong that the left has worked so hard to pervert, distorted, mock and bury away as a last resort.
The power of the left is built on the illusion of consensus, and that illusion only works when there is no disagreement or those who disagree are shunted to the side as liars and buffoons. Their consensus is unnatural and it only operates in the absence of dissent. Like the naked emperor traipsing down the street and expecting no one to notice, all it takes is a loud enough cry to wake people up again and to burst the illusion of a consensus.
The left is not vulnerable in its personalities, at least it hasn't been since the Dukakis disaster, it is vulnerable in its ideas which run counter to what most people believe is so. The more indefensible they are, the weaker they are.
The perception that we will win because people dislike Obama should be put to rest now. That may help us, but it will not win it for us. All that the other side has to do is convince the public to dislike our candidate even more. We will only win if we deserve to win by making this an election of ideas, not a smirking contest. Only when there is a clear dividing line drawn down the middle and when the left is hit on the consequences of its policies over and over again, while the alternative is made clear will we win.