Busting Some 2008 Election Myths

Okay, where do I start?

Let’s start with the fact that
the right wing really has a lot of Democrats cowed, to the point that we seem
to have lost all reason, and it’s scary, to be honest.

Barack Obama will win the
Democratic nomination for president, and he’ll coast to victory in November,
unless he’s caught with a hooker in David Vitter’s apartment, with Larry Craig
watching from the adjacent bathroom; or worse, he suddenly loses his nerve and
starts taking marching orders from the DLC (the so-called Democratic "Leadership" Council tends to lead Democrats right over a cliff.)

What is it about us liberals that
we obsess over each individual tree, and forget that we’re standing in a

I’m here today to explode a
couple of myths. And I mean destroy them. I’m not going to throw out a bunch of
raw data at you that you can wonk over obsessively. I am just going to state
some bald facts that can’t actually be denied, if you can manage to look at
things objectively. You ready?

Myth #1

The media determines how people vote.

Look folks, this is an easy one.
Most of the people reading this blog are news junkies. Hell; I tend to be one
myself at times. The difference is, I balance my news junkie tendencies with
some perspective. The fact of the matter is, far more people listen to NPR than
Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. But even if you combine all of the ratings from
all of the news programs, and all of the circulation of all of the newspapers,
and all of the hits from every news web site, you come up with one inescapable
conclusion; most people don’t watch the news most of the time.

People vote based on their own
self-interest. The media can have some
input into what those self-interests are, but the vast majority of people vote
based on what a candidate says regarding what matters to them the most.

Now, the far right has been
masterful at getting certain people – their so-called “base” – to vote against
their self-interest, in favor of the legendary “God, guns and gays” agenda
they’ve been pushing for years, but these people make up an ever-shrinking
minority in this country. These are people who watch Fox News because they need
validation for their beliefs. They tend to not be very bright, and they don’t
actually care what the “news media” has to say.

But – and this is very important
– they make up a very slight minority.

Look at it this way. At his peak,
Rush Limbaugh could boast of nearly 20 million listeners (that is not 20
million separate people, by the way), and in 1992, his first candidate, pat
Buchanan got killed by George H. W. Bush, and when he flipped to Bush, Clinton
killed the incumbent president. Four years later, his popularity still very
high, Bob Dole also got killed by



I know what you’re thinking; the
right wing media had a hand in the Republican “Revolution,” didn’t they? Well,
no, they didn’t, which I’ll get to when I bust another myth.

Here’s a little experiment to
try, news junkies. The next time the media pounds on a major story, do a little
survey of your non-news junkie friends, and ask them what they think of that
particular issue. You’ll be shocked at what you find, because most of them
won’t know what you’re talking about. Not only that, but they will also be very
receptive if they’ve heard a little something and you correct the record for
them, if that’s necessary.

Don’t obsess over the media’s
influence on everyone else, just because you’re obsessed with the media. Don’t
panic; counter it, if it’s wrong.

Myth #2

Negative Campaigning Works.

This is the one that just plain
drives me up the wall, folks, mainly because it’s not true at all, but also
because it perpetuates negative campaigning.

I remember one of my first
political experiences was doing volunteer work with a liberal Republican when I was in my teens. We had a long
conversation about strategy, and he explained to me that one of the Republican
Party’s main strategic maneuvers was to piss people off enough to keep them
from voting. You see, the GOP has always been a minority party, so to even the
playing field, rather than puffing themselves up, and taking populist positions
on issues, they bring the other candidate down. They talk about everything but
the issues, and personally attack their opponents mercilessly. But their intent
is not to injure the other candidate. Their intention is to make people
disgusted enough to not even want to
show up on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

If Hillary Clinton wants to know
why she’s losing so badly, she can look inward, because it’s her negative
campaigning that’s killing her. Negative campaigning has not swung any
elections. In fact, I’ll go even farther. I’ll submit that it’s not even the reaction to the negative campaigning
that swings elections. Going negative can only work if it’s believable, if it
sticks, and if it’s relevant.

What gets people elected, folks,
is the ability to convince the electorate that you care about them, and that
you stand for something. The main reason Democrats keep losing elections is
because Democrats have stopped believing in that which made Democrats the
majority party in the first place. Since Ronald Reagan beat Walter Mondale in
the 1984 election, the Bob Shrum idiot wing of the Democratic Party took
charge, and we’ve been losing ever since.

You see, Shrum and his ilk at the
DLC think that Republicans won in 1980 and 1984 because of ideology, which is
just simply stupid on its face. Jimmy Carter lost because of economic
circumstances in play at the time, and Walter Mondale lost in 1984 because
Reagan was immensely popular because of his moderation
on many key issues. The geniuses in charge of the Democratic Party for nearly
20 years adopted a strategy whereby they try to copy everything the Republicans
do. They triangulated on every issue, and tried as hard as possible to not
stand for anything, for fear of pissing someone off.

Negative campaigning can only
“work” in a vacuum, folks, and that’s what we had for 20 years in the
Democratic Party. Michael Dukakis wasn’t done in by the Willie Horton ad or the
picture of him in a tank. He could have beaten George H. W. Bush just by
standing on principle. Al Gore didn’t lose because they said he invented the
Internet; he lost because he didn’t stand for anything at all; he tried to be
all things to all people, and rather than point with pride at his
accomplishments, he ran away from them. Seriously; can you imagine today’s Al
Gore not beating Dubya to a pulp in the 2000 election? And John Kerry didn’t
lose in 2004 because of the Swift Boat Veterans for Bull; he lost because it
wasn’t possible to look at John Kerry and feel inspired.

The exception to the DLC rule is
Bill Clinton, by the way. He won because he ignored the DLC, and inspired
people anyway. He was bigger than the DLC, and didn’t have to follow their
marching orders. But even with the powerful


, note that he still never received
more than 50% of the vote, and in 1992, Ross Perot did pose a real threat,
because Perot, like him or not, stood for something that people could relate

Barack Obama will be attacked
this summer and fall; of that, there is no doubt. But here’s the difference
between him and Hillary Clinton; Obama has made it clear that he stands for
something. He has demonstrated remarkable integrity, and he tells you what’s on
his mind. Therefore, the negative campaigning can’t possibly work. The right
wing will smear him with Jeremiah Wright and William Ayers, but people know
that Obama is not a wild-eyed radical. They’ll call him a Muslim, but people
know he’s a devout Christian. They will throw dirt at him, but the more people
get to know him, and the more they get to listen to him, the less chance there
is of the dirt sticking.

One more thing; if negative
campaigning worked, then why has the GOP been unable to elect any more than a
bare majority in Congress? It’s pretty much all they run on; one would think
they’d have a veto-proof majority by now.

Negative campaigning not only
doesn’t work, but with the death of the right wing, it will begin to have the
opposite effect now. There was a reason Richard Nixon never brought up John F. Kennedy’s Addison’s disease, and why none of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s opponents brought up his polio. Because of the esteem the public held those two candidates when they ran, anything negative might have had an effect opposite that intended.

Myth #3

The “Long” Primary Campaign is Bloodying Obama and helping McCain

Oh, please.

This is only a long campaign
because the main candidates started stumping back in 2006. This is how a
campaign is supposed to be; contested by two very strong, very qualified
candidates. If Hillary Clinton would have stopped taking advice from the DLC
clowns in charge of her campaign after they screwed the pooch in


, and made this
about issues, rather than personality attacks, it would actually be an even
closer race, and she wouldn’t be tarnishing her image to the extent that she
has. If she was talking more about
issues that people actually care about, such as the economy, the price of gas,
global warming and the occupation in


, she probably wouldn’t have
lost a majority of primaries, and she might be close enough in the popular vote
to make a case to superdelegates to go her way.

But the “long” contest is
actually good for the Democratic Party in the long run. The more they are out
in front of the American people, the more voters get to know about Obama, and
the more they’ll like him. (They could also like Hillary more, if she would
stop campaigning as if she was Republican.) All of this hand wringing over how
this will effect the general election is for naught. First of all, see Myth #1;
the only people paying really close attention to every detail are the people
who haven’t voted in a primary yet. Second, the election is more than six months
off; Americans don’t have six-month attention spans. If you think they’re going
to remember everything that happened today when they’re ready to vote in
November, then you’re not paying close attention yourself.

But there’s a third reason, and
it has to do with another myth…

Myth #4

Voters vote for a Candidate Based on his or her Positions on Issues.

While news junkies and
self-proclaimed activists all obsess over every candidate’s position on every
issue, and worse, claim to know exactly what voters will vote on in November,
most voters make a decision on a, well, less-psychic set of criteria. The
reason they want a candidate who stands for something is precisely because they
don’t know what the issues will be, and they’re looking for someone who seems
to be able to handle anything thrown at him. They want the candidate to seem
competent to handle everyday tasks (especially after the current regime), but
they also know that some unknown issue may come down the pike at some point,
and they want to know the candidate can handle that, as well.

I know this goes against the
grain of a lot of progressives, and way against the grain to news junkies, but
this is the way things are. Most people are just too busy to spend a lot of their
time researching a candidate’s views on every single issue, and besides; every
person has a different set of issues that are important to him or her; it’s not
possible to find a candidate that agrees with you on everything. And let’s face
it; no one in his right mind believes that any politician will do everything he
or she says during a campaign; you want someone in there who cares about the
country, and will work in its best interest.

That’s enough myth busting for
now, but expect me to explode more of them.

In summary, keep in mind that the
right wing is done. It’s over. It’s kaput. The campaigning that you’ve been
seeing in the last 5-6 election cycles is dead. Sure, they’ll try to get at
Obama in the general election, but it won’t work. Keep that in mind, and enjoy a vigorous election season for a change.

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