Barack Obama wasn’t just an excellent president, he was also one of the best pure politicians we have ever seen, possibly in history. We know this because he was able to get a black man (himself) elected in a nation that really wasn’t ready for that, as it turns out.
So, here’s the logical question:
Why do progressives seem to have not learned anything from his techniques for running for office and winning elections? Why do so many on the left still believe the way to win elections is to portray the country as a dystopian nightmare and posing our politicians as the only possible savior?
I know these are difficult times for those of us who follow politics closely and understand that the political system matters. Donald Trump is the worst thing to happen to our government, ever. Those of us who thought George W. Bush was the worst our country could ever elect are in shock and we are seeing things happening that are actually worse than we could ever have imagined. However, the one thing we all have to remember is, everything Trump is doing can be reversed. Nothing any government does has to be permanent. We just have to do the one thing we can do to reverse it all.
Ironically, the solution to the Trump regime’s damage is remarkably simple. Make sure Democrats win elections. So, why does it seem like the professional left has to make everything ten times as difficult as it has to be?
Everything Trump says and does comes straight from the callers to right wing talk radio stations. Not the hosts, mind you, but the callers. Listen to him; he has no personal ideology, so he has no choice but to imitate one. And the one he’s chosen is the immoral and insane ideology of the “disenfranchised white people” who have no education and no common sense, but loads of very strong opinions. They call in to Limbaugh, or Hannity, or Savage or any of the dozens of other shit shows out there, and they say something stupid and he repeats it, whether or not it makes sense, even to him.
This is what Trump has done his entire life. He finds the people who can get him something and he says whatever they want to hear, in order to get what he needs. It’s how he’s operated his entire career, which is why he is great at raising capital, usually through borrowing, and why he is so bad at actually doing business. It’s how he “won” the presidency on his first try and it’s how he operates within his regime. He’s “authoritarian” because he’s been told you run a country like you run a business and that’s how he’s always run his businesses. He only cares about the people who support him, and those who think he’s great. Just as his entire regime is being run by the ample seat of his pants, if he somehow managed to get what he wants, which is total control of everything, he would run things the same way. He’s really too stupid to be a dictator, which means he is far too stupid to manipulate the system into giving him that much power in the first place.
What I am trying to say is, what Trump wants and what Trump will get are two different things. Just about everything drastic he’s tried to do has largely been stopped by the courts. He should have more opposition in Congress, but that will require us to spell the end of the Republican Party as a majority in every level of government. The current incarnation of the GOP doesn’t care about doing the right thing; they only care about winning elections. They don’t even seem to care about governing when they have power, unless you call passing endless tax cuts for the rich “governing.” And most people don’t do that.
There is a way out of all this. It means making sure as many people show up every November as possible. Republicans already show up at an 85-90% clip for most elections, so if we can get turnout above 60% every election, the vast majority of those new votes will be non-Republicans and everyone will be better off.
What that will take is a lot of support for Democrats. Don’t expend needed energy on attempting to perfect all Democrats; instead, praise Democrats for their overall record and their tendency to clean up messes left behind by Republicans. However, we can’t win with a campaign that is largely anti-Republican.” We have to promise to improve things for every American. We have to bring about hope. Let people know that most of a terrible things that have happened so far are reversible, as long as we elect Democrats. Let voters know that a vote for Democrats will make their lives better. Don’t make promises Democrats can’t keep, like a “revolution.” Just be hopeful and positive, and people will follow us to the polls.
Don’t be negative. That doesn’t serve us well at all. I know a lot of pro lefties out there will swear that voters only react to disaster and will only show up in large numbers when you scare the shit out of them, but when has that ever worked? The answer is, NEVER. And no, even FDR didn’t win because he portrayed himself as an antidote to the disaster that was the Great Depression, caused by Republican policies. He won because he promised to fix everything. He promised to bring hope to a nation in which nearly one in three people had no job and no prospect of making a living.
And consider the two Obama campaigns. In the first one, the economy was hurtling toward depression, and yet, Senator Obama promised “hope and change”and promised that “we are the ones we have been waiting for.” He was unerringly positive throughout a campaign in which he could have rightfully just run on “Republicans suck,” but didn’t. The result was 2008 saw the highest turnout since the 1960s, and 2012 wasn’t far behind that one.
Republicans’ main strategy is to depress turnout. That’s the purpose behind everything they do. Their “base” is made up of people with an irrational hatred of “liberals,” which means anything that pisses off the left gets their juices flowing. The problem is, while it gets right wingers excited, the same rhetoric causes many people to stay home.
When liberals try the same sort of nonsense, we just kill ourselves and the country. I mean, if their negativity is a strategy designed to get the right wing excited and depress turnout among all other voters, who in their right mind would thing negative rhetoric coming from the left would have the opposite effect? In what alternate universe would that even begin to make sense?
The vast majority of voters want to feel like they’re voting FOR something. That doesn’t mean we can’t also be against GOP rule, just that it can’t be the primary message. Our primary message has to be positive and pro-Democrat.
Once again, we have an example. Even as he was being pummeled by both far left and far right, President Obama never lost his positive focus. It’s time we finally learned that lesson.
Also published on Medium.