November 05, 2004

Lessons Learned 2004

[ has been almost unreachable from the fever-pitch posting over the past week, having a server load stress-test comparable to what the cellular networks experienced on 9/11. So I'll put in my two cents now that I can connect again. ]

So What Went Wrong in 2004? Let's descuss.

1) People need a strong candidate to vote for.

It's not enough to believe in your party and be diametrically opposed to the other guy, your candidate must be directly supportable by at least SOME of your party. Dukakis didn't win in 1988 beacuse he was less appealing than George Bush version 1.0, which is a feat in itself. Gore lost in 2000 because while his party was trying to hit the Repeat button on Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow," some soft-line Democrats couldn't face the idea of Al being the man in charge.

Dubya is nothing if not a strong figure, I'll grant him that. He's a man who stays the course, no matter what. However, while determination is a good quality in general, when you refuse to listen to logic, advisors who are experts in their fields, and public opinion, and continue just because not doing so would make you look "weak," it becomes a hinderance. A husband refusing to stop and ask directions is annoying for a wife, but a President doing it puts our whole nation in the firing line.

Democrats need to regroup, employ some of the ousted senators and congressmen, go off to some remote camp for a year and have some sort of gladiator competition to find the next candidate. Sadly, they'll have nothing better to do for the next four years. In 2008, we'll need the strongest candidate for the party, not just the least offensive one. If the Republicans think that America will vote Dick Cheney in on Bush's Coattails, we might not have much of a fight, but we still need to be strong.

2) Sadly, Prejudice buys more votes than Logic.

How did Bush make loads of middle-class republicans forget that they were losing jobs and paying more for healthcare and gas? By putting homophobia on the ballot. Sure, you might be shelling out half your unemployment check at the Chevron station, but at least gays can't marry in most states now! That's a victory, in some people's minds. "Sure, I may be destitute, but at least groups of people that I don't know, but are nontheless inferior, are refused the same freedoms that I enjoy."

The point is that with the exception of a two or three states, same-sex marriage wasn't legal in the first place, so it was never really an issue. Continuing his policy of pre-emtive strikes, Bush brought the issue to the forefront of America's mind as if it were a national crisis. All eleven states that voted to amend their state's constitutions to ban gay marriage, passed by an overwhelming majority. The glacial pace of progress made by pro-gay groups to slowly gain acceptance as humans, with the same right to breathe air as the rest of America, has been slowed even further.

3) Fear Tactics Work, If Done Right

The prime example of this was Cheney's assertion that if Kerry is elected, the Terrorists will attack again. After seeing the poll numbers jump at this statement, Kerry made his own doomsday prediction about the possibility of a nuclear device being set off in a major city. However, it just lacked that certain "spooky" vibe that only Cheney and Rumsfeld can infuse into a press release, and was not very effective.

And every four years, there's the Ad so horribly bad that you have to laugh. My 2004 favorite was Bush's Ad insinuating that packs of hungry wolves are poised at the borders, ready to descend on an unsuspecting suburia, if the wrong man is elected. That's right, Junior. If you can't move your audience with big words, drop hints that they might not be on top of the food chain if they make the wrong choice. Someone explain the link to me: Are the wolves all disgruntled Democrats, or does Kerry have some sort of mind-control over animals, like AquaMan?

4) The Unpredictable Rationale of the American Public.

Finally, there are always reasons that no one expects for candidate preference. I spoke with my grandmother the other night, and she revealed that she voted for Bush because "That Laura Bush is SO much better a first lady than that Kerry woman would have been." My jaw dropped at this. "What's her name? Theresa. She is just rude. She's the kind of woman who's had everything given to her for so long, she just doesn't know how to act." Agreed, the president's family IS an important part of a candidates PR image, but I never thought of it as a make-or-break issue. But that's my Grandma, manners and social graces have always been very important to her.

To wrap up, here's my personal "Moment of Zen". The Daily Show's Ed Helms sums up what changes can be expected in Bush's second term: "Word of advice, If you want to have gay sex or visit a library, it's probably your last night to do those things. Personally, I'll be killing two birds with one stone."link

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