How quickly they forget. The democrats now are sitting back and licking their wounds. They think they have done their best shot, and it wasn’t good enough. What next?
And, since I think I’m a good representative of the voter they want to appeal to (and because I love to give advice) here’s why they failed to inspire me this year, and why they lost me, and millions like me, in many campaigns all across the country.
1) You can’t build by tearing down. True, you sometimes have to tear down before you build, but it’s not the tearing down that’s important. Make me believe there’s something good coming. Let me see your vision of my future.
2) Focus. You don’t have time to tell me all your plans. Give me your best idea right up front. If that hooks me, then you have the time to explain your 66-point plan for World Peace. But throw your best stuff out, clearly and in the open. I need to be baited.
3) Fear neither ridicule nor scorn. If you’re shy and reserved, get over it, because I want to know who is asking me to trust him/her with my dreams. If you’re not like me, and you’re not, show me why you’re different. I know different isn’t always, or even often, bad; being different is an attraction, not a turn-off. But I need to know why before I can believe you actually are what you say you are. Show me who you are and why you are; the real you, not what your packager and handler wants me to believe is you. Believe me, I will be able to spot the phony. That was behind the Dean Meltdown. You can talk about the Iowa Yell all you want, but that was just the excuse for the meltdown. The wheels were coming off the Dean campaign, anyway, because Howard Dean was not the candidate Joe Trippi was trying to package and sell, so the effort was doomed from the start. And the worst part about that was that Dean himself was an interesting candidate. If Trippi hadn’t tried to package and sell Howard Dean as Josiah Bartlett, and had instead let Dean be Dean, who knows where it would have led?
4) Show me the fire. Everyone who decides to run the gauntlet of a political campaign has got to have fire in their belly. I know that. So where is it? If you don’t show me the passion that drives you to run, I’ve no choice but to believe it’s the power itself that attracts you, and that means I won’t trust you. You have to connect with me, and that means letting me see why you get up in the morning and face the swarm. I need to know what drives you; once I know that I can decide if I can trust you.
If you think people voted for George Bush because they thought he was great leader, or a great thinker, or anything like that, it’s no wonder your man lost. George Bush got the votes because he let people see his moral compass. He let people know what was important to him. Once they knew what made him tick, they felt comfortable deciding where he would jump on issues close to them.
I voted twice for Bill Clinton as president, despite the fact that I would never have asked him into my home for dinner, nor would I have accepted a similar invitation from him. I voted for him because I believed he truly was in this, not out of a lust for power, but because he wanted to make our lives better, and thought he knew how. John Kerry never once convinced me he knew what was important to me, much less that he could fix it.
Check the subject line. The famous note stuck to Bill Clinton’s mirror says it all. The neo-conservative movement that captured the Republican party during the Reagan years handed the Democrats their best issue on a silver platter. Yet only one Democrat had the brains to figure it out, and the ones coming after him, astonishingly, refuse to follow his example.
You want to know how a Democrat can win the White House? Start with “It’s the economy, stupid.” Mix in a little bit of “I feel your pain.” Paint me the image of a shiny city. Be civil, only turn your anger on foreigners and criminals (and don’t indulge yourself in stretching the definitions of either of those terms). If I’m in a hole, jump in and show me you know the way out. Show me you know the way to a bright future.
No, it’s not easy. You’re a cynical fool if you thought it would be. I’ll give you one more clue: There may not even be a Democrat on the current national scene that’s capable of carrying it off. Look among your governors. Why a governor? Senators and Congressmen talk about doing things; governors actually do them. They’ve made the hard choices before, and can do it again. I don’t remember the last presidential race a governor lost to a non-governor. Johnson and Kennedy both were non-governors, but were running against non-governors as well. Even the two possible exceptions I can think of aren’t really exceptions. Stevenson lost, but to a general, the military equivalent of a governor. Dukakis lost, but to the former VP of a popular president.