Election 2012: What really happened? Idea lost to ideologue

The 2012 election was a virtual repeat of the 2004 election, but 1988 provides another clear reason why the 2012 results came in as they did. The lessons for candidates should be heeded.

LAS VEGAS, November 8, 2012 – After every election there are celebrations for the winning side and recriminations for the defeated. Yet what usually fails to transpire is an actual understanding of what happened.

Recent past elections provided clues to what the Democrats grasped and the Republicans ignored in this last election.

This was a very close election and recriminations are best left to the side. Leftists like E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post and Joan Walsh at Salon will write their typical drivel about how conservatism is now dead and liberalism will rule forever and ever by divine left. Serious individuals saw President Obama win the popular vote 50-49%. He won Virginia by one point, Florida by less than one point, and Ohio by between one and two points.

Had Ohio been slightly closer, America would be buried in counts and recounts right now. President Obama hung on by his fingernails, so any liberals lacking humility may wish to remember what happens to politicians who get full of themselves and mistake a second chance for a mandate for one-party governance.

Yes, Barack Obama is the luckiest man on Earth. He was losing by five points nationally in 2008 before the financial crisis hit. After a disastrous first debate in 2012, he was down four points nationally before being rescued by Hurricane Sandy. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews took flak this week for thanking God for the hurricane. However, luck does not explain everything.

President Obama should have been defeated by twenty points, in the same way Al Gore should have won in a landslide in 2000.

One key reason President Obama defeated Governor Romney is that negative campaigning works. In 1988, campaign strategist Lee Atwater savaged Michael Dukakis, allowing George Herbert Walker Bush to turn a 17 point deficit into a 13 point lead and eventual eight point victory.

In 2004, George W. Bush could not have asked for a better attack dog than current Democrat and former Georgia Senator Zell Miller. John Kerry was defined as weak, wobbly and a man who would try to defend America with “spitballs.”

The 2012 version of Lee Atwater came in the form of barracuda throat-slitter Stephanie Cutter. Her job is not to make the world a better place, spread peace and love, or help a single struggling American have a better life. Her job is to be a soulless, ruthless political operative with no regard for standards of humanity.

Her job is to win at all costs. She did her job very well, defining Governor Romney as a 1950s patriarch and patrician who was waging a war on women and wanted to reinstitute slavery, all the while burning one-hundred dollar bills to smoke his cigars (Ironically it is President Obama who smokes. Mr. Romney does not even drink alcohol).

Yet the biggest reason President Obama was able to survive is because of the battle between “competence” and “ideology.” When two candidates choose these two different approaches, ideology will emerge victorious every single time.

In 1988, Governor Dukakis ran on competence. He was a technocrat, and “good jobs at good wages” was a bland, uninspiring message. Vice President Bush was not particularly ideological, but he was able to run in 1988 under the promise that it would be Ronald Reagan’s third term, only more “kinder and gentler.”

That no longer worked in 1992 for him because he was seen as so non-ideological that he had to switch to competence in a year when his stewardship was questionable.

Bill Clinton was non-ideological, but he had the fortune of running both times against candidates that also ran on competence. Bob Dole even joked once that he should walk into a Pearle Eyeglass Vision Center to get one.

John Kerry ran on competence. George W. Bush ran on ideology. In 2012, the roles were reversed. Mitt Romney is a smart, capable, technocrat. He is a good, decent man with many admirable qualities. Yet the clear ideology was missing.

Think of competence as an assistant coach of a sports teams. They develop a game plan, draw “Xs and Os” on the chalkboard, and move players around like chess pieces. They handle strategy. Head coaches bring the ideology. They need to inspire people. The best head coaches have players who will go through a brick wall for them at 6:00am on a Wednesday morning in a grocery parking lot screaming like banshees ready to play ball.

Ideology is the burning passion, the fire and brimstone.

Competence is the substance, but ideology brings the style and symbols that matter so much in sports and politics. People want to be led. They desperately want something to believe in, and a human being to lead them to glory.

President Obama is an avowed leftist. While he continues to hide this from those in the center who just want jobs, his base knows he is one of them. He is their demigod, and they will walk through a burning building for him.

Governor Romney is a good human being who was “acceptable.”

Lastly, boldness usually defeats cautiousness. Sports coaches are so afraid of getting fired that they play “not to lose.” The best coaches of all time like Vince Lombardi play to win.

They gamble when others play it safe.

George W. Bush had utter contempt for “small ball.” His presidency was consequential because “go big or go home” was his method of leading. Bill Clinton had higher approval ratings, but this is because he was virtually irrelevant in his second term. He focused on small items like school uniforms.

While rolling the dice can result in snake eyes, Americans tend to reward boldness and punish timidity. Mitt Romney and John McCain were so scared of being called racists that they did not go after Barack Obama’s weaknesses the way Rudy Giuliani did in New York with David Dinkins.

Giuliani is famous for telling crowds that the people he offends are those he “wants to offend and deserve to be offended.” Chris Christie’s bluntness works.

George W. Bush was not scared to make unpopular decisions. Yet John McCain and Mitt Romney tried to run from him rather than take the risky unpopular approach of forcefully defending the Bush years. President Obama attacked the Bush years and was rewarded for it by just enough people.

Republicans going forward need to “grow a pair.” They need to stop being scared of being demonized. They will be demonized. That will always happen. Winners from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush forcefully talked past their critics with zero fear of being disliked. They brought the ideology.

Competence is for after the election when it is time to govern. Ideology is what gets the winning candidate elected. As Lee Atwater and Stephanie Cutter grasped, to make an omelette, first you have to break some eggs.


Brooklyn born, Long Island raised, and now living in Los Angeles, Eric Golub is a politically conservative columnist, blogger, author, public speaker, satirist and comedian. Eric is the author of the book trilogy “Ideological Bigotry, “Ideological Violence,” and “Ideological Idiocy.”

Eric is 100% alcohol, tobacco, drug, and liberalism free. Follow Eric on Twitter @TYGRRRREXPRESS

Eric Golub is an independent writer for the Communities. Read more from Eric at TYGRRRR EXPRESS

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Eric Golub

Eric Golub is a politically conservative Jewish blogger, author, public speaker, and comedian. His book trilogy is “Ideological Bigotry,” “Ideological Violence,” and  “Ideological Idiocy.” 

He is Brooklyn born, Long Island raised, and has lived in Los Angeles since 1990. He received his Bachelors degree from the University of Judaism, and his MBA from USC. A stockbrokerage professional since 1994, he began blogging on March 11th, 2007, the three year anniversary of the Madrid bombings and the midpoint of 9/11. He has been inflicting his world view on his unfortunate readers since then. He blogs about politics Monday through Friday, and about football and other human interest items on weekends.



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