Sunday, March 24, 2019

The "IT" Factor

I must confess that I watch shows like American Idol, The Voice and America’s Got Talent. I record them and then fast forward through commercials and the inane banter that goes on between the judges. It’s always interesting how certain contestants, who are at best marginally talented, emerge as contenders simply because they have “IT”. One talent show even alludes to “IT” as the “X” factor. Same thing. And if those who have “IT” also have talent, they are likely to win, even if they are not actually the most talented.

“IT” is difficult to define, but we know “IT” when we see “IT”. Paul Newman had “IT”. Robert Redford not so much. Johnny Cash had “IT”. Roy Orbison and Buddy Holly had “IT”. Perry Como, Andy Williams…great singers, popular and successful…but they didn’t have” IT”. Buck Owens…No. Willie Nelson…Yes. Marilyn Monroe had “IT”. Lady Gaga has “IT” Tom Brokaw has, or once had “IT”. Brian Williams never did and we knew it. Walter Cronkite had “IT”. Dan Rather, not really. Joe Namath had “IT”. Bart Starr didn’t have “IT” and didn’t need it. Brett Favre had IT. Troy Aikman did not, but that’s ok. I’m not convinced that Tom Brady, as great as he is, has “IT”. Patrick Mahomes definitely has “IT”. Michael Jordan had IT. LeBron James just as good a ballplayer, maybe better, does not have “ IT”.

When it comes to Presidential races “IT” matters. Even when neither candidate has much of “IT”, the one who has less of “IT” generally loses. Hillary are you listening? God gave Bill Clinton all of “IT”, Hillary almost none. And Trump had just enough of “IT” to pull a few more electoral votes over the finish line.

“IT” matters even more when the country is divided and restless, especially when the divide isn’t clear in the middle. Those on the far left and far right are going to vote their respective parties. That’s probably 30 percent on both ends or 60% of the total which could represent 75-80% of those who actually turn out to vote. It’s those in the middle who make the difference and that’s where “IT” matters. “IT” brings out those who would not take the time to vote otherwise. “IT “ can move those who are truly “independent” to vote one way or the other. There aren’t that many true independents who can be swayed. But at the margin every vote counts and “IT” can make the difference.

Ronald Reagan had “IT”. As already noted, Bill Clinton has “IT”. Barack Obama has “IT” and got an extra boost from his wife Michelle, who also has “IT”. JFK had “IT”. FDR had “IT”. Teddy Roosevelt might have been the first President with the ”IT” factor and the media coverage for “IT” to make a difference. Lincoln only had “IT “ in retrospect. At the time, no one much thought he had “ IT” Andrew Jackson probably had “ IT”, but in those days the impact of “IT” was limited.

You want to know who’s going to be the next President of the United States. Watch for “ IT”. If the Democrats put up a candidate who doesn’t have “IT”, Trump has a chance to win. It they put someone like Beto O’Rourke out there, Trump loses. Policy positions and experience don’t mean much when “ IT” becomes the deciding factor. And in today’s world, “IT” wins the close races more often than not.

Gonna use my arms
Gonna use my legs
Gonna use my style
Gonna use my sidestep
Gonna use my fingers
Gonna use my, my, my imagination

'Cause I'm gonna make you see
There's nobody else here
No one like me
I'm special, so special
I gotta have some of your attention give it to me.

-Lyrics from the song Brass In Pocket by the Pretenders

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