Thursday, December 5, 2019

Presidential Elections…What Really Matters

We are less than a year away from the 2020 Presidential Election. And right now it’s a mess. Trump is not going to be impeached. So he will be the Republican candidate, like it or not. The Democratic candidate will probably be Joe Biden, like it or not.

For Trump to win, the Democrats will have to ride the crazy train all the way to the left. I don’t see that happening. Even IF a left-leaning candidate should somehow get the nomination, by the time we get to the real race in the Fall of 2020, they will have walked back much of the extreme rhetoric and focus on more realistic ways of addressing healthcare, climate change, immigration, college tuition and maybe even talk about ways to pay for some of it. But they won’t let up on attacking Trump. And Trump will fight back. The 30% that love him will love him even more for that, and their votes are in the bag. But, the back and forth will motivate even more Democrats to vote, which is always a challenge for that party.

So the Democrat will win. And it won’t be based on Trump’s performance as President either. And by performance, I mean results, how the country is actually doing. And in that regard we aren’t doing all that bad. I’d give him a B+. (Probably higher if not for the tariff war). If by performance, one means acting Presidential, then he’s an F. He’s just not going to be that guy. And most Americans dislike him because of it.

The Democrat win won’t be based on policy either. In some cases Trump’s actions have not been well-thought out or well-executed. But directionally, his policies probably make sense to over half of likely voters. If one were to take Trump and party affiliation off the table and just look at policy objectively in terms of the strategic direction for the nation, I believe most people would favor Trump and/or Republican policies. But objectivity evaporated long ago. If a Democrat President deports illegal immigrants, he’s protecting America. If a Republican does it, he’s crushing dreams and destroying families.

When it comes to Presidential elections, performance matters, up to a point. Policy matters, up to a point. But what really matters is Personality. Picking Presidents is largely a personality contest. This is a big problem for the Republicans. We have a growing population of voters whose Presidential Personality frame of reference consists of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump. For most people under 40, maybe even under 50, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama are viewed much more favorably than Bush or Trump. The media plays into this narrative as well. The hard-cores on the left and the right listen to their preferred networks and mostly follow writers and bloggers with whom they agree. But most Americans aren’t paying that much attention. And it’s all the other messaging in music, television, movies, late night talk shows, etc. that sets the tone and creates the image. Clinton and Obama are portrayed as cool and smart. Bush, a nice guy, but not very cool and certainly not very smart. Trump is the worst of all, a self-absorbed narcissist. The bully no kid wants to play with, the boss no one likes to work for, the customer you avoid dealing with and the jerk you don’t want living next door. The Orange man who can’t be trusted with the nukes. This is how Trump is viewed by the majority of Americans and the rest of the world. There may be threads of truth here, but the image is decidedly one-sided, shaped and widely-shared by liberal media, entertainment and social networks.

The only Democratic candidate who could ever lose to Donald Trump, did just that. Hillary Clinton isn’t going to win many personality contests. And she had some questionable performance issues of her own as Secretary of State. Performance or policy can hurt you if your personality isn’t great. So Democrats stayed home, handed the White House to Trump and have been trying to snatch it back ever since.

Frankly, even if Trump somehow pulls off the win in 2020, Republicans have a personality problem that will continue to turn off voters who were born after 1980, and that would be most of the voters. When young and middle-age voters think of Republicans they think not only of Bush and Trump. They think of Dick Cheney, Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Pastor Robert Jeffress, The Five on Fox, The Wall, Katrina, The Koch Brothers, Fracking and Golf. Think about it. When Clinton or Obama play golf it is a much needed break from the stress and hard work of being President. When Bush or Trump play it is akin to Nero fiddling while Rome burns.

This is the world we live in and it’s not likely to change. Certainly not for the next 40 years. We’ve got at least two generations who have no good memories or images of Republican leadership other than maybe John McCain. It’s a problem for conservatives. Maybe it’s time to create a new party and just start over.

Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country.- Franklin D. Roosevelt

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