"Our Karl Rove is the blog you should be glad that Democratic strategists don't seem to listen to"
-- what they're saying on Republican blogs

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Democrats: Follow Your Inner Winner

Democrats running for office,

As most regular readers of this column know, OKR is not an election horse-race blog. So, don't expect a full analysis of the election escapades here. There are plenty of blogs who are more than happy to play-by-play the fun and sport of it all.

However, as a result of the current horse race, there are some key observations that I've made that I believe are worth calling out and sharing for the good of all the candidates:

Obama's Inner Winner

When Obama (narrowly) lost the New Hampshire primary, he approached the defeat like a winner -- he didn't acknowledge defeat. Instead, he acknowledged the success of his campaign, his message, and his candidacy. He did not -- and has not -- let the media's "shock and awe" of the NH results affect his campaign complexion. He didn't even acknowledge defeat in NH, which some might feel is arrogant. But is it arrogant to decide to believe you didn't lose, but rather believe that you virtually tied?

No, it's not. It's not wrong to ignore the pundits, polls, and conventional wisdom. Doing so (prudently) reflects American-style optimism. While it's clear that this AmeriOptimism is not one of the Democrats' favorite cultural attributes, it's a attitude that -- if embraced properly -- could help win elections.

Message-wise, Barack does need to take a cue from the NH loss and attenuate his rhetoric. Speech upon speech about "changing the world" is great stuff, O, but you're going to have to come down to earth once in a while to re-prove to the voters that you've got some meat on them philosophical bones. The voters need to be armed with information that you communicate verbally (i.e., not just your website) so that Hillary's attacks do not seem as jarring.

Yes, I know that details can ruin a coalition and a movement. Yes, I agree with the approach of staying above the fray, and that running on an idea is the preferable way to run a national campaign. But you're still trying to court Democrats. And, bless their souls, Democrats really do like getting caught up in the facts and details. You are going to have to give them something.

Clinton's Inner Voice

When Hillary (narrowly) won the New Hampshire primary, she told the nation that she "found her voice." Well, that's a good thing to find -- especially after being in politics for "over 35 years." Congratulations are in order, but... how long have you been looking, Hillary?

No matter -- finding one's voice is like establishing one's brand. It creates a center of gravity -- an organizing principle -- from which to grow all messages, platforms, and policies. If Hillary truly has found her voice and doesn't outsource it to her thuggy campaign advisers, she stands a chance of not only beating Obama, but representing a candidacy of meaning instead of a candidacy of policies.

Message-wise, the Hillary campaign just hired sloganeer Roy Spence, which should put the campaign message in capable hands. Hillary just has to try to keep her center close to her. In other words, Hillary, don't lose your voice to the experts around you.

Edwards' Inner Principles

John has displayed an impressive commitment to changing the dynamics of power in America. It seems quite fruitless to most of us, as the existing power structure is set up to give most of us just enough to keep us content with the corrupt and unfair status quo. Yet, John sees a trajectory of power dissemination that troubles him dearly, and is willing to go the mat to rein in unbridled capitalism.

These inner principles are actually quite forward-thinking. What John is touching on will inevitably effect more of us in the coming months and years. I just do not think that we are at the right time and place in American history to make this the central issue of a campaign.

No matter the cultural relevancy, John has shown a visceral passion for systemic change that is attractive to a lot of people (even some Republicans). If he could only broaden his focus to issues facing more Americans right now, his inner principles would be taking him much further.

In the end, Democrats are the winners.

All of this inner stuff is good for the party. The prior several political seasons have portrayed Democrats as outwardly directed -- where campaign messages and political theater have been driven by polls, punditry, and external forces (think Gore in earth tones, Dukakis in tank, Kerry in a swift boat) . Consequently, the American people tend to think of Democrats as "unprincipled" when compared to the "Polls? We don't change our views based on no polls!" Republicans.

The lesson? Focusing on the inner increases your chances of being a winner.

7 comments:

ross said...

You say Americans don't face the issues that John Edwards addresses? You need to come live in Michigan for a while and see how difficult it is to get any employment. It would reveal the future for the rest of our country, and that is dismal.
The truth is that Karl Roves' world of "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality." is running full speed as the media make John Edwards disappear. And they do this because he speaks to the real 'reality' that our fascist corporate government wants us to ignore. If by some miracle he does get elected, the fascists would simply have him assassinated.

Jon said...

Hi Ross,

Thanks for your thoughts. Actually, I said "most of us" don't face the issues as directly as we would need to in order to make Edwards a true front-runner.

Michigan and many other states are leading indicators of the burgeoning problem, but with only 5% unemployment nationally, it's just not the crisis it needs to be to catapult Edwards' message to the forefront of issues.

The Media more reflects voter's values than projects them (although they do do a little of both), so don't be so quick to blame corporate America for holding John down. I do blame our representatives for allowing corporate fascism to tilt the balance of power in Washington... but like I said in my post above, most Americans get "just enough" not to turn this into a revolution. It's the boiling frog syndrome.


When it's time for a revolution, a revolution will come. Right now, people want change, which is "revolution lite."

SoonerThought said...

Good stuff. I like Obama, but God, I miss Biden.

trog69 said...

Good evening, OKR.

First, sadly you are probably right about Edwards campaign, though I don't think you give people enough credit for seeing the top-heavy world we live in today. JE has been marginalized from before the campaigning even started. You will read nothing about his policies unless you go to his site.

As to the "winner's concession speech", what makes you think Obama's was any different from any of the other 'first losers' speechs? Romney's little verbal dance after, I think, Iowa, had him proclaiming that 2nd place was awesome since they didn't even plan on doing that well.

Jon said...

Trog69,

It wasn't necessarily the tone of Obama's NH speech as much as it was the content.

Silver medal is concession. Congratulating the winner is concession. Obama, as typical of the high-minded fellow he is, rose above the primary minutia and spoke about his dream of a different, united America. A dream that he was giving us permission to contemplate.

It had nothing to do with the primary, or the race, the media, the expectations, the crying, or the like. It was an inner winner view, shared with his audience as if he wasn't hiding behind a loss, but simply didn't see the loss.

It's not lying, misleading, or soft-pedaling loss if you truly don't believe it was a loss.

Jon said...

The silver medal stuff from Romney is weird, but everything that guy says is weird.

Nice enough guy, but just weird.

I refer to him as Their John Kerry.

trog69 said...

Their John Kerry

Haha, good one. Though Romney's Achille's heel, that his fabulous record as a big bidnessman relied on the savaging and piecemeal destruction of companies and their workforces, presents a larger target than Kerry's medals, hopefully.