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The Democrats Need a Republican Campaign Manager

Updated on October 7, 2021

Advice to the Fainthearted

Two weeks before Election Day 2014, it would be perfectly reasonable for a sane person to stand on a busy street corner and shout, ‘Where the heck are the salesmen? -- especially if that sane person happened to be a Democrat. Even an Indie Centrist might get a bit hoarse, screaming the obvious to the dubious.

Turn up the decibels on the Big Positives all you want; we remain a divided nation with different perspectives, and very waxy ears.

Reeling back a few months – before ISIS and Ebola -- it seems like nearly every Democrat popped their head out of a frozen rodent hole last February, saw their own dark shadow or some other fear-inducing phantasm, and said, “To heck with this,” before scampering back down said hole.

The only cheerleaders we see of late are on the gridiron, and we see very little of them as well, since sports cameramen have become politically correct too. So maybe we catch a quick, sanitized glimpse rather than a good, long ogle like we used to get. Either way, I hear no cheering, let alone a decent sales pitch.

So the sideline bets are almost all on the Red Team come November 4th.

But I feel compelled to make another kind of wager, and to me it’s a safe bet.

Here it is: If a Republican had been elected President in 2008 and re-elected in 2012 and had the incumbent facts in hand, that fictitious politician’s campaign manager would be doing handstands, proclaiming that not only was it Morning in America, again, it was also Lunch Break, with dancing in the streets. And Happy Hour too. The safe bet is that a Republican campaign would gather these current plusses like so many posies and, with bouquet in hand, create a joyous, crisscrossing conga line from east to west, north to south.

Never in all your born days would you have seen so many white folk fist bumping, and righteous, right-swaying hallelujah choruses, from the church pews to the corporate suites.

I mean, come on. Here’s what the exuberant Republican campaign persons would be working with: over 10 million new jobs created these past 6 years; the stock market more than doubling; unemployment doing an unsexy but steady shimmy down from 10% to 5.9%; an All of the Above energy policy catapulting U.S. energy independence beyond all previous optimistic projections, remarkably reducing oil imports from 60% in 2005 to just over 30% today; evil-doer bin Laden and most of his top henchmen done away with; 10 million more Americans in possession of new, improved health insurance, with healthcare costs finally starting to come down; sensible Wall Street and banking reforms; home sales and home values up nicely, thank you very much; and frankly, much more.

Part two of the safe bet: the vast majority of Republicans would eat this up, get in line, shake their heads in happy affirmation, and dance off to the polls.

Back to the Democratic present.

There is no cheering, just political poll reading, and so the rarely courageous Democrats are scurrying -- running from Obama, Obamacare, the fact that they support raising the minimum wage, and actually believe in science as well as universal gun registration (supported by such a large majority of Americans, surely Ronnie Reagan, all smiles and infectious optimism, could have talked the NRA itself into getting on board).

But that may be the Primordial Sin here: Barack Obama, no sunny optimist like Reagan and no empathic ball of energy like Clinton, found it difficult to cheerily outline and break down the top 6 or 7 bennies of the Affordable Care Act, his signature piece of legislation. Nor could he pump up the political grease and get himself behind a few closed doors to have 5 or 6 more members of a Democratic Majority Senate support simple gun registration, even after the horrible tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary.

The charismatic man of style and reason, with the eloquence to get himself elected President, became a strange mix of tongue-tied and reluctant – as if it was beneath him to sell, cajole, backslap and otherwise engage in intimate encounters sufficient to gain support for popular policies, not to mention legislation that had already been adopted.

Somehow, the head of the Democratic Party forgot how to be a politician. That, or he came to the knotty conclusion that one could be President and Leader of the Free World, or the nation’s premier Salesman of Big Ideas, but not both. At the least, he should have gone on Jon Stewart over the last few weeks, lifted his proud chin, and proclaimed, “C’mon Jon, it’s a great time to be a gay stoner, isn’t it?” But no, not a peep.

Why are the Democrats not running on their multiple successes? Why are they not being wildly proactive, and eagerly standing up for a rather laudable turnaround? Is it because their own President seems incapable of sharp-elbowed offense, not to mention an abbreviated, easy to digest menu of All the Good Stuff served up since January 2009?

The Democrats act like a group of people who have opened up a quickly popular restaurant, and when, a few years after the lip licking and long lines have turned to yawns and mixed reviews, they simply walk away from their investment. With much to be proud of, it seems they are not being humble, they are just being fainthearted.

But now it’s too late to meaningfully convene with Republican wise men James Baker, David Gergen or Stuart Stevens, who would in all likelihood push them onto a tall soapbox with a big megaphone in hand, along with an injunction to ‘Go ahead and brag, dammit!’

As for Karl Rove, well, he would probably tell the Democrats, ‘Great job. Keep doing what you’re doing.’ And they’d probably listen.


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