April 23, 2013

Everything We Know About Elections Is Wrong,
In Four Movements and a Coda

Hatched by Dafydd

First movement

Note: This next series of posts has nothing whatsoever to do with current events; it's a ponder-piece, nothing more. And I am not a grizzled, old veteran of electoral combat, like Karl Rove or Rich Galen. I know absolutely nothing about this subject; it's all my own ruminations. So take everything I say with a boxcar of salt. So there!

Some days back, my fave blogger on my fave blog posted a plaintive, desperate cri de coeur: "Why aren't more people repelled by the Left?"

I can't tell whether John's question is serious or rhetorical, but there is an obvious explanation: Defiance is "cool" to younger voters and activists, because they're still in the throes of their own genetically driven urge to leave the nest and create their own family line. Without evolutionarily induced defiance, mammals would never leave their mothers.

This is likely why teens and early-twenties tend to vote more leftish than older voters: genes.

But it brings up a larger point: For decades now, at least since the late sixties, Republicans have been thought to be stodgy, old-fashioned, reminiscent, hidebound, nerdy, and out of touch with the contemporary world. By contrast, the Left has successfully painted itself as bright, new, clever, nimble, snarky (which now seems a good thing), and above all, cool.

I will say this over and over: In elections, reality is meaningless; image is everything.

So given our image, we must ask a very serious (and not at all rhetorical) question: Can GOPers ever be elected again?

The answer, I'm happy to say, is absolutely! But not by the kinds of campaigns Republicans prefer running these days; we're chasing hydrofoils with canoes.

We need to emulate, not the corrupt, totalitarian policies of Progressivists, but their brilliant ability to grab the electorate and make it dance to their tune. In particular, we Republicans must master three techniques that we have (for the most part) disdained until now:

  1. Convert your voter first by passion and emotion, and only later persuade him with logic.
  2. Pick candidates that are likeable, future-looking, and cool -- not nerdy, annoying, and obsessed with a Golden Age that never was.
  3. Develop a consistent narrative of government, what it should be and do; then let policy flow from that story, rather than warp the story to justify predetermined policies of the past.

To make my point clearer, I will focus only on presidential candidates. But the same strategies of coolness, emotion, and finally logic to retoactively justifiy the emotional decision still apply, even when scaled up to the 535 members of Congress -- e.g., Newt Gingrich's victory in 1994.

Wait, isn't this pointless, now that the "Gang of Eight" is going to grant a path to citizenship for all the illegal aliens, and they'll all vote for Democrats, so the GOP will never win another election?


The two phenomena are not connected; it's not like we have to choose either to improve GOP campaign strategies or securing the border, but not both! Each will either happen or not happen independent of the other. So there's no rational reason to reject improvement of electioneering skills just because the 2016 electorate will have more Hispanics than in 2012, or because the 2024 electorate will include some number of erstwhile illegal immigrants. It's like saying, "Radical-Islamist terrorism will probably increase in a few years, so there's no point in refinancing your high-interest home loan."

Now let's get on with the show!

Coolness as political proxy

In any election, the mass of voters will cast votes for the candidate they consider the coolest and most likeable, and who seems to be looking ahead, not behind, with little regard to logical argument or rational policy-making.

Let's define "hyper-informed Republican voters" (HIRVs) as those folks who read blogs like Power Line, Patterico's Pontifications, Hot Air, who read books by Ben Shapiro, Thomas Sowell, Jonah Goldberg, and suchlike, and who tend to vote GOP. We must understand that HIRVs do not win elections.

Most voters vote a straight party ticket, usually whichever party their parents voted; and the balance of the election, especially in more recent times, is held by the Low-Information Voters (LIVs), those who rarely read about politics or policy -- and almost never deliberately. Most of their political ideas, quirks, and outbursts come from ostensibly non-political sources, from celebrities, gossip columns, and meme-squibs squirted into otherwise apolitical articles in culture media (glamor shows, teen idols, fashion mavins, homemaking magazines). Alas, the vast majority of such sources lean very far to the left.

But it's important to understand that LIVs are not necessarily stupid or even ignorant; they simply don't obsess over politics as we do, being too busy at the "real life" thing.

But does that mean we anti-liberals are doomed to suffer defeat after defeat until Doomsday? Not at all. Bear in mind that in 1980, the electorate considered Ronald Reagan more futuristic, coherent, and certainly way cooler than doddering, ineffectual, confused, rabbit-fearing Jimmy Carter. Why was Reagan cooler than Carter? Well for several superficial reasons and one deep insight. True, the Gipper was better looking, more affable, a much better speaker, more optimistic about America's future, more patriotic; but most of all, because Reagan enunciated ideas we hadn't heard a thousand times before, from tax cuts to ballistic missile defense. He shattered the old paradigm of "make do with less, settle for adequacy," and showed us a "shining city on a hill" that we could have, if only we would look forward, not backwards.

Reagan clearly came across to most voters as exciting, adventurous, innovative, and brave; not bad for the oldest president we've ever elected! Reagan didn't back down from anybody; and in 1980, Americans were getting pretty tired of being kicked in the aspirations by every tinhorn, Commie dictator on the planet.

Would he be elected today? Would he fit within the GOP's current ideology? Of course he would -- because the Republican Party would change to fit Reagan, just as it did twenty-three years ago!

But in the list of requirements for a winning candidate, notice the one that isn't there: conservative. Conservatism is no longer an automatic asset to a candidate, if it ever was; we must face reality that, for the large majority of voters, ideology is irrelevant to electibility. Anyone, from a rock-ribbed conservative like Reagan to a card-carrying Progressivist/socialist like Barack H. Obama, can be "cool."

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 23, 2013, at the time of 2:19 PM


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