Tuesday, January 24, 2012
It’s a comment I hear all the time these days. “The voters are stupid.”
I am not sure that those saying it mean literally that the voters have a low level of intellect or academic achievement, but rather that they mean voters seem prone to making their choices based more on emotion than on a serious examination of the candidate’s qualifications and character.
The best example of this was the 2008 campaign in which a candidate was presented in much the same way companies seek to “brand” their product or service, repeating the same message (Obama’s was hope and change) until it becomes part of the consumers’ decision-making process. It’s why we buy a particular brand of cereal or car. We have come to associate values with it that go beyond the taste or the look.
Barack Obama had served barely two years in the U.S. Senate before he made an unprecedented leap from there to the White House. He was, for all intents and purposes, an unknown quantity with a legislative record—if anyone bothered to check—that was a straight Democratic Party line vote.
In his earlier incarnation as an Illinois legislator, he had voted “present” so many times it was clear he was avoiding taking any position he regarded as politically dangerous; a vote that would come back to haunt him and very few did. The media cooperated in this, avoiding calling attention to anything that might be deemed controversial.
By contrast, Hillary Clinton, whether you liked her or not, was a candidate with a full cart of baggage from her years as the former governor’s and president’s wife, and her years as a U.S. Senator who served, not from Arkansas where she first came to notice, but from New York where liberals thrive. The process of campaigning wore her out and, being the first women to seriously contend to be president, she had even more of a challenge to overcome. Her raw ambition tended to make people afraid of her.
What elected Obama had nothing to do with the slim qualifications he put forth. Few candidates had less to offer. He had never met a payroll. All information regarding his academic records was sealed from view. The press made no effort to ask what passport he had traveled on to Pakistan at one time and did not raise any question about his Social Security number, issued in Connecticut where he had never lived or worked. Famously, he released a “birth certificate” that anyone in Hawaii could attain for the asking, not the “long form” which is deemed credible.
The voters have paid a fearful price for electing Obama; increased unemployment, a huge national debt, a hollowed-out military, billions wasted on “Green” energy, unprotected borders, a Congress in near total gridlock, and a world beyond our shores that perceives an America made weaker by Obama’s three years in office.
I have worked as a public relations counselor for most of my life with earlier years spent as a journalist. I know something about how a product, a service, or an individual is “packaged” to present a positive “image.” What we have all learned since 2008 was that Obama was superbly “packaged” and that the image of an articulate, highly intelligent, well informed candidate was without substance. His inability to speak publicly without a TelePrompter swiftly became a joke.
So, to say that those who voted for him were “stupid” is to misread the new era of politics, one that has more to do with “American Idol” and “Dancing With the Stars” than with the serious selection of the leader of the nation and the free world.
As they say in advertising, voters bought the sizzle, not the steak.
We are seeing this process continue as the Republican candidates vie for votes. The Gingrich “surge” in South Carolina came after he had two successful debates. It is true that Gingrich is a good debater, but the real question is whether he would be a good president. Questions about his character remain.
Gingrich has been comfortable sharing a couch with Nancy Pelosi to advocate the bogus global warming “theory” or taking money from Freddie Mac.. Now he is trying to appear to be a “real” conservative as opposed to Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and the quixotic Ron Paul.
While his judgment on issues has been called into question, Romney’s character never has. There has never been a hint of scandal in his life. In terms of policy, he was the Governor of one of the most liberal states and he did support Romneycare there. Politics is rarely pretty and even New Jersey’s fire-breathing Governor, Chris Christie, has taken some extraordinarily liberal positions and made some questionable appointments.
There might have been a time when Gingrich was, indeed, a bona fide conservative, but his long years in Washington, D.C., have taught him that “to get along you have to go along” In the end, even his colleagues in the House, for reasons of policy and personality, could no longer support him as Speaker.
From the days of Bush41 until the 2010 elections the Republican Party looked so much like the Democratic Party, voters had an increasingly hard time telling them apart. The Tea Party movement changed that. They and the “independents” are going to decide the 2012 elections that are currently making history with endless debates.
The debates are proving to be a succession of sound bites and vitriol between the candidates. They increasingly demonstrate how the mainstream media, the debate sponsors, are visibly seeking to influence the outcome of the election and they demonstrate that many voters are easily swayed by matters that have little to do with actual policies and issues.
There has been less and less substance with each debate.
I fear that too many Republican voters are having too many mood swings, relying on a moment or two from the most recent debate than on a serious examination—I repeat myself—of the candidate’s qualifications and character. Romney is carefully scripted and a tad robotic, but Gingrich could become the GOP nominee simply because he is entertaining.
Without doubt, President Obama and the Democrats are enjoying the Republican free-for-all and, without doubt, they have concluded that the voters are stupid.
© Alan Caruba, 2012