I tend to become most interested in things after before other people have heard of them or after everybody else is completely over them and wants to move on. This can make it hard to talk about things with people and will not help me obtain readers…. Do I care? Hah!
But occasionally things I find to obsess about that are of interest to others. I have a suspicion that dissecting the results of the presidential election is going to become something of a cottage industry so I have an opportunity to get my ideas off my chest and out of my brain.
Back in 2004 Tom Tomorrow was writing about the horrible tack the Democratic party was taking by pinning their entire election hopes on the single message Vote Kerry! He’s not George W. Bush!
Amid the wreckage he tossed off a superb snapshot of the ideal candidate for President of the US of A. I bookmarked it but that stopped working and the archives for that time period aren’t public. I thougt I’d exported the quote to a word document but I can’t find it. Soooo I’m working from memory here and the exact wording won’t be too close but the general idea is:
All else being equal, the electorate will get behind an optimistic Alpha male with a can do attitude who’s comfortable wielding power and has a sense of humor about himself, that is a candidate who is a personification of the country’s traditional image of itself in the world.
It’s astonishing how much predictive power that simple description contains and often the winner of the presidential election is the candidate that comes closer to that description.
This does not mean that image is everything and that only stately patriarchs have a chance at the office. It does mean that sensible policy is to take this particular voter preference into account. The president is not only a particular person in an office but a cultural archetype, a role to be cast and it behooves party officials to choose candidates that the public can easily imagine in that role.
Hillary Clinton’s chance was in 2008, especially after the Republicans decided to throw the election by going with McCain. She would have easily trounced him and having the incumbant advantage would have been reelected. Had she chosen Obama as a running mate he would be the ideal candidate to take office now. But despite outperforming Obama in the pre-primary debates she lost momentum early on in Iowa and by the time she regained it and regularly trounced him in primaries the contest was already decided. Obama was more male, more optimistic and had more sense of humor about himself and that ended up being more important than probably ability to do the job. He was, especially in January and February more castable in the role of Commander in Chief.
But in 2016 Clinton was too far away from the character profile to be able to seal the deal. Had the Republican establishment gotten their way and chosen ¡Jeb! or Cruz she would mop up the floor with him and would be the first female President-elect at this moment. But Trump fits the character profile to a T and the election became who do we cast? The skilled actor who looks all wrong for the part or the crazily right looking person who seems to be a natural on stage.