The Electorate Is Full of Shit

If the Republican and Democratic conventions have proven anything, it is that Americans are generally full of shit when it comes to their political views.  

Folks will stand passionately by a candidate until the cows come home and yet when the political winds shift, they will suddenly advocate for the totally opposite thing like it’s been the bedrock of their beliefs their entire life.

In Cleveland last week, we watched an entire party commit harakiri by embracing a self-promoting, serial liar with tiny fingers who stands for just about everything the Republican party has traditionally stood against.  

For example, weren’t Republicans the party of family values? The party of church on Sundays and family game nights that don’t end in someone flipping the monopoly board?  I thought so, until they nominated a man who has repeatedly said how much he disdains parenting and is married to his third wife 24 years his junior.  For pete’s sake the only anecdotes his kids could muster about their father’s parenting were about them sitting in his office or visiting construction sites. This is a man who patted his daughter in a way that was barely appropriate for a football field after she introduced him in front of an audience of millions.

And what about Trump’s favorite issue of trade, that wonderful consequence of globalization that Republicans have long championed. Now what if I told you that they just chose a candidate who says that trade deals are “raping America,” has advocated for isolationism, and has said that the TPP would ruin America.  Remember his almost-running-mate Bob Corker? He spent years advocating for the TPP and then almost signed on to a team that made killing it their main priority.

Republicans have also spent years criticizing President Obama for being weak in terms of projecting military power and letting down our allies overseas.  Want to take a gander at the position they now support? If you guessed leaving NATO allies to fend for themselves and withdrawing troops from abroad, you’re a winner!

Yet, conservatives everywhere have put on their red hats and blanketly stated that he’s their guy, that he represents the values they care about and is the right man to represent the United States of America.

Can you really blame the average pickup-driving, rare-burger-eating, Fox News-watching ‘Murican for throwing everything they stand for out the window when they’ve watched their party leaders and talk show hosts do the same?

Last week, Jon Stewart made a glorious reappearance with Stephen Colbert and spent thirteen minutes highlighting all of Sean Hannity’s wild reversals of opinion on the character qualities that he always hated about Obama, but now loves in Trump.  Hannity even went so far as reverse his position on the use of teleprompters. Are teleprompters now a fringe issue in our elections?

Sadly, Republicans aren’t alone in their ability to be full of shit.  Bernie Sanders supporters have been raising hell in Philadelphia this week as they refuse to accept that their revolution has come to an end.  Many have gone on camera to say that they will refuse to vote for Hillary Clinton in the fall, because that makes sense.  

Let’s follow that logic: They support positions that are a “12” on a scale of “1-to-socialist,” so rather than accept an “8,” they want to abstain and tacitly support the guy who is a “-65.”   If they really supported the issues they say they care so passionately about, they would devote all their efforts to electing Clinton, who by the way, supports nearly everything they do.  As Obama said earlier this year, “it’s steak or fish” and these guys claim to be vegan.

The truth is, I don’t think the majority of people are as principled as they claim to be.  Trump’s base of support has grown like the White Walker army in Game of Thrones, killing good Republicans and reincarnating them as Trumpians.  If the conservative electorate really believed in trade, or military alliances, or really… anything, they would never have cast over 13 million votes for him.

Sanders’ supporters are no different. They subscribe to an ideology that anyone with government experience knows is impractical, yet instead of using their momentum to accomplish realistic ends, they plug their ears and stomp around with the rationality of a third grader, all but assuring the impossibility of their stated agenda.

Winston Churchill once said that the greatest argument against democracy was a five minute conversation with the average voter.  I’d venture to bet if he were alive today he’d tell you that conversation would only need to be thirty seconds.

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Photo Credit:  Sean Rayford/Getty Images

7 Things That Will Make Philadelphia Stronger Together

7 things I think I think about convention this week:

  1. Hillary will change her hairstyle each day, daring reporters to write about about her appearance.
  2. Lincoln Chafee will issue a statement saying he is outraged that the DNC rigged the primary against him. Jim Webb will grumble something inaudible and pour himself another scotch.
  3. Tim Kaine will reveal that he also speaks Inuit, helping Hillary lock up the Eskimo vote.
  4. Michelle Obama will begin her speech by saying “Four score and… just kidding everyone.”
  5. Bernie delegates will insist that those with floor seats ought to buy dinner for those in the nosebleeds.
  6. Joe Biden will sneak into the crowd and start a “4 more years!” chant during Obama’s speech.
  7. Instead of balloons, a glass ceiling will shatter onto the crowd after Hillary wraps up her speech.


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Photo Credit: DNC

7 Things That Will Make Cleveland Great Again

7 things I think I think about the Republican convention this week:

  1. Dubya, H.W., Romney, and John McCain will play a weeklong drinking game together.  The game will be called “I chug, you chug” and the drink of choice will be anti-freeze.
  2. Trump will convene a breakout session Wednesday afternoon to crowdsource a nickname for Hillary’s VP.  Early money is on “Gringo Tim.”
  3. Quicken Loans Arena will be 10 degrees warmer by the end of Donald’s acceptance speech as a result of the A/C being turned off such as to not blow his birds nest hair out of place.
  4. Ivanka and Donald will compete for who can use the words “amazing” and “awesome” more.
  5. Melania’s speech will make you wish First Ladies could debate.
  6. Bobby Knight will give the second most memorable convention speech featuring a chair.
  7. Chris Christie will refuse to take off his “Make America Great Again” hat, holding out hope that Donald could still pick him as VP.


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Watch out Donald, Barry-O is Back!

Since his last inauguration, Obama’s White House addresses have been the equivalent of Charles Barkley’s jump shot after he had his talent stolen by the Monstars.  Well, this afternoon in Charlotte, Michael Jordan just remembered he can dunk from half court.

In his first appearance alongside Hillary Clinton, Obama delivered a passionate and fiery speech that had democrats everywhere reminiscing of his 2008 and 2012 campaigns–not to mention the 2004 convention–where such vaulting orations were his bread and butter.

Appearing in a blue button down with loose cuffs, Obama walked with the swagger of Steph Curry before a three point contest against a toddler.  He couldn’t have been more relaxed if he had taken a Xanax after a massage and looked on cooly as Clinton introduced him while he sat perched with a teenager’s posture atop the lone stool on stage.

Like the second violinist she was, Clinton delivered an abridged solo and then turned the show back over the conductor and let Professor O take it away.  

Whether it was joking with the crowd or playfully shouting back at (friendly) hecklers, Obama displayed the rhetorical mastery that has always made him a giant among midgets when he takes the stage.  After an introduction in which he delivered character witness worthy testimony that Hillary ought to save and replay for St. Peter someday, Obama turned his attention to building his case not only for Clinton, but for the Democratic party as a whole.

Obama even revived some tracks off his 2008 Greatest Hits album, getting the crowd going with a “Ready to go! FIRED UP!” chant and then later delivering a “let’s take the higher road” zinger by responding the audience’s booing of Trump – whom he never mentioned by name – by saying “I was waiting for this opportunity. Don’t boo. Vote!”

The whole thing was total perfection, and like the last five minutes of a Law and Order episode, Obama tied all the pieces of his case together into a crisp, perfect bow.  

Fourteen million new jobs. A revived auto-industry. Twenty million new people with health insurance. Clean energy production reaching new heights.  

America doesn’t need to be great again, America is already great.

With Clinton grinning like a girl who had just been asked to prom by the quarterback, Obama continued to gin up the giddy crowd.  Fully lost in the moment, he eventually must have looked at his watch and semi-apologized to the crowd: ‘I know I’ve gone on too long. That’s what happens, you haven’t campaigned in a while you start just enjoying it too much.”

Watch out Donald, daddy’s home.

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Photo Credit: Susan Walsh AP

The Myth of the Shiny Veep

What do the following names have in common?  John Edwards. Sarah Palin. Paul Ryan.  If you guessed “Veepstakes has-beens,” then you are correct.  But if you look deeper there is something else.  Each was picked for their potential to deliver an energy burst to their older, less charismatic nominees.

Every four years when the dust has settled on the silly season, the pontification begins about who the presumptive nominees should choose as their running mate.  The choices always start with what the potential candidate can bring to the campaign.  Can they deliver a swing state?  Do they add expertise in a weak policy area?  Are they exciting?

Despite the almost unanimous assertion that excitability is required for a running mate, three of the last four losing campaigns featured a “young and exciting” running mate.  

When looking at who will decide a presidential election, the difference is found in the margins.  Between 2004 and 2016, polling has shown that party affiliation has barely shifted more than 2-3% in either direction, with both Democrats and Republicans hovering around 45%.  The battle is for that final 10% of voters.

With the outcome of major elections teetering on such a small group of people, any number of factors could swing the race.  A major gaffe, a significant current event, an economic swing, a great speech, or in theory a running mate selection.

University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato points out that a running mate pick can and should be exciting, but in a unique way, not in an entertainment sense.  Sabato points primarily to the example of Al Gore in 1992.  

Gore wasn’t exactly known as the most charismatic guy in the room, but he didn’t need to be.  The Clinton-Gore ticket meant that two southern Democrats – Arkansas and Tennessee – with their drawls and mannerisms preaching empathy and hope could compete for territory traditionally ceded to the Republicans.  The strategy succeeded and Clinton swept across the south on his way to a victory on the back of states that have gone red ever since.

On the other end of the spectrum are Palin, Edwards, and Ryan.  John Edwards was a young, attractive, first term Senator with southern charm.  Sarah Palin was a young, attractive, first term Governor with a penchant for fiery word-vomit.  Paul Ryan was a young, attractive, seven-term Congressman with a tendency to get “caught” working out.  Notice a trend?  

In 2008, John McCain was running steady a few points behind Barack Obama.  When tactic after tactic failed to close the gap, the biggest option left for a game-changer was the running mate slot.  Early rumors had McCain’s short list including such serious candidates as former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, and Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty.  None of those candidates got the job.  I’d continue the story but you know the rest.

McCain’s choice of Palin, while not entirely the reason he lost, ended up being a complete and total disaster for his campaign.  Nothing went right.  She caused controversy with a Neimann Marcus shopping spree.  She had a disastrous interview with Katie Couric. Rumors later circulated that she was “going rogue” and throwing out prepared speeches.  John McCain the maverick had been out-mavericked.

McCain’s obviously political gamble backfired and instead it displayed a seriously lack of judgment.

Now, John Edwards was certainly no Sarah Palin, but his selection came with its own flaws.  In 2004, the United States was still in the early phases of the Iraq War and the threat from Al Qaeda was still fresh on the mind of the public and overshadowed most other domestic issues.  Senator Kerry, who is a Vietnam veteran, was campaigning against an incumbent whose vice president was a former Secretary of Defense.  As a result, Kerry was starting behind the eight ball in the single most important issue in the election; national security.

In Edwards, Kerry selected a former rival and first term senator.  Despite having served five years in the Senate, Edwards had little to no foreign policy chops.  In fact, Edwards was on Al Gore’s short list in 2000 before he had even served two full years.  Edwards had two things going for him that bested experience.  He was from North Carolina – a swing state – and was seemingly charming.  His selection was more to lock up a permanent surrogate for the Kerry campaign who could repeat talking points and look good doing it.

In the end, John Kerry lost in 2004 because he failed to prove to the American public why he was genuinely different from George Bush.  However, given that the election came down to a difference of 90,000 votes in Ohio, maybe a ticket featuring a seasoned economic or military veteran would have made the difference a slick salesman couldn’t.

Last but not least, Mitt Romney also fell for the shiny bright object trap in his selection of Paul Ryan.  Jeremy Lott, then of Real Clear Politics, argues that Ryan was tapped because he fit a bill that included potentially being able to deliver the swing state of Wisconsin, rally the base, sympathize with the Tea Party, and demonstrate that Romney was serious about the economy given Ryan’s chairmanship of the House Budget Committee.  

While Ryan certainly played a serious and well documented wonkish role in the House, on the campaign trail he attracted more attention as the young quick-rising counter to Mitt Romney’s stiff & waspy appeal.  Similar to what Kerry & Edwards faced in 2004, Romney & Ryan were up against a sitting president and a vice president whose experience spanned nearly half a century in public life.

As with Kerry, Romney had his own problems that cost him the election.  He failed to reach out to minority groups including Hispanics and African-Americans and marginalized many poorer American’s with his “47-percent” comments.  Rather than hurt him, in the month after the announcement of Paul Ryan as a running mate, the Romney-Ryan ticket closed the gap on Obama-Biden by a full 3 points.

With all analysis one must be careful not to equate correlation with causation.  In each scenario, the candidate at the top of the ticket had their own flaws that prevented them from emerging victorious.  However, the running mate selection is the first major choice a potential president must make and each failed that test to a certain extent. 

As we await the running mate selections of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, I would caution both against picking a shiny object – something The Donald has never been able to resist- and to make a pick worthy of the seriousness of the office.  

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Photo credit: (HBO)