the heart of election season again. With the inundation of all the
political ads, many people probably wish the Presidential Elections
were held more infrequently than every four years.
Make no mistake about it, however, Gore and Bush have been
campaigning for far longer than the few months that you’ve probably
been paying attention to them. For
Al Gore, it’s been a lifetime ambition, and for George W. Bush
it’s been on the radar at least since 1992.
For the last eight years we have seen some of the most brutal
partisan fighting in history and it all boiled down to who had the
most political talent. So
who was the victor? Definitely
Bill Clinton. So why
after eight years of a record economic turnaround is the incumbent
Vice President losing? Let’s
take a look at the political cycle since good ol’ 1992.
Clinton was sworn in as President in January of 1993 after upsetting
the popular Gulf War President George Bush.
How did this unknown Arkansas governor rise from the Razorback
State to the Oval Office? Talent.
Not only was Clinton one of the most able politicians we’ve
seen in a while, he was also smart enough to surround himself with the
proverbial “Dream Team” of political talent (i.e. Carville, Stephonopolous, etc.)
Clinton immediately goes to work to put gays in the military
and lets his wife draft a proposal that would completely socialize
health care in America. By
the way, he was taken to the wood shed on both of those issues.
This guy is dead in four years, right?
1994 the Republicans swept the House and Senate in what was mostly
translated as a repudiation of Clinton’s first two years.
Now the GOP has a figurehead in Newt Gingrich, or as the
Democrats see it, a target. For the next two years, the DNC and White House spinsters
succeed in making the Speaker Gingrich the most hated man in America.
Every possible problem any American had was in some way blamed
on Newt Gingrich, and the American people fell for it.
The Republicans, even though they initiated economic policies
that caused the most dramatic turnaround of the century, sat by idly
as the Democrats blamed them for shutting down the government.
To this day, even though it was obviously Clinton’s doing,
the Republicans are blamed for the ’95 government shutdown.
the next two elections (’96 and ’98), every Republican running for
any office in America had his or her picture on a TV screen with Newt
Gingrich, and subsequently had their rear-ends handed to them.
In 1997 (or early 1998), a Christmas present came to the
Republicans a little late. Shockwaves
went through Washington, D.C. as reports of a sex scandal with a
21-year-old intern came to light.
Not only did the rumor turn out to be true, but it turns out
that Bill Clinton actually lied under oath regarding the affair and
also suborned perjury by trying to quiet the young intern.
He’s a sitting duck, right?
Republicans were so shell shocked from being completely demonized that
they totally flopped the opportunity to send Clinton packing, and
instead held a sham of an impeachment and ended up tarnishing their
images even further. The
Republicans desperately needed some talent of their own.
1998, the popular Governor of Texas, George W. Bush, was handily
re-elected to a second term. He
had received almost seventy percent of the vote, while also securing
record support from African-Americans and Hispanics, which is unheard
of for Republicans (thanks to the talent of Democrats). Buzz words like “Compassionate Conservatism” were heard
throughout Texas and then throughout America.
Every Democrat in America began shaking in their boots.
This guy doesn’t look like the typical racist, gun toting,
school lunch stealing, old people freezing, impeachment witch-hunting,
tobacco to kids giving, anti-choice, redneck image that they had
worked so hard to paint for Republicans.
Instead, GWB had a reputation of reaching out to Democrats in
Texas to get things done, and had a policy of inclusion which is why
he enjoyed unprecedented support from minorities.
The Democrats knew they were in trouble. Why? The
Republicans found some talent.
So here we are in the year 2000 and Gore and Bush have secured the respective nominations from their parties after what some would call heated primaries. (That’s actually due to the media’s talent) So now the real contest begins. GWB stays on the same message that had brought him to the top in Texas: Compassionate conservatism, lower taxes, smaller government, more local control, honesty and integrity. Al Gore hires consultants that feel the first thing they have to do is turn him into an “Alpha Male”. Of course, anyone who actually knows what that is has absolutely no chance of becoming one. So here come the earth tones, new hair, new accent (which still varies depending on what part of the country he’s in) and anything that will shed Gore of the cold, stiff, dorky, kid who got beat up every day in school image. What happened to all the Democratic talent? Well, personally I think they all made so much money off of TV and book deals that they became too good for the political consulting business.
Republicans, along with the Bush camp, are finally starting to say
things that the rank-and-file have been screaming at the top of their
lungs for eight years. Things
that have finally started to change their image to something that the
average American may actually vote for.
While Gore, on the other hand, has been out reinventing himself
every day and getting caught in multiple lies (well, the compassionate
term would be “exaggerations”).
If you ask most Americans today who they will vote for, they
will not even mention any particular issue, but rather which guy they
“like” the most. That
spells bad news for Gore because Bush has been up by ten to twenty
points in every “likability” poll.
© Brian Trascher, 2000
The “Kingfish” is a political analyst from Louisiana and is an expert commentator on National and Louisiana politics. He is a graduate of the Louisiana State University School of Political Science.
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View expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Political USA.