While watching that clip I had a horrible "flashback", for lack of a better term. Actually, It was really more like a nightmare but I was wide awake. I was reminded of a post that I'd written shortly after the 2004 US presidential election. Unfortunately, much of my blog's archive was lost during the 2006 Blogger migration so I'll republish the original post here. Please keep in mind that I was still crying when I wrote this post, so now I've taken the liberty of cleaning up the typos. Also, comments in blue are new additions.
Campaign 2004- The Great Marketing Campaign
Originally Posted to Pam's Coffee Conversation at 11/5/2004 01:36:17 PM
reposted as a cautionary tale as well as a message of hope
In the aftermath of the election, every political pundit has their opinion on what the Republicans did right and the Democrats did wrong. Now that I've wiped away my tears and can see the keyboard, I’ll add my 2 cents to the discussion.
First, for the record I am in the following demographic group:
- 40 something
- Single with no children
- College Educated
- Middle Class
- Raised as a Born-Again Evangelical Christian
- Pro-Life (but not in favor of over-turning Roe v. Wade)
- Heterosexual but with respect for the rights of those living a different sexual lifestyle
- Not in favor of “gay marriage” but in favor of civil unions which afford committed couples legal protections.
- Supported the war in Afghanistan
- Had reservations about going to war in Iraq (and based on the lack of WMDs would have opposed it.)
- and voted for John Kerry for US President
With that in mind, here is my take of the election results.
Pastor Rod Parsley of World Harvest Church in Columbus Ohio has a favorite saying that goes “the Devil has been telling his lies very well and the Church has been telling the truth very poorly.” Well my twist on that statement is that in Campaign 2004, the Republican political machine told their fiction exceptionally well and the Democrats told the truth very, very poorly”.
Republicans have mastered the art of communicating their message.
William Jefferson Clinton understands the art of communicating. So does Barack Obama. But apparently the rest of the Democratic Party missed that class.
Political campaigning 101: It doesn't matter how artfully and eruditely you make your point or even if you’re right. If the audience doesn’t get it, you’re just taking to the wall.
And 51% of the voting public just didn’t get John Kerry’s message.
When it was all said and done it didn’t matter that:
- we never found WMDs;
- Osama Bin Laden is still on the loose;
- the year 2000 budget surplus is now the greatest budget deficient in history;
- this (Bush/Cheney) administration is the first to lose jobs in over 70 years;
- more is spent on homeland security in Wyoming than in New York state;
- John Kerry’s 1971 testimony to the Senate relayed the actual statements of a small group of veterans he met a few months earlier at a meeting in Detroit;
- Arnold Schwarzenegger used the phrase “economic girlie man” ( when referring the the Democrats position on the economy ) and stated at the Republican National Convention that watching Richard Nixon inspired him to go into politics;
- and the Democratic candidate clearly presented his case better in all three presidential debates.
On Election Day, a majority of voters from the Midwest and South bought the Republican product.
In the end, the Heartland of America embraced George W. Bush as one of their own - who walks like them, talks like them and believes what they believe. To them he’s a modern day John Wayne (kicking butt and ready to take on all bad guys with the bible in one hand and gun in the other).
While on the other hand, in their eyes John Kerry is a Yankee Liberal (a “girlie man” that would let the town be pillaged and let good Christian women be attacked by those terrorists). In their eyes Kerry advocates abortion, gays and stem cell research. And Democrats in general are unprincipled, amoral Hollywood types living hell-bound lifestyles.
This campaign was more about Image than Issues.
For anyone to say that Election 2004 was about issues is like saying that the Miss America pageant is based on intellect. Most people, even in the Midwest and South agreed that John Kerry won all 3 debates. However, that didn't matter on Election Day
And the notion that Southerners and Midwesterners are more concerned with morals and values than those in Northeast, Middle Atlantic and Great Lakes region is another Republican fiction. (Remember the Salem Witch Trials.)
The majorities of African Americans in the Northern urban centers have family roots in the South and regularly attend evangelical Christian churches. And when it comes to the issues of homosexuality and same-sex marriage (they) fall in line with the rest of conservative America.
Latinos in the “blue states” are just as Catholic and Pentecostal as those in the rest of the nation.
Orthodox Jews and Muslims may not recognize the divinity of Jesus Christ but the Talmud and Koran are by no means espousing moral free for alls.
Yet somehow those in the “Blue States” are characterized as less concerned with moral issues.
You see, while the Democratic party was busy arguing the logic of the issues the Republican party and their advocates were convincing their base that every woman in New York was living the life portrayed in “Sex in the City”, getting abortions at a whim. Vice President Cheney was telling audiences that if Kerry was elected terrorists (like wolves in the forest) were going to attack Idaho while Kerry would be appeasing the UN.
While Bush (John Wayne) was seen with American’s Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Kerry was seen with Ben Affleck (one half of the now defunct Benifer). In the end logic went out the window and the image of wolves running in forests injected itself in the dreams of Middle America. (Forget that the worst act of terrorism in the Midwest was by Timothy McVeigh.)
But don’t blame this on the Kerry campaign strategists. For the Republicans, Campaign 2004 did not just begin two years ago. It actually began Election night 1992 when William Jefferson Clinton won the Presidency of the United States. From that moment the Republicans were determined to use every means necessary to regain the Presidency.
From the Clinton policy on gays in the military to the impeachment hearings, the Republicans have been building their arsenal. And every Clinton moral misstep gave bible-belt preachers material for Sunday’s sermon. Evangelical ministers across the nation preached the wages of sin using Bill Clinton instead of Adam or David as their example. Pastor John Hagee in San Antonio, TX preached a series on “Witchcraft in the Church” and Hillary Clinton’s name came up every week. (I know I watched until I couldn’t take it any more)
Democratic intellectuals scoffed at these messages and those outside in evangelical circles were oblivious but seeds were being sown.
The message was Democrats are wicked. From Gary Hart to Bill Clinton to Jim McGreevy, Democratic leadership gave the Republican fuel to fire up the religious right. After all, there’s no sin like good old sexual sin to get the attention of the congregation. For the past twelve plus years the Republicans have reinforced the message
Democrat = Liberal = Non-Religious = Amoral.
Therefore Democrat = Amoral.
Who wants to identify with a party like that?
The Republicans won because they know their constituency inside and out and they remembered how to reach them. Their message of patriotism, fear and hell fire brought their base to the polls. Even the post campaign spin make this election sound as bad as Reagan’s landslide defeat over Michael Dukakis.
President Bush is stating that he earned political capital in this campaign and he intends to spend it.
But Democrats and Political Progressives don’t be discouraged just remember:
- The reality is that John Kerry did get over 54 million votes against an incumbent war-time President.
- The Wall Street Journal points out that Bush's victory was "the narrowest win for a sitting president since Woodrow Wilson in 1916."
- The Democrats picked up two Governorships
- It was Northern voices that won the Civil War and brought an end to slavery. It was Northern Democrats that fought until it saw the end of Jim Crow laws and brought civil rights to the segregated South.
- It was the voice of youth and political liberals that opposed the Vietnam War and protested until the government brought an end to that insanity. In fact, in 1972, Richard Nixon (Arnold Schwarzenegger’s role model) ran against George McGovern, a progressive with a message about stopping the Vietnam War.McGovern lost in a landslide, winning literally only one state even though the Watergate scandal was swirling around Nixon. But a year and a half later, Nixon resigned; two years later, reformist Democrats won back control of both legislative chambers.
- And lastly, four years from now the Republicans will have no one else to blame for their actions.
I’m still proud to be a Democrat and believe that the majority of registered democrats are ideologically more like me than the caricature that the Republicans have sold to Middle America. I believe in the vision of a Great America that embraces all her people and I will not surrender that vision to the Republican fiction publishing house.
The Democratic Party has four years to find its voice, reclaim its identity, package its message, energize its base and reach out to Middle America. Until then we can watch, work and pray. Yes, Democrats do pray!
I go on record now – Edwards\ Richardson in 2008.
* * * * *
Oh well, so much for statements that we made four years ago.