Thursday, December 02, 2010

The Four Cs of Presidential Politics: A GOP 2012 Primer

We hereby designate the following four categories as necessary to the success of any presidential candidate, if success is defined as getting elected and governing with reasonable responsibility. All begin with the letter c. For those who look forward to 2012 as the moment when the Grand Old Party regains rightful control of the Executive Branch, the model will be crucial (make that a fifth "c") to their backing of the proper candidate.

To succeed, a presidential candidate must excel in each of the following:
  • Communication. It's always been the case that leaders communicate with their followers with exceptional clarity and impact. It is a commonplace to assert that such is all the more the case in the digital age.
  • Cool. At least since JFK but probably always, the cooler candidate, if any candidate is indeed cool, always (we'll allow the absolute) prevails. Sometimes there is no cool candidate (Bush v. Gore, Ditto v. Kerry). But when there is (TR, Coolidge [it's hip to be square], FDR, Ike, JFK, Reagan, Clinton, BHO), coolness wins.
  • Correctness. Policy may seem secondary in the battle of negative political advertising, but the truth is that many people vote for what they think is the better policy position. When there's a consensus, you'd better fall in line. Nixon may have been a miserable communicator and entirely uncool, but McGovern was wrong on the issues, and so he never came close. In 2012 the correct position will be fiscally conservative. BHO will struggle mightily as a consequence, and any successful GOP candidate will need unassailable credentials in thrift.
  • Competency. You've got to be able to run something, and not into the ground. As the present administration demonstrates, that something needs to be more than a campaign. A record of administrative success is always helpful. In 2012, after four years of an administration headed by someone who had never run anything except a campaign, voters will doubtless expect proven ability to accomplish goals in running something real. Obama's election may have shown that competency isn't necessary for victory, but his administration has reminded voters that it ought to be from now on. Look for this category to matter a lot.
Really, none of this is worthy of SWNIDish attention. Except for the tidy alliteration, these categories are routinely cited by all pundits at all times. But presently they are more than pedestrian observations, thanks to a singular personage on the political stage: one Sarah Palin.

Mrs. Palin is certainly not yet the presumptive GOP nominee for 2012, but presently she is the most visible person who will run in 2012. No one garners the attention that she does, either from devoted followers or from the media preoccupied with her. No one has so shamelessly exploited media as she, not least with her daughter's epic run on Dancing with the Stars (SWNIDish interpretation of the title: two absolute reasons not to watch) and her own program about the state whose governorship she resigned.

Mrs. Palin is unarguably a considerable candidate--because she excels in communication (gaffes aside, she delivers speeches that mesmerize the faithful), cool (sure she's goofy, but she's prettier than any politician except for Mitt Romney, and her family creates a narrative that people like), and most of all correctness (she says everything that conservatives want to hear, and in a way that they want to hear over and over). Granted, in all these things she's as divisive as anyone since Nixon. But in all areas she's considerable despite her divisiveness, and in a way that might suggest that she'll compete for her party's nomination even if she can't appeal to a wider electorate.

But note well the missing fourth c. Mrs. Palin has not demonstrated competency. She resigned as governor of Alaska after only two years, offering a rationale that was barely coherent at the time and now is revealed by her behavior to have been a fig leaf. Mrs. Palin resigned to make money, to run the Palin celebrity franchise, a job for which she is obviously well suited.

But that's not running something real. And voters, we think, will know it, especially the GOP base, which may like to listen to Miss Congeniality but won't need to think much about being led by her.

So SWNID has no expectation of a Palin nomination, though we fully expect her to run. Voters may be stupid, but we seriously doubt that they'll be that stupid in that particular way.


Christian said...

Sounds like all very good reasons why she will likely be nominated to run as VP.

Jim Shoes said...

VP? Been there, done that, polls show that she was a net negative.

KevinAK said...

Nominating the VP candidate isn't a bad idea. Unfortunately the system doesn't work that way.

KevinAK said...

Jim Shoes,

The net negative was John McCain. Without Palin Barry Sotero would have won by a landslide.

Jim Shoes said...

Kevin, I agree that two political negatives don't equal a positive. But exit polling in 2008 showed that more people who voted voted against Palin than for her.

Alex L said...

Thoughts on Hoosiers Pence or Daniels GOP 2012 nominee?

Christian said...


I could be wrong, and I'm too lazy to look it up, but technically speaking, the VP position is a nomination, even if a given party lets the presidential nomination select the VP candidate.

Jon A. Alfred E. Michael J. Wile E. SWNID said...

Alex, Daniels has the SWNIDish blessing as the closest thing we've got to Calvin Coolidge. We are less excited by Pence, as we doubt the efficacy of legislators to serve as executives. He is a blank slate under the fourth "c," much as our current Chief Executive was prior to his elevation as Chief Executive.