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Water Cooler – Being Able To Win is not the Same as Being Best to Govern


Obama Victory Party in Seattle by birdy9669

It is no secret that I am a total and unreconstructed political junkie. I don’t just love the cut and thrust of campaigns, I am a big fan of legislating. Yeah, that sausage making that we’re not supposed to really watch, I love it.

Which leads to a problem for me. You see over the last few cycles, and especially in presidential politics there has been a tendency to have candidates who are ready and able to win, but are not really ready to govern, including the current president.

Part of this is structural. The job of a candidate is to do exactly two things and only those two things, talk to people and raise money so they an talk to more people. That’s it. All the really fun stuff, speech writing, strategic planning, data analysis, micro-targeting, all of it, is done by other people.

Even the talking to people is not that great. Basically as a candidate you develop a serious of two minute or less mini-speeches and then go on to repeat them ad nauseum. When you are running state wide or nationally there are a lot of people to win over and when you have what the campaign thinks is the optimum patter, you have to go out and say it to millions of people.

For anyone with a sharp mind this part of being a politician is a real trial. Yet so much depends on your ability to do it that the incentives have become skewed. How many times have you seen one party or the other worry about nominating a presidential candidate that is “electable” over one that speaks to its values?

In 2004 we got John Kerry, who while being a decent man, was not the firebrand we needed to really get the Democratic base to turn out and reject the fear that the Bush Administration was peddling. If Kerry had managed to invigorate the Democrats the (probable) vote fraud in Ohio would not have been enough to swing the election.

Even though it might not seem like it we did the same thing with then Senator Obama. We choose not the person that we thought would be the best to represent Democratic ideals, but rather the candidate that we thought would prevail against whomever it was that was going to be the Republican nominee.

At the time I was unconvinced that Mr. Obama was ready to be president. It is not that I did not think he could win, I was sure of it. Rather it was that I did not see the knife fighter that eight years of Bush/Cheney misrule had me thirsting for.

Even with his accomplishments (and to be fair, as flawed as many of them are, he has had quite a few) he has not been the kind of president to push the nation back away from the rabid conservatism of the Republicans. At best, at very best, he has kept the line right about where it was.

This is what I mean, he was ready to win but he was not ready to be president.

It is not just Democrats that do this, Republicans are in the midst of their own “electability” fight. They have (from our admittedly Lefty perspective) their freak show, the Bachmann’s and the Perry’s and the Cain’s and the Santorum’s.

While these folks are all way too nutty to really win, they do represent the views of a significant part of the Republican Party. In fact the most significant part of that party, the primary voters. The thing is, the movement and money people in the GOP know that none of these folks can win, so they are going to do what they can to keep them from the ballot.

The only one that looks like someone America will elect is Mitt Romney. If he is the candidate the Republican base is going to be livid. And they may stay away from the polls.

But if Mitt is ready to win, it does not seem likely to me that he is ready to govern. He has shown that he has no spine, that he will pander to any interest that is needed to win and will not stand for any value if it might get him in trouble. These traits might give him a chance to win, but they won’t serve a president or the nation very well.

The issue all comes down to, as so much in life does, money. The people who look like they can win attract boat loads of it. They can out rise and outspend the firebrands that talk the line the base wants to hear, and they get the nomination.

They often get elected to, and there is where is all falls apart. The kind of person that is comfortable saying the same thing over and over and over and letting others do the heavy thinking and planning is exactly the opposite in what you want in a legislator.

Until the incentives change and the need to raise a ton of money to run for office ends, I just don’t see a lot of hope for our political system. We’ll have a lot of not very bright but good looking elected officials. Call it DC 20002.

What is on your minds tonight Firedogs? The floor is yours!

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Bill Egnor

Bill Egnor

I am a life long Democrat from a political family. Work wise I am a Six Sigma Black Belt (process improvement project manager) and Freelance reporter for