I came across this post from the days after the 2008 general election, and it struck me as being quite appropriate for today. Oddly, it also seems to help explain why even the far left,even MSNBC -- wonder of wonders!-- was saying Romney won the debates. Obama had lost his smile, and Romney found it. Obama was a bit glum and backpedaling, and Romney was cheery. Now, I admit, it is a crazy reason for anyone to win an election, and it probably isn't enough on its own (I certainly hope it isn't enough on its own), but it definitely does gain you a few points here and there, and those points do tell in the end. I am not the biggest Romney booster, but I do think he has taken the right tone in the race so far, and this old post suggests, in part, why it is working.
I was thinking about the fact that I have been posting rather
light-hearted, less serious posts this long holiday weekend, when it
occurred to me, that light-hearted tone has been sadly missing form
conservative sites for a few weeks. Ever since the Obama victory we have
become a rather somber lot, full of premonitions of doom, expectations
of bad things for the Republican party, and so on. Granted, I was as
dejected as anyone over the Obama victory, but I like to think I kept my
site rather upbeat. I did post a few thoughts on Obama, mentioned a few
less than promising signs, and did comment somewhat negatively on the
future course of the party, but, I also turned away from that and wrote a
number of more general posts, as well as tossing out the usual silly
posts accusing Thomas Sowell of plagiarism and seeking people to create
anti-feminist feminist anthems.
So, why does it matter?
Well, it matters because not only does no one like a loser, no one likes
a sad sack either. Think about the recent Democrats. Sure, Al Gore is
hated by everyone but die hard Democrats because he is a terrible scold,
but why do they seem to hate John Kerry just as much? Because, ever
since he lost, he has been in a funk, and has spent four years telling
everyone why it was so unfair he lost. Similarly, when Jimmy Carter
started talking to the nation about their gloomy future, full of
sweaters and cold houses and malaise, he guaranteed that the Republicans
would win. Had they run the Adolph Hitler and Judas Iscariot ticket
Carter still would have lost. Not because of his inept handling of
everything from the Panama Canal to the oil crisis to the hostages, but
simply because he was such a mopey downer that no one could stand
hearing him talk for another four years. (Though sadly he still hasn't
shut up yet.)
And that is the lesson we need to learn. The lesson of Reagan and Rush
Limbaugh. Why did Reagan so thoroughly crush others in debates? It was
not a strong grasp of the subject matter, nor was it simple charisma,
nor was it a fine turn of phrase. He had all three, but they were not
enough to win over his audiences. What won over the audience was his
ability to laugh, not just at his opponents, but at himself. He seemed
genuinely upbeat and happy. The same with Rush Limbaugh. In the darkest
days of the Clinton administration, Rush, though obviously troubled by
what was going on, still remained optimistic and cheerful. And finally,
on the other side of the aisle, part of the appeal of Obama is that,
rather than foretelling doom, he sold the country on an optimistic
future filled with (unspecified) change.
Optimism wins. We need to recall that. Rather than predicting doom, or
moping, or worrying about the course the party will take, we need to
smile and tell people that, whatever may come, there is better in store.
We need to stop selling the problems of the other guy and start pushing
the virtues of our own. Don't tell how bad regulation is, tell how good
the free market is. Don't cry about high taxes, preach about low taxes.
Don't talk about the threats abroad, talk about the safety we are going
to enjoy. Emphasize the benefits we will bring, not the harm the other
guy is doing. That was what got the Democrat congress down into single
digit approval ratings, that was what kept the Democrats on the
defensive throughout the Reagan years, being the party of the negative,
the men always saying "no" and telling us what was wrong. We need to
stop following a losing course.
It is a lesson we forgot. And one we would do well to learn again.
People don't vote for the scolds and nags and those who tell them how
bad everything is. They vote for those who promise something better, and
seem to believe in it. Even when it is a snake oil salesman like Obama.
No, this doesn't mean we can never explain what is wrong with our
opponent's theories, we just need to do it with a smile, and follow up
every criticism with a half dozen cheery plugs for our own positions.
Make our campaign more about what is right about us and less about what
is wrong with them.
And, no, it is not easy. Even while I have tried to be optimistic, I
have found myself far too often complaining about what is wrong. Then
again, I am not running for office, so I don't have to abide by this
rule as strictly as the politicians do.
Still, it wouldn't hurt the image of the Republican party if the rank
and file stopped sounding so negative and instead began to be seen as
optimistic and cheery folks, confident in the plans promoted by their
leadership, sure that those plans would bring about great things. (Of
course, it would help if our leaders set an example for us to follow in
this regard. And that is something we have been sorely lacking lately.)
Originally posted on 2008/11/28.
NOTE: I completely expect the Idiot Twins to enjoy tearing into any mention of Romney or Reagan, but, in the spirit of this essay, I greet their cretinous antics with a tolerant smile. As nothing I can do will make them leave, I will simply treat them like a brain damaged distant cousin who drinks out of the toilet and soils himself, and ask that visitors not take their behavior as indicative of the nature of the rest of my website. (No offense intended to those who have suffered head injuries, I used to work with them as a vocational instructor when I was much younger and, fortunately, they were uniformly more affable and better behaved than the Idiot Twins. I simply cannot think of another possible cause that would explain the Twins' behavior. Possession, perhaps? Oh, that's right, conspiracy theories! How could I forget? More injurious than brain damage.)