Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Endless Campaign

Presidential candidates are announcing that they’re intending to begin forming exploratory committees to determine whether they will at some future point announce. Others have announced that they definitely intend to announce soon that they’re thinking about running. Others are running - flying actually - all over the country trying to convince voters they’d make the best president. I’m getting sick of it already and the election is more than a year-and-a-half away.

“I think this whole process is stupid,” said Newt Gingrich. “Ronald Reagan announced in November, 1979. John Kennedy announced on January 2nd, 1960, and at that time it was the earliest announcement in American history. . . . This idea [of campaigning so early] . . . is a full-employment program for political consultants.”

I was in the audience two weeks ago in Washington listening to Gingrich and there were three more possible or actual candidates still to speak - Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, but I didn’t fly down for that. I wanted to listen and discuss the challenging issues facing us with other thinking conservatives and it’s hard to get even a handful of such people together here in western Maine. I watched, listened and participated in intelligent debate on immigration, affirmative action, the war on radical Islam, the role of government, why conservatives lost in November, and many other subjects. I met conservatives from all over the country while eating breakfast, lunch and dinner each day.

The highlight of Mitt Romney’s speech was not Mitt Romney’s speech. It was his introduction by New Hampshire’s own Mark Steyn. I’d recently finished Steyn’s most recent tome: “American Alone: The end of the world as we know it,” a brilliant treatise on the demographic transformation of Europe and the resulting Islamic threat to western civilization itself. Steyn managed to scare the hell out of me and his other readers while giving us belly laughs on every other page. No small feat, that.

The best session of the weekend was when Steyn sat with Jonah Goldberg and Rob Long of National Review Online. They started at ten Saturday night after most of us had a few drinks and expounded on political and social issues and associated personalities for about ninety minutes. If I ever laughed harder I can’t remember when. I wish I could remember their lines but there was no script. It was all off-the-cuff. One of them, I think it was Rob Long, remarked about sharing a cab with antiwar demonstrators who gathered on the mall earlier that day a few blocks from our hotel. His cab-mates asked if he was going to the rally, but he wasn’t in the mood to argue about the war during the short ride. Steyn said he’d had a similar experience near an antiwar rally in London where he’d seen a contingent calling itself “Queers for Palestine.” He said he found it ironic that if those “queers” ever actually went to Palestine with their signs, they’d be stoned to death. When asked if he was part of the demonstration, he simply told cab-mates he was with “Queers for Palestine” to approving nods.

The most sobering thing I heard during the conference came from Gingrich: “At some point down the road, we run a serious risk of losing two or three [American] cities to nuclear weapons, and it’s a lot better to act now before we lose a city.” This was only the biggest problem in a long list he enumerated while commenting on the endless presidential campaign. “We need to work on our problems . . . We don’t need the two parties running off into corners to yell at each other . . . It would be historically wrong to spend all of 2007 raising money in order to run in 2008, in order to take office in 2009 . . . [We need to think] How are we gonna fix these things?”

November, 2008 is the first election since 1928 that we won’t have either an incumbent running for reelection or an heir-apparent vice president on the ticket from one of the parties. It’s wide-open on both sides for the first time in eighty years. It looks like the beginning of the Boston Marathon out there with crowds of candidates covering the landscape and they should worry about wearing out voter interest before 2008 even arrives. After all, people complained when stores started playing Christmas carols right after Thanksgiving. Now we’re hearing them after Halloween. We all like Christmas carols, but not that early. We don’t want to hear them for two months straight, because after just a few weeks they start to ring hollow. By Christmas Eve, we don’t want to hear them anymore.

Why can’t we do it like the British do and get it all over with in three weeks? Is it possible that we’ll be so sick of listening to presidential candidates by the first Tuesday in November, 2008 that nobody will show up at the polls?


Anonymous said...

Good one, Mac! You'll be sicker pf all the election garbage before it is over. So will I!

snibb in North Baldwin

Gordon said...

Is this a sign of decline? Everything has to be cute and amusing, even our election process? Our elected officials have to be presentable before honest or intelligent? The way we look at ourselves and the world is shown in our news shows. I like to watch the evening BBC news followed by a network "World News" show if possible. The former shows the dirt and grit of the world, the latter is directed toward amusing and peculiar stories; the more erotic the better. Example is the amount of coverage given to the dAnna Nicole Smith suicide. Let's have a good-looking President and Congress, whether male or female, the main requirement for electability after looks is that they should be funny speakers to keep us amused? Gordon

Tom McLaughlin said...

Usually our first impressions are based on looks. Have you ever looked at a woman and thought she was attractive and then heard her speak and the attractiveness melted away? I like to think it would be that way with candidates, but it takes longer in that forum it seems.

Good looks can be an advantage, but usually only a temporary one.

Gordon said...


Gordon said...

Tom, are you having a little fun with me? Don't you agree that the election process is purely entertainment? The polls, the odds, the convention where partytime is king? When you see TV news, isn't it read by a beautiful person; isn't the news largely entertaining, frequently amusing; are we concerned about the wretches in Dafur? NO, and furthermore we don't want to hear or see anything of it.

We are reaching a point where we can't handle disagreeable matters, except the horrors on TV or in movies which everyone knows is fiction; and as we increasingly turn away from the grossness of the world's affairs, we compensate by making our entertainment ever more horrific.

Yes, I've known women who's voices could make milk sour but I've known plain women who's personalities are so great they become attractive; ergo. that proves nada.

Facing the truth today is very difficult and speaking the truth is even more difficult so we prefer POPULAR fiction. Byee! Gordo