For elections in the foreseeable future, here’s my advice to party brass:
Picture your perfect candidate, and then go out and find the exact opposite.
I am fully aware that this advice is 100% guaranteed to be ignored. Political professionals are frogs in the pot. They’ve been in the water for so long they didn’t even notice the temperature was slowly rising. They couldn’t tell voters were reaching the boiling point. They still can’t wrap their minds around the appeal of an unkempt, gray-haired Jewish socialist from the tiny state of Vermont who speaks with a thick Brooklyn accent, and are oblivious to why a combed-over egomaniacal “reality TV” star could very well win the White House.
What author, economist and former Clinton cabinet secretary Robert Reich calls the “new era of anti-politics” clearly hasn’t come into focus for the party royals and their palace guards.
They continue to trust their formula. They continue to believe in their poll-tested ideas, their scripted messages, their robotic messengers. More than anything, they remain totally certain that all the money they have can’t possibly fail them.
They keep doing it by the book, not realizing that the book is, as conservative commentator Jonah Goldberg put it, “as outdated as the instruction manual for a Commodore 64 computer.”
I think back to all the times legislators from both parties told me nobody cares about money in politics, nobody wants campaign finance reform. I heard it so often I organized a rally some years ago at Wisconsin’s state capitol where everyone in the crowd wore stickers saying “Hello, My Name is Nobody.” The politicians were unmoved. Their polls told them that concern about money in politics didn’t register as a blip on the radar. They had been in the water for so long they couldn’t tell the temperature was rising. They couldn’t sense the boiling point was not that far away.
Their polls told them that jobs and the economy, education, taxes and government spending were top of mind for voters. What the polls didn’t — and couldn’t — tell them is how the people were fast losing faith that politicians would give even a passing thought to their concerns and interests when dealing with any of those issues. The polls didn’t — and couldn’t — tell them about the underlying anger and resentment and why it was growing so fast and how it had everything to do with money in politics and the resulting government corruption.
The pot is now boiling over. And the party royals and their palace guards seem surprised.