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Election Day is Only 330 Days Away

December 13, 2015

“We have facts,’ they say. But facts are not everything–at least half the business lies in how you interpret them!”

-Fyodor Dostoeyevksy, from Crime and Punishment

It’s been two hundred and seventeen days since I checked in with the campaign slogans (here). That was in May, a long time ago in context of this election cycle. There were only eight candidates then. The pundits (and people like me, too) thought this was just the beginning of a long road to a November 2016 ballot with Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton. Although Bush wasn’t a declared candidate then, he was bankrolling $100 million for the campaign. Donald Trump wasn’t in the race back then either, but he was making all the noises that made it seem imminent. A list of other Republicans have come and gone since then. Three Democrats joined Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, and while all of them should have dropped out by now, Martin O’Malley sticks around.

Slogans, catchphrases and other old school marketing techniques are not so important as they were before social media and cable news became the centerpiece of modern campaigning. Still, they are a necessary component. Let’s take a look.

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Jeb BushJeb!

Text messages and email on our phones are replete with exclamation marks. They’re overused and abused, if you ask me. Stubborn and out of step with some of the finer points of today’s daily communication protocols, I rarely use exclamation marks. My obstinacy has put me in trouble sometimes, because my communiques have been misinterpreted as showing lack of interest or enthusiasm. I’ve been told that using exclamation marks with discretion and attention to style, like we all did not so long ago, is a thing of the past. Apparently, exclusion just leaves my straightforward text message responses of “yes”, no”, “okay” or “sure” flat. To which I’ve thought to myself, shall I add an emoticon or two also? 🙂

Jeb Bush, former governor of the country’s third most populous state, grandson of a Wall Street banker and U.S. Senator, son of a U.S. President, and brother of another, put an exclamation mark after his name as soon as he announced that he wants to move into the White House. The campaign slogan is hip with the times, but the punctuation hasn’t done much to raise his hopes. Neither has the $33 million that he and his Super Pac have spent so far. His entire campaign has been a big bust. The latest poll shows only four of one hundred respondents go along with his plans to send his moving trucks north up Interstate 95. Let me do the math for you – Bush has spent more than $8 million for each of those four votes of confidence.

Ben CarsonHeal, Inspire, Revive.

From the looks of it, Ben Carson wants his campaign to be uplifting. Even though he has dropped in the polls since summer, this poorly qualified candidate seems to have inspired some and remains in the upper tiers of Iowa and national polls. However, I don’t see how the weird and sometimes nasty things that he says can heal or revive a county. Carson’s confusion about garbanzo beans and foreign terrorist groups, Egyptian history and even his own biography are just plan weird. And then there’s his keep it simple tax plan, which entails structuring the nation’s tax code around his church’s tithing convention, because he thinks “God is a pretty fair guy.”  Simple is good, but this is just plain thoughtless. And Carson’s not going to heal anything by making comparisons of abortion and the healthcare law to slavery and the U.S. government to Nazi Germany.

Carson joined the Republican Party to run for president when God told him it was the right time. He is now threatening to leave the party and make a go at it as an independent, because he believes that the party’s power brokers are manipulating the process. I think he should reconsider his career change altogether and go lend a hand to his local hospital.

Chris Christie – Telling it Like it Is

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie rose through the ranks of New Jersey Republican politics with a bare knuckles approach that put him at odds with others in his party. But he got his big break the old-fashioned way. He bought it. When he raised a lot of money for George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential election, the Bush administration rewarded him with the position of U.S. Attorney for New Jersey. He went on from there win the state’s race for governor.

Christie’s branded himself as the person who will tell it like it is. Making things up or embellishment is a severe occupational risk for these candidates and Christie is far from immune. He’s not always telling it like it is. But we know that.

However, let’s give the man credit where credit is due. I like his focus on creating public policy that recognizes that substance addictions are treatable and incarceration cannot be the centerpiece of a humane response to helping people turn their lives around. That sounds like compassionate conservatism, if we’re still allowed to use that term in this political environment.

Hillary ClintonThis starts with you.

Even before Barack Obama started his second term in the White House, talkers were speculating that Hillary Clinton would be gearing up to succeed him. It was an easy call. She’s been in and around the highest levels of Washington since the early 1990’s and has maintained the political infrastructure that is the envy of other ambitious politicians. In spite of her own missteps and many powerful, organized and loud critics, she keeps on going.

Since my last blog post on the candidates, Hillary Clinton changed her campaign slogan from “Everyday Americans need a champion” to “This starts with you.” You are excused if you interpret this as “tell me what the polls say and Hillary will be there for you.” Her changing positions on Trans-Pacific Partnership, the dirty oil pipeline from Canada, Wall Street reform, and same-sex marriage should make anyone wonder.

Ted Cruz –  Courageous Conservatives Reigniting the Promise of America

Ted Cruz and his pitchfork carrying supporters think of themselves as courageous and vital to the nation’s future. He seems a little thin-skinned, nervous and paranoid to take part in this game, but that’s what seems to play with voters these days.

When the US military was preparing to perform practice exercises in Texas and other parts of the southwest this past summer, Cruz demanded assurances from the Pentagon that President Obama was not sending troops there to seize Texas. (You have to question what that looks like in his mind. Would the 1,200 special forces take over downtown Houston? The State House in Austin?  Would they bring in the 42nd Infantry Division and commandeer the state’s entire 268,000 square miles? And for how long? Forever?)

SK-A-3276

Rembrandt’s painting of Jeremiah lamenting over Jerusalem’s demise. Ted Cruz’s father tells us his son is a prophet, just like Jeremiah in the Old Testament. I’m not kidding. This photo used with permission of http://www.rijksmuseum.nl

Cruz is a big state rights guy and relentlessly attacks most anything to do with national government. He wants to remove the obstacles caused by his party’s Congressional leaders, shutdown the IRS, audit the Federal Reserve, abolish the healthcare law, let the corporations and Wall Street create the international trade laws, and overturn Roe v. Wade.

Although Cruz holds himself out as the one in Washington working for the man on the street, he has his own billionaires club to help fund his scorch the earth march to the White House. Many talkers are now saying that he has as good of a chance as anyone else at winning the Republican’s nomination.

Marco Rubio – Are You Ready for a New American Century?

Although we are fifteen years into the twenty-first century, Marco Rubio wants us to imagine that we are just now flipping the calendar with three nines to one with three zeros. He wants us to associate his relative youth (44) with good times ahead and contrast his age and leadership with the tired old folks running for the White House with stale and wrong-headed ideas.

mo95-77 leadership for the 60s campaign poster

Public domain – http://www.jfklibrary.com

Rubio worships Ronald Reagan, as every candidate in his party must. He says that he’s been a Republican ever since he was a teenager, when his grandfather told him stories on the front yard porch about how Jimmy Carter was treasonous, untrustworthy and weak and that Reagan was strong and effective. When it comes to campaigning however, Rubio takes John Kennedy’s lead. He wants us to imagine that he’s the one who can lead us through the tough times ahead, just like Kennedy positioned himself in 1960. Kennedy was 43 years old young when he campaigned with language such as “the frontier of the 1960s, the frontier of unknown opportunities and perils, the frontier of unfilled hopes and unfilled threats.” President Reagan, Rubio’s first political hero, was seventy years old when he moved to the White House, just about the same age as Hillary Clinton is today.

Rubio’s got the politician’s blood. In 2013, he put himself front and center on comprehensive immigration reform as part of a prominent bipartisan group of U.S. Senators known as the “Gang of Eight.”  This got him in trouble with the Tea Party and Republicans, so he simply shifted his position and took up the party line again.

Many talkers tell us that, as with Ted Cruz, Rubio just needs to stay steady in the polls to maintain confidence from his big money people. Once this whole matter with Donald Trump settles out, Rubio and Cruz could then be in a good place to pick up the pieces with their party’s nomination.

Bernie SandersReady to Start a Political Revolution?

Bernie Sanders’ campaign slogan used to be “A Political Revolution is Coming.” He’s now asking us if we are ready to start one. From the looks of it, even though he has strong support from some, not enough people want the bother. A revolution seems like a lot of work, after all. Isn’t there an Apple or Android app for that?

Sanders relentlessly tells us about the decreasing middle class, working people’s difficulties, and the ramifications of making education, healthcare and job security inaccessible to millions of Americans. He seems to be getting through to many; he draws big and enthusiastic crowds and has raised $40 million without any Super Pac money. Average campaign contributions are thirty dollars and nearly all were less than one hundred dollars each. A recent poll shows that more Americans would vote for him than Donald Trump or any of the other Republicans. That same poll shows that Sanders is the most trustworthy candidate, followed by Carson, Rubio and Cruz.

But this campaign is going to fall short unless miracles happen after his victory in the February New Hampshire primary. Maybe people are simply frightened off by  the word “revolution” that Sanders keeps using or put off by when he calls himself a democratic socialist. Others words in his vocabulary, like “socialism,” “democracy,” “reform” and “Vermont” may not help either.

Donald Trump – Make America Great Again

Donald Trump liked the generic phrase, “Make America Great Again,” that Ronald Reagan used in his 1980 campaign so much that he not only started thusing it for himself, but trademarked it as well. Trump’s lawyers will go after anybody who uses it to their disliking. Trump has even accused Ted Cruz of violating his intellectual property rights when he dared to use it in a political speech. So, beware you street merchandise vendors and others hustling with odd jobs to make ends meet. Trump’s turned his turrets on anyone who looks at him cross-eyed. Don’t count on him making an exception for you if he doesn’t like the way that you use President Reagan’s his slogan. If you made those campaign hats and t-shirts in China or Mexico, he’ll be doubly angry with you.

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With thanks to any of you who have made it this far in the post, I’ll stop now. It’s the only decent thing to do. I too am ready to think about something other than the election and will slight the other politicians who are still hanging around in the race. They’re keeping their campaigns open for reasons only they know for sure.

30 Comments
  1. As a foreigner, it was delightful and informative, reading your impressions on the candidates. We do get news from America, but I usually think it’s a shallow reflection of what’s going on, and that inside your country, there are a lot of considerations that we don’t know about. Reading this post, I was really sorry that you didn’t have better choices available.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Shimon – I don’t know how shallow your reports are, but they’re not always very careful or thorough here either. Mostly productions that help someone sell something unrelated altogether – cars, cell phones, pharmaceutical drugs and anything else someone has matched up with the demographics.

      It’s a pretty sorry set of candidates, given what’s at stake.

      Like

  2. Thank you for this. What is scary about the Republican side is that the options after Trump aren’t a whole lot better. That Cruz is now on the upswing is stunning. Seriously. Anybody who bought into the Jade Helm nonsense should be disqualified. But that’s the problem, the ones at the top of the polls on the Republican side are the ones who seem to believe these things — Trump, Cruz, Carson. It seems the more outrageous you are, the higher you poll and the more reasonable you are, the lower you poll.

    Meanwhile on the Dems side — eh, not much choice there. The shoo-in who I want nothing to do with and the 112-year-old revolutionary I would love to see as President but who has not much more than a snowball’s chance.

    Like

    • Outrageous statements seem to be a core competency of the R’s campaigns. They play well. It’s odd that people concerned about their economic futures don’t take a closer look at Sanders. “What’s the Matter with Kansas” and all that, it seems.

      Like

  3. Excellent summary, Bruce! There… I used the exclamation mark 🙂

    The following remark about Bernie Sanders’ campaign slogan made me laugh:
    “From the looks of it, even though he has strong support from some, not enough people want the bother. A revolution seems like a lot of work, after all. Isn’t there an Apple or Android app for that?”

    But, it’s no laughing matter. I feel the Bern. We want change, but far too many of us are unwilling to put in the ground work.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Rosaliene, you are absolutely right! 🙂

      We tell ourselves every four years that the election is the “most important in our time…” Maybe, it’s just a natural way to think about these things. Of course, many don’t see it that way and don’t bother to engage or vote. But elections do have consequences. Can you say “Bush v. Gore?” “Florida and Supreme Court?”

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Bruce,
    Well thought out. Spot on. Well written and they are a sorry bunch…
    Mat

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great piece, Bruce! Sadly it confirms my feeling of doom and the thought of 330 more days of it just makes it worse. By far, this is the longest election in the history of elections.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I could have sworn Trump’s slogan was “Let’s Make America Hate Again” but maybe that was just subtext…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. What!? 330 days more of this vitriolic exaggerated over-exclaimed, too-long, too wasteful, too-full-of-ego political show before election?! I’m not ready for more of this! I need to be inspired! I’m not sure any of us are ‘ready’ for more ‘promises’ that tell it like it isn’t!

    (Thanks for an excellent review – will be sharing….)

    Like

  8. Enjoyed your analysis of the “field”, Bruce. I don’t think I can make myself watch more of tonight’s debate.

    Like

    • With such serious matters in front of us, these Republican debates fall short of what we need. Lots of posturing, platitudes and high school behavior. Not a lot of thoughtful discussion. Show time. Let the ad revenue flow.

      Like

  9. I read every word, and I will read it again! I hope you’ll keep writing over the next 300 days as the number of candidates narrow and maybe, just maybe, a bit more substance hits the debates. I think the trouble I’m having is that I find myself laughing, at the sparring last night (debate) between Trump and Bush, or your description “Ted Cruz and his pitchfork carrying supporters,” and it disturbs me that I’m so amused. It’s ludicrous, and I can hardly believe out of such a large cast I don’t feel aligned with anyone. Keep writing, Bruce. I’ll keep reading!

    Like

    • Hello Debra, It would be helpful if we can get to some substance soon before the election is over. When something like this passes for an answer about nuclear weapons in a “debate” who can say that we’ve even started?

      Trump: “I think — I think, for me, nuclear is just the power, the devastation is very important to me.”

      And then, the moderator moves on and goes to the next insufficient and ridiculous sequence and then we break for a few expensive commercials and then they come back to repeat.

      Can we please start getting to some honest discussion? Soon, before it’s all over.

      Thank you for your kind words.

      Like

    • I agree, Debra. I’m looking forward to more of Bruce’s honest posts about the election and candidates.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Hi Bruce! (sorry for the exclamation point, I’m in the habit.I also love emoticons) You did a lot of excellent research. there’s a lot to absorb and good job putting it together. We still like Hillary here and please, no Carly!!!! (again, sorry) who knows? so much can and will happen between today and 11 months from it, xo LMA

    Like

    • Well, well, well! Look, it’s LMA! So happy to hear from you.

      Who’s Carly? Ahh, yes. She’s the one who told us that General Jack Keane retired from the military early because Obama would not listen to his expert advice. But that’s the guy who retired BEFORE Obama was in office.

      Like

  11. Given the campaign is too damn long, your take made me laugh … and with each candidate! (OK … I use them,) Nonetheless, a long way to go. 😦

    Sad days ahead for Reds fans like me – so please stop this weekend to my holiday bash to lift my spirits.

    Like

    • An interesting time to be a Reds fan. Lots of things to remember. And look forward to. As for the present, let’s just say, it’s time for a true fan to show their Redness. I find that “rebuilding” years are sometimes the most interesting. I thought Todd Frazier was going to be a Red for a long time. It’s just another instance of “it’s just business.” I’ll check in on your state of the team blog post this weekend.

      Like

      • I’m a Reds lifer, so have gone through many ups and downs. Yes, times like this are testy .. but I’ll pass without problems. I may not attend as many games, but I remain loyal.

        Like

  12. Dad’s says he’ll vote for Roosevelt. Again. I think I’ll write in Ralph Nader. Again.

    Like

  13. I thought I was all ready to cast my write-in vote, but someone is on to me. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5zZo04ukzcw

    Like

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