January 8, 2003
By Ronald Gerughty
If there is one thing that Democrats everywhere can agree,
it's that it is imperative, for the health of the country
and of the world, that George W. Bush be denied a second term.
Like his father before him, it's time for a regime change
in Washington. However, given the President's current popularity
with the public and a mainstream media hostile to the liberal
agenda, as well as to the truth of Bush's policies, that task
will prove formidable. To defeat a sitting President in the
midst of a war, no matter how contrived, requires a concerted
effort on behalf of the opposition. Although arduous, the
goal can be accomplished if the lessons learned previously
are employed. Who will lead this opposition and what positions
will be espoused? And, importantly, how will these positions
be presented? These are the keys to restoring justice, liberty,
and opportunity denied by the Bush administration.
Now that Vice President Gore has boldly and courageously
given the Democrats new life and a superb opportunity to recapture
the heart of the nation by opting out of the race for President
in 2004, the field becomes wide open for would-be standard
bearers. No less than six contenders are expected to vie for
top honors and that number could go as high as ten within
the next few months. The road of caucuses and primaries is
rough and rocky and who is selected finally is important,
but how they are selected is the key to victory in November
Granted, the policies articulated are important, but the
image created in doing so is critical. It is often said that
the public votes their wallet and under normal circumstances
that is true; however, we are no longer in that realm. Unfortunately,
we have evolved into a society governed by the corporate media-by
Madison Avenue slick campaigns, sloganeering, and sound-bites.
Individuals now vote the image, the perception: their gut
reaction. Just look at George W. Bush. Given the tragic events
of 9/11 and the world threat of terrorism, he projects the
image, however false, of the great protector. He has created
a mass delusion in this country based on war-fever patriotism
and capitalizing on fear. He created this image by convincing
Americans that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction
and that they are aimed directly at their children. He falsely
links Iraq and al Qaeda, thereby, equating a war against Iraq
as a significant step in reducing terrorism in the United
States. He has cast the image to combat their uncertainty
and fears-they have made the connection between Bush's administration
and their family's safety. What a snow job; but, image is
all-powerful. A candidate may have the right message and still
lose because of the image projected-ask Al Gore.
Many believe the Democrats have no hope of recapturing the
White House in 2004. The naysayers believe Bush is too popular
to unseat and the Democrats are too disorganized to even try.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Although they cite
the results of election 2002 as proof of the failing of the
Democratic Party, the truth is that the Democrats took it
on the chin, not because of wild support for the Republicans,
but because the Democrats presented such an unappealing image,
the base simply did not turn out. Had the normal constituency
voted, the Democrats would not have lost control of the U.S.
Senate and would have gained seats in the House of Representatives.
With a little more than a year to go before the Iowa caucus,
the Democrats are scrambling to find a leader. How they select
that person is of utmost importance. Remember Gore vs. Bradley
in 2000? That quest for the Democratic nomination did much
to sink the candidacy of Al Gore-it created the image of an
individual that many simply didn't like, and wouldn't vote
for. Primary campaigns present the opportunity for the public
to visualize the candidates, to form opinions, and develop
gut reactions. If they don't like what they see, they'll look
elsewhere for someone to support.
As the Democratic hopefuls combat to secure the Party's nomination,
there are many important things for them to remember; however,
the primary concern should be to take back the Presidency
and control of the Congress, but not at all costs. It's not
"winning isn't everything, it's the only thing" mentality
of Vince Lombardi and the Republican Party. It's the high
road and if we lose, then we regroup and try again. However,
let's not provide the opposition with ammunition to use against
the attempt to return our lost freedoms.
There are two games in this playoff: one to secure the nomination
and the other to win the general election. For now, at this
stage of preparation, let's concentrate on the former.
We no longer have the smoke-filled backrooms that provided
the means for selecting the one candidate who would be the
Party's standard-bearer, we now have numerous candidates from
which to pick. We do this through our primary system, but
history shows us that primaries have a way of bringing out
the worst in candidates as they struggle to grasp the gold
ring. Unfortunately, it often becomes a no-holds-barred contest,
containing the seeds of self-destruction to be used by the
Republicans in the general election. Our candidates must resist
this urge by remembering that the objective is to give to
the American people the very best candidate, not to gain the
nomination at the expense of your opponent.
To present the best image possible, each primary candidate
must be committed to the common goal: unseat the pretender
and dismantle the current constitutional dictatorship that
is wreaking havoc on our liberties and threatening our very
way of life. How can this be accomplished?
Be foursquare in what you believe and articulate your policies
in a positive, not negative light. Don't hang your star on
the failures or potential failures of your opponents, but
on your positive approach to solve the problem. Leave no question
as to where you stand on any particular issue, regardless
of which way the political wind may be blowing. Disregard
the polls, pundits, and what you think the audience wants
to hear. Above all, do not waffle, be firm, and stay with
Be honest in your approach, there is no need to take reasonable
arguments and embellish or exaggerate them to a point of unbelievability.
Doing so creates an unfavorable image and drives away substantial
support. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Provide
a clear, understandable policy and back it with particulars.
If it will cost, say so and offer solid evidence of how you
intend to provide it. If it will hurt, admit it and let the
public decide if they want to engage. Never hide potentially
damaging facts, bring them out into the open to deny the Republicans
the opportunity to do so at a later, critical time.
When you believe your opponent is in error or is advocating
an approach not supported by you, disagree, but do so respectfully
and courteously. Point out the area(s) of disagreement and
provide facts to substantiate your position. Be in control,
but not overbearing. Present the image of an individual in
command of the facts, but respectful of opposing views.
Under no circumstances use negative attacks on your primary
opponents, as they will come back to haunt you in the general
election. Negative attacks, distortions of records, and misrepresentation
of positions not only anger your opponent and his advocates,
thereby losing support for you, they provide potential ammunition
to the Republicans. If you think that you must savage your
opponent in order to win, then your position is weak or wrong,
and the public will likely perceive such.
If our candidates can subscribe to, and follow, this code,
they will effectively modify their image and if they will
capitalize on the lessons of campaigns past, we will send
the immoral and hypocritical Bush regime to its Waterloo in