Jan. 31, 2013

Who Will Be Our Next President?



The American political landscape is a fast-changing entity that should never be taken for granted. This is not like a teenage girl who knows exactly what the man she will eventually marry is all about, so many years before the fact.

 

Coming out of “Political Mediocrity” helps candidates more than years of public awareness. America loves underachievers. The public loves to learn about the presidential candidates as the process develops. This could explain why John Kerry and John McCain lost their bids for the Oval Office. Of course there are many other factors that are inconceivable in the years leading up to a given election. McCain probably thought it was his turn and he was going to trounce a “nobody,” who also happened to be African American. McCain had been in the U.S. Senate for decades and was a war hero. How could he lose so badly to a man who was barely in the Senate?

Politics in this decade is younger and faster. Decisions are scrutinized by cable news and social media in a quicker manner. The 24-Hour-News-Cycle dominates our political landscape. Having a powerful organization is essential for winning a National Presidential Election. Obama has re-written that book in both 2008 and 2012 by using the U.S. Census numbers to dictate almost down to the county a way to gather the most electoral votes.

I would NOT be too comfortable if I were Hillary Clinton right now. If Mrs. Clinton thinks she is a lock to become No. 45, she should look at history closely.

Just WHO do we elect President and why? Take a look at the past 13 U.S. Presidents for the answers.

Let’s start with FDR (age 50). Who was he when he ran in 1932 and why did the public elect him? The Stock Market Crash and Herbert Hoover’s low numbers certainly helped. FDR served in a number of posts (NY Senate, Assistant Secretary of Navy, NY Governor) and is the last defeated Vice Presidential candidate to go on and become U.S. President. He had credentials, but I will venture to guess that the democratic bosses hand-picked FDR because his cousin Teddy had been president and we were mired in the Great Depression when he ran in 1932. FDR was able to be re-elected 3 times, due to the Great Depression and WW2. He did have a few moments of political bumbling, especially when he tried to pack the Supreme Court after they wouldn’t pass his legislation. FDR was inspirational to the country and savvy enough to survive a lot throughout a very trying time.

Harry Truman (age 61) was hand-picked from the U.S. Senate, after a non-descript career in business and legislature to serve as FDR’s Vice President. The democratic political bosses in 1944 were worried that FDR would not survive his 4th term as President and needed someone they could control. Harry Who? That was probably what most Americans thought when they heard he was NOW their VP. FDR died early in 1945 and Truman immediately made his mark by dropping the first and only atomic bombs on Japan. By 1948 he was losing traction and was an underdog against Thomas Dewey (The Mitt Romney of his time) Truman had the base support and had the best ground game of his day by going around the heartland by train to campaign. He never gave up, much like Obama in 2012. ).  He also fired a very popularWW2 hero during his 2nd term, which foreshadowed who the next U.S. President would be. Goodbye General Douglas Macarthur, hello Ike.

 

Dwight D. (Ike) Eisenhower  (age 62) was a national hero, who greatly benefitted because Truman had such low approval ratings at the end of his term. The country was ready for someone who was not from Washington to take command. In a way, he came from nowhere and played a lot of golf. The 50’s were not a volatile time in history. He was very moderate. In fact, he would be far to the left of Obama politically if he were around today. The fact that Ike was able to thrive by his perceived threat of military superiority was beneficial to the American public. The Cold War was always at the forefront and McCarthy exploited entertainment and Washington figures with the blacklist at that particular time. Ike kept silent and that is shameful.

John F. Kennedy (age 43)  was a Congressman and Senator before coming to the White House. He was NOT a big-time player in either of those bodies in government. Much like Obama, he came from nowhere in the public eye and took the country by storm quickly with his charisma and charm. America loved the idea of the Kennedy’s. Nixon had been VP for the past 8 years. He came off as establishment and was defeated narrowly.

Lyndon Johnson (age 55) benefitted by JFK’s death in that he finally got the job he wanted. He WAS a Washington player, ruling the U.S. Senate for years. He was re-elected overwhelmingly to finish the job JFK started and he did. Unfortunately he was too ambitious when it came to Vietnam vowing to “Kick Ho Chi Min’s ass.”  LBJ was very accomplished with the Civil Rights Act, Great Society legislation and the Space Program. Despite all those accomplishments, he had a weak heart and Vietnam did him in and he chose NOT to run in 1968.

Richard M. Nixon (age 55) is one of the most complex and misunderstood of all our past Presidents. He fooled everyone in 1968. He vowed to end the Vietnam War and “Bring us together.” That was the theme of his campaign. He portrayed the GOP as the Party of Hope and strength at the time. He actually escalated the war much more than LBJ did. He also started invading citizen’s privacy just like “W” did many years later. He did open up China. He also tried for Universal Health Care. He was much like Ike in a lot of his leanings as President, just not as well-loved. Watergate sunk him and his successor Gerald Ford, who pardoned Nixon in 1974 and paid the price by losing to a newcomer, Jimmy Carter in 1976.

James Earl (Jimmy)  Carter (age 52) was a peanut farmer from Plains, Georgia. He served as Governor of that state, but was an unknown. He was young and charismatic. Sound familiar? He had a wife and a young daughter. Sound familiar? He spoke well and was savvy enough to defeat Ted Kennedy in the 1980 Democratic Primaries. Carter was ineffective as a president and dispatched by Actor-Governor Ronald Reagan in 1980.

Ronald Reagan (age 69) wanted to be president for many years. He spoke well and really was able to maneuver his way into the post in 1980. Carter failed miserably in Iran. The hostage crisis crippled Carter and once Reagan was able to secure his nomination, his machine rolled over the Dems. Reagan was popular with the people. People liked him and his family. It is no surprise that America would elect a bad actor to be its figure head-in-chief. The GOP looks fondly on his stances on war, but the fact that Grenada is his only war is a long-forgotten fact. There are few if any lasting remnants of his administration, except Iran-Contra.

George H.W. Bush (age 64) was a GOP player for many years. He was CIA Director under Nixon and definitely a Republican Party stalwart throughout the years. Reagan was popular throughout most of his Presidency and Bush was a loyal team player, who was rewarded with a GOP nomination. The Dems ran Michael Dukakis, who proceeded to completely botch the general election. Bush was in office when the Wall came down and the Cold War ended. He vowed NOT to raise taxes. He raised taxes and lost re-election to a new-comer to the national stage…Bill Clinton.

William Jefferson (Bill) Clinton (age 46) was a former governor from Arkansas. He spoke well and believable and was able to charm his way through some murky political waters in 1992. Alleged romantic liaisons, past pot smoking, draft dodging, etc…This guy had it all, but the people loved him and he defeated Bush and took office with Hillary and their daughter Chelsea. Clinton actually was a financial reformer and was able to cut the deficit and leave a surplus with a lot of peace time military cuts. He was impeached for lying about the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal and was censured by the U.S. Senate after going through a trial in that body. His wife Hillary went on to serve in the U.S. Senate and as Obama’s Secretary of State in his first term.

George “W” Bush (age 54) was a son of a president and former Texas governor. He was a relatively unknown entity to the American public (along with wife Laura and their twin daughters) when he ran in 2000 against VP Albert Gore. It is disputed and debatable who actually won that election. He was easy going and people felt comfortable with his personal style. He ended up being one of the most despised presidents, along with his VP Richard Cheney. They put America into 2 wars and were on watch when the U.S. was attacked by the Taliban and Al Queda on September 11, 2001. Bush and Cheney left the White House with some of the lowest approval ratings in U.S. history.

Barack Hussein Obama (age 49) was yet another undistinguished legislator who came on quickly and took the country by storm. He is our first African American President. He is also one of the only presidents to win over 300 Electoral votes twice. Obama is known as an inspirational speaker and has good skills when it comes to dealing with the people of America. The jury is still out on his accomplishments, but Affordable Health Care, Women’s Fair Pay Act and the end of “Don’t Ask. Don’t Tell” are a few from his first term and getting Bin Laden. He and his wife Michelle have two young daughters.

Okay. What does this all mean? How does it let us know who will or won’t win in the future? The answers are not easy to detect, but there are a few clues.

AGE: Of these 13 men, four of them were in their 60’s when they became president. Three of them were in their 40’s. Six were in their 50’s. What does that say for Hillary Clinton (who will be 69) and Joe Biden (who will be 74) in 2016 if they run? I think age could be a factor for both of these public servants.
 

The answer…Obama had a vision of the future: “Yes We Can.” McCain: “bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.” This is a simplification, but valuable in the perception these men offered. McCain also had the reputation of a “Maverick.” Obama was a “Community Organizer.” The country resonated with Obama’s future more than McCain. Romney suffered the same fate in 2012. He had a stale vision of the future. People found him to be a stuck up rich guy. Not good in 2012 politics, with so many people looking for jobs. The younger Obama is clearly a man of his time. Romney, somewhere stuck in 1956.

 

Let’s take a quick look at other past races.

 

  • FDR defeated Hoover when the country was on the brink. He was younger and much more progressive. He was a man who got things done and the public resonated with that message in 1932.
  • Truman defeated Dewey. The polls (which were antiquated) were wrong and Truman took his message to the people. He had the better ground game in 1948.
  • Ike defeated Washington elitist Adlai Stevenson twice. Stevenson was a better diplomat and Ike was popular.
  • JFK barely beat Nixon. He was better looking and looked like the future in the way he presented himself.
  • LBJ trounced “War Monger” Barry Goldwater, after the country went through the JFK Assassination.
  • Nixon fooled the country into believing he could “unite“ the people and end the Vietnam war when he beat Humphrey. He also portrayed McGovern as weak and trounced him in 1972. We all know how that ended.
  • The younger and outsider Jimmy Carter defeated interim Gerald Ford in 1976.
  • Reagan had the machinery in place to crush Carter in 1980. Iran Hostages, gas lines and recession marred Carter’s legacy. Reagan cruised against Mondale in 1984 as the economy improved.
  • Bush Sr. easily handled the inept Dukakis campaign in 1988.
  • The younger and political savvy Bill Clinton laid waste to Bush Sr. on taxes and other issues in 1992.
  • Bush Jr. & Gore…We still don’t know who really won that race, but our Supreme Court made the final decision.
  • “W” narrowly beat Washington Insider John Kerry by “Swift Boating” him. Kerry was a war hero and Bush and Karl Rove turned the tables by using that AGAINST  him during the General Election.

So where does that really leave us? What does it all look like in four years?

I believe it takes a younger, more energetic and smart candidate to get the machinery in gear to win an election.

 

I would look for younger, more energetic candidates in 2016. The Democrats have Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) gaining enough legislative experience in her first full term. She is younger, a woman and ambitious enough for us to keep an eye on. The GOP has Marco Rubio (R-FL), a Tea Party member who is going to become more moderate. Rubio is of Cuban descent and younger, energetic and ambitious, as well.