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driven to distraction
what the democrats need to be thinking about right now
by margot carmichael lester
10.2.08
general

As I write this, most Americans (and every pundit on the TV) is focused on the vice presidential debate. I'm going to watch it, but I've got some other stuff stuck in my craw.

First, I think Karl Rove should be congratulated for doing such a fine job lowering expectations for Sarah Palin. Even Dan Quayle -- who we pretty much all thought was clueless -- was subjected to higher expectations than Gov. Palin. Not since Gen. Stockwell has anyone been expected to do so badly. And unlike Stockwell, Gov. Palin is engaging and charming as hell to most Americans. She'd have to totally melt down to blow this one.

And speaking of most Americans, I don't think the left is doing itself any favors focusing on Gov. Palin's flubbing a few questions in public. Ask anyone you see at the grocery store what Supreme Court decision they disagreed with and I'm not sure they could answer either. The Bush Doctrine? You think Joe Six-Pack's up on that? By allowing her to get "ambushed" by these questions and then "skewered" by the media and even Saturday Night Live, I think the Republicans are again engaging in some genius "strategery", as President Bush would say. Because we can all relate to being stumped -- think back to junior high -- and for those who don't already think she's stupid, it's not a huge leap to think she might deserves your sympathy.

It's also become painfully clear in the last eight years that Americans don't really care all that much if you're smart or right. Even if you discount the 2000 Presidential Election because of the shenanigans down in Florida, you need look no further than 2004 for evidence of the electorate's feelings about smarts. No one's going to accuse George W. Bush of being the smartest president we've ever had, and many think he's one of the most destructive. Yet Americans flocked to the polls to re-elect the dude in 2004, after poor debate showings, two horrific shooting wars and a string of foreign policy gaffes. You think they're going to care if the lowly vice presidential candidate is a candidate for the short bus? Hell no.

And while I'm on the subject of flocking to the polls, that announcement that McCain's pulling out of Michigan? Call me Oliver Stone, but it seems to me this is a vintage play from the Rovian game plan. We all know that the Democrats are just arrogant enough to stay home from the polls if they even sniff victory in the air. Again, see 2000 and 2004. You can register all the folks you want. You can revel in Conservative Republicans' admissions that they can't support the McCain-Palin ticket. But if those people, as well as every damn Democrat and left-leaning Independent in the land, don't get out there and pull the lever for Obama-Biden, we run a serious risk of getting another four years of Republican leadership.

I marvel that my party continues to misplay the campaigns so badly. We've become so focused on being right, on being better, on being smarter, that we alienate most of the electorate. We've become the elite we constantly say we're not. I'm not saying we need to play dumb or ignore the facts, but we could damn sure try a new game.

If I were still in the campaign consulting business, here's what I'd prescribe:

* Loosen up a little.
* Lift people up instead of talking down to them.
* Be humble instead of so dang self-righteous.
* Focus on what's important to the electorate, not the other party.
* Play to the populace that's the key to true populism.

In the end, the DNC and all our candidates need to ask themselves: do we want to be right, or do we want to be elected. At this point, I know I'd rather be latter.


ABOUT MARGOT CARMICHAEL LESTER

Margot’s a content strategist and freelance journalist. She consults with and/or writes for businesses large and small, and new and traditional media. She’s also the author of four books, including Be a Better Writer: Power Tools for Young Writers -- co-written with her husband, Steve Peha -- won the 2007 Independent Publishers Association gold medal for teen/young-adult nonfiction. She is currently working on two additional titles in the Better Writer Series, one for college students and another for corporate employees. A Southern belle and sex symbol for the intelligentsia, she was born, raised and still lives in Orange County, N.C.

more about margot carmichael lester

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COMMENTS

robert melos
10.7.08 @ 3:09a

At a recent local community pride event I was at a booth next to the republican booth, and overheard comments as to why some poeple, mostly men, were or would vote for Sarah Palin. I heard several men say how "hot" she is. After hearing this for some time I began to think of Charlie's Angels. Growing up in the late 70s I remember the posters of the three original stars. Hearing so many men proclaim they would vote for Palin because she's "hot" disappoints me, scares me, and disgusts me.

It seems this may come down to a beauty contest of sorts. Good thing Joe Biden is such a stud.

margot lester
10.7.08 @ 9:19a

wow, this *is* sad. but you know, if the electorate was willing to elect a less-than-brilliant president TWICE, can we really be surprised they might cast a ballot on the basis of hotness?



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