Rants & Raves
It's Not the Economy, Stupid
Many so-called political experts identify a number of factors that determine who will be elected President. Probably the most widelyĖcited factor is the economy. Someone, I think perhaps James Carville, once said ďItís the economy, stupid.Ē
No, itís not the economy. And if you believe that, youíre stupid.
President Obama proved that itís not the economy. When he took office in January, 2008, the unemployment rate was 5%. When he was re-elected in November, 2012, the unemployment rate was 7.9%. There are about 4.6 million more Americans without jobs than when he was first elected. Yes, there were signs that the economy was improving. There was GDP growth. Itís difficult to believe, however, that Americans re-elected President Obama because of a modest improvement in GDP. Most Americans donít even know what GDP is. The rest of the economic data are truly miserable. In 2008, the budget deficit was about 18% of receipts. At the end of 2012, the deficit is over 53% of receipts. In 2008, the national debt was about $10 trillion. In 2012, it is about $16.4 trillion. Putting that in perspective, with a U.S. population of about 312 million, each man, woman, and child had a debt obligation of about $32,000 in 2008 and $51,000 in 2012. But then, why does that matter to a political party? Most Americans are completely unaware of their share of the national debt.
During the four years of the Obama Presidency, the economy went from bad to worse. But he was re-elected. Why? The reason is simple.
Personality. Itís all about being a nice guy. Well, being the nicer guy.
Every Presidential election as far back as I can remember has been determined largely by the personalities of the candidates. In fact, there was a time when women shoved their newborn babies at personable politicians to be kissed. If you didnít like the candidate, you wouldnít want him kissing your little bundle of joy. Baby kissing isnít quite what it used to be, but itís just a metaphor for personality.
Letís review all the elections back to 1960 (because Iím not old enough to go any further). Letís see who had the better personality. And before reading this, drop your partisanship. The Republicans have put forth some pretty boring candidates, and the Democrats once nominated a candidate so dull he was compared to wood. And while in some elections, neither candidate had much personality, there is not one case of the candidate with the weaker personality beating an opponent with a stronger personality. Letís see who has the personality advantage and who won.
2012: Obama-Romney. Advantage: Obama. Winner: Obama
2008: Obama-McCain. Advantage: Obama. Winner: Obama
2004: Bush-Kerry. Advantage: Bush. Winner: Bush
2000: Bush-Gore. Advantage: Bush (by far). Winner: Bush
1996: Clinton-Dole. Advantage: Clinton (by far). Winner: Clinton
1992: Clinton-Bush-Perot. Advantage: Clinton. Winner: Clinton
1988: Bush-Dukakis. Advantage: Neither. Winner: Bush
1984: Reagan-Mondale. Advantage: Reagan. Winner: Reagan
1980: Reagan-Carter. Advantage: Reagan. Winner: Reagan
1976: Carter-Ford. Advantage: Carter (by far). Winner: Carter
1972: Nixon-McGovern. Advantage: Neither. Winner: Nixon
1968: Nixon-Humphrey. Advantage: Neither. Winner: Nixon
1964: Johnson-Goldwater. Advantage: Johnson. Winner: Johnson
1960: Kennedy-Nixon. Advantage: Kennedy. Winner: Kennedy
Thatís 14 elections and while a few of them were completely lacking a candidate with a sliver of personality, no election was determined by a candidate with the weaker personality. The Reagan-Carter election pitted two individuals who had great personalities. Clearly the economy had some impact, but I would still give the personality edge to Reagan, who came across as Americaís granddad, while the Carter was fighting with his own party. Sadly, we never really got to witness Ronald Reagan in his later years, while Jimmy Carter has seemingly turned into a grumpy old man.
What makes a Presidential winner is someone youíd not mind baby-sitting your kids or someone you would like to have as a neighbor. Youíd trust him to keep an eye on your house while youíre gone, and you know heíll lend you a wrench and not pester you if you forget to return it. In fact, the best neighbor/President will just let you have that wrench because he values your being a good friend and neighbor more than he does the wrench.
Republicans, you donít get it. If you think candidates like Mitt Romney, John McCain, and Bob Dole, all great and honorable men, can beat candidates like Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, youíre crazy. If you keep nominating people like that, youíll keep losing. And Democrats, a few more of the likes of John Kerry, Al Gore, and Michael Dukakis will have you complaining once again about a divided America.
Karl Rove, James Carville, Newt Gingrich, Valerie Jarrett, and all the partisan advisors and pundits like Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity, Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews donít get it either. These people couldnít be more delusional about what wins elections. They think itís about the economy. Or leadership, energy, national security, foreign relations, abortion rights, immigration, rich versus poor, race, Ö Sure, those things count a little. But when it comes down to it, itís about personality. The party that wants to win will do well to pick up on this point. So far, I havenít heard a single expert recognize this fact.
Itís not about the economy. Period. End of story. Case closed. Even in the worst economic times, 92% of Americans are employed. Of the 8% unemployed, a substantial number of them do not vote. Of the working Americans, a small percentage are worried about the possible loss of their jobs, but until they lose their jobs, they are not going to make a complex thing like economic policy interfere with their decision of who to elect. The voting population is made up some people who will always vote Republican and some who will always vote Democratic. Nothing will change that. The remainder of the population, the so-called independents and undecideds, are independent and undecided because they mostly have no party affiliation and could buy in to either set of policies. But economics is complex, too complex to worry with. Why not just trust the person youíd trust to keep an eye on your house while youíre gone? The nice guy. Or nicer guy. Or gal.
The Republicans donít get this. Neither do the Democrats. The first one that gets it will win election after election after election. Mark my words.
Return to Rants & Raves pageLast updated: February 16, 2013