One of the big problems with the Democratic Party is that they want to win arguments and not elections. But in the American electoral system, you must first win elections.
I look at the Presidental candidates the Democrats have run and who have lost, and they have something in common – they are policy wonks. They’re the people you bring out when you want to win an argument. They line up facts and figures, they respond to their opponent’s substance and appeal to reason. In my lifetime, they’ve included charisma-free candidates such as Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, John Kerry, and Hillary Clinton.
Presidential winners, regardless of party, are charismatic people who project strength. They include Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and, of course, Donald Trump.
But, this being the Democratic Party, who is made up of people who listen to policy wonks, who read and listen to the news, some of whom even read books; people who think that our intellect is what should drive our politics – insist on electing people who are good at winning arguments but won’t win elections.
Republicans don’t care about arguments. Any fool can see the evidence for climate change is overwhelming, not to mention that climate disasters are befalling the US and the world in nearly the exact way scientists have predicted for forty years. Yet, Republicans deny obvious evidence. Republicans never elect people based on intelligent policy. They elect people who win by emotion.
And were this simply a battle between Republicans and Democrats – as is often the case in state-wide and local elections, where participation plummets to leave only party loyalists – electing policy wonks can get you far in Democratic states. But for President, in particular, but also in battleground states, that can fail because the “undecideds” become the group that decides who wins. I’m not talking about real independents, or those of us crazy enough to identify with parties other than the Democrats or Republicans, but the roughly 1/3rd of people who vote in the Presidential election that don’t know what they’re voting for or about. They are the ones that don’t vote in off-year elections, who don’t know or care who’s on the city council or school board. They’re “undecided.” But every four years, they drag themselves to the voting booth to cast a few votes seemingly at random.
The very fact they’re undecided means that they don’t give a shit about policy. If they did, they’d’ve made a decision. But they don’t. They don’t care about politics but once every four years, and don’t make any effort to understand it. Policy wonkery doesn’t work on them. They don’t understand the arguments well enough to decide who “really won” on those terms. They mostly don’t care about the issues at all, not enough to educate themselves, but they never, ever admit this. They read a few articles and listen to a few news stories and think they’re informed voters.
Since they cannot vote on the issues, they vote on other things. They vote on how authoritative a candidate appears. On how they look. Does the candidate make them laugh? Let’s be honest, to a certain kind of person, Donald Trump is funny. This is true of Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, too.
Which means if you’re the Democratic Party, and you’re trying to win the White House or state elections in battleground states or areas, what’s the kind of person do you find to run for office?
Dwayne fuckin’ Johnson, that’s who.
(This isn’t totally out of left field. He made a little noise about running for President. He was probably talkin’ shit and never had an intent to run, but it’s not altogether random.)
He’s good-looking, very famous, and he reeks of machismo. Additionally, he’s good at following directions! So, in debates, he’d look great and sound great, too, mostly following his lines but extemping enough to make him appear fully present and human.
Plus, he’d make Trump look like a wimp. Trump would crumble under a single utterance of “jabroni” with a jauntily raised eyebrow.
And all the wannabe macho men who look up to Trump as an idealization of masculinity? You know, those chest-thumping morons that go to his rallies? In an instant, every one of them would be conflicted. No matter how much Trump talks, Johnson would out-macho him.
Then, as a party, the Democrats would plan who to suggest to the Rock when he takes office. He’s not a policy guy, after all. He’s going to need a lot of help. Make sure he gets the help he needs! It’s what the Republicans do with their candidates.
The Democrats should do this anywhere they need to. Leave places like California and Massachusetts to have state and national politicians who are policy wonks. If I was looking for the next Democratic governor of, say, Ohio? I’d be talking to LeBron James about what he’s gonna do when he’s done with the NBA. I’m pretty sure the greatest basketball player of his generation could win the governor’s mansion here in Ohio!
Overall, this should be easy for Democrats. Famous people who are Democrats are usually far more famous and far more numerous than Republicans. And you don’t need megastars – though I think they should be encouraged to become politicians, quite frankly, since celebrity helps win elections – but well-meaning Democrats who can get people to the polls in races where Democratic victory is not assured.
Which is why – and I have friends who are gonna hate me for saying this – if you were looking to get a Democratic woman nominated and elected, that candidate should have been Tulsi Gabbard. She’s almost policy-free beyond having been a Marine, but she’s very pretty. Her very lack of policy credentials is good for being President – she hasn’t pissed anyone off. But Americans love Marines, and lots of people vote on candidates who they “like” with their hearts and not their heads, and she looks good in a bathing suit.
Beyond that, it’s probably best that Democrats seem to be lining up behind Biden. The press has been someone stunned that his many verbal blunders haven’t dragged him down. Yeah. Because what a candidate says is not what wins Presidental elections. Biden is a big, good-looking guy. He projects strength and confidence. He doesn’t bother trying to convince people that he’s got some miracle policy that will save everything. (Sanders isn’t bad, either. He is a policy wonk, but he also projects righteous indignation, which in a man comes off as strength. But he’s not good looking, and that would cost him dearly in a general election.)
I know this sounds shallow. Nominate Gabbard because she’s attractive? Don’t nominate Sanders because he’s not? I assure you, I don’t say this out of personal preference. I vote almost exclusively based on climate stands these days. Climate change is threatening the whole planet! I don’t know why there’s any other issue! But I live in the world, and as a matter of strategy, you want people like Gabbard or Biden elected so you can get people like Sanders or Warren as White House chief of staff or Secretary of State. (Not VP. Jesus. They should stay in the Senate rather than take that step down.)
Or, y’know, Dwayne Johnson. Elect the Rock, guys. You can do it!
PS – I will also move the country to the left overall. People don’t say to themselves, “Gosh, I voted for Trump because he was taller than Clinton, and I liked The Apprentice.” They defend their decision after the fact by convincing themselves that they stand for what the good-looking, famous person stands for. The people who elected the Rock would, therefore, defend their decision by saying they agreed with his policy. Thus they disagreed with the other guy’s policy. Those people “in the middle,” the undecideds, would then become de facto liberals, more open to green and progressive policies, as they rationalize their emotional decisions ex post facto. And, since, overall, most people would benefit from progressive stands, it would be easier to maintain their farcical rationalizations than Republican policy, which involves enormous amounts of cognitive dissonance.
But, first, you’ve got to win.