Politics As Voter Self-Esteem

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The most
effective way to become forgotten by the American population is
to be elected President and then lose your bid for re-election.
Party members who are fanatically loyal to a President the day
before election day in November cannot seem to remember his name
on the day after election day if he lost. Two days before, they
would not listen to a word of criticism. Such talk bordered on
treason. “You believe lies!” The day after the election, the entire
population is happy to see him go, whoever he was. The winners
laugh at him, that loser! The losers are embarrassed by him, that

Lyndon Johnson
was a one-election President. His party made him a non-person
at the 1968 Convention. He was not invited to speak. He was so
far down Orwell’s memory hole by late 1968 that he could not see
a dot of light when he looked up. Then there was Jimmy Carter,
the man who was in charge during the second oil embargo, 22% T-bill
rates, and the Iranian revolution, the man who is remembered for
a word he never uttered in public: “malaise.” Jimmy, the sad sack.
Yet the week before the 1980 election, Ronald Reagan was for Democrats
the very incarnation of evil. “We want Jimmy!” But in 1984, millions
of Democrats voted for Reagan in preference to . . . think. Remember
him? Walter Mondale, Carter’s Vice President. Fritz reminded them
of Grits. Grits was a loser.

Did you
ever hear a Democrat who said he longed for the Carter Administration?
No more than a Republican who longed for the Ford Administration.

Have you
ever heard of any Republican who speaks of America’s great days
under the first Bush Administration? Norman Schwartzkopf has a
better press than his Commander-in-Chief.

How is it
that members of an incumbent President’s party pay no attention
to his follies, which are always many, on the day before the election,
yet cannot wait for him to depart from the scene two days later,
thereby opening up the field for the next knight in shining armor?
Where is the party’s political loyalty?

This does
not apply to two-term Presidents. Eisenhower and Reagan were fondly
remembered by Republicans after they departed the White House.
Clinton gets high-paying speaking engagements and occasionally
gets interviewed on TV. Democrats compare him favorably with both
Bushes. On matters fiscal, Republicans grumble about his “phenomenal
luck” in not having a recession and in balancing the Federal budget
(if we don’t count the conversion of Social Security surpluses
into off-budget debt). But at least they acknowledge that in these
areas, Clinton was a success. They would be deliriously happy
if Bush, Jr., could bring back Clinton’s era — minus Monica
and Hillary — under the Republican flag.

There is
political loyalty, but only for two-time winners. Why is this?


and Republicans think of Presidential candidates as “their men.”
They think that these men represent them. In what way? Not their
ideas, surely, which Presidential candidates share only randomly
with hard-core party members, which is why they invariably ignore
their party’s platform once they are in office. The platform is
never mentioned again. The faithful party member nevertheless
thinks, “he’s my man.”

The suggestion
is ludicrous. He is the Council on Foreign Relations’ man. He
represents either CFR Team A or CFR Team B. This year, he is also
Skull & Bones’ man. This is a first for Bones. In the past, Bones
has been content merely to represent half of the voters, always
Republicans: William Howard Taft, George H. W. Bush, George W.
Bush. This year, Bones cannot lose. When you think about this,
it is amazing. An oath-bound Yale University secret society that
inducts only 15 people a year has picked off both candidates.
Isn’t democracy grand? It is the voice of the people.

Voters are
confused about political cause and effect. They think of a Presidential
candidate as their man. In fact, they are his people. They exist
so as to get his branch of the CFR elected. Fanatically loyal
party voters are the party’s hip pocket voters. The party can
safely pay no attention to them. The party must court voters who
are not committed to the ideals of its core supporters, who in
turn overlook the fact that their man will sell them out on every
major issue that did not have support from the CFR. Most of them
have never heard of the CFR.

Most labor
union members have gritted their teeth and campaigned for every
Democrat, despite the fact that every Democrat since Kennedy has
been a low-tariff man. The industrial trade unions have been gutted
by low-price imports since 1961, leaving them without power or
influence nationally. Kennedy pushed GATT. Clinton pushed NAFTA.
But labor union members still vote for Democrats. So, being safely
in the Democrats’ hip pocket, Democrat Presidents skewer them
mercilessly. They are expendable. The more loyal they are, the
more expendable they are.

anti-abortionists and fiscal conservatives suffer the same fate.
Nobody in the Republican Party takes them seriously. Toss one
bone to them per term — no stem cell research, or a one-shot
tax cut — and that satisfies them. Like lap dogs, they come when
they are called.


George C. Scott’s speech in front of that huge American flag at
the beginning of Patton?
Remember how he said that Americans hate losing? How losing is
hateful to them? Patton really said that. It was true then, and
it is true now.

This is
why Americans drop losing Presidential candidates down their party’s
memory hole. They do not want to be reminded that they once supported
a loser. Yet a few months before, they would not tolerate criticism
of their man. An incumbent President who had their blind support
on the day before the election becomes ex-President Whatzhizname
the day after.

A Presidential
candidate who never won the office suffers an even worse fate.
Think of them: Humphrey, McGovern, Mondale, Dukakis, and Dole.
All but Humphrey are still alive. But where?

Only one
candidate survived his defeat: Goldwater. That was because he
was never part of the CFR, was clearly an outsider, and actually
voted in the Senate the way he talked as a candidate. He really
did represent his core constituency. So, out of personal loyalty,
his constituency forgave him in his later years when he turned
against them, such as on the abortion issue. The proof of his
core support is the fact that Richard Viguerie built a political
direct mail empire with Goldwater’s list of small donors, which
the Republican Party did not want.

Adlai Stevenson
enjoyed similar support from Democrats. The reason was the same:
he was a liberal whose core constituency was liberal. He really
did represent them. But he lost. Twice. The power brokers then
got the message. There would not be another like him: a loser
who got a second chance. It was the last hurrah for the Old Democrats,
who had gone down to defeat three times with William Jennings
Bryan. There would never be another Thomas Dewey for Republicans,

From 1960
on, the carefully screened agents of the Powers That Be have not
enjoyed the loyalty of the party’s voters, Reagan excepted, who
was more or less forced on them, and who put Bush on the ticket
as the quid pro quo. Every loser became the equivalent of a pro
football team that loses the Superbowl and then moves to a new
city. The old fans forget about them all, fast. Political loyalty
exists only for two-time winners. It therefore exists only retroactively.

Voters today
see politics as a game: “them vs. us.” Clinton was a two-timer,
so he remains beloved by Democrats. Why? Because he let Democrats
feel good about themselves. He cut Federal welfare. No problem.
He pushed through NAFTA. No problem. He produced not one major
domestic political victory. No problem. His tax hike barely sprinkled
the rich, let alone soaked them. No problem. He lied repeatedly
and got caught. No problem. He had sex with that woman. No problem.
Why was there never a problem? For the same reason that a loud-mouthed
felon running back on a Superbowl-winning team has no problem
with fans. “He’s ours!”

This is
politics as the voter’s personal self-image. Politics has almost
nothing to do with ideological issues. It has everything to do
with the voters’ quest for self-esteem. “He kept them out. I therefore
feel better about myself. I’m on the winning team.” That Ronald
Reagan starred in a movie called The Winning Team was appropriate.


Have you
noticed that Presidential bumper stickers are rare? We have not
seen them for over a decade. Nobody wants to identify himself
retroactively as having been associated with a Presidential candidate,
whether he wins or loses. If he loses, the poor guy has to scrape
off the sticker. He voted for a loser. But if the candidate wins,
he will then sell out the poor slob on issue after issue. The
slob then becomes a retroactive sucker. It is safer to avoid bumper

While this
site is an ideological site, there are still esteem-seeking Republicans
who visit it. They get upset when some article points out that
President Bush, like his father, has started unconstitutional
wars and has run up huge deficits. “It doesn’t matter. He won.
He beat Gore. I’m therefore a winner.” If he loses in November,
he will be flushed down the Republicans’ memory hole within 24
hours. “Bush? Who’s he?”

Bushies will become political Alzheimer’s victims if he loses.
Bush has no loyal voters, any more than Gore did. Political loyalty
is reserved for re-elected Presidents who have proved that they
could keep the other party out, twice. If a President cannot prove
by being re-elected that he was “the real thing,” meaning that
his supporters did not vote for a loser, then he gets to play
golf with Gerald Ford.

This is
why I find amusing any outraged e-mails from Bush’s die-hard supporters.
If he loses in November, they will not recall ever having supported
him. He will become Republicans’ version of Jimmy Carter. He will
go back to Crawford, Texas, to the 2.5 square mile ranch that
he bought in 1999. (It is not true that he named it “Potemkin

Bush has
sold out the conservatives in these areas: the deficit, privacy
rights, Medicare, and international law prohibiting offensive
war. They do not care. They are not worried about being sold out
on issues. They never were. But they are deeply worried about
being laughed at by their Democrat friends, who may even remark,
“So, you voted for Bush.” This is an impolitic political remark.
No voter wants to become the butt of jokes regarding his former
man. So, voters have no former men. Loyalty to proven losers is
not retroactive.

This means
that political loyalty to ethical principles no longer exists
in America. A general who is not honored by his troops for having
gone down fighting never had an army. He had only camp followers.


The politics
of voter self-esteem is the politics of our era. Ours is an era
in which almost nobody wants to risk a bumper sticker. Political
loyalty upward from the voters no longer exists because political
loyalty downward no longer exists. CFR Team A exists. So does
CFR Team B. Everything else isn’t worth a bumper sticker.

25, 2004

North [send him mail]
is the author of Mises
on Money
. Visit http://www.freebooks.com.
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