Within minutes of the announcement by the media that Senator Obama (D-Ill) had been elected President, the media’s talking heads were telling us that you do not have a chance of getting the Republican nomination for President in 2012.
I hope they are correct. You can do much better for yourself — and the country — if you forego a run for that office. The satirical publication, The Onion, put it best.
WASHINGTON — African-American man Barack Obama, 47, was given the least-desirable job in the entire country Tuesday when he was elected president of the United States of America. In his new high-stress, low-reward position, Obama will be charged with such tasks as completely overhauling the nation’s broken-down economy, repairing the crumbling infrastructure, and generally having to please more than 300 million Americans and cater to their every whim on a daily basis. As part of his duties, the black man will have to spend four to eight years cleaning up the messes other people left behind. The job comes with such intense scrutiny and so certain a guarantee of failure that only one other person even bothered applying for it. Said scholar and activist Mark L. Denton, “It just goes to show you that, in this country, a black man still can’t catch a break.”
The fact that the talking heads are already doing their best to torpedo your 2012 candidacy for President reveals a curious fact: you are now the nation’s leading Republican spokesman. This may not last, but for the moment, you are. Weird, isn’t it?
The Republicans now suffer from the problem faced by the Democrats in late 1968: no visible spokesman. Lyndon Johnson did not run in 1968. Hubert Humphrey was out of the picture in 1969 because he did not defeat Nixon in 1968.
It was not 1952 any more. In 1952, Adlai Stevenson was defeated by Eisenhower, yet he was still the front-runner for 1956, just as Tom Dewey was still the front-runner after his defeat in 1944. People could get two shots at the office back then. They still could in 1968. Nixon lost to Kennedy in 1960, then to Pat Brown in California in 1962. But, after 1968, the door closed. It’s “one shot and you’re out.”
In 1961, after Nixon’s loss, the titular head of the Republican Party was Eisenhower. He had served two full terms. He was the Grand Old Man of the Grand Old Party. As an ex- President, he was expected by informal protocol not to say anything negative in public about Kennedy, but he could give unofficial advice to those who came to Gettysburg to see him.
George W. Bush is more like Lyndon Johnson than Eisenhower. He is a pariah.
Under the post-1968 rules of the Presidential game, McCain has become the equivalent of Humphrey in 1969, McGovern in 1973, and Mondale in 1985. He can return to the Senate and then retire gracefully.
With the exception of Abraham Lincoln in 1860, William Howard Taft in 1908, and Herbert Hoover in 1928, there are only four paths to the modern Presidency: Vice President, the Senate, a governorship, or a successful generalship in a popular major war. (World War II was the last one.)
There is no eligible Vice President.
With the Democrats in power in the Senate, Republican Senators will be competing against each other for the media spotlight. They may not have enough votes to stop a vote for cloture. They are now all relegated to background noise.
There are only two governors anyone knows outside their states: you and Gov. Schwarzenegger, who is not eligible to run. As for Republican Senators, they are an invisible lot. Not one of them has national recognition.
This leaves you: the last woman standing.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO NOW?
If you were looking ahead, you now have several hundred thousand names and email addresses in your own personal data base. If you don’t, your job now is to get them.
Set up a Website. Offer a public section and a closed section for members only, which requires people to register in order to get access to the “inner sanctum.” This way, you will build a huge mailing list of dedicated activists.
The conservatives are the largest voting bloc in the Republican Party. They are behind you more than any other candidate.
The Christian conservatives are even more committed, with even fewer options. You are it. There is no fall-back spokesman for them. What should you do with your bully digital pulpit? Let me suggest the following: show people how you got elected mayor of Wasilla.
Tip O’Neill once uttered a famous phrase: “All politics is local.” He was not correct, but at some point, it will be.
As the government of the United States veers toward default on its debt, probably through mass inflation, local politics will become more important. There is nothing like checks from Washington D.C. that do not buy much of anything to get people focused on local politics.
If you position yourself as the hockey mom who got elected mayor, you will inspire other people to run for local office.
Show them how to do it.
If you provide access to a large audience for technicians in the party to teach your site’s registered members the technical details, you will provide what no other national politician has ever bothered to provide. You will become the first nationally known politician to focus on local politics rather than Beltway politics.
Break the site into multiple sections, with departments on specific topics. Offer forums to registered members. Use my site as an example. It is powered by a program called Membergate.
Each department can be edited by a specialist. He can moderate a forum. You don’t have to do all of this.
There are skilled political technicians all over the country who will donate time to do this for you. Trust me. They would love to have the opportunity.
Start by promoting a classic book by California’s retired state Senator, H. L. “Bill” Richardson: What Makes You Think We Read the Bills? It was written a generation ago, but it still holds up. He might even let you offer a digital version to people who register for the members-only section of your site. This will help sell the printed version.
You should charge $50 a year for membership in the members-only section of the site. Set up a political action committee to dispense the money to local candidates. Let the media know what you are doing with the money. The information will be public. You are not profiting. Local candidates will be the beneficiaries.
By charging $50 a year, you will keep out most of the crazies. Crazies want a forum for free. Don’t provide one.
Write short columns. Post audios. Post brief YouTube videos that pull people to your site.
The idea is to keep in front of the Republican hard core. You can do more good as a trainer than as a candidate. People want leadership. They want someone to trust. Tell them up front that you are in this to train people for local politics, not to create a base for a self-interested run for the Presidency.
Long-term, you can have far greater impact on American politics by training people in local politics than by spending other people’s money on a run for the Republican nomination. The Eastern Establishment will not let you be successful. The media will torpedo you. But if you use the Internet to create a true grass-roots political movement, you will scare them to death, for good reason.
I wrote about this just after the election of 2000, in an article called “The Dogcatcher Strategy.”
The idea is to identify a local office so obscure that people say, “I wouldn’t vote for him for dogcatcher.” This is where serious candidates for political office should begin. Move from obscurity to authority, one minor office after another. Move up the chain of command.
You are the supreme recent example. You became a national figure because you were once mayor of Wasilla. Clone yourself.
You can retain long-term influence through service. This positioning will drive the media nuts. They will know you are out there, training the troops. There will be nothing they can do about it.
They are the gatekeepers. The Internet is destroying the office of gatekeeper. I have written about this here.
Take advantage of the vulnerability of your enemies. Don’t fight the battle on their turf. Make them fight it on yours.