Fed Up: How To Beat an Incumbent President
by Bill Sardi
Recently by Bill Sardi: How Kids Can Be Harmed by ‘Reading’ Instruction
It is difficult to beat an incumbent President given that he stands behind a Presidential seal and speaks with the authority of Commander-in-Chief while any challenger is left to take pot shots at a standing President that are often perceived as attacks on the Presidency itself.
Americans don't like their Presidents being unfairly criticized and sometimes the White House even plays on this unfairness game by planting people in audiences to heckle the President, to make it appear he is being picked on. These are usually controlled political party meetings where the planned interruption makes for good political theatre. The President usually handles these interruptions with calm because he has foreknowledge of the whole stunt.
Don't pick on our President
Regardless how many faux pas GW Bush made in the minds of many he could do no wrong. (Remember he couldn't quite get that story right about "fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on me" and photographers captured an un-presidential moment when he tried to give German chancellor Andrea Merkel a massage?). GW Bush was klutzy for sure, but don't pick on him, he is our President!
Fear overrides campaign promises
Another given is that Americans generally don't vote FOR a Presidential candidate, they vote AGAINST the candidate they fear will do them the most harm. The current President didn't get elected so much on his campaign promises as he did by the knee-jerk public reaction to George W. Bush and his weapons of mass destruction and end-of-term financial crisis.
And maybe the current President has his own blunders like the Solyndra and the Obama-car embarrassments where the Federal government offered guaranteed loans to companies that failed or are failing (GM has only sold six-thousand Chevy Volt Obama cars). But regardless, the President is trying to do something for them, disenfranchised voters often perceive.
If Obamacare prevails in the Supreme Court challenge, Obama gets credit, and if it fails, Obama rallies a whole segment of voters who feel at least he was trying for them, despite the fact such a plan would eventually bankrupt Medicare. The masses of uninsured don't see Obamacare for what it is, a raid on the private insurance pool of younger/healthier insured to pay for the uninsured which really ends up being a payoff to doctors, hospitals and drug companies. Said that way, I'm not sure so many would vote for it.
So how do you unseat a reigning President who by the way can pull off an October surprise, like a war with Iran, or a terrorist attack, to create public insecurity that gets incumbents re-elected?
Don't forget, this President got rescued from a horrible public approval rating by pulling a rabbit out of his hat – an undeserved Nobel Peace Prize. And when the President and the Federal Reserve Bank chairman, Ben Bernanke, briefed the nation on financial matters in a Thursday press conference in early May of 2011, the markets began to tumble and gold prices soared on speculation the Fed was planning to print more money to dig itself out of the nation's financial grave. By Monday it was anticipated the stock market would crash. How did the federal government side-step this impending crisis? The White House pulled another rabbit out of its hat with the Sunday evening announcement that 9-11 terrorist Osama din Laden had been shot and killed in Pakistan. So it's likely the administration has lots of other publicity stunts like this up its sleeves.
It's the total load of negative stories that sways voters
One way to dethrone a reigning President is to keep pouring out the negative stories that don't involve the President at all. That way they don't appear to be propaganda by the opposing party. A continued barrage of negative stories about the federal government can finally push voters to say they "have had enough" and they will opt for the other guy.
Appeal to Wal-Mart moms
Whatever influence is exerted over voters, it had better be directed to single mothers (so called Wal-Mart moms) who are demographically expected to sway the outcome of the election. The problem is this particular segment of voters is more swayed by issues that affect them personally than what is good overall for the country.
To get back to my claim that every negative news story involving government takes votes away from the incumbent, let me offer some examples and comments on how they might play out in the ramp up to the 2012 election.
The Secret Service forgot to pay
For instance, that the President's royal guard, the Secret Service didn't pay their bill for prostitutes at an overseas hotel in Colombia, and that up to 20 women were involved, is quite an embarrassment. It's not the moral outrage – it is the short-changing of the girls who have to work the streets for a living that will probably rile the public. This is the way the public thinks about these things. If the President said he was going to make sure these working girls got their money he would have probably won more votes. The President has mistakenly backed the Secret Service chief however.
Money saving Federal agency blows a big wad in Vegas
Or how about the lavish $823,000 party the General Services Administration held in Las Vegas, an event conducted by an agency that is supposed to save the government money! The GSA boss in charge of planning that event got a $9000 bonus afterwards. This kind of news story ends up as a negative in the minds of Americans who wonder who is running the show there in Washington DC. Republicans are not attempting to pin this one on the Democrats.
Government intrudes in yard sales?
Or how about this one: the federal government is thinking of snooping on and sanctioning yard sales where dangerous or recalled products are being sold. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission is butting into this part of hometown America probably at the behest of some behind-the-scenes player that makes political contributions, maybe a large retailer who knows yard sales cut into their revenues. Gees, you lose your job and you try to drum up a few dollars to pay the bills with a yard sale and the revenuers are at your door! This all adds to the total negative load that is building up in voters' minds. A Presidential contender ought to be jumping all over this one. So far it hasn't hit the political radar screen.
Of course, nothing riled the public more than the fact Congressional representatives were using their position to obtain advance information that would affect the price of stocks and then using this insider information for their own gain and saw nothing wrong with buying or selling shares in advance of a positive or negative event. You go to jail for this, unless you are a U.S. Congressman. The bill that got passed that now forbids insider trading by Congress simply skates past any past wrong-doing. No Congressman is being asked to forfeit his ill-gotten gains, nor resign. Congress got the tail pinned on its hind end on this one, not the President.
Department of Homeland Insecurity
Another inept federal agency is the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Surely Americans are getting a bit edgy about what this agency is really up to. It's as if DHS is planning on some huge uprising by the masses that it must quell, rather than protect Americans from natural disasters and such. I mean, why would DHS be purchasing hundreds of millions of bullets? DHS has a list of all 135,000 registered gun owners in the US. Why? And why does DHS now have a fleet of monstrous swat trucks? And why does the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act induce America companies to ignore existing privacy laws and share information with the federal government?
But these kinds of issues are often seen as unfounded conspiracy theories. Why the government is here to protect us, right? It's not likely to sway a large number of votes. But when one looks at all what DHS does and it can't even protect a man from killer swans, it becomes the brunt of so many jokes that this can sway votes.
Distraction as political theatre
A primary objective of any Presidential campaign is to make the contenders appear to be uncaring and insensitive to the plight of the little guy in America. And there is no better way to do it than using any negative story that involves babies, dogs or apple pie. So in the middle of an economy that is going down the toilet and an impending war that the White House appears to be planning against Iran, political hacks assail Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney over strapping his dog to the roof of his car for a fun ride. He must not care for dogs and if he terrorizes dogs, imagine what kind of President he would make. Mr. Romney's wife had to come to his rescue and state "the pooch loved it." End of story. Why does the American news media air this crap anyway? Still, it might sway those Wal-Mart moms, who are unlikely to catch on that all the class warfare is being drummed up to gain their vote.
The gasoline problem
Americans appear to be rolling with the punch of $5.00/gallon gasoline. If it should ever come to light that Congress and The White House have been gaming the American public, being paid off by special interests, to keep gasoline prices inordinately high, that might anger the public sufficient to roust the whole lot of incumbents out of office.
While there has been considerable positive publicity about America becoming energy independent through an effort to obtain oil from shale beds by fracturing the earth (what is called fracking), this effort has tapped into a great deal of natural gas (NG). The price of NG is at an all-time low.
But the Federal government has made it difficult to convert existing vehicles to natural gas, changing requirements so it costs $10,000 to convert an automobile to NG instead of $2000. And Congress failed to pass the Natural Gas Act which would have offered incentives for individuals and businesses that would convert to natural gas-driven automobiles. There are only a few hundred NG filling stations across the country.
It's not like NG is an unknown. There are an estimated 12 million vehicles NG-powered vehicles on the road today, but unfortunately only 112,000 of them are in the US!
An online estimation compares the cost of gasoline to NG and shows that $3.25/gallon gasoline is equivalent to just a 42-cent cost for natural gas. We are talking about putting ~$4500 back into the hands of most American families (what a pay increase!)
At $4.00/gallon gasoline you could drive an NG car 190 miles at the same cost that you paid for 1-gallon of gasoline which would probably push your car down the road about 20-25 miles. NG is completely clean burning and would reduce the amount of imported oil to zero! We're talking about savings in the balance of trade in the range of $600 billion a year, enough to fund Medicare!
President Obama applies rhetoric to the topic of natural gas but it is the federal government itself, going back a few Presidencies, that has put roadblocks in the way of natural gas. Instead, the White House points fingers at imagined speculators who manipulate oil prices.
And instead of promoting NG cars, the President is pushing the Obama-electric car (the Chevy Volt) because GM was a recipient of government bailout funds. So far, only about six-thousand electric cars have been sold. If only a Presidential contender would make an issue out of this. Wal-Mart moms would certainly get the message.
Regardless of who is elected…
A problem for US voters is that they are going to get suckered. Just prior to the election, overseas war zone military deaths will almost come to a halt. The economy might be flooded with money to create a temporary bubble in the economy and create new jobs (we'll worry about the inflation that causes after the election).
But right after the 2012 election and Presidential inauguration, the extended unemployment benefits will cease. There will be a horrendous increase in taxes in a misdirected attempt to balance the budget. The federal government has done a good job of making an overspending problem appear as an under-taxing problem. While these tax increases are largely directed at the wealthy, they will surely backfire, crashing the consumer economy (which represents 70% of GDP) and cause investors to freeze their money to avert higher capital gains taxes. It appears your federal government, regardless of who is elected, is going to invoke tax increases that will backfire and reduce rather than increase tax revenues! Then maybe the federal government collapses and even more draconian measures are enacted. The public can't remain passive and uninvolved for long.