Polls tell us that bases in both parties believe that the last two presidential elections were won by opposing party candidates who did not win equally. But questioning the 2020 elections is a waste of time. So did the 2016 election for most of the Trump presidency. Besides grassroots voters, people want to focus on the future, and it is they, especially independents, who will decide this year’s elections and the upcoming presidential elections.
Grievance does not replace ideas and solutions. Grievances, rooted in tests of revenge and loyalty, will also not produce candidates who can connect with voters and build winning majority coalitions. Qualifications, vision and the possibility of winning in the future should matter more than the elections now in the rearview mirror.
On April 19, 1966, Reagan was a candidate for Governor of California and gave a speech to a crowd at the University of Southern California called “The Creative Society”. He told the audience, “I realize that modern political dialogue is largely concerned with creating a false image, rather than a legitimate debate about different points of view; and no candidate can hope to engage in political competition without suffering deliberate distortions of their positions and beliefs. But I sometimes wonder if we haven’t reached one of those times when the stakes are far too high for this type of middle-aged juvenile delinquency.
Last month, a Democratic communications consultant explained how to improve political communications in a radio interview. She argued for a three-step process. Start with values, she argued; then create villains; and, finally, focus on the vision.
Therein lies the problem with political consultants on both sides today. Values and vision are good. But the consultants’ reliance on the bad guys to get a winning message across is why we’ve come to this—a Washington divided into partisan, intraparty camps making those who disagree with its views bad guys. It is the natural extension of the uncivil campaign discourse.