No one makes a better political argument than President Clinton. In this speech he gave in Minnesota last Thursday, Clinton eloquently lays out the reason it’s important to elect a veto-proof Democratic majority:
During a discussion on This Week this morning about the Hillary Clinton campaign, ABC News reporter Claire Shipman cited poll numbers showing that 66% of Americans were happy with the job President Bill Clinton did, that a majority thought Hillary would chart a different course than her husband, and that was okay, and they felt comfortable with Bill back in the White House.
"Everyone was talking about Clinton Fatigue," Shipman said.
No. You were talking about Clinton Fatigue. You, and all of your Beltway journalism colleagues.
This is one of my absolute biggest annoyances with national political reporting: The herd mentality. It was clear to me from the start that when I kept hearing these DC political pundits saying that the country has got Clinton Fatigue, what they were really saying was that they had Clinton Fatigue.
So the national press ran with it; it was an assertion that was bandied about as if it were fact but unsupported by any facts.
There are plenty of national political reporters who do a fine job but they are all creatures of their own environment and therefore susceptible to it. The fact that Clinton Fatigue was a major theme in the reporting of the presidential race for quite some time, illustrates just how insular the DC press has become.
Who, after all, do the national political correspondents talk to all day? Themselves and their inside-the-beltway sources. They live in a rhetorical echo chamber that is often far removed from the sentiment of the rest of the country.
Turns out, according to these recent poll numbers, there is no Clinton Fatigue. It never existed. Except in the collective mind of our national press corps.
I was delighted to read the New York Times article about psychology professor Drew Westen‘s new book, The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation.
In a nutshell, Westen’s argument is that Democrats lose elections because they make the fatal mistake of trying to appeal to the electorate’s reason, rather than their emotions. Democrats present their case with facts and logic while Republicans say that something just feels wrong or right.
The contrast between the two approaches is evident in their candidates. For the past two presidential elections, the Democrats ran two wooden candidates with little emotional appeal in Al Gore and John Kerry who both nevertheless nearly won (and a lot of people believe they did win).
Both Gore and Kerry should have crushed George W. Bush, but they failed because they failed to push the electorate’s emotional buttons. The Bush camp, on the other hand, presented their candidate as an ordinary guy with whom you’d like to share a beer. The Bush camp succeeded in putting a dress on Kerry and portraying him as an effeminate wimp, eliciting an negative emotional reaction from a public scarred by 9/11. And the Bush camp pushed the emotional fear button every chance they got by raising the terrorist threat level every chance they got.
It is telling that the last Democratic president fully understood this. President Bill Clinton famously said, "I feel your pain." President Clinton, then and now, frames issues in emotional and moral terms; Republican proposals and ideas "are just plain wrong."
At the end of the day, Republicans simply understand marketing far better than do Democrats. Any student who’s taken Marketing 101 should be able to explain to you that at the end of the day, people make purchase decisions based more on emotion than on facts or logic.
It’s a point I’ve been shouting for years to any Democrat who would listen. The Democratic Party needs to seriously recruit marketers into their campaign infrastructure.