There are still plenty of pundits posting articles on why or how Obama won the election. Several writers are making a big deal about the amount of money raised by Obama (implying that illicit means were used), and that the electorate was uniformed or just plain stupid.
One website features video exit interviews outside a polling place. The point is made that voters knew far more about gossipy matters such as Sarah Palin’s wardrobe, than anything substantive on the issues. In addition, they seemed to know almost nothing about the candidates. Since nearly all of those interviewed said that they voted for Obama, the implication is that Obama was able to rally all the fools into his camp, and this was more than enough to tip the balance in his favor.
The problem with this argument is that the electorate has always been less than well-informed on the issues. Moreover, with the advent of television, physical appearance of the candidate has become much more important. For example, in the debate between JFK and Nixon, most of those who listened on the radio though that Nixon won, while the majority of those who watched it on TV felt that Kennedy had won. Nixon’s famous five o’clock shadow did him in. By the standards of the time, whereby TV had not yet been properly factored in, Nixon had been favored to win the election.
Another problem with the “fools” argument is that no decision that anyone makes in their entire lifetime is completely rational. Far from it: Most decisions are based largely on emotion.
In a classic example, when Toyota was setting its sights on the luxury car market in America, they contacted a number of loyal Mercedes owners, giving them the chance to try out their new model (which would become the Lexus) at no cost except for the gasoline, for 30 days. At the end of the evaluation, the subjects were interviewed. They were asked to rate the new Toyota versus their Mercedes in several aspects of performance, comfort, and reliability.
The Toyota overwhelmingly beat out the Mercedes. Yet, when the subjects were asked if they would purchase one of the new Toyotas, virtually none of them answered “yes.” A typical remark was on the order of, “Yes, the Toyota is better in every way, but I just can’t bring myself to change from my Mercedes.”
In the 1964 election, Barry Goldwater promoted himself as a “choice, not an echo,” and that he surely was. While LBJ was going to expand his Great Society, and claimed to favor only a “limited” war in Vietnam, Goldwater wanted to cut back the ever-growing social programs, and advocated a more aggressive strategy in Vietnam. Now, 44 years later, and with 20/20 hindsight, few—except the most ardent liberal—will even attempt to dispute that Goldwater was onto something.
However, at the time, it was easy for the Dems to portray Goldwater as a dangerous ideologue and racist, and emotions drove LBJ to a landslide victory.
Of course, there was another element working against Goldwater: He was a terrible candidate, prone to making off-the-cuff remarks that would only work against him. At one rally, in which nearly everyone present was a supporter, the crowd began to chant, “We want Barry, we want Barry.” This went on for a few minutes, as an impatient Goldwater approached the podium, and said, “Well, if you’ll just shut up, you can have him!”
Although McCain did not get crushed anywhere near as badly as did Goldwater, he was also a terrible candidate, who could simply not inspire a crowd. And, with the exception of his pro-life position—which many say was forced on him years ago by the party— he articulated no differences between himself and Obama.
Thus, it all comes down to one simple thing: Field a good candidate! Does anyone think that Jimmy Carter or Walter Mondale could have defeated Ronald Reagan if they had seriously outspent him? Could the self-righteous Leftie blowhard (and Alger Hiss supporter) Adlai Stevenson have avoided his crushing defeats by Eisenhower with more money?
Hardly. Get a good candidate who stands for something, and he will always win.