Despite the increase in sophistication and insight most of us have gained into politics since the 2000 election and especially with the rise of the tea parties, we're going make one of two mistakes in 2012:
- Let the MSM pick our presidential candidate
- Prematurely jump for a shiny candidate who is most unlike Obama, as to avoid #1
Candidates present as little information as needed to get you to like them, and then expect you to think they agree with you on everything else. And while they may deliver outright falsehoods, over the course of a lifetime in the public eye, the truth about them cannot be hidden.
In this post I'll try to lay out some principles, based on the process of vetting candidates , by which we can choose a presidential candidate on purpose, with our eyes open, as befits free citizens in a democratic republic.
- Candidates Do Not Lie
- Candidates usually campaign as they will govern
- It is unlikely that any candidate will be perfect for you
- The tendency in 2012 will be to select the anti-Obama
- The Republican nominee "can win" in 2012
Candidates Do Not Lie
They forget, obfuscate, hedge, hide, engage in wishful thinking, and try to put the best face on things. OK, so they sometimes lie. In particular, their description of themselves cannot be trusted. What can be trusted is that they always say things they think will make you like them. You can therefore interpret what they say as their ideal, in that sense, and accept or reject it.
They usually campaign as they will govern
Every once in a while a candidate will be caught trying to please a particular audience and reveal something that the wider electorate does not like. Barack Obama's "bitter clinger" remarks are an example.
Over the long haul of a national campaign, however, no one can keep up a false persona. The reality eventually comes through. We knew Bill Clinton was a philanderer and liar. We knew George W. Bush was a big government Republican. We knew Barack Obama was a socialist demagogue.
So in the long run, the candidate doesn't lie, no matter how hard he tries.
Candidates do not change course in mid-career. The founders were wise to make sure the president was over 35, because by that age we usually show what kind of men and women we are going to be. Do not expect a candidate who has a shown a pattern of behavior over his lifetime to alter it once in office.
Projection — He is one of us!
Candidates will reveal their views on issues they know are hot buttons for you as long as they think you will agree, letting you assume that they agree on other issues, as well. They think you will project your opinion onto them, in other words.
Perhaps they will self-describe as a "conservative", invoke Reagan, or use religious code phrases like "my faith". Their message is “I am one of you”. They may or may not be one of you, and they will absolutely not believe everything you do.
Some of this is not intentional deception on the part of the candidate, but the same process working in reverse. The candidate wants to believe that most people believe as he does. He may actually believe he is a conservative Reaganite, while you are some kind of right wing nut job going on about the Constitution.
It is unlikely that any candidate will be perfect for you.
That simple observation stands on its own, but it implies that some amount of compromise of our own ideals will be necessary. We would be wise to know ahead of time which things are most important to us, so we can find a candidate to fit our ideals rather than falling in love with some candidate and giving him or her a pass on the tests we used to reject others.
The Three Variables
Public policy questions seldom have black and white answers. Even when they do, no two candidates will agree on what they believe, how strongly they believe in a given position, nor necessarily how important the issue is relative to the other issues.
For instance, a candidate who favors drug legalization (of some kind) might only barely be convinced of that position, or they might be quite sure that the War on Drugs is a mistaken policy. Independent of his opinion on the issue and how strongly he holds it, he may also see it as either an unimportant back-burner item, or as a vital social issue with significant impact on race relations, border security, and foreign policy.
When a candidate says he is pro-life, ask yourself: what does that mean? Everyone is pro-life on some level. Does he believe that life begins at conception, and that any effort to end that life is murder? Well, what about birth control or capital punishment? Depending on the source of the candidate's pro-life position, what he believes will differ.
Where the issue ranks in the candidate's priorities will usually be clear. John McCain famously said during the 2008 presidential campaign that he would rather lose an election than lose a war. Willingness to risk loss is the best way to determine how important a position is to a candidate.
The tendency in 2012 will be to select the anti-Obama
We generally elect either the incumbent or someone who differs significantly from the incumbent. I suspect that in 2012 we will charged up to elect someone so unlike Obama that we anoint the first candidate who figures that out and distances himself from Obama the best. Candidates who give Obama credit for some policy or another will regret it.
Beside passing the above tests, a “good candidate” has appeal in person, in public speaking, and in mass media. Ideally, a candidate takes command of a room upon entering it and is, if not a model of grace and kindness, then at least not a rude snob.
Any candidate the GOP selects can win in November, 2012
Barack Obama is going to continue to try to destroy the country in the name of transformation, and the public will continue to dislike it, even if they're loathe to admit disliking him.
We will have another year for the Precinct Project to grow and blossom. That means another year for tea party activists to become part of the Republican Party as precinct committeemen, precinct captains and ward bosses, even moving into state committees. I expect our Get Out The Vote (GOTV) apparatus to be unstoppable.
Ah, but there are some candidates with high negatives, you say? It's true that once voters begin to view a candidate negatively, it is rare for that opinion to change. It is also true that we have primaries and a convention to stop us from nominating someone who is truly disliked. By the time of the convention, we will know a lot more about the climate for the general campaign.
Hold Your Fire, and Remember the 11th Commandment
If you're tempted to endorse a candidate before all have declared, or to attack one, please stop. Unless you are going to work for one of them, settling on a candidate early and especially becoming emotionally invested will cause those around you, both offline and online, great trouble. And remember, we all have to work together to defeat the left.
Attack the incumbent.
And finally ...
I have not picked a candidate, though of course there are some I like more than others. I'm not going to settle on one at least until the field is set, but probably will do so not long after that. This is serious business, and we cannot afford to get it wrong. We must come together, not as the media want, but as conservatives and Republicans.
And we will come together. No third party candidate will sway us. We will unite behind our nominee, and we will win.