Producers of a forthcoming National Geographic TV special polled Americans, today’s Americans, in one of those fantasy fights that are so popular with boxing fans. This time, though, the pollsters asked Americans whom they would vote for in a matchup between Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama.
The poll produced some stunning results: Reagan would win another landslide, defeating Obama 58% to 42%. Could that be accurate? Would President Obama, with all his famous political skills, really only outpoll the famously inept Walter “Fritz” Mondale by a single point? Recall, Reagan bested Mondale in 1984 by 59% to 41%.
What’s the purpose of such fanciful exercises? It is not a pointless diversion into wishful thinking. It’s a key indicator. It tells us something very important about our fellow citizens.
Americans did respond to clear leadership, to a strong figure who had a strong message. Here’s a little thought experiment: It’s only been one year. Try to recall a single line of Mitt Romney’s that was not a gaffe much exploited by the liberal media. In all seriousness, can we remember a single memorable phrase? I cannot.
I was on the road last year on the FRC/Heritage Foundation Values Voters Bus for nearly six months. By law, I could not endorse any candidates. I found it wiser not to mention any. But that did not prevent anyone from talking up their favorite candidate to me.
I remember stopping at the Minnesota Republican State Convention in St. Cloud. It’s a beautiful state, especially in springtime. We were at the convention center early to set up. Mitt Romney had already wrapped up the GOP nomination by that time. But there were no bumper stickers, no buttons, no posters in evidence for Mitt. I talked to a lot of delegates and backers of various candidates for the U.S. Senate and the House. Not one of these political activists mentioned Gov. Romney.
I remember thinking at the time: this could spell trouble for Romney. I was aware that some parties had elected unloved candidates to the presidency. Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, none of these men exuded warmth or elicited the love and esteem of their supporters. But they won nonetheless. What I had never seen in a winning campaign in more than forty years was a winning candidate who was not even mentioned by his own grassroots.
The fact that such a stunning percentage of Americans today say they would vote for Ronald Reagan in a modern election should be a source of greatest encouragement to us. It shows that a strong leader who lays out a clear program could win. Could have won.
In the aftermath of last November, the usual talking heads ran to the cable shows with their white boards and tried to prove that they hadn’t miscalculated. There was just an entirely different electorate out there. Demographics! Even Reagan couldn’t have won in this forbidding environment, they claimed.
Those political consultants—which is our twenty-first century title for flim-flam men, card sharps, and Ponzi schemers—were trying to explain away their disastrous strategizing, their deeply flawed campaign advice. Have you noticed that they are still making the rounds on TV and on talk radio, these architects of failure?
The first fatal flaw in their schemes is red state/blue state. The theory behind red state/blue state says you turn the Electoral College upside down and shoot for 270 Electoral Votes. You identify the states absolutely required to achieve this bare minimum for election. And you squeeze those states like lemons to get every last drop of voting power out of them.
A truly terrible idea, red state/blue state dangerously divides the nation. Barack Obama’s campaign in Virginia in 2008 had 84 local headquarters, staffed largely by volunteers. McCain’s campaign that year in Virginia had one national headquarters and one state campaign office—both located in the same Northern Virginia office building and both equally chaotic. Not surprisingly, Barack Obama became the first Democrat since LBJ in 1964 to carry the Old Dominion. And he did it again in 2012.
Last month, I attended the March for Marriage on the Mall. Four hundred Korean-Americans came to the event. They had all come from one church in Flushing, Queens.
That’s in New York State. The architects of failure haven’t put an ad on TV for a Republican in New York for decades. New York is not a part of the bare minimum number of 270 Electoral Votes they need for their grand strategy. So they write off the Empire State.
These architects abandoned California, too, and New Jersey, Connecticut, Illinois, Washington and Oregon. By micro-targeting their appeals to specific groups—right to lifers, gun owners, home schoolers, NASCAR fans, etc., they lost the ability to move the country.
I still remember lines from Reagan’s 1980 campaign, and not just because I took part in it. “Recession is when your neighbor loses his job. Depression is when you lose yours.
And recovery is when Jimmy Carter loses his job.” It was a light jab, not mean at all.
Jimmy Carter was so weak, he could be knocked over with a feather. Best of all, Ronald Reagan said America should be “a shining city on a hill.”
What today’s poll shows us in the fictional contest between Reagan and Obama is that the American people remember that shining city on a hill. Now, all we need is the leader to take us there.