My personal musings about anything that gets on my radar screen--heavily dominated by politics.


A Clarification 

My good friend and frequent intellectual barometer, The Captain, has taken me to task for my post the other night. But, it turns out, the disagreement was more of a misunderstanding than a real disagreement.

Ahh . . . pronoun problems.

When I wrote that elections are won by winning arguments, which is a combination of ideas and expression, he rightly pointed out that in the last several Presidential elections the person with all the ideas lost (Gore, Kerry, McCain). But that assumes little i "idea." I think what I needed to express better was that the most effective communicator always wins with Big I "Ideas."

Gore had a million plans and ideas, but none of them were particularly coherent expressions of a Big Idea; Kerry all kinds of thoughts, but they were often so contradictory that it muddled any Big Idea; and McCain has made a (POLITICAL!) career of not having a coherent philosophy, but jumping from one self-aggrandizing moment to the next, just to stay on Chris Mathews' good side.

The trick is in being able to articulate a Big Idea that meets with the mood of the electorate at that time. So George W Bush, though completely inarticulate, was able to hammer home the Big Idea of the surplus belonging to the taxpayer. Unfortunately, after "They'll hear from all of us real soon" and "We'll never tire, and we will not falter," he has never been able to get back to a Big Idea. No message, no expression . . . no electoral victories.

Caveat: the Big Idea, by itself, is not sufficient. There is a minimum level of detail awareness that a politician has to be able to have at their command to establish credibility. Sarah Palin was not hung out to dry with Katie Couric because of the Big Idea, it's because Couric never let her come off of the details , and her command was insufficient to establish credibility. Ronald Reagan only really sweat the details on a few policy initiatives; but he spent the entire 1970s diving into the details so that he could both inform his Big Ideas and establish credibility. The Republican Party, since 2004, has no credibility talking Big Ideas because its actions as a governing majority were as small idea as it comes. Even Karl Rove, as effective as he had been, was effective primarily at winning elections--a small idea, NOT making bold new policy.

If the Republican Party wants to find its way back from the wilderness, it needs--as I said the other night--to actually be able to talk to an audience. But it also needs to know what it wants to say.

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