1531 The Early Line on 2016
The duties of president are clearly defined in the constitution. All except the most important one, setting the tone of the country.
The present occupant isn’t doing too well at that. Neither did his predecessor or his predecessor’s predecessor. Who did? FDR. Truman. Eisenhower. JFK. Reagan.
You may disagree with the tone set but at least there was one you could identify.
People say they vote on issues and policies. Many do. But many don’t.
You don’t have to be Mister (or Ms) Personality to get elected. A lot depends on the opposition, the circumstances and one’s use of the Magic Political Mystery Formula: the right combination of stroking and striking fear into the hearts of your friends, colleagues and enemies.
The most recent true master of that was LBJ. And he, too was a tone setter. But the tone he set was not the one people were looking for at the time. Just ask the gazillions of anti-war protesters.
So, who are the leading tone setters in the sorry bunch of current presidential wannabes? Bernie Sanders for the Democrats and (shudder) Donald Trump for the Republicans.
Which tone do we want badly enough to elect a candidate? Bernie is channeling FDR. Trump, in his own distorted self braggadocio way is trying to channel Reagan’s “morning in America.”
Not only does Obama set a vague and directionless national tone, he has no mastery of the Magic Political Mystery Formula. His stroking and threatening skills are just fine… until he leaves the room or you do.
Reagan had an advantage. He was old and seemed not to care what people thought of him. But he was charming in a Hollywood actor sort of way. Bernie has some of that: he's old and doesn't have to care. His charm is in his relative bluntness and the clarity of his thinking and therefore his speaking and writing.
Additionally, Bernie seems capable of building a coalition. And he has an advantage that Reagan didn't: today’s republican party is straight out of Bellevue and the people -- or at least many of us -- know it and don't want to be part of it.
So the question is "can Bernie reform Wall Street, income inequality, environmental damage, useless and costly wars, racism and institute a single payer health care plan that circumvents the insurance industry?" Of course not. But he probably can use sufficient stroking and induce sufficient fear to take good steps.
Then, there’s Biden. Who can be sure of what Obama's relationship with him really is. They put on a brotherly picture. And the president was right when he said picking Joe was the smartest decision he ever made.
JFK and LBJ didn't like each other. But at the time, Johnson was a good choice for vice president because of his many years in the senate. He was a leader there, knew where the bodies were buried, knew where to bury the bodies he added to that and knew both how to kiss and to inspire fear as needed.
Biden never fought in that division, but he's the closest thing we have now. So practically speaking if he can harness Obama's email list and ground troops, he could win.
When you back the favorite and the favorite wins, the payoff is lower than when you bet a winning long shot. But a win is a win.
As for Clinton, we don't really know what she stands for. And we certainly don't know what she'd do or try to do as President. It’s not sure she knows either.
At the moment, Trump is the only republican who counts. Want a reason? His traveling medicine show touches on the fears and desires of plenty of dems who oppose immigration and are tired of the do-nothing, gerbil wheel the presidency has become.
I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2015