How to Win an Election

Published: May 21, 2012

By Jim Lichtman
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Memo to: President Obama and Governor Romney

With both of you remain busy ramping up your campaigns, I offer some ethical wisdom from now until November, and… hopefully, beyond.

1. Loyalty is important, but… It’s nice to have loyal friends and followers who have the same passion to want to make this country work for the betterment of all, but not at the cost of mud-slinging, dirty tricks and wrong facts. Honesty trumps loyalty. Make sure you both communicate clearly and often that the only way to convince others of your cause is with the right information not a bunch of smoke and mirrors.

2. Let’s be Honest… And while we’re on the subject of honesty, make sure that all people throughout your campaign are crystal clear on the facts before any TV ads are released to the public.

From the Washington Post’s Fact Checker-in-Chief:

Romney said, “We were able to help create over 100,000 jobs. On the president’s watch, about 100,000 jobs were lost in the auto industry and auto dealers and auto manufacturers, so he’s hardly one to point a finger.”

“The Romney campaign often cites Bureau of Labor Statistics to make its case that the number of overall jobs has declined in Obama’s presidency, so that’s the first place we looked. The BLS data show that much of the decline in auto industry employment took place in 2008, before Obama became president. Just in 2008, some 254,000 jobs disappeared in vehicle and vehicle parts manufacturing and 211,000 at vehicle dealerships. The numbers are equally grim if you just look at auto manufacturing and dealerships.

“But since January 2009, when Obama took office, overall there has been an increase in jobs. The number of jobs hit a low point in November 2009, but then it has slowly inched upward so that Obama can point to the auto industry and says there has been a net gain.”

But hold on, Mr. President, your feet are in the fire, as well.

“Back in September,” the Fact Checker reports, “whenPresident Obama first unveiled his jobs bill, we gave him Three Pinocchios for remarks he made regarding the aging Brent Spence Bridge on the Ohio River. The bridge connects Kentucky and Ohio, the home states of House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and it was irresistible symbolism for the White House.

“The crumbling infrastructure of the nation’s bridges is certainly an important issue, but symbolism can only go so far. The administration could never explain what, if anything, the jobs bill would do to improve the Brent Spence Bridge, especially since construction was not slated to start until 2015 — and Obama’s jobs bill would spend most of its money in its first year.”

3. Watch the Super Pac stuff. Citizens United was the worstdecision made by the current Supreme Court, (but that’s another commentary). If you even hear a whisper about a Super Pac ad that is planning on using immaterial, bogus, off-the-subject claims in an attack ad jump all over it and call it wrong!

Governor Romney, you get 4 Golden Rulers for calling out a proposed Super Pac ad dredging up the whole Rev. Wright controversy. As reported by CBS News, “Mitt Romney on Thursday doubled down on his repudiation of a proposed ad campaign attacking President Obama for his ties to the controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright, telling reporters such a campaign would have been ‘the wrong course for a PAC or a campaign.’

“ ‘I want to make it very clear: I repudiate that effort, I think it’s the wrong course for a PAC or a campaign. I hope that our campaigns can respectively be about the future and about issues and about a vision for America.’ ”

4. Be Respectful of others including… your opponent.While we’re on the subject, always, always, always show respect toward the other guy. I know you’re on different sides of the political fence, and I’ve heard all the arguments about political campaigns being a dirty, blood sport. Don’t buy into it. Just because it’s been done in the historical and recent past, doesn’t make it right. Start a trend: show respect.

5. Be Responsible. There are potential boneheads lurking in both campaigns. If one of them says or does something that crosses the line, get the facts first, and then fire the guilty. That’s one of the easiest decisions you can make to demonstrate leadership.

6. Buck the Stereotype. Traditionally, the GOP is said to be “the party of the rich”; Democrats are typically referenced as “tax and spend” liberals. Explain to voters the positive values ofboth sides. Now, more than ever, we need candidates who can speak to the strengths of both sides.

6. Consider the Interests of All Stakeholders: Rich, poor, healthy, infirmed, liberal, conservative, black, white, Latino, gay, straight, etc. ALL are worthy of respect and inclusiveness. Let someone else make the argument about a class society. As President, you represent everyone, so speak to the interests of all!

And finally, Mr. Romney, Mr. Obama:

7. Compromise. The Great Compromise of 1787 wasn’t called “great” as well as a “compromise” for nothing. Both candidates need to speak loudly to the issue of compromise in governing.

While I realize that diehard ideologs want their guy to stick to the party agenda that got them in office, the reality of the times calls for compromise. Say whatever it is that you sincerely believe is necessary for the public good, but stress the fact that realistic compromise is what is going to move us forward, not sticking to some special interest pledge.

Representatives and Senators running for office, too need to ask themselves one critical question: Which is more important, the needs of the country, or the need to be reelected?

Those are my words of wisdom for the candidates. What areyours?


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