Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Page 6



Neither Party Has a Monopoly on Campaign Stupidity




(The writer is a retired trial lawyer, an American Board of Trial Advocates member since 1978 and a former professor of torts at five California law schools. He counts 4,000 of his former students among California’s lawyers and judges. He was presiding referee of the Disciplinary Board, later called the State Bar Court. He is a former member of the State Bar Board of Governors—1980 to 1983—and the Judicial Council of California.)

This column is not about politics per se.  As this sleeping giant, the American electorate, awakes every four years, so the campaigning goes to work.   Rarely have the campaigns for the Republicans or for the Democrats been so amateurishly handled.  The best description of the campaign strategies and handling of each major party is simply stupidity.  It is like assigning your handyman to perform brain surgery.  Again, this column is not about political thinking.  Here, Milton Friedman is not pitted again Paul Krugman. 

They both have meritorious arguments.  Rather, it is a critique of the campaign management of each party.  There, the Republican campaigning is slightly less effective than that of the Democrats, or should we say less good.

To top off a poor convention, the Republicans hired Clint Eastwood in a closing skit which sought to embellish a successful campaign.  Instead, it fell flat in delivery and substance.  It was like Bob Hope playing the lead in a Shakespearean play. 

The primary Republican attacks have been focused on abortion and healthcare, either Medicare or Obama Care.  Both are legitimate concerns of the believers, but poor campaign issues. 

The entire abortion issue is res judicata.  The viability of Roe v. Wade, really a judicial issue, has been debated hundreds of times.  How many candidates for political office over the generation just concluded  have been sentenced unglamorously to banishment to the political cemetery?  What makes this issue even worse is what nobody really mentions.  All that Roe v. Wade really holds is that states may not prohibit abortions.  The case is not a freeway to abortion.  It is merely prohibitory of a prohibition.  People could still get abortions in each state that so declares. 

It is unthinkable that California would prohibit abortion under any circumstances, and this can be said for most large states,  i.e.,  New York,  Michigan or Illinois.  Mainly Utah and Mississippi would be affected.

The attack on Medicare or the Obama Affordable Care Act seems equally stupid. Whatever wisdom behind these attacks makes for political fodder.  The seniors in this country are mainly affected, and it is hard to see them vote against a system that allows for medical payments in these economically strapped times.  In short, barring a scandal, it is unwise to make an issue that challenges one’s lifeline to medical payments, particularly since this too has been tested time after time. 

Stupidity in campaigning is not an exclusively Republican trait.  Democratic campaigning has not been Annenberg designed.  Perhaps it is less stupid than the Republican campaign strategies, but only slightly less. 

Franklin Roosevelt, the master strategist, ran against Herbert Hoover during four campaigns.  Occasionally, but just occasionally, the Republicans showed the same political savvy by running with Ronald Reagan, their hero, every four years.  Here too, res judicata entered the picture but unlike the attack on abortion, this was a winning issue. A well planned attack by the Democrats would focus on the genesis of the depression and its fiscal problems. 

While we are miles away from it, the Bush years gave us two wars and the banking scandal that sank the economy.  In short, the Obama government sought and partially successfully undid the harms in the auto industry, the Lehman debacle and the unpaid-for wars.  The failure to reiterate these causes too was a flaw in Democratic campaign tactics. 

Stripped of all campaign gibberish, the 2012 election will eventually be decided on real issues which the managers of each party had a chance to design and articulate, but failed to do.


Copyright 2012, Metropolitan News Company