How to blow it
It's the most winnable presidential election in American history - but the Democrats are old hands at losing. Michael Moore offers some helpful hints on how they might gift it all to the Republicans.
"Let's snatch defeat from the jaws of victory."
"We never met an election we'd like to win."
"Why get elected when you can be defeated!"
These have been the mantras of the Democratic Party. Beginning with their stunning inability to defeat the most detested politician in American history, Richard Nixon, and continuing through their stunning inability to defeat the most detested politician in the world, George II, the Democrats are the masters of blowing it. And they don't just simply "blow it" - they blow it especially when the electorate seems desperate to give it to them.
After eight years of Ronald Reagan in the Oval Office, the public had seen enough. The Democrats chose Michael Dukakis as their nominee. Two months before the election, he was ahead of Bush I in the polls. Then he went to an army tank factory in Michigan, put on some kind of stupid-fitting helmet and rode around in a tank with a goofy smile on his face. Weeks later, when asked what kind of punishment he would like to see given to someone who might rape his wife, he started mumbling some sort of bleeding-heart gibberish instead of just saying what anyone would say: "I'd like to tear the bastard limb from limb!" The voters were so put off by his wimpiness, they elected an actual wimp over him, George H W Bush.
For years now, nearly every poll has shown that the American people are right in sync with the platform of the Democratic Party. They are pro-environment, pro-women's rights, pro-choice, they don't like war, they want the minimum wage raised, and they want a single-payer universal healthcare system. The American public agrees with the Republican Party on only one major issue: they support the death penalty.
So you would think, with more than 200 million eligible voters, the Dems would be cleaning up, election after election. Obviously not. The Democrats appear to be professional losers. They are so pathetic in their ability to win elections, they even lose when they win! Al Gore won the 2000 election, but for some strange reason he didn't become the president of the United States.
If you are unable as a party to get the landlord to turn over the keys to a house that is yours, what the hell good are you?
Well, in 2006, the Dems had a come-to-Jesus meeting with themselves and, under the leadership of Rahm Emanuel, won so many House seats, they just waltzed in and took the place over. What a great day that was, seeing Nancy Pelosi bang the gavel down to open Congress. And what was her first act? To declare that any discussion of the impeachment of George W Bush was verboten and no one was ever to bring it up again. And that was that. It sent a clear message to Bush that he could just keep doing what he'd been doing for the first six years. The result? That's exactly what he did, with Congress authorising every war funding bill he sent to them. How did the American people respond? Congress's approval rating sank lower than Bush's. How disgusting do you have to be to sink lower in the public's eyes than a man who can't even successfully choke himself on a pretzel?
So when you hear Democrats and liberals and Obama supporters say they are worried McCain has a good chance of winning, they ain't a-kidding. Who would know better than the very people who have handed the Republicans one election after another on a silver platter? Yes, be afraid, be very afraid.
After the debacles of Iraq, Katrina, gas prices, home foreclosures, our standing in the world, the failure to capture Bin Laden, and revealing the identity of a CIA agent in an act of revenge, it would seem that Barack Obama should be on a cakewalk to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The man should be able to sleep his way through the rest of the campaign season.
Ha! Think again. How many Democrats does it take to lose the most easily winnable election in American history? Not many. Just a few "close advisers" to Barack Obama who tell him a bunch of asinine stuff and he ends up listening to them instead of his own heart. As the party hacks in the past two elections have proven, once they get the candidate's ear, the rest of us might just as well order pizza and stay inside for the next four years.
In an effort to help the party doofuses and pundits - and the candidate - spare all of us another suicide-inducing election night as the results giving the election to the Republican pour in, here is the blueprint from the Democrats' past losing campaigns. Just follow each of these steps and you, the Democratic Party establishment, can help elect John Sidney McCain III to a four-year extension of the Bush Era:
Keep saying nice things about McCain. Like how he's been "good on global warming" and campaign finance. Keep reminding a country at war that he and he alone is a war hero. Not to mention an all-round good guy. Say that enough and what happens? The same thing that happens when you repeat over and over, "Apply directly to the forehead" - people start to believe it! You've sold them on the idea that McCain isn't a bad egg, and they do not hear the rest of what you have to say: "But John McCain is four more years of George W Bush." If you keep saying he used to be a "maverick", our less-attention-span citizens hear only the "maverick" part, not the past tense verb included in that sentence.
This is not to say you should in any way demean John McCain as a human being or as an American. Disagreeing strongly with his policies or the direction he would lead the country is not the same as denigrating him as a person. This particular style of politics is the cesspool that the Right and the Republican Party apparatus swim in. We do not further our agenda by imitating them. Fight, fight back, and fight hard - but fight clean. It's ultimately what I believe the majority of Americans would like to see.
There is also nothing wrong with saying nice things about McCain's constituency, and you should. We want to hold out our hand to people who have voted for Republicans in the past. Many of them are tired, a good number are disgusted. They won't agree with a lot of what we stand for, but they've had it up to here with the Republicans and we should make sure our tent is big enough to welcome them in.
So if you want to help elect McCain, keep blessing him as if he were the white knight who accidentally hopped on the wrong horse. Forget to continually point out that he is truly up to no good. Keep pulling your punches. Don't remind people McCain wants to help the oil companies even more than Bush did. Don't bring up that he wants to outlaw all abortion. Back away from painting McCain as the guy who thinks it's a good idea to stay in Iraq until pigs fly. That way, if you keep praising him, you can send a mixed message to the less-informed who are simply not going to figure it out. When they walk into a voting booth, they will see two names on the ballot:
· Barack Obama
· War Hero
Trust me, this ain't Sweden. War Hero wins every time.
Have Obama pick a vice-presidential candidate who is a conservative white guy, or a general, or a Republican. Yes, it will seem like smart politics at first. Shore up Obama's lack of military experience with a hawk.
Be true to Obama's message that he'll be a president for everybody by having him run with a Republican.
Make a pitch to the purple states of Virginia and Indiana to vote Democratic this time by putting one of their own on the ticket.
Or swing for the fences and make the red state of Ohio happy by handing the vice-presidential slot to its governor.
But by doing any of this, you will upset the base that not only must come out on election day, it must also be active and work dozens of hours during the campaign. They have to personally bring 10 people each to the polls with them if we are to avoid the disasters of the past two elections. Many won't do this extra work if Obama picks the wrong Veep. It will suck the air out of the balloon in a big way.
Obama electrified the nation on the notion of change and hope and a fresh direction in Washington. If he picks a running mate who screams "Same old same old", it will make it harder for him to attract all the new voters he needs to bring to the polls to win. Remember there are nearly 100 million adults who choose not to vote. That is a large base from which to draw millions of new votes. Obama should not desert a strategy that has worked well for him.
There is nothing wrong with picking someone who can help him win a swing state or someone who has more experience than he does in certain areas. But when I hear pundits say, "He has to pick a Catholic", well, John Kerry was a total Catholic and the Catholic vote went to Mr W. I mean, here's one of the largest groups in the country - 66 million Catholics - and they/we have allowed only one Catholic to be president in 208 years. You would think they would have been flocking to Kerry in 2004. That is not the way people think. It is the way pundits think. Keep listening to them and you can help elect John McCain the next president of the United States.
Keep writing speeches for Obama like the one in front of the American Israeli lobbying group the day after the final primaries. Here's what he said: "The danger from Iran is grave, it is real, and my goal will be to eliminate this threat." And: "Let there be no doubt: I will always keep the threat of military action on the table to defend our security and our ally Israel. Sometimes there are no alternatives to confrontation."
Sounds like a speech McCain would give. Sounds like he's ready to invade Iran. He staked out an even worse position for the Palestinians vis-a-vis Jerusalem than the one held by George W Bush. Keep that up and more and more supporters will be less and less enthused. It will be harder to keep the base motivated if they continue to hear how Obama wants to expand Bush's "faith-based" initiatives, doesn't have a health plan that covers everyone, and wants to send more troops to Afghanistan. The implied message of this is that the Republican plan is a good plan. So why would voters want to elect the candidate imitating the Republican when they can get the real thing? Talk like this gets McCain elected.
Somehow forget that this was a historic year for women and that there is more work to do. Obama should be making a speech about gender like the brilliant one he gave on race back in March. Millions of people, especially women, had high hopes for the candidacy of Hillary Clinton. Attention must be paid. And you don't pay attention to it by having your advisers run your wife through the makeover machine, trying to soften her up and pipe her down. Michelle Obama has been one of the most refreshing things about this election year. But within weeks of the end of the primary season, the handlers stepped in to deal with the "Michelle Problem". What problem? She speaks her mind? She wears what she wants? She thought he was crazy to run for president and tried to put her foot down? Only a crazy person would want her husband and family to be chewed up and ground through the political grist mill.
Michelle's biggest sin, according to the punditocracy, was to say that, as a black woman, this may be the first time in her adult life she's been really proud of her country. Shock! Surprise! Outrage! But not from any of the black women I know.
Barack Obama, outnumbered in his household 3-1 by the female gender, has a lot at stake in making sure that women's rights and opportunities are on a par with men's. As one who knows what it's like to be in a class of people who traditionally have not held power, he's in an excellent position to speak to another group that has been left out - women - and assure them that he will be their advocate.
Plus, this is just good politics. Women vote by a larger margin than men. And if it remains true that Obama will not carry the white male vote (as most of the polls indicate he will not), then he simply cannot win without capturing a strong majority of the female vote. Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton both lost the white male vote but won the White House. They did so by winning an overwhelming percentage of the black, Hispanic and female vote. That has to be Obama's strategy. Otherwise Cindy McCain will be our new First Lady.
Show up to a gunfight with a peashooter. Convince yourself that the Republicans are just going to roll over and play dead because there is simply no life left in their party. Convince yourself this one is in the bag! Convince yourself that if you play by the rules, the Republicans will, too. And when McCain and his people roll out their nuclear arsenal on you, just go all sweet and sensitive and logical. Believe that the truth shall prevail, that good people will see what the Republicans are up to. As they smear you, your family, your religious beliefs - cower, back down, go on the defensive. Heck, if they don't like your new I'm-running-for-president logo, denounce it, apologise for it, and fire the person who designed it.
But don't stop there. Be ready to jump and change anything at a moment's notice. If they ask you to stand on your head and do the hokey-pokey, snap to it and do it with a smile on your face and don't forget to apologise for not doing the hokey-pokey earlier, you meant no disrespect and please don't take it as any indication that you do not love your country, your flag, and your Christian God.
Do all of that, and then listen for that sound - the sound of your supporters shuffling away in silence. Don't worry, though - they won't vote for McCain. They'll just stop showing up at the campaign headquarters over on Maple Street. They'll say they're too busy to go on another three-hour door-to-door literature drop. They'll still take a list of a hundred voters home to call and read the index card over the phone about "why you should vote for Obama" - but there won't be much enthusiasm in their voice, and the voter on the other end of the line will hear that. After 15 or 20 calls, they'll give up - after all, there's dishes to do and a dog to walk. And on election day they'll go do their duty and vote, but they will not be up at 6am driving around the city picking up strangers who need a ride to the polls.
Denounce me! The candidate Obama, at some point, might be asked this question: "Michael Moore is a supporter of yours and has endorsed you. But in his new book, Mike's Election Guide, he says the following (go ahead and fill in the blank - I've provided a full list of outrageously offensive lines already taken out of context in advance to make it easy for rightwing commentators and Fox News). Will you still accept his endorsement or do you denounce him?"
And he better denounce me or they will tear him to shreds. He had better back away not only from me but from anyone and everyone who veers a bit too far to the left of where his advisers have told him is the sweet spot for all those red state voters.
We can't take four more years of this madness. We need you to be a candidate who will fight back every time they attack you. Actually, don't even wait till you have to fight back. Fight first! Show some vision and courage and smoke them out. Take the offensive. Keep asking why these lobbyists are McCain's best friends. Let's finally have a Democrat who's got the balls to fire first.
· This is an edited extract from Mike's Election Guide, by Michael Moore, published by Grand Central Publishing on September 1 . To order a copy for £7.99, with free UK p&p, call 0870 836 0875 or visit guardian.co.uk/bookshop.guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2008