Not folksy

I’m not really that interested in politics, and I’m certainly far from an expert prognosticator, but I think Obama will lose in November, and here’s why: the Democrats have become the party of the elite, and the majority of ordinary Americans have an instinctive dislike for the elite.

Check back through most of the recent presidential elections, and it doesn’t matter if the guy was Republican or Democrat. What matters is that the winner was perceived as an ordinary kind of down home sort of guy next door, and the loser was perceived as an idealistic elitist.
George W. Bush won because (although he was from the most privileged East coast family) he portrayed himself as a Texas rancher who married the local librarian. He projected the image of an ‘Aw Shucks’ kinda guy with a drink problem who found Jeezus and started drinking orange juice and going to bed early. Gore and Kerry were perceived as wealthy, educated elitists. They lost.
Clinton beat George Bush senior for the same reason. Clinton was just a good ole boy from Arkansas who had a way with the ladies and a tendency to get into a few scrapes and then smile and talk his way out of them. Why he was just as ordinary and mischievous as all the other fellas who sometimes make a mistake, but manage to come up smiling.
Jimmy Carter won for the same reason, and the only reason Reagan beat him was because Reagan was even better at being the “Aw shuck, ordinary fella” guy than Carter was. Probably the only exception to my theory was George Bush Sr beating Dukakis, and that was because they were both elitists, and the voters chose the one they knew.
So, if you want my two cents, Obama will lose. His lofty, idealistic and intellectual approach will alienate ordinary Americans. His background is too foreign. They’re suspicious of a father from Kenya, a Muslim stepfather, a boyhood in Hawaii and being educated abroad. The more John McCain plays himself as a true, blue, patriotic, former POW and soldier, the more he’s going to get that elusive ‘down home’ vote that has swung elections for everyone else. If McCain wants to win he needs to learn lessons from Reagan, Clinton, Carter and co. He needs to come across as an ordinary Joe, and Mrs McCain should stop looking like some anorexic model, start baking cookies, talking about her children and grandchildren (if she has any) and being folksy.

  • A Simple Sinner

    Here’s hoping!

  • gemoftheocean

    Well, Reagan also had a great message and he WAS “the great communicator.” Carter was “Mr. Malaise.”Sushi with Obama? OR a steak with McCain?No contest. McCain isn’t any kind of Republican that I like to see. But he IS a grown up and would “go after” any terrorists that tried to harm us. Nobama would try to have the UN invite them over for tea. Loser.Karen

  • Ouiz

    From your mouth to God’s ears.

  • Christopher Joseph

    Nevertheless, Senator Obama has locked-up the Catholic vote by choosing Senator Biden to be his running mate.Correction: That would be the “liberal Catholic” vote, the “formerly Catholic” vote, the “Spirit of Vatican II Catholic” vote, and the “I’ll see you at the next baptism, wedding, or funeral Catholic” vote.Cuomo in 2012!

  • Subvet

    Hadn’t thought of it in the way you put it, Father. Very interesting.

  • caite

    Well, he has certainly not locked up this Catholic vote by picking Biden! Nor many others I think, because he already had the so called ‘liberal’ Catholics…or ‘post-Catholic’ as I see the vast majority of them.

  • Afro Seminarian

    The race is far from over, at least it has us all talking.I wonder if McCain knows how many houses he has? Maybe he can give one of them to the thousands of people that are loosing thiers. But ofcourse we dont want change in this country;It would only benifit the status quo.

  • kkollwitz

    I like this hypothesis.

  • Augustine

    Some have said that wooing Catholics is a good prognostic of winning the presidential elections. Hasn’t a survey indicated that Mc leads O by 10 %-points among Catholics? Or is it yet another chapter in the war of surveys near an election?Our Lady of the Americas, may the US of A be blessed with a pro-life president.

  • Ken & Carol

    I think our masters in the media are all too aware of your argument Father, e.g. the number of houses question and radio ads with a similar theme I hear. Our traditional media are fighting for their lives in this campaign and they know it.

  • Bernadette

    Fr Dwight..Bet you ten pounds ( I think that’s around $20) Obama scrapes it.I agree with what you say. I just don`t see it happening. Not now.I know. Your Southern Protestant upbringing forbids you from betting….However, Catholics love betting.

  • Tom in Vegas

    If I was in your presence, I’d give you a big hug just because I know what an excruciating position it must be to praise both George Bush and the Clintons in the same post.Bill Clinton was slick and slimy. George Bush has the brains of a Slurpee.

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    Well Tom, I’m not sure I was actually praising Geo Bush and Clinton or any of the folksy presidents. I was just observing that if you want to be elected in the USA you need to make the down home appeal, and Obama ain’t got it.

  • Clarke

    I long ago learned that charming people are dangerous to be around. There’s a reason they’re charming, because otherwise (based on behavior) you would walk away from them. I find Obama charming. I don’t find McCain charming. Hmmm.

  • Paul

    Fr. Dwight,I think that you are really onto something here. After I read your post, I happened to find this article, where the author seems to be thinking along similar lines to your post:

  • Tom in Vegas

    Perhaps “praise” is the wrong word. Maybe Tactical Functionality Recognition (what???) is the terminology that works best. It seems content neutral to me, and vague enough so that know one knows exactly what you’re talking about:0)

  • Tom in Vegas

    Should read “no one” instead of “know one.”It’s late.

  • Éstiel

    Well, this generated a lot of comment.Unfortunately, Father, money rules. More powerful than folksiness. And Obama’s got it. Did you read the article about how the billionaire succeeded in advancing the homosexual cause? By killing off the opposition (Rick Santorum is mentioned by name–misspelling mine, btw.) That’s how Hillary was defeated and it’s how Obama will beat McCain. The ones with money (Really Big Bucks) in the U.S. are left-wing ultra-liberals. Add to the power of money the power of media support, and the combination is lethal to all opposition.

  • MHL

    I’m a liberal, so I come at this from a different perspective than most of your commenters, ut I largely agree with your point. Americans tend to vote for the “regular” guy over the elitist. The only additional caution to McCain I would note is that Americans generally also prefer the optimist over the pessimist. In fact, I think Reagan’s victory over Carter in 1980 was due more to his sunny and optimistic personality than his regular guy credentials. Of course, by 1984, he had combined optimism with the regular guy deal and he won 49 states. There is no question that McCain fits the folksy guy position much beter than Obama. But he needs to be careful about coming across as a mean old man. (You kids get out of my yard!) Look at the oft repeated “Who would you rather have a beer with” test. Americans definitely prefer a down home guy to an elitist. But nobody wants to sit around and drink with a crabby old man.If I was advising each convention, I’d tell the Democrats to try to portray Obama as more of a normal and less exotic personality. Emphasize his Kansan grandmother over his time in Hawaii and Indonesia. And McCain should try to lay out a positive, hopeful view of the future. Reagan’s City on a Hill analogy comes to mind.Anyway, just my two cents, I could be wrong.

  • Marcus Aurelius

    Father L,I’m sorry this omment is off topic. But I just really need to hear some intelligent priestly commentary on this 23 yr old’s blog entitled ‘what to expect when your aborting’. blog has got me rattled. I want to tell her what an idiot she’s being, how sorry she’ll be if she damages her fertility. I want to smack the dad around for being an enabler. I am queasy about how I would react were my own daughter seeking my support. It’s no wonder that she doesn’t allow comments and has no contact email.

  • tjoseph

    I’m not certain either candidate has “down home” appeal. Also, I’m not certain that the “down home” attitude is mainstream anymore. TV has more influence than any other factor. We in the “new media” (bloggers and such) are still the minority influence (e.g. Ron Paul).Either way, I think the youth and “minority” turn out will be exceptional this year. The DNC will make sure of it. Envision church buses full of sheeple voting how they’re told. (I’m not exaggerating. It happened in the primaries.)McCain has no appeal whatsoever other than to the pro-war types. He has no conservative values or economic sense.I don’t like either candidate, but I think the anti-life Biden and the elitest Obama will be the next VIP’s on Air Force One.

  • Memphis Aggie

    I think your dead on mhl. Folksy and optimistic do well with the undecided center that actually chooses.

  • Dymphna

    Mrs. McCain looks fine to me. Most women don’t want to be fat. As for her family I’m glad they don’t pimp their children in public. Besides, two of their sons are in Iraq and pictures of them on TV would probably put them in more danger than they already are.

  • Gail F

    mhl wrote: “If I was advising each convention, I’d tell the Democrats to try to portray Obama as more of a normal and less exotic personality. Emphasize his Kansan grandmother over his time in Hawaii and Indonesia.”That’s exactly what they are doing at the Democratic National Convention, trying to hammer home that Obama is a nice guy who loves his wife and kids, whose grandparents did a lot of his rearing (though of course that his mother worked hard and taught her kids values), that different politicians are good friends of his, etc. I think they are doing a good job. But Fr. Dwight is right — Obama really comes across as an elitist. I think he will lose, and if he doesn’t it will be very, very close — just like last time. Picking Biden was a good move for him. I think Sebelius (sp?) would have been a bad move, but Biden is more moderate on abortion so the pro-life Democrats can feel they have a chance, and the people worried about Obama’s experience can reassure themselves. But is it enough to win? Depends on the next couple of weeks, and who McCain picks as VP.

  • tubwell

    I’m afraid you’re right, Father. Boobus Americanus is turned off by anyone seeming even vaguely intellectual or academic. McCain has the republican oligarchs behind him, and he’ll most likely get the right-wing cafeteria-Catholics at the polls. And already our episcopacy is getting in the fray…just like the French Church in 1905. I pray that the American faithful are not sickened by them, (as they were sickened by the episcopal response to clerical abuse). I fear that within a generation, our pews will be as empty as those of the Church’s “Elder Daughter”.

  • Rome Rose

    So the substance of being an elitist is being educated?John McCain was born to a wealthy and powerful family and is now kept by an even wealthier woman.Your attitude as a representative of the Church seems to be keep people ignorant so that they can be easily led.

  • Afro Seminarian

    “His background is too foreign. They’re suspicious of a father from Kenya, a Muslim stepfather, a boyhood in Hawaii and being educated abroad.”This statment bothers me Father, and it is almost reminds me of the “code words” that have kept coming up in the campaign. Obama is an american citizen, and has the right to run for President. If this country was founded on those principles, we would not have a problem with him. However, I am not interested in having a beer with him, I want someone who is intellegent and will help guide this contry wisely.THis particular post has bothered me for some time and am responding to it now. “Not folksy” is code for not “White enough”. DOnt get me wrong, I know you are entitled to your opinion, and I do enjoy reading your blog, however, not everyone that reads your blog looks like you or has the same experiences as you when you talk aobut being “not folksy” enough.

  • A Simple Sinner

    “Folksy” well describes any number of Afro-Americans I work with day in and day out. They love their family, sports, their grandchildren/grandparents, their churches.Don’t fear it as code speak. Put an idealogue of any color from the IV league in front of your average Joe, and they will likely garner the same or similar response.That being said, the “folksy theory” doesn’t, I fear, seem to be proving true.Ah well. We hope for better things.