The Democratic Party's long, glorious history of losing presidential elections it should have won stretches before us. Michael Dukakis looking like a chipmunk riding in a tank. Al Gore sighing and rolling his eyes. John Kerry, well, just being John Kerry. These are just a few of our finest moments in election fumbling.
In 2008, with anti-Republican sentiment at a fever pitch and a nationwide hunger for a fresh new face in the White House, the Democratic Party has an unprecedented opportunity -- not just to lose the White House for the third straight time, but to lose what seems to be an un-loseable election. The odds may be against us, but with a little luck and a lot of good old-fashioned stupidity, we can get to the promised land of failure once again.
Barack Obama showed early on that he had the potential to blow a sure thing during the primary season, when he almost snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Unfortunately, he didn't really hit his stride, losing one big state after another, until Hillary Clinton was too far behind mathematically to catch up. But his concerted effort to lose touched a nerve with Democrats across the nation. Slowly but surely, we began to think, "Wow, maybe this thing can be botched after all!"
The Republicans have nominated a formidable opponent who has "loser" written all over him -- John McCain, an old, grumpy, out-of-touch so-called "maverick" who's spent the last several years in bed with the wildly unpopular Bush administration. Not since Bob Dole in 1996 has the GOP picked such an obvious turkey to be its standard-bearer. Clearly, this will not be an easy election for the Dems to lose.
But here's where we can put our experience and vast knowledge to use. Nobody, after all, knows how to lose elections like the Democrats. So, taking the lessons of previous losers and adapting them to the current climate, this is what we can do to ensure another blown election come November:
1. DON'T RESPOND TO REPUBLICAN ATTACKS. John Kerry and Michael Dukakis have shown that not responding to attack ads for as long as possible is essential to derailing a winning campaign. The Obama camp is doing an excellent job of this so far. McCain's feeble and disorganized attacks make him seem like a punch-drunk boxer desperate for a knockout. But as long as Obama doesn't respond to any of it, eventually something will land. Responding to and nullifying those attacks is the worst thing Obama could do if he wants to not be in the White House come January.
2. OPEN YOURSELF UP TO "FLIP-FLOPPER" ACCUSATIONS. Changing your position on issues like public campaign financing and offshore oil drilling can be explained away very easily: "I reserve the right to change my views as the situation changes," Obama could say. "In contrast to the stubbornness and inflexibility of the present administration, which is why the country's in such a mess to begin with." Thankfully, Senator Obama has NOT said any of this, which opens him up to accusations of flip-flopping by Senator McCain. Obama knows that "flip-flopper," like "liberal," is a dirty word to the electorate, and if he's branded as such, it will help pave the way for defeat in November. Good work!
3. LET PEOPLE BELIEVE YOU'RE GOING TO RAISE THEIR TAXES. So what if you're only going to raise taxes on people who earn more than $250,000 a year and super-rich corporations? Who cares that the Clinton administration did the same thing in the '90s and it didn't affect the decade-long economic boom? Let the Republicans convince the American people that Obama equals higher taxes equals economic disaster. Before you know it, we Democrats will be able to start bitching about a McCain administration with the same gusto as we've bitched about W & Co. for the last seven years.
4. KEEP HONORING McCAIN'S MILITARY SERVICE. Wesley Clark almost derailed Obama's "Quest To Lose '08" by hinting that getting shot down and being held prisoner for years, in a war that America lost, may not be the greatest qualification for commanding our armed forces. Fortunately, Obama quickly disavowed General Clark's comments and went right back to praising McCain's military record. The main lesson here is to keep the campaign unified and on-message, while distancing yourself from any "loose cannons" who may say or do something to help you not lose.
5. NEVER ACCUSE THE MEDIA OF BIAS. If the mainstream media decides that traveling to other countries and meeting with their leaders six months before you may become one of them is "presumptuous," do not suggest otherwise. If "John McCain" and "maverick" are still synonymous even though he's been in Bush's back pocket since 2002, keep your mouth shut. The media's right-wing bias can be the key to failure and defeat, so the best thing to do is not call attention to it. Three words to remember, Senator Obama: "Fair and balanced."
Despite our best efforts, we're still facing an uphill battle. Every time we see John McCain's withered, ghostly-white face on TV saying "My frenz, when I'm pres'd'nt..." we're one step closer to possible non-defeat. But let us take heart in the words of that great Democratic loser Adlai Stevenson, who said, "The time to stop a revolution is at the beginning, not the end." We can nip this revolution in the bud if we're willing to try. Now let's get out there and screw ourselves!
Follow Tony Sachs on Twitter: www.twitter.com/RetroManNYC