Look at “goings on” since the 11/8/16 election, and it’s easy to get a quick snapshot of what I would call “The Cycle of Life (in Politics)”. It really doesn’t matter which party’s actions you observe, but paying more attention to the losing party [Democrat in this case] is usually more revealing. So here it is …
The Cycle of Life (in Politics)
For a person not currently holding public office, there is a preliminary stage before he/she enters the cycle — Explore. This is the stage in which people who have long-since decided that they will enter a race say “I’m considering it, but I haven’t decided. The support I’m getting is overwhelming and humbling, and I really appreciate it, but I … [need to really think this through, need to consider the impact on my family, blah, blah, blah]”. The outcome is announcement of his/her candidacy pretty soon after this initial warm and fuzzy stuff, surrounded by cheering banner-holders with camera angles carefully managed to make the crowd appear much larger than it is. The best approach seems to be “After careful consideration, … the future of my country [state, city … whatever] is too important for me to pass up this opportunity to serve, … blah, blah, blah.”
Once the candidate is officially in the race, there are five stages in the cycle itself, with a sixth stage simply being the beginning of the next cycle — kind of like the seven-note musical scale, where an eighth note is the same as the first note, just one octave higher. Whether the “higher” part applies to politics is a discussion for another day [I could argue that the correct parallel would be to compare to playing the musical scale downward, with the eighth note being an octave lower — as “things political” seem to be going lower and lower these days 😀]. I’ll cover the stages from the perspective of a Presidential election, but the basic principles apply to any election at any level of government. …
For a person not currently holding public office, this stage begins immediately after the announcement, and at least a year before the election. In recent times, it’s more like a year and a half. First, an “issue” needs to be invented if one doesn’t just drop into the candidate’s lap [the preexisting issue being something like a recently-declared shooting war or a 9/11-scale terrorist attack or a disease outbreak that killed at least tens if not scores of thousands of people]. Then it’s fundraising, hiring campaign staff, seeking endorsements, looking for opportunities to speak at gatherings of people, etc. If the backing of one of the two major parties is clear, the fundraising part becomes much easier, and if the party considers the race important enough, the candidate can almost just sit back and show up wherever they tell him/her to speak, and say whatever they tell him/her to say. Case in point: the 6/20/17 runoff race to replace Republican Tom Price [who vacated his House seat to become Secretary of Health and Human Services] in the district that includes the northern Atlanta suburbs — well over $50 million was spent on that one race for one seat in one district in America, and far and away the biggest percentage of that came from outside the state.
Anyway, the rest of this stage is pretty much what you see on TV.
This is the fastest-moving part. By this time, all the mud is slung in both directions and it is what it is. The candidate just gets his/her face on camera as much as possible, encourages people to vote, smiles a lot, etc. Usually by early evening that day, maybe late evening if it’s a close race, the outcome is known. Acceptance and concession speeches are made, and the wheels of the remaining stages are already in motion [oftentimes even partially revealing themselves within the words and phrases of the acceptance and concession speeches].
The parties of both the winning candidate and the losing candidate immediately get into analysis mode — what went right/wrong, who didn’t vote at all [or for our candidate] that we thought would do so [losing party], who voted [and for our candidate] that we thought wouldn’t [winning party], how do we explain and downplay the significance of the loss [losing party] or maximize “spin” from the win [winning party], etc.
The analysis stage provides the seeds for a going-forward strategy. Most recently, Democrats needed something to blame for the 11/8/16 loss besides an at-least-equally-flawed candidate [who was also a totally boring speaker who had no central campaign theme] and a campaign strategy that failed to recognize what was really going on in states they thought were shew-ins for them. Hence, “The Russians did it”, escalating to “Trump colluded with them”, etc. Their strategy [which so far is actually working reasonably well in some ways] is to 1) block everything they can that Trump tries to do and 2) keep the narrative going about the Russians, collusion, etc. [with the eager assistance, of course, of a largely liberal media]. The same logic applies to the winning party, but with the added component of solidifying their agenda, articulating it clearly, and navigating it through the Legislature. So far, the Republicans generally have not done this very well, but it appears that things may be beginning to “gel” on that front [the Republican victory in the above-mentioned race, and the Democrats’ failure to win any of several other special elections held to fill vacancies created by Administration appointments, will probably put a little grease on those skids].
Even if the candidate’s party [and he/she personally] touted “peaceful transition of power” during the final stages of the campaign, it may feed the narrative of the strategy to do things like not attend the inauguration, be supportive of demonstrations being organized, etc. Nowadays, anything that helps drive the chosen narrative and supports the chosen strategy is on the table — after what we’ve seen in the “no holds barred” atmosphere of the past seven months, there appears to be no point to which a party can stoop that is low enough to cause backlash.
And so the previous cycle is complete and the new one has begun. The campaign for the next election [regardless of whether the candidate just elected is up for re-election at that time or not — it’s a party thing] is literally underway the day after the election, not waiting until inauguration. Not actual campaign ads at this point — just appearing on talking-head TV shows, writing editorials in newspapers, etc.: initial dialog diminishing the importance of the winning party’s victory [losing party’s principals] or touting the many reasons their candidate won [winning party]; gradual introduction of campaign sound bites and video clips that support the current narrative [both parties]; etc.
Well there you have it. Why did I post this in the midst of more current-events-related posts? Simple. If the Swamp is ever to be drained, this cycle must be broken. It’s the only way incentives of our elected officials will ever change. My recommendation — term limits, for starters.
Charles M. Jones