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Buying Bad Ideas

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A bad idea is one that does not work. The problem is that from time to time, both as ourselves and as a people, we do not recognize a bad idea when we encounter it. The danger comes when for whatever reason — ignorance, stubbornness or hubris – we stick with a bad idea to our detriment. Unfortunately, bad ideas tend to compound themselves. We have been suffering from bad ideas.

Sarah PalinConsider the candidacy of the former governor of Alaska for Vice President. It was a bad idea. Until she appeared on television, the political debate was both cyclical and one-sided. The cyclical part was the fact that the country was due to change political leadership after an eight year Republican run. The one-sided part was that the Democratic Party had emerged from a climactic contest between two compelling and competent Senate candidates, one destined to become a historic first as a President of the United States.

I underestimated the “moose-hunting rube,” as columnist Charles Krauthammer referred to her in the National Review.

Palin reminded me of one of the more vapid students in my high school graduating class, who was the vice president of at least a half-a-dozen clubs. She would stick to and campaign for the more popular students, thereby elevating her status in the  social pool. She was a person who was never troubled by an original thought, just like Sarah Palin. The difference?– the  student understood the limitations that make bliss of such ignorance. 

Palin wowed conservatives like the Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol and Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson, who told the New York Observer that Palin was “a mix between Annie Oakley and Joan of Arc.” Soon after, Palin brought self-aggrandizement to a new level, as she energized the baseness of the Republican base. She appealed to people of limited educational backgrounds as she championed anti-intellectualism with a wink and a nod. She became a darling of Fox News, the moral equivalent of a grocery store tabloid for people who do not read and who feel threatened by people who do.

People at Republican rallies, though, began to shell out big bucks to hear her cheerlead and Palin noticed.

Palin and McCainThe Republican Party’s self-inflicted loss in 2008 is due as much to her selection as it is to the country’s gut being full of the Bush Presidency.

A New York Times editorial said of her choice for VP, “It was either an act of incredible cynicism or appallingly bad judgment.” It was a bad idea. But having proved to be such a draw, the crowd pleasing Palin glommed on to the burgeoning Tea Party – another bad idea – and became an influential force.

With Palin on the payroll, Fox News aggressively promoted negativity and hostility, specifically towards the newly elected president. The Tea Party appeared to resuscitate the out-of-power GOP in the mid-term elections. Republicans believed it was important to take control of congress’ lower chamber more so than Democrats and they did, kind of.

Reciting an edited version of the US Constitution, the GOP majority of the 112th Congress had no idea that it had been infected by such a polarizing group. Its anti-government/anti-tax/anti-Obama negativity proved to sell to an electorate suffering from a deep, GOP induced recession.

However, the new Speaker of the House soon discovered that he only controlled a majority of the new Republican plurality. The Tea Party faction held it hostage. Compromise was futile. Government shutdowns and default threats became normal operating procedures.

As a result of this bad idea, Gallup reported in September, “Majorities of Democrats (65%) and Republicans (92%) are dissatisfied with the nation’s governance.” At present, “Congressional job approval remains at 13% in November, identical to October and tying the all-time Gallup low on this measure. The 2011 average is on track to be the lowest annual rating of Congress in Gallup’s history.”

What an accomplishment that is.

We are being bullied by the rhetoric of Tea Party acolytes in the Republican Party into thinking that the United States is not a prosperous country, despite evidence to the contrary. We are being coerced into thinking that taxation is too high, even though it is at its lowest point in 60 years. We are being fed a line that our economic policy needs to be austere and rife with cuts. Such contentious conjectures are bad ideas.

There are better ones. For example, here is what President Lyndon Johnson said inPresident Lyndon Johnson his January 28, 1965 message to Congress.

“The task of economic policy is to create a prosperous America. The unfinished task of prosperous Americans is to build a Great Society. Our accomplishments have been many; these tasks remain unfinished:

  •  to achieve full employment without inflation;
  •  to restore external equilibrium and defend the dollar;
  •  to enhance the efficiency and flexibility of our private and public  economies;
  •  to widen the benefits of prosperity;
  •  to improve the quality of American life.”

Palin and her gibberish have been replaced by other people every bit as unqualified for high public office as she. Negativity and attack ads directed at the incumbent president remains the top Republican theme. Fox News is a beneficiary of the advertising revenue but the country is not. I am not convinced that the electorate will buy into more such negativity as a winning proposition. It isn’t a winner. In its celebrated ignorance, it asks us to buy more bad ideas. 

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About Tommy Mack

Tommy Mack began his career in broadcasting and is a US Army graduate of the Defense Information School. He worked in Army Public and Command Information and earned a BS in Liberal Studies from the State University of New York, Albany. A marketing communications executive, Tommy became a business management consultant for a major international consulting company and its affiliates before establishing Tommy Mack Organization, a business consulting practice specializing in organization and communications management. A professional writer and blogger, he writes about politics, business, and culture.
  • Speaking of bad ideas, Herman Cain is now “reassessing” his campaign.

    Never mind:

    -Bragging about not being a politician and expecting to become president is like bragging about not being a business person and expecting to become a CEO.
    -“Government is like business” is a text book example of the false analogy.
    -9-9-9 has been shown to be a bogus economic policy idea.
    -Sexual harassment is an unacceptable management technique.

    But, extra-marital affairs are a deal killer, as Cain is discovering and as Gingrich will learn.


  • Arch Conservative

    “I underestimated the “moose-hunting rube,” as columnist Charles Krauthammer referred to her in the National Review.”

    I think you meant “misunderestimated.”

  • Arch,
    Dubyaspeak seems misappropriate.


  • As I was saying, somethings are just bad ideas.


  • Glenn Contrarian

    But is “santorum” really “misappropriate”? Given their current crop of candidates, it seems to apply to all of them.


  • Not sure John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as a running mate was a particularly bad idea. Obama was always going to win and I think McCain knew it. He had nothing to lose with his VP choice. What he needed was a new face who’d make Republicans feel galvanised and optimistic about what was going to happen after the election, and Palin certainly did that, at least for a while.

  • I’d go one step more with respect to the Palin pick, Doc. I thought at the time that the purpose of choosing her was to guarantee the loss. Otherwise, Joe Lieberman was available to make for a viable ticket. None-the-less, bad ideas are just bad ideas.


  • Cannonshop

    #6 If McCain’s handlers were in it to win, Palin would not have been on the ticket-you don’t ‘hire’ a more interesting figure than your primary candidate if you’re trying to win the office, you hire a more interesting candidate. It was a ‘sacrifice play’ designed to rescue what was left of the Murkowski Machine in Juneau, while making John McCain look ‘more conservative’ than his record.

  • I am not a conspiracy theorist, but wow, with as many screw ups, stupid statements, bad candidates and then bipartisan attack on the constitution that only one man stands between, separating the American people from a police state. I can see where the theorists get their ideas from.

    Palin looks like a cog through the lens of hind sight. I’m not attacking or endorsing any party here, just noting that reality truly is stranger than fiction.