WASHINGTON, D.C. - My father was an intimidating character, especially to his children. His preferred punishment wasn’t grounding or a spanking, but an icy, silent stare. Sometime around my fourth or fifth year, I thought I had figured a way around The Stare. At dinner one night, I challenged Dad to a staring contest. My two sisters and my brother gasped but surely were amused at the prospect of the little brother sticking his hand into the meat grinder.
The contest commenced and after a few seconds I looked away but kept my head totally still and aimed at Dad. Everyone cracked up. I didn’t yet realize other people could see your eyes move. I was a slow child.
My brilliant strategy for the 1962 staring contest reminds me of Democratic Senate candidates in 2014. They think by averting their eyes from President Barack Obama, no one will notice that they’re still Democrats. Obviously, they are as wrong as I was. But I was a toddler.
Running away from Obama is a strategy without a vision. It isn’t working. And it is insulting to voters.
Do candidates think they can trick voters somehow? “Yeah, I’m running as a Democrat but I am really not on their team – wink, wink, nod, nod.”
If the cornerstone of your campaign is to distance yourself from the leader of your party and the president, but you really don’t oppose his most important policies and programs, what do you stand for?
There are Republican candidates of the Tea Party variety who wage principled campaigns that attack their party’s leadership. There are Tea Party candidates who say that Boehner, McConnell and Co. are part of the problem, that they are entrenched defenders of special interests, corporate welfare and big government.
They aren’t running away from party leaders, they are running against them. Love ‘em or leave ‘em, at least these candidates have some plain honesty and gumption.
Democrats who are running away from Obama are just trying to pull off a trick, like me moving me eyes but not my head. The nadir of Democrat-as-scaredy cat is Alison Lundergan Grimes, who refuses to say whether she voted for Obama.
These Democrats don’t fundamentally disagree with Obama’s political philosophy and values. They just don’t like that he’s unpopular. Sure, they differ on specific issues but overall, they support him.
As Obama himself said, “The bottom line is, though, these are all folks who vote with me; they have supported my agenda in Congress. So this isn’t about my feelings being hurt. These are folks who are strong allies and supporters of me … I tell them … you do what you need to do to win.”
Supposedly, Democrats are furious with Obama for that, which is silly. There’s a multi-billion dollar air war reminding voters of the Democrats votes for Obama’s policies. There is no hiding in today’s blitzkrieg campaigns.
This is a given in American campaigns: Candidates will be attacked relentlessly on the television with cheap, misleading ads paid for by their opponent, their opponents’ party and mostly rogue agents – Super PACs and their ilk.
If you’re going to dive into that nasty world and expect to come away with dignity much less victory, you better stand tall for something.
Want to keep up with the latest DecodeDC stories and podcasts? Sign up for our weekly newsletter at decodedc.com/newsletter.