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Bore Wars: GOP Candidates Must Avoid Putting Voters to Sleep

In a recent column, Ann Coulter rips into Newt Gingrich for being too brash and bombastic. 

Irony aside, Ann makes this complaint against Newt:

"Fellow right-wingers: Is our objective to taunt Obama by accusing him of "Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior," of being "authentically dishonest" and a "wonderful con" -- and then lose the election -- or is it to defeat Obama, repeal ObamaCare, secure the borders, enforce e-verify, reform entitlement programs, reduce the size of government and save the country?

If all you want is to lob rhetorical bombs at Obama and then lose, Newt Gingrich -- like recent favorite Donald Trump -- is your candidate. But if you want to save the country, Newt's not your guy."

She goes on to argue that;

"We want someone who will talk softly and unthreateningly while implementing vital policy changes. Even when Gingrich doesn't completely back off conservative positions, his nutty rhetoric undermines the ability of Republicans to get anything done."

Now, one must ask why Ann herself is so “colorful” in her approach to politics if this is the demand of the public; she would be consigned to the pages of some obscure Right-Wing blogs were that the case. And she does mention Ronald Reagan, a man who, while convivial, would tear the throat out of an enemy when necessary. Reagan was a titan among politicians, and would win the Presidency as easily today as he did in 1980. But she dismisses Newt as bombastic without being accomplished -- a credible criticism, perhaps. The problem is that Ann, like much of the GOP establishment, has bought into a lie perpetrated by the media. 

Americans do not like a bore.

Look at any election since television, and the more colorful -- and, aggressive -- candidate has won. Harry Truman may not have looked colorful, but he was spirited and aggressive. The young and brash John F. Kennedy defeated a more experienced and powerful Richard Nixon. Jimmy Carter went after the skim milksop Gerald Ford. And, in 2008, John McCain’s passive election strategy (refusing to go after Obama personally, or after his disturbing friends), failed to win him the presidency. 

This notion that the public is clamoring for a soft-spoken candidate is a lie.

Politics is a blood sport, and perhaps the most popular of America's gladiator contests. Thomas Jefferson was accused of consorting with female slaves. Andrew Johnson was accused of being a drunk (he had taken cold medicine on the day of his inauguration and fell off the stage). Grover Cleveland was accused of fathering a child out of wedlock, and the opposition chanted "ma, ma, where's my pa?" at his public events. 

There is a reason for the politics of personal destruction -- they work. The public may feign antipathy, but in the end, they delight in it.

The Democrats understand this, and have utilized scurrilous accusations for decades. Saul Alinksy, the father of the modern Democrat playbook, understood it too, and made it a cornerstone of political agitation. His "pick the target, freeze it, personalize it" strategy meant attacking individuals on a personal level. 

And, hey, it works for Coulter!

Granted, there needs to be more than personal aggression; the point of politics is ultimately to accomplish goals, and not just to indulge one's schadenfreude. But to get there, the public has to be enthused, and that only happens with a mixture of confidence, enthusiasm, and bombast. One must first win elections to govern.

The inimitable pundit Alan Caruba has famously argued (tongue-in-cheek, to a degree) that boredom is at the heart of politics. And, he's right: People just get tired of the same names, the same faces, the same old thing. They get very tired of a dry, pedantic sort like Obama, who no longer can electrify audiences because he no longer holds an “outsider” status. The unthinking voter wants to vote for something more interesting, and will do so, if that candidate exists. 

Yet, the GOP establishment wants us to embrace Mitt Romney -- a man who has been criticized for a strong lack of personality and flair. So do Democrats. Why? Because Romney’s passive nature makes him dull, in the same way McCain appeared in 2008.

Passion is vitally important. A passionless politician comes across as seeking power for his own aggrandizement, and not actually believing in something. This notion that we shouldn't go after Obama personally speaks volumes to the public. They think our politicians either don't really disagree with Obama, or don't really care about anything but getting in to feather their own nests. 

At best, the public believes the GOP candidate will bore them to death for four years. We have to excite the public’s imagination, or we will be on the outside looking in. We have to fight. We have to inspire. We have to don our armor, descend into the cavern, and slay the beast! In the end, there must be some sense of romanticism about it. A colorless wonk may be a good executive, but that doesn't make a good leader.

Obama can easily be beaten. But if we are to beat him we must give the public more than skim milk. 

Timothy Birdnow is a St. Louis-based writer. His website is
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