Changing Captains, not Crews or Missions

09/14/08 00:00:00    

By Michael Mealling

Recent news of GOP gains in the presidential and congressional races post convention have gotten me thinking. Most of these gains have happened almost immediately after the convention and even then, only happened after Palin's speeches. They also came after a previous week of the Democratic convention and weeks of pre-convention campaigning where the media acted as filter of each campaign's message.

My theory for why the GOP has had these recent gains is that this is the first time in almost eight years that someone besides Bush is talking about Republican values and policies, that the media wasn't able to filter what was being said, and that an almost unknown person is doing some of the talking. Its not that the American people have decided to turn any further left or right. They are simply tired of seeing a particular phraseology coming from a particular person.

Its the same phenomenon that causes a most perfectly good television show to start going downhill after the 4th year: viewers simply get tired of the same words coming from the same person. Campaigns understand this and that's the reason why Bush had only a short teleconference at the convention. Its why Obama's campaign attempts to minimize the exposure of the Clintons. It wasn't that McCain was trying to distance himself from what Bush and the Republican Party stood for. It was the same reason that a new Star Trek series never uses a previous Captain. They make cameos but they're never allowed to trump the new Captain.

I know this isn't some glaring new insight, but it at least made me thing of some consequences. The first is that if television had been around at the time, FDR would have never even been nominated to a third term, much less win it. (Its not clear that we would have won WWII, either.) I also think it might make sense to change our system to have terms of 5 or maybe 6 years but limit them to one term. Yes, that means we're letting television dictate our political system but I think its not really television itself, that is simply a reflection on how human beings deal with exposure to leaders. This also brings up another question: can “leaders for life” (dictator or monarch) survive in a wired world? Will they be deposed not because they are despotic or dictatorial but simply because their people are tired of their face and ready for a new Captain on next season's show?

Same mission and same crew. Just a different Captain?

Just a thought…

*UPDATE: * I was thinking about this further while mowing the grass and it seemed to resonate with one of my issues with the GOP over the past decade. One of the first things I learned leading volunteer and political organizations was any leader's #1 responsibility is to find his/her successor. Without continuity of competency at the top the organization dies. I saw this happening to the GOP over the past few years. The bench is just too weak. There are notable exceptions (Palin, Jindal) but they came up on their own. There seemed to be very little candidate development (not recruiting, development.

IMHO, political organizations should go visit Disney's teen star machine. They understand their market, its life cycle, and how to exploit it. The GOP should be out recruiting at the highschool level, digging into Model UN and Debate teams, student government, etc and showing these kids the ropes, putting them on the fast track to leadership roles in Young Republicans/student government/corporate leadership. Why did the GOP fall down on such a simple concept?

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