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Mark Shields
Mark Shields
13 Feb 2016
Make America Great Again -- at Torture!

The undisputed front-runner for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination who, like every other remaining … Read More.

6 Feb 2016
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"Do you ever get the feeling," asked humorist Robert Orben, "that the only reason we have elections is to … Read More.

30 Jan 2016
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Mark Shields is off this week. The following is a column by Joe Conason. In our polarized politics, the … Read More.

November Hangover


The next morning after an Election Day defeat, there is no place I know more empty than the headquarters of the losing candidate.

Long gone are the bunting, balloons, the band, the open bar — and the hopes — of the night before. If the phone does ring, chances are it's a creditor looking for her check. Campaign workers, now jobless and speaking softly, almost as though there's been a death in the family, are busy updating, embellishing and printing their resumes.

In a hundred different places, members of the losing candidate's party are doing their own individual postmortems of the defeat. And miraculously, those party folks invariably somehow all reach the same conclusion. The identical reaction is happening again in the wake of Republican challenger Mitt Romney's loss to Democratic incumbent Barack Obama.

Because a political party is a human institution, and because most of us humans will go to great lengths to avoid rejection, the first stage for explaining the defeat is to look outside of ourselves and to Blame the Losing Candidate.

This time, it was, of course, Mitt Romney's fault. He was, we are told, too stiff, unnatural, emotionally distant and uninspiring. Just like four years ago, it had been John McCain's fault (that risky VP pick, remember?). And before that, John Kerry's Nantucket windsurfing had distanced him from ordinary voters, while Al Gore had earlier been so relentlessly unexciting that his Secret Service code name had been "Al Gore."

After all the personality and character defects of the rejected standard-bearer have been stipulated, those on the losing side move directly to the most dangerous spot on the political compass, which I call Find the Gimmick. This is the search for an external factor to explain the party's defeats.

When Franklin Roosevelt won the White House four times, Republicans conveniently discovered the reason: Roosevelt's magical fireside chats to the nation.

If the GOP could just find someone as good on radio as FDR, they would be back on top.

And how did losing Democrats explain Ronald Reagan's back-to-back landslides? "He's terrific on TV" — as though the answer to the party's problems would have been to put together a ticket of Steve Carell and Judge Judy. Other gimmicks the winning side has apparently taken advantage of include mastery of the Internet, social networking, data mining and cellphones.

The most dangerous point of all on the political compass is the stage I call Blame the Customer. It wasn't our party's record or platform or hypocrisy the electorate might have objected to. No, the whole problem turns out to be the voters, themselves.

Deliberately overlooked in this rationalization of defeat is the fact that just a short while ago, when our side was winning elections, we celebrated these same voters for being so thoughtful, mature, patriotic and wise. But now when they prefer the candidate of the other party, we brand them selfish, mean-spirited, easily duped and lazy.

Recently sited at this stage was Rush Limbaugh, who said after the 2012 election, "In a country of children, where the option is either Santa Claus or work ... it's tough to beat Santa Claus."

The principal drawback to the Blame the Customer theory is that we really only have two political parties in this country. If you're going to accuse a majority of the voters of being either ethical jellyfish or moral pariahs, you're probably not going to win their support on a regular basis.

The final stage is Get Me a Winner! I no longer want to quibble about trivial issues differences. I'm just tired of losing. (This is how the GOP settled on Ike after 20 years in the wilderness and why Democrats are still smitten with Bill Clinton.) Can this candidate win back the White House? Good. Where do I sign up? How should I make out the check?

These, believe me, are the predictable stages following the agony of defeat.

To find out more about Mark Shields and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at




7 Comments | Post Comment
Once again, skill and knowledge (barely) triumphs over fear and ignorance.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Paul M. Petkovsek
Fri Nov 9, 2012 3:01 AM
Sir;... There is no tragedy like the loss of a failed idea- standing stinking of brew and an honestly deserved beating, and dressed like a clown before the comity of a court...
Let the blame game begin; but from what I can see, they are incapable of taking a lesson from it... Limbaugh asks: Shall we become them... Well sir; if you could show them enough respect to ask them to become like you; it would have to be better than demeaning the greater part of the population to get the help of the other half to displace one president from his post...
They cannot see things from the perspective of those they have victimized, and they have had the votes of their loyalists on this very point, that their loyalists feel victimized by the victims of America, and in finding that raw nerve to again and again touch to make the republican part of the population jump, they have had great success and shall, in the house, and perhaps the presidency...
It was always Mr. Obama's game to lose... I hope they remember that every game that can be played into infinity must some day end, and that the price of actually losing to the republicans -who have always played to win, is devestation, and perhaps, national bankruptcy... Playing to play against people playing to win is no longer an option...Just as in the first debate, Mr. Obama has got to do more than simply show up... He has got to cut loose of the reactionary advisors, put them in their places, rally the troops and the American people, and force the republicans to eat some government gravy...
So what if they have promised their teaspoons to drive off a cliff... Do it, and all bets are off... If anyone thinks they will get a better government and a better constitution written on a post it note than they have right now, they better think again...No money means no constitution...
The people for the most part have nothing to lose, and I understand that is true of the teaspoons too...But rather than suicide by degrees in hopes of rescue by sounder minds; the sounder minds, like the rich for example who have spent so much to screw up everything, and have to date refused to pay their share, who actually have a great deal to lose -should stand up, and try to be adults, and accept that the society is a bust, and move for a new constitution with new rules all can agree to... The best way of preserving their lives and a good share of their wealth is to keep civility and respect while we still have some to treasure....
How hard can that be???
What would it take for the government to open its books and show what it has spent its money on, and from where it expected income, and ask the people directly what they want for their future... The fear of democracy is so great on right and left that none dare tell the people they actually have as much choice as they have will...
That is not something they want the people to discover on their own... And I wish they would trust me on this, that revolution is a form of national madness brought on by too great a dose of reality...It is only natural that so many end with the scaffold, or a firing squad, or a guillotine...
Revolution eats her children, but much good is wasted in the process... Today the divided stand united, and the right thinks only upon what score we can be divided again... They hate us... We are an impediment to riches and power...What if the frustration of the people upon which the wealth and the power of the right depends were to grow too great to be contained... Would Mr. Obama call out the troops to kill democracy, and if he did, how would he pay them???...
It must be great right now to be a news man... It will be hard to tell where the buck will stop... So few fingers and so many to blame...
Comment: #2
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Fri Nov 9, 2012 7:06 AM
Sir;... One quick word... All those clown who want to blame Mr. Romoney should realized he went absolutely as far as any man can on a river of lies told with equal veracity to both sides... Those who are most inclined to point the finger at him should consider themselves... The trumps, the Limbaughs, and all those surrogates who called into question Mr. Obama's citizenship, his patriotism, his age, his ability, his morality, his intelligence were all waving a red flag in front of the nose of that bull called the sun tanned portion of our population... They hear that crap all the time, and it gets worse every time they hear it...
There is no difference whether you are telling a black man he does not have a right to a good job at fair wages and saying a black man does not have the right to be president... They did not say it in such bold and clear tones, but the implication that he was not a citizen is what has been said of black men for all time, because citizens have rights, and equal rights, too...

It was the nonsense out of the mouths of his friends that made it imperative for good people to reject Mr. Romoney from office... People by the millions had to hold their noses to vote for Mr. Obama because he has not done enough for enough people... On the other hand, the antagonism by the right which was really unnecessary because their base was committed was down right foolish...Mr. Romoney may well have prayed to his Mormon God: Save me from my friends... Who were his friends trying to convince; because they convinced exactly the wrong people from the perspective of Mr. Romoney...
Comment: #3
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Fri Nov 9, 2012 7:23 AM
He was his own worst enemy. I truly believe he wanted totally to give of himself to lead and help the nation, and not just the 53%, but everybody. But he kept shooting himself in the foot every time he was getting ready to sprint.

For me, which many may find odd, the best example was Big Bird. That debate was his night to shine and utterly redefine himself. So what does he do?

Right in the middle of his opus magnum, he has to go and fling an arrow into the heart of the moderates and "softies" he was trying to appeal to by attacking poor, defenseless, revered Big Bird. What was he thinking?

The fallout from that idiotic, gratuitous, and totally unnecessary attack on mother and apple pie for so many completely neutralized any gain he might have realized from that ultra-lucky opportunity he had to redefine himself.

He just kept demonstrating over and over again his inability to get the nuance and the mouthfeel of political speech right, let alone convince anybody of any bottom line on how he really stood on the issues.

Part of his problem was the ugly, motley crew he had to deal with in the Repe party, with the Tea-Partiers and all that. It may be true that NOBODY could have run the gauntlet of the primaries and then survived a national vote, given the polar nature of what works in the whackonoid primaries and what works for voters in presidential elections who are seeking basic sanity.

One might lament the fact that linguistic vanity and the ability to say things the right way (recall the binders of women) has such a huge impact on voter sentiment, but the international jungle is probably not much different than the voters in terms of how nuance and language can completely rule the day. If he couldn't make it with the voters, how would he do with all of those snakes and tender egos all over the globe we have to deal with?

His best bet now if he really wants to help the world is to join with Bill Clinton and dig those ultra-spotless ivory hands into the dirt a little

Comment: #4
Posted by: Masako
Fri Nov 9, 2012 7:43 PM
With Obama taking trips already, not waiting for the fiscal cliff to be solved, I take that this President is the most traveled one since Richard Nixon. The way things are going Obama appears to be another Mayor Barry and will spend his last two years in Las Vagas either glambling or visiting hookers.
Comment: #5
Posted by: Alan Messmore
Sat Nov 10, 2012 3:07 AM
Re: Alan Messmore;... And so what if he does??? The world has long suffered stupidity at the top simply because for those below, life must go on... Between the line of the Chinese and the Japanese the peasants would go and tend their crops because their only option was to starve, which is to say they had no option... But think of what it says to have this election as radical and heartless and as willing to play upon the emotion and angst of both side... If rich used the excuse of the election to feed for a while on the poor, would the poor be less numerous and feel less put upon??? But; Mr. Romoney was nearly elected because the middle class and uppers felt very put upon themselves... It is obvious to me that if the Romoney's and the Koch's, and every variety of millionaire and billionaire and hundredthousandaire are unhappy with their lives having all, and the poor are unhappy having nothing that the society is dying of unhappiness whether it wants to admit it or not...

If enough is never enough to those with all, and they cannot stuff the emptyness of their existence with enough dollar bills to make them sated, then what hope have the poor in having their existence drained out of them on watch or working for nothing, and less to show... The last promise the society has made in the effort to defeat communism it is willing to break, so that after today, the old and infirm must forever live in fear that their lives will be snatched from them with their entitlements...
Many votes from Mr. Romoney were the last gasps of racism and prejudice, but they are in no sense the end of fear on right or left... Through the old confederacy the feeling against blacks and liberalism still runs high, and fifty years after sensitive and measured actions agains segregation were seriously began...People are willing to vote their fear, and the parties are willing to exploit that fear, and the people in the conduct of their daily lives must still put aside fear and put bread on their table; but what if that fear grows beyond a simple terror, and threatens them like some Apocalyptic horror???...
I am certain that many did try to present Mr. Obama as all the four horsemen in a single form... The deficit, the fiscal cliff, and etc. are all attempt just as the threat of world communism to get people to act out of fear that have been used so often that people are immune to it, but not mindless to it... Does it matter that it is all funny money printed up and spent because the rich refused taxation??? Does it matter that international communism couldn't wipe it butt with either hand??? It is only by treating those fears as reality that people can be hurt by them...
What happened to the South when they refused to support their government with taxation??? The government printed up millions devaluing the paper it was printed on, and used it as an excuse to continue a war that slaughtered working people on both sides but in the end left 10% of the population in possession of 90% of the wealth... Certainly, the rich may not have been fully in support of the war to begin with, and that just like Athen against the Peloponnes, were pushed into the war by the poor having nothing to lose in their estimation but their poverty...

No matter who wins the election, the fear used to motivate and drive people to the polls has got to be there like a spider that can be dangled over Miss Moffet; but it cannot become so real as to eat little Miss Moffet up... They can mismanage the society all they want, and they can survive on endemic misery and unhappiness all they want, and in this, they are aided by their churches that promise happiness only to the dead; but that transition state, of death where people must choose death, or choose to strike out for happiness and human fulfillment is a dangerous time for society...
The Art of war talks about fatal ground, where out of desparation a general puts his men where they know and he knows they have no choice but to fight or die... It is that fatal ground the parties need to avoid... So long as the people have meaningful jobs that pay their way, and offer some hope of the future, they will recreate themselves in the act of creation...
It is what keep the society going, that the people need to work, but also love to work... It is what make the rich so bitter and ferol because they drive the poor to desparation, and there the poor find more meaning in their lives than the rich can even imagine... How many rich people kill themselves because they cannot face poverty; but why don't the poor??? So long as the poor can do the least meaningful act they are reminded of their own meaning and being, and are given their strength back...
This people like the peasants of China are like the Mythic Antaeus who regained his strength from contact with his mother Earth... So long as we can keep our hold on the commonwealth and never give up our title to it we will have our strength and freedom no matter what the rich try to scare us with... They fear, so they publicize their fear... Let them keep it, and give them cause...
Comment: #6
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Sat Nov 10, 2012 6:51 AM
Sir;... An open bar??? What other fun have I been missing while wishing a pox on both their whore houses???
Comment: #7
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Mon Nov 12, 2012 6:03 AM
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