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Focusing on strategy instead of substance

This article, about the back room maneuvers by both political parties leading up to last week’s election, has been making the rounds on all the political websites. Called a “must-read, vivid piece”, it reveals all the strategies, mistakes, and childish in-fighting that took place during the campaign, the kind of stuff that makes many people consider politicians such a lower form of life.

I am normally not interested in these smoke-filled backroom stories as I care a lot more about what politicians do when they are in office. This is why I didn’t read the article until today, two days after it was published and after I had seen it quoted in maybe a dozen other political articles about the election.

Having read it I have to agree it is worthwhile reading, but my main take-away is that its focus on the campaign strategies and maneuvers by politicians of both parties epitomizes all that is wrong with modern political journalism as well as the interests too many of its readers. Only once did the article hint at the actual issues crucial to the election, when it summed up the Republican strategy near the beginning of the article:

From the outset of the campaign, Republicans had a simple plan: Don’t make mistakes, and make it all about Obama, Obama, Obama. Every new White House crisis would bring a new Republican ad. And every Democratic incumbent would be attacked relentlessly for voting with the president 97 or 98 or 99 percent of the time.

That’s it. That’s the only hint at real substance in this whole very long and detailed article.

For you see, the election was about Obama and his fumbling incompetence. It was about the policies he and his Democratic supporters in Congress had foisted on the nation. And it was about how those policies have been a disaster for ordinary people all across the nation.

All the games that these politicians play against each other during campaigns really isn’t that important. It might tell you something about their character, but what really matters is what these guys do, when they are in office. Keep that in mind when the next election rolls around, because I guarantee that the politicians and the journalists who write about them are not going to be interested in talking about that. It would be far too embarrassing.

Conscious Choice cover

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From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.


“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.


All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. The ebook can also be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.


  • Orion314

    85 men have more wealth than 3.5 BILLION PEOPLE in this world, Does anyone else out there besides me think that this may be a place to focus on, in order to start in solving our problems?

  • DK Williams

    In 2008, a poorly qualified, narcissistic candidate won the Presidency of the United States thanks to cue cards, computer wonks, and historical luck. (He wasn’t Bush.) He repeated this success in 2012. (Romney underestimated the wonks.) In 2014, Reince Preibus (head of GOP) retooled Party strategy, convinced Republican leaders to listen to the computer geeks, make the election about a failed president (Swapping Obama for Bush), and the results were spectacular. Strategy matters; style matters; substance–not so much.

  • Strategy is important but it mustn’t be everything, as this article notes in describing the defeat of Wendy Davis in Texas.

    Perhaps the answer might once again be found in the apparent mistake which Democrats around the country have made time and time again. Too many strategists fall into the trap of treating demographic groups of people as if they were monolithic entries in pigeonholes which can be placed on a war room map and shoved back and forth. Yes, the demographics of Texas are shifting (along with much of the country) and the voting base is becoming decidedly more Hispanic. But despite repeated evidence that the Hispanic population frequently leans toward social conservative views, the Democrat Monday morning quarterbacks still seem to base their analysis on the assumption that nobody could ever possibly vote for a Republican except for elderly white people.

    Perhaps it is precisely that sort of insulting generalization which leads liberals to consistently under-perform with Hispanic voters. By now it should have occurred to at least some of them that the quality of the candidate and the positions they embrace are more important to many voters than whether they have a D or an R after their name. And that lesson is true whether your name is Smith or Garcia.

  • Edward

    This seems like an excellent place to focus on.

    3.5 billion people can be taught that they, too, can better their circumstances. People need to aspire to better places in life, otherwise they become jealous of the successful.

    The natural desire of “have-nots” who cannot improve their lives is to tear down the “haves” or to confiscate their property or earnings (same thing). Destruction and confication only leads to less prosperity. Look at Detroit, sometime. Once a jewel, the richest city in the world, now at half its former population and abandoned buildings and houses abound.

    Watch the movie “Pursuit of Happyness” sometime. Our down-and-out hero asks the guy with the expensive car what job he had and then he strives to get the same job. Aspiration, is a good motivator to become productive, and it is the productive who are (and should be) rewarded most. Productivity is how 85 people became so rich.

    As each person improves his own situation, those around him also become better off. With increased productivity comes increased prosperity, as there is more to go around. Each productive person is solving some problem that others have, and those others are willing to reward him (pay) for that solution.

    So, yes. If 3.5 billion people each aspire to become among the top 85, then a lot of good necessarily will come of it.

  • Garry

    I think the aspect of inequality to focus on is bringing the 3.5 billion people up, rather than bringing the 85 down. The trouble with redistribution schemes is that they treat wealth as a zero-sum game. Without inequality, there’s no real incentive to progress.

    Just one example: when AIDS drugs first came out, they were ridiculously expensive, and there were howls of protest that only the very rich could afford them. In time, advancements were made, and now the drugs are easily affordable by virtually anyone. That could not have happened without huge investments, which would not have happened if, say, from the start there was a condition that the drugs would have to be easily affordable by all.

    A more universal example is electronics: computers, plasma TVs, video games, cell phones, video cameras – you name it, it always starts out ridiculously expensive and after a time comes down in price to benefit the masses. Without concentrations in capital, we’d never develop any of these things, and although they start out benefiting only the wealthy, most of them end up trickling down to the masses.

    A rising tide does indeed lift all boats. I and the rest of the middle class in this country have access to thing the richest people in the world couldn’t get 50 or even 10 years ago.

    The video that Bob posted years ago that got me hooked on this site illustrates this well, although that’s not the point of the video and is not even stated directly: Notice how all nations get wealthier (and healthier) over time; if there weren’t countries on the leading edge, there would probably be no progress.

    I would like to think that if I were to become super wealthy (yeah, right) I would be content to keep, say, a billion dollars and give the rest of it away, but I don’t claim to be immune from human nature, so I’ll never know. I’m amused by the efforts of some of the super rich to give away their money and make the world a better place; the priority seems to be to make themselves feel better rather than to do the most good. For example, throwing more money at inner city schools has never solved the underlying problems by itself, and ultimately only makes teachers, administrators, consultants, etc. wealthier.

    I don’t remember what philanthropic efforts Bill Gates has made that have had me shaking my head, but on every occasion, it occurs to me that his products have done more to improve the world than his philanthropic efforts ever could. He would do more good if his giving took the form of lowering the prices of Microsoft products, rather than keeping them prohibitively expensive for some people and donating his “excess” to the latest well-intended liberal cause.

    Practically speaking, the bulk of the wealth possessed by the super rich is in the form of investments in enterprises that eventually benefit us all.

    The problem isn’t that some are too rich, the problem is that others are too poor. I always chuckle when that song by Ten Years After comes on the radio, at the naivete shown by the lines “Tax the rich, Feed the poor, Till there ain’t no, Rich no more.” In other words, the goal isn’t to make sure nobody’s poor, but to make sure nobody’s rich.

    I’m not assuming this is what you mean, I just want to emphasize that when we look at inequality we have to look at the right side of the coin.

  • Cotour

    Strategy gets you elected and gives you access to the levers of power, lets not apply everyday logic and what is “moral” to this equation. In between the competition to become empowered you have your opportunity to apply your political philosophy and agenda.

    Why is it that we can not really detect what the leadership of either party really believes in regards to say immigration reform? That is by design and not by accident. Strategy first, power second.

    Watch what they do and not only what they say? Absolutely! Why do you think Reagan was a great president? He was an actor, a principled American minded actor. Obama is also an “actor”, he just happens to be an un American minded actor and the people of America have just given him direct feedback on that subject.

  • Orion314

    I fear my point is not believed for the truth it holds. For any type of civilization to survive,I know, based on ANY kind of economic system, there must be some kind of checks and balances. Our government was founded on that idea, and it worked , for a while….When the checks and balances no longer work, things fall apart, the center does not hold. Our current system no longer functions in that way, Corporations were originally given their benefits , based upon the premise they would be “good neighbors” and return to their local community some benefit. We ALL KNOW , NOW, THAT IS LUDICROUS. Like the expansion of the Universe, the rapid economic acceleration of the ” haves vs the have nots” will very soon reach the point of no return. “The rising tide raises all boats” idea doesn’t work , if most of the boats are full of holes..I expect no response, cause I know this cuts to the bone. Its easy for me to post this, cause I lost everything from GATT, NAFTA, etc, All the great things bestowed upon me by a government and corporate system I faithfully served as a USAF vet are gone. What a fool I was thinking that men of integrity and honor still remained in power. the only thing that matters is extreme wealth and hubris.I just made the ultimate mistake of living too long. Happy veterans day…so glad i served, what a sucker i was…

  • Edward


    Thank you for your service. I truly appreciate your time, effort, and sacrifice to protect our rights. Our service-men and women have done an excellent job (which I cannot say of the leaders of the three branches of government).

    Sorry to read that you didn’t adapt to changing conditions and that this caused you such pain and disillusionment. Adaptability is one of the strengths of the human species and of the human individual. I am currently in the middle of an adaptation, so I understand the stress, fright, and uncertainty that it causes. I, too, could be prematurely retired, right now, or I could soon be back in the industry that I love. Which way I need to adapt is yet a mystery.

    I do not blame the corporations for which I worked, as they are still in business, employing people, and providing beneficial goods and services to their customers. For each company that let me go, I see myself more like a lizard’s tail, dropped off in order to save the rest of the “organism” from a bad situation. Of course, it would have been nicer to have been part of the surviving organism, but that’s life in corporate, non-agricultural America (and sometimes there, too).

    Your comment was a long, long way away from 85 people vs 3-1/2 billion people.

    You wrote: “Our current system no longer functions in that way, Corporations were originally given their benefits , based upon the premise they would be “good neighbors” and return to their local community some benefit. We ALL KNOW , NOW, THAT IS LUDICROUS.”

    I missed which part was ludicrous, that the system no longer functions (a loss of checks and balances) or that corporations were given benefits, or that they are good neighbors that return some benefit to their local communities.

    1) Congress is not reigning-in an out-of-control president, who has stated that the Constitution gives negative benefits (which is true, but only for the government, not for We the People, whom that government is supposed to serve), that he rewards his friends and punishes his enemies (and this has happened), and that we didn’t build our businesses (because we just aren’t smart enough or hard-working enough). The Supreme Court didn’t help, when it ruled that the government can direct us as to how to spend our own money. (I still want to know which other tyranny has had the audacity to be *this* tyrannical; if anyone reading this knows, please reply.) I agree with the analysis that Obama is out of control, and I do not find this conclusion ludicrous; I find it scary and tremendously limiting — our rights are being stripped from us at a tremendous rate by the big government model, and more rights are threatened or lost (or both) with each passing month — often taken from us by unelected government bureaucrats. We had far, far more rights in the days of free market capitalism, and the corporations responded to our needs better. Now they only need to go to Obama for a crony capitalist hand-out in order to stay alive, rather than satisfy their customers enough to keep their business.

    2) The main benefit of the corporation is limited liability for the owners. Without this, there would be much less economic activity, and we each might still be farming a few acres of land with plow and oxen. If you mean tax deductions (which some people consider to be “corporate welfare”), then you likely suffer from the same benefit. If you mean that Obama gives financial support to companies that are failing, but wants to increase taxes on successful companies, then please see my comments above about rewarding friends and punishing enemies — welcome to crony capitalism. I don’t find corporations or their original benefits to be ludicrous. I find them to be a lot more rewarding than working a field (with apologies to my farmer cousin, if he is reading this, but then again, he purchases a whole lot of corporate goods and services that make his job much easier and more productive than the plow and oxen).

    3) Corporations often are generous to various charities. I sit on the board of a charity, and sometimes they wish to remain anonymous. Corporations, unlike charities, provide the benefit that we are ever so willing to pay for: their goods and services. They often are quiet, obey laws, and protect the environment. Those that have difficulty with such compliance are either sued out of business, are located far from where the neighbors would be inconvenienced or harmed, or spend much resources finding ways to be compliant.

    Or you may be complaining about corporations that flout laws, such as Microsoft becoming a virtual unregulated monopoly and intimidating its customers into including ONLY MS software onto their consumer goods (e.g. new computers). Yeah, that’s evil.

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