The Glenn Beck Syndrome: Obama s Trump Card
Vol: 115 Issue: 26 Tuesday, April 26, 2011
In 1908 President Teddy Roosevelt declined to run for a third term and supported the candidacy of William Howard Taft, who had served as Roosevelt’s Secretary of War. Taft won an easy victory and enjoyed an accomplished first term.
Taft was a staunch conservative; Roosevelt was a progressive Republican. During Taft’s term the GOP split along ideological lines. Roosevelt’s Progressive Republicans favored conservationism, labor unions, globalism and popular election of federal judges.
By 1910 the ideological split was so deep that the former friends became bitter enemies. When Roosevelt failed to defeat Taft for the 1912 GOP nomination, he quit the Republican Party and started the Bull Moose Party.
Roosevelt ran as a third-party candidate against Taft and life-long Progressive leader Woodrow Wilson. Many of Wilson’s policies mirrored those of Roosevelt’s Progressives; Roosevelt didn’t need to run to see them enacted.
And Roosevelt didn’t really think he could defeat either Taft or Wilson; his base was divided between conservative Taft and progressive Democrat Wilson.
But as a former Republican President, Roosevelt knew he would draw more votes away from Taft than he would from Wilson. So his progressive policies would win even if he didn’t.
On the other hand, Taft would have defeated Wilson handily, had Roosevelt not split the vote. In the end, Wilson won by a plurality vote of 42%.
Wilson won with fewer overall votes and a lower percentage of votes than William Jennings Bryan had lost to Taft by four years earlier.
Without Roosevelt, Taft would have won a landslide victory. With Roosevelt in the race, Taft came in third, making his the worst defeat of an incumbent president in American history.
Woodrow Wilson’s victory resulted in the creation of the Federal Reserve, Internal Revenue Service, personal income taxes, the first Western propaganda office (the Creel Commission), official segregationism and the League of Nations.
In 1924, the Republican Party was still split along progressive/conservative lines with former Republican Robert Follette running as a Progressive. Follette hoped to pull enough votes from conservative incumbent Calvin Coolidge to repeat the successes of 1912.
Unexpectedly, Follette pulled more votes away from Democrat John Davis than he did from “Silent Cal” Coolidge, giving Coolidge another term and stopping the progressive advance.
In 1992, Republican progressive Ross Perot ran as an Independent, splitting the vote with Republican George H. W. Bush, handing Bill Clinton a 42% plurality and the White House. Perot took 19% of the popular vote, primarily from Bush.
Had Perot not run, Clinton would have been defeated by at least 14 points. In 1996, Perot’s Reform Party took 8.4% of the vote. Clinton won by a plurality – 49.2%. Republican Bob Dole lost by precisely 8%.
There is no way that Democrat Woodrow Wilson could have defeated William Howard Taft without a third-party candidate. Progressive Republican Roosevelt knew that – and he ran anyway.
Progressive Democrat Clinton could not have defeated George Bush in 1992 without Ross Perot. He could not have won re-election in 1996 without Ross Perot.
In 1996, Perot was out-polling even Bill Clinton when he suddenly quit the campaign. Later, he re-started it – far too late to help his candidacy but in time to sink Bob Dole’s.
And to hand Bill Clinton four more years.
At the moment, Barack Obama’s presidency is all but guaranteed to end on January 20, 2013. His approval numbers are beyond dismal. Seventy percent of those polled say that Obama is taking the country in the wrong direction.
(I’m wondering what is wrong with the other thirty percent that say he isn’t or they aren’t sure.)
Then out of the blue, like Teddy Roosevelt or Ross Perot, here comes Donald Trump. Let me say that I kinda like Donald Trump for the White House, given what I know of him, but, given what I know of him, he doesn’t have a chance of winning.
But he is riding high in the polls, primarily because of his very public attacks on Barack Obama. While the attacks are primarily true, they are so ‘over the top’ that Trump’s candidacy is already fatally infected by the Glenn Beck Syndrome.
The Glenn Beck Syndrome is when people absolutely refuse to believe the truth, even when it is documented and verified, because they prefer the lie.
Trump’s popularity started to skyrocket when he raised the birth certificate issue. That automatically earned him the admiration of about one-third of American voters.
It just as automatically marginalized him as a kook to the other two-thirds. You can’t win an election with a third of the vote, but you can sure pull a lot of votes away from somebody who otherwise can.
Obama is counting on Donald Trump pulling all of those votes away from the Republican candidate, since he is certain that anybody that would vote for Trump would otherwise be voting for his opponent.
Is Trump secretly coordinating with Obama in an effort to ‘fix’ the 2012 election? I don’t think so. I don’t think that he has to. (But it is worth recalling that Trump was for Obama before he was against him.)
Like Ross Perot, Donald Trump is a brilliant businessman with an ego as big as his bank balance. But he has the political skills of a Marine Corps gunnery sergeant.
Trump’s message is that “Obama is a jerk and I can do better” but his poll numbers are largely reflective of the first half of his message.
The birth certificate issue is the perfect red herring. (Even Glenn Beck, recognizing the power of the Glenn Beck Syndrome, ran from it like it was kryptonite.)
All this works perfectly toward Obama’s advantage. Trump is the perfect third party candidate, from Obama’s perspective. Splitting the vote worked for Woodrow Wilson in 1912. It worked (twice) for Bill Clinton. Obama is counting on it working for him in 2012.
If we are still here in 2012.