by Marion Marks
Pat Buchanan, significantly fashioned the Richard Nixon image and is credited with stating “public opinion could not only be ascertained, but crafted.” Understanding how to fashion the public’s appreciation in a chief executive’s election and the image of the office demonstrated at the time that managing the press, understanding how to alter free speech or insert selective facts also gives responsibility for pinning Nixon as “Tricky Dick.”
Our world of facts may speak louder than mere spoken words, but efforts to enlarge words and empower them carry responsibilities when it comes to presidential politics. Clearly both the Trump and Clinton camps will make every effort to spin the news and make the opponent appear to be – “The Evil One!” Sadly voters are more easily led by spin than facts, and neither is pure or capable of being transparent in this race.
Ronald Reagan, interviewed by David Brinkley near the end of his presidency, concerning skills that made him successful commented, “there have been times when I wondered how you could do the job if you hadn’t been an actor.” It was obvious Reagan’s team was aware that age and health had impaired the president’s ability to personally mount strenuous public relations campaigns for his administration’s programs. However, Reagan could be at the top of his game for limited presentations, especially for well choreographed snippets using the tools he still possessed.
The “Age of the Handlers” became a tag placed on George Herbert Walker Bush, and his team of consultants staged presentations masterfully against hapless Michael Dukakis. The public bought the image they built versus the seemingly foolish bumbler Dukakis. The simple mechanics of the campaign could resemble a well-oiled machine. Today the Republicans have a radically different make, model and unscripted candidate whose frenetic appearances sell to a hungry public.
Offensive speech from Trump’s mouth draws converts to his candidacy, just as it cheapens the presidential brand and shocks many open minded voters. Trump claims he ‘cherishes women’ and is the ‘least racist person.’ But these claims come with inflammatory epithets that empower supporters whose motives don’t appear to be pure and draws a fringe element of racists and marginally acceptable sects who frighten many loyal Republicans.
Trump’s greatest draw and hope for victory seems to be fear of another Clinton. And Hillary comes with proven half-truths, and she can’t dispel the uncommitted voter’s hope that a reality show winner will be able to refashion the foundations of Washington.
If the worst comes to pass, “Tricky Dick” Nixon’s villainous image may be overshadowed by fears of what Donald Trump’s most sinister side could wreak to our nation. Voters will be forced to vote against their fears rather than for their dreams.
Louisiana Gambler, Silver-Tongued Edwin Edwards may have succeeded against former KKK Grand Dragon or Imperial Wizard David Duke; the Duke magic just didn’t work in a well-publicized state-wide race that drew national attention. But lessons in politics, just like academic rigor, may be beyond our nation’s capacity to internalize when a magical salesman, a reality show huckster who has never held elected office, continues to dazzle and fool voters. We may just be this season’s suckers who can’t get an even break.