You don’t get it, do you?
Yes, David beat Goliath.
Yes, Peter Pan beat Captain Hook.
Yes, Lawrence of Arabia beat the Ottoman Empire.
Yes, Fordham beat UMass (1971).
Yes, Stanford beat USC (2007).
Yes, the Tigers beat the Yankees.
Yes, New York City survived Superstorm Sandy.
Yes, Obama and the Democrats beat Romney and the Republicans and their billionaires’ money.
But don’t be so sure you can do it again.
This is a country that runs on information, and most of that information is transmitted via television, plus some radio. Sure, there’s the internet, but that’s really small potatoes compared with the broadcast media. To understand why, think about the numbers. Most websites, tweets, blogs, and forums on the internet get a few thouand visitors. Maybe a few hundred thousand. A really giant one will get a million visitors a month. A monster “viral” success will get two or three million visitors over its lifetime.
On television, a show that gets two million viewers is quickly canceled. At one point Rush Limbaugh had five million people listening to him every day. Every day! Sixty million people watched each of the pre-election Presidential debates. Sixty million!
TV and radio is where most voters get their information, along with word of mouth from friends, who also get their information from radio and television. If you’re’ not on TV, you’re not a viable candidate for national or even state office. And if your message, or point of view, or facts are not on TV, they literally do not find their way into the minds, hearts, and memory banks of America’s voters.
Of course, it’s easy to get on TV and radio … if you have tens of millions or hundreds of millions of dollars to spend on promotional efforts, message development, and … the bottom line … purchase of advertising time.
If you don’t have the big bucks, you’re not going to get on TV or radio very much. In that case, your ideas and your messages and your facts will wither on the vine. They’ll be highly appreciated by your immediate family, but not by very many more.
So this election cycle, for a variety of reasons, Obama and the Democrats beat Romney and the Republicans and their billionaires’ money. But next election cycle, some of those reasons may not be quite so vibrant and strong as they were this time. And the cycle after that, there may not be a Superstorm to focus voters’ attention of the favorable work that government can sometimes do. And the cycle after that, there may not be screaming yahoos on the Republican side mouthing nonsense and acting like clowns. And the cycle after that, Republican strategists may have learned to spend all that money sweetly wooing voters instead of insensitively pissing them off.
And when that happens the Party of the One Percenters, suitably disguised in working class clothes and skillfully uttering populist slogans and slathering those sophisticated messages all over the TV screens and radio dials of America, may sneak into a big time electoral victory.
After all, most of the time, the odds greatly favor Goliath over David, Captain Hook over Peter Pan, the Ottoman Empire over Lawrence of Arabia, UMass with Julius Erving over Fordham without him, a strong USC team over a weak Stanford team, the Yankees over the Tigers, a monster storm like Sandy over a New York City not designed for two-story high storm surges, and the Republicans’ billionaires’ money over a relatively underfunded Democratic party.
One solution would be to raise as much money as the Republicans. But that normally requires the cooperation of billionaires, and then Democrats would have to offer those billionaires basically the same paybacks as the Republicans do.
A better solution would be to finish the effort to get money out of politics, now, before money entrenches itself into politics so deeply it becomes inseparable, so we can all settle down to watching a fair fight between equally matched, equally clever politicians. And may the better party win!
Whichever party that turns out to be, the nation will be the better for it.