Why Kerry was Guaranteed to Lose
Kerry's loss brings basic marketing principles to mind.
These principles explain why he was guaranteed to lose, mainly due to his own choices in how to represent himself, and yet there may have been no other choice for him to even get the nomination.
He lost the election long before election night mainly because he failed to define the terms of the contest.
The Republicans defined the central issue, from a positioning or branding perspective, and Kerry could never out maneuver them on ground of their own choosing.
This was revealed in Kerry's concession speech when he advised all Americans to pull together to win the war on terror.
On the face of it, an uplifting and positive thought. But that statement contains the answer to the riddle of why this highly qualified, intelligent, experienced and wise man lost to a man of average intelligence and limited vision.
That was the first time I ever heard Kerry use the phrase "the war on terror."
And that illumined his loss in an instant.
Let's ask, to start with, who made up that phrase? George Bush and company. Who constantly promoted that phrase? Bush and Co. Who has geared their entire administration around that phrase and that policy? Same crowd.
Bush (and cronies) made up the war on terror. It's their baby. It's their campaign slogan. It's their definition of the conflict. Bush is the founder of War on Terror, Incorporated.
And Kerry though he was gong to convince the American people that he could out-Bush Bush, even on his own turf? Bush IS the war on terror. That's his (deeply flawed, I contest) definition of the situation we face.
And Kerry could never hope to be any better than War on Terror Lite.
Even I wouldn't pick Kerry over Bush for that job. If you are just going to go out and kill people, you don't need a smart guy. You need a thug who doesn't think twice about it. With George, what you see is what you get. He understands killing people who disagree with him. Kerry is a little more troubled by killing, even though he is the only one of those two who has personally killed people.
So, if you think that we are in a war on terror, by all means, George Bush is the man.
But that's where Kerry got it wrong.
It was the entire concept of a war on terror that needed attacking. Because Kerry decided to fight it out with Bush on his own turf, he was guaranteed to lose. You can't beat the original formula, the founder. Bush made up the game, the rules and the definition of winning. Kerry was a guest on that game board. Only Bush cold win the game he created. After all, he can change the rules anytime he liked. Which he did, continually.
What Kerry should have done, long ago, was to attack the very concept of a war on terror.... to explain that a country can't declare war on individuals. That an army can't attack terrorists. Terrorists by definition are distributed, desperate individuals, perhaps with some low level of organization, but still they are people with no other hope, and no other way to feel like they are having an effect.
There is no way to defend against people that are willing to kill themselves to kill you. Going out to kill them just creates more martyrs. They WANT to die for a cause. They don't have other jobs, in general. They get to eat, and to train, for a while, because they are planning to die. But then they have to go through with it.
The idea that warring against these people would mean that there would be less of them is deeply flawed.
Warring with them just gives them more notoriety and significance in their Arab societies. It just makes their sacrifice more compelling, attractive and apparently effective to their peoples.
Bush is the greatest recruiter for terrorists that the world has ever seen.
Let me ask you, if the U.S. Army was coming your way, would you stand and fight or wait until they were standing on a corner in Fallujah and pick them off one by one?
That's a terrorist nowadays.
It used to be that to kill an American you had to go all the way to the U.S. Now anyone with a gun in Iraq can kill an American. It's way easier.
What Kerry should have done was to expose the insidious, ugly, flawed, deeply corrosive, cruel and stupid phrase "war on terror" as the guaranteed failure that it will always be, and come up with a new concept, phrase or brand statement to replace it, such as:
The un-war on terror
The peace on terror
The end of terror
The love your enemies policy
I think every person with even the slightest degree of intelligence knows that killing other people doesn't reduce violence.
All killing is violence.
We don't reduce terror by killing terrorists. It was a bit sad to watch Kerry insist on his intentions to hunt down and kill terrorists.
We need to spend WAY more time and energy discovering what we have done to tick these people off and stop doing those things.
We need to learn WAY MORE about these other cultures and how not to interfere or offend them.
We need to put more emphasis on strengthening those countries economically and culturally from within rather than imposing "democracy" from without.
We need a peace policy, not a war policy.
They understand war and killing
We need to understand peace and reconciliation
We are the big force. We need to also be the wise force.
We need to win over the moderate Arabs not by killing the extremists, but by listening more, apologizing more, and staying out of their way.
Yes, there are some extremists who must be stopped,
But we don't stop them by becoming extreme ourselves.
They think we need to be killed because we are infidels.
We think they need to be killed because they are terrorists.
We need to move, quickly, away from the war on terror if we want them to have any reason to quit providing targets for us, while they sneak through, here and there, and kill themselves and us.
Killing people was never the big picture policy.
Creating and gaining understanding is.
There are, of course, faster ways.
In the mean time, at least now we know how not to run for president. If you want to come in first, that is.
Thursday, November 04, 2004
Why Kerry was Guaranteed to Lose