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Lonely headquarters of the losing presidential candidate, by Mark Shields
And how did losing Democrats explain Ronald Reagan's back-to-back landslides? "He's terrific on TV"--as though the answer to the party's problems would have been to put together a ticket of Steve Carell and Judge Judy. Other gimmicks the winning side has apparently taken advantage of include mastery of the Internet, social networking, data mining, and cellphones.
The most dangerous point of all on the political compass is the stage I call Blame the Customer. It wasn't our party's record or platform or hypocrisy the electorate might have objected to. No, the whole problem turns out to be the voters themselves.
Deliberately overlooked in this rationalization of defeat is the fact that just a short while ago, when our side was winning elections, we celebrated these same voters for being so thoughtful, mature, patriotic, and wise. But now when they prefer the candidate of the other party, we brand them selfish, mean-spirited, easily duped, and lazy.
Recently sited at this stage was Rush Limbaugh, who said after the 2012 election, "In a country of children, where the option is either Santa Claus or work it's tough to beat Santa Claus."
The principal drawback to the Blame the Customer theory is that we really have only two political parties in this country. If you're going to accuse a majority of the voters of being either ethical jellyfish or moral pariahs, you're probably not going to win their support on a regular basis.
The final stage is Get Me a Winner! I no longer want to quibble about trivial issues differences. I'm just tired of losing. (This is how the GOP settled on Ike after 20 years in the wilderness and why Democrats are still smitten with Bill Clinton.) Can this candidate win back the White House? Good. Where do I sign up? How should I make out the check?
These, believe me, are the predictable stages following the agony of defeat.
Mark Shields is a columnist for Creators Syndicate.