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Tags: scapegoat

Campaign Manager Gets the Praise, Blame — Deserved or Not

trump and stepien listen to reporters questions
Campaign manager Bill Stepien stands alongside President Donald Trump as he speaks with reporters aboard Air Force One. (AFP via Getty Images)

Ralph Benko By Thursday, 17 September 2020 10:39 AM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

There is a law of politics: The campaign manager of a winning campaign is celebrated as a genius, that of the losing campaign as an idiot. Whether true or not.

Brad Parscale was hailed as a genius for his work in the digital campaign leading to Trump's 2016 upset victory. Then the Trump family promoted him to campaign manager for 2020. D.C. insiders say that Jared Kushner is the real campaign manager. The official campaign manager is more like Lieutenant Sulu than Captain Kirk. Kushner has shrewdly created a convenient scapegoat … just in case.

The capable Parscale recently was demoted from campaign manager to "senior advisor," replaced by the capable Bill Stepien, the next scapegoat-apparent if fortune does not smile on Trump's re-election bid. If Trump wins, Kushner will re-appear on magazine covers as the resident genius.

Campaign veteran Ed Rollins is slinging mud on Parscale. Per The New York Times' grand operatic account, How Trump's Billion-Dollar Campaign Lost Its Advantage, Rollins "accused Mr. Parscale of spending 'like a drunken sailor.'"

Rollins was the national campaign director of Reagan's landslide re-election. He had as much to do with that win as the figurehead on the prow of a victorious racing sloop. That said, the campaign manager of a landslide win – say, the re-election of the wildly popular Reagan who quelled inflation, created a staggering number of great jobs, and set in motion American victory over Communism without firing a shot – is celebrated as a genius. And a goat if you lose, even against long odds.

Rollins went on to manage any number of losing campaigns: Jack Kemp's and Ross Perot's presidential as well as congressional races. And Rollins bragged about fomenting Black voter suppression during the (winning) 1993 New Jersey gubernatorial race he ran … before retracting his story. He continued on with a career marked by many more losses. No matter. The System is based on celebrity, not merit.

That said, is Rollins' criticism justified? $800 million? Sure sounds like a lot of money. Let's put it into perspective. That's $2.44 for every one of America's 328 million people. One beer each … at a rural happy hour. Around $11.60 per voter, or one mixed drink at a not-so-posh tavern.

Not "drunken sailor" money.

Not even tipsy sailor.

Meanwhile, the U.S. deficit so far this year has run around $3 trillion. Now that's drunken sailor money! $800 million is less than 3 hundredths of a penny to the dollar on that.

Nike spent about $6 billion in 2015 on sports deals to promote its products. Are athletic shoes more important than the presidency of the United States? Maybe so. Seven times more important? Maybe not. These cold numerical facts call to mind my old lament that what much of the left's imaginary hobgoblin of "Big Money" corrupting politics just isn't so. There's way too little big money in politics.

Or a strong case can be (and has been) made that all this campaign spending is, as Shakespeare put it, "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing." As I have pointed out here, Prof. Alan Lichtman, author of Predicting the Next President: The Keys to the White House, propounds the controversial theory that we voters are not, in fact, stupid. We see right through the political advertising.

The lavish advertising? Propaganda at best, political pornography at worst.

Actually, we voters vote based on our recognition of what we care about: prosperity, foreign policy (national security and peace), social harmony or unrest, a modicum of dignity, and, basically, reasonably competent governance. The boring stuff that actually matters to us. Not slick campaign propaganda.

Using the hypothesis that voters aren't stupid, Lichtman has successfully predicted the outcome of every presidential election since 1984 (with a Supreme Court asterisk on Bush vs. Gore.) He back-tested it over a century before that. Works great! We voters consistently pick the lesser of the two (or, hello the Libertarian Party's Jo Jorgenson, three, and welcome independent Brock Pierce, maybe making it the lesser of four) evils.

That said, Jake Tapper and Wolf Blitzer and, for that matter, Ed Rollins are not paid the big bucks for their looks. >Shudder!< They have to say something, something dramatic enough to keep us glued to their network, not changing the channel to Netflix's Halt and Catch Fire or PBS's The Great British Baking Show.

Dear readers? We will be treated to grand operatic presidential election analysis until the votes are cast and the dust settles. If only for auld lang syne do consider consulting your best interests and then casting a ballot.

Then if Joe Biden or Donald Trump wins do not blame the other guy's campaign manager for losing. Politics turns out to be really about "reality." Not "Reality TV."

Pass the popcorn!

Ralph Benko, co-author of "The Capitalist Manifesto" and chairman and co-founder of "The Capitalist League," is the founder of The Prosperity Caucus and is an original Kemp-era member of the Supply Side revolution that propelled the Dow from 814 to its current heights and world GDP from $11T to $88T. He served as a deputy general counsel in the Reagan White House, has worked closely with the Congress and two cabinet agencies, and has published over a million words on politics and policy in the mainstream media, as a distinguished professional blogger, and as the author of the internationally award-winning cult classic book "The Websters' Dictionary: How to Use the Web to Transform the World." He has served as senior adviser, economics, to APIA as an advocate of the gold standard, senior counselor to the Chamber of Digital Commerce and serves as co-founder of and senior counselor to Frax.finance, a stablecoin venture. Read Ralph Benko's reports — More Here.

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There is a law of politics: The campaign manager of a winning campaign is celebrated as a genius, that of the losing campaign as an idiot. Whether true or not.
Thursday, 17 September 2020 10:39 AM
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