Playing It Safe and Losing!

Written by admin on June 11th, 2015

Author: Marty Martorella

I have heard many saying that Senator Bernie Sanders doesn’t have a chance to win the Presidency, but I want to remind everyone before 2008 most people didn’t believe that a Black man would ever be president. In this article, I wanted to make the argument that when one political party chose the safe candidate and the other party took a risk, that risky candidate won. You will notice that I am avoiding the issues of the individual candidate, for it doesn’t matter how good or right those issues are, if only a few are listening, those issues really don’t matter.

In the 1976 election, the Republican Party nominated the safe candidate Gerald Ford instead of the risky Ronald Reagan. At the same time, the Democratic Party nominated the risky Jimmy Carter. A year earlier most Americans had not heard of Jimmy Carter. The smart money was on the incumbent Gerald Ford, for most were saying “Jimmy who?” History proved the smart money wrong.

In 1980, Senator Edward Kennedy was the risky candidate and President Carter was the safe candidate for the Democrats, they decided to play it safe by sticking with Jimmy Carter. At the same time, the Democratic prayer was for the Republicans to nominate Ronald Reagan for he was viewed as a space cadet with crazy ideas. Reagan was the wild card/risky candidate which the Republicans chose. Sadly for the Democrats, their prayers were answered and Reagan was elected President.

In 1984 Reagan was a strong incumbent and yet had the Democrats chosen a risky candidate, they might have beaten him. Instead of picking the risky candidate Gary Hart, the Democrats played it safe with Walter Mondale who was the former Vice President and he lost to Reagan.

In 1988 it looks like there were no risky candidates with maybe the exception of the V.P. candidate Dan Quayle. Reagan’s V.P. George H.W. Bush was the Republican nominee and Democrats nominated Michael Dukakis who had beaten the riskier Democratic candidates of Reverend Jesse Jackson and Senator Gary Hart. It is possible that Poppy Bush won because of the momentum of the Reagan administration and the lack of movement in the safe candidacy of Michael Dukakis.

In 1992 Poppy Bush was the ultimate safe incumbent candidate who just a year earlier held a comfortable approval rating of 88%. It must have seemed to the Republican bosses that they had a sure win in Poppy Bush. As the primaries started almost no one knew who Bill Clinton was, to the Democratic bosses, he had to seem like quite a long shot. It was a surprise when he won the Democratic nomination and even more of a shock when he won the presidency.

1996 saw a very successful Clinton presidency with a hot economy and the constant illegitimate attacks by Republicans caused Bill Clinton to appear as the risky candidate. The Republican Party saw this riskiness as a weakness, as a liability when in fact it was an asset. The GOP chose a safe nominee in Senator Bob Dole. President Clinton won by a large margin.

In 2000 both parties ran safe candidates, which made the election a toss-up. A year after the election all the Florida votes were finally counted, revealing that Al Gore actually beat George Bush Jr. but Gore’s play it safe strategy allowed the election to be close enough to steal. Had Gore taken the risk of embracing the Clinton administration and its accomplishments, he might just create a margin too large for any subterfuge to interfere with an honest election. Here the Republicans took some shady risks whereas the Democratic Party played it safe.

In 2004 Republican George Bush Jr. and Democratic Senator John Kerry were the nominees, both were the safe candidates. It is true that the Bush team took some risks using dirty tricks which included election fraud, but other than that there was no positive risk-taking. The real risk candidate was former Vermont governor Howard Dean, but the Democratic machine didn’t want to take any risks and probably restricted Kerry to a point that allows the Republicans to steal another election. The Democratic Party has been afraid to address election irregularities, such as voting machines which cast the vote differently than the voter wanted or illegal counting methods which scored false votes. The Democratic Party refuses to take the risk of souring the electorate to voting. They would rather play it safe.

During the 2008 election, there really wasn’t a safe candidate on the Democratic side. John Edwards had a very strong progressive message with a record of helping the poor and the middle class. Hillary Clinton had a very progressive voting record as Senator, aided in the investigation of the Watergate scandal and Richard Nixon, as First Lady pushed for health reform and of course, just being a woman was a risk being that there never been a female president. Barack Obama has a long history of progressive activism using his legal training to help the poor, minorities and the disadvantaged, in state and federal office he sponsored and supported bills which helped those who couldn’t fight for themselves. Almost forgot the biggest negative in the eyes of the powers that be, few thought that a Black man could be elected president. None of these candidates ingratiated themselves on the elite of society. The rich and powerful would have preferred someone who wouldn’t rock the boat. A safe candidate wouldn’t threaten the status quo. The Republicans chose a very safe candidate in Senator John McCain and they tried to give the symbolism of risk, thinking that a female V.P. candidate would pull in the female vote. They missed the point that women didn’t want another woman, rather someone who represented their needs and Sarah Palin just didn’t fit that bill. If you told people that Barack Hussein Obama, a Black man would be the next president in 2006, they would call for the men in the white coats. I guess Barack Obama was the biggest risk and as we all know, he won.

Then in 2012, because of all the outrageous attacks on President Obama made him still appear as the risky nominee. The Republican party bosses thought that they had found the safest candidate in Mitt Romney. Governor Romney did his best to fit into that safe image. Once again the risky candidate won by a landslide.

In the 2016 election the Democrats chose the safest candidate in Hillary, Bernie was just too risky for them and because of cheating in the electoral college Trump was able to steal the White House.  Had they picked Bernie the excitement would have been strong enough that Trump would not been able to steal the election.  Will the Democrats have the courage to take a risk, or will they choose the safe candidate?  God help us all if Trump gets a second term! *

The reason that these risky candidates seem to do so much better than the safe ones is that where the safe candidate tickle pink the kings and queens or the economic royalty, they do little to excite the majority of Americans. Risk does interesting things to people. Think of the feelings that you got in Vegas or Reno. Maybe it was seeing your team winning or racing another car. For that matter, anytime you took a risk, your heart pounded faster, as your excitement increased you felt more alive than ever before. This is one of the reason that those risky candidates do so much better. So, if either party runs a safe candidate against a risky candidate in 2016, look for the risky candidate to win, no matter what the odds. With that, this writer says go Bernie go!


*edited in a paragraph for 2020

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