As previously noted, by making semi-populist, contra-big money, anti-Washington themes central to his nascent presidential campaign, these detract from the legitimacy of former Gov. Buddy Roemer’s extraordinarily long shot attempt to win in 2012. Roemer is a political insider born with a silver spoon in his mouth, but he still believes somehow he can capture the Republican nomination as a spokesman for the significant segment of the population attracted to the kind of platform he espouses, because, to a lesser degree, he did the same to become governor. Here’s why this time it won’t work.
Roemer thinks he might catch on because in his successful gubernatorial campaign he spoke about cleaning up cronyism in Baton Rouge and reducing the size of government – a populism growing in strength in America then but at odds with Louisiana’s political history, where “populism” was seen as the use of more intrusive government to divvy up wealth and power purportedly on behalf of the citizenry. But such were the excesses in spending by and perception of corruption concerning the third former Gov. Edwin Edwards’ administration that the message resonated.
The Democrat Roemer was working on his fourth term in Congress, with a reputation for bucking liberal party leaders in ideology, when he set his sights on the leading the state. He didn’t consciously try to win the support of traditional Democrat powerbrokers but became viewed as an outsider dependent upon smaller donations and grassroots support. Perhaps most helpful to his cause was a televised debate where, alone among the Democrats, he stumped for his different approach and absolutely forswore a place for Edwards in his administration. Media figures warmed to that and almost every newspaper in the state endorsed him afterwards. That seemed to catch enough people’s attention to get him into the general election runoff with Edwards, who subsequently withdrew.
But 2012 will be a quarter century past that campaign, and the world and Roemer’s record is very different now. He thinks communicative technologies actually will assist him, to allow him to get a vast base of contributors that he will need with his self-imposed $100 donation limit and to make it easier to circulate his message. In a strained metaphor, he sees the ability of oppressed people to organize and promote political change as a harbinger for what can come for his effort. In fact, modern media cut both ways.
In 1987, his sudden rise from an also-ran to runoff spot in the space of a month happened as few media channels with limited information dissemination swooned over him, making him the choice to rally around to try to oust Edwards. That near-monopoly on political information shattered long ago courtesy of the Internet and reduced government regulation of media more than anything created the image he needed to win in that environment. It no longer exists.
The many channels of information out there now, which he hopes will draw disaffected conservatives to him, also will allow them to learn more about him – his background which ill-suits an anti-establishmentarian campaign; a gubernatorial reign that, unable to cut the size of government, resorted to gimmickry, set the stage for legalized gambling, and acceded to tax increases; and an inability to win election again to the office twice, the first time for reelection against Edwards and the charlatan David Duke. This track record simply makes him appear unbelievable to carry out the agenda he promises.
Neither his personal background nor his experience lends him credibility, and he cannot control that message no matter how many domain names get redirected to his campaign website. As such, his last hurrah may invigorate his ego, but will have little impact on the election.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 08:00