How the incumbent won the presidency

It was a fascinating election.

Our incumbent president had a rough four years. His first term was an absolute disaster.  He ran his initial campaign as a “uniter” who would bring the country together. Yet, he seemed to only divide Americans as the country underwent extraordinary polarization during his watch.  His spending was completely out of control, which increased the country’s deficit and his administration oversaw the biggest job losses in decades.

The best part was how he kept blaming all his difficulties on the president before him, insisting that the economic bubble really burst under the prior administration and its policies.

He held the record for spending more money to combat poverty than any president in history before him and yet poverty increased. His name had become reviled across the nation as synonymous with corruption. His response to terrorist attacks was viewed by many as weak, incompetent — some even said “dishonest.”

In the months leading up to the election, there was a movie playing in thousands of theaters across the country insisting that we don't really know him. The film insisted that he had ties to the Middle East, that he aimed to weaken America and sell out its interests.

Not to mention the nation was full of talk on how our president was not “legitimate” or “one of us” and therefore, he couldn’t make any rational decisions in our best interest. This environment of heightened suspicion and vitriol made him look easy to defeat during his re-election. It seemed Mickey Mouse could run against this guy and win.

Enter a slick Massachusetts politician. At first he seemed to have the know-how to beat the incumbent president on all fronts. But he quickly began to concern people. To liberals, he seemed too conservative, especially on foreign policy. To conservatives, he seemed too liberal.

The incumbent president was a master of distraction. Rather than allow his abysmal record to go under examination, he focused his strategy on the background of the Massachusetts politician. He characterized him as a flip-flopper whose politics depended on whichever direction the wind blew. Even though he wasn't doing too well politically, the president made sure to let everyone know his opponent would do even worse. In other words, the president was not seeking to win — he just wanted his opponent to lose. He was creating a wash and he succeeded.

When the president was re-elected, there were cries of agony all across the nation. Travel websites received extraordinary numbers of hits from people seeking information on how to leave the country permanently.  The public pleas often sounded whiney and defeatist.  Citizens honestly didn't think we would survive the next four years.

But alas, against all odds we survived those years of former President George W. Bush. Wait, are you confused? I was talking about the 2004 election between George W. Bush and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry.

Which election did you think I was talking about?


Contact the columnist at or follow him at @coltongavin.

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