The New York Times noted that the group Americans Elect, an internet platform that seeks to digitize the 2012 primaries through online voting, has guaranteed nationwide ballot access for an independent candidate in the 2012 campaign, and has been name-dropping Michael Bloomberg and David Petraeus as a “third-party fantasy.”
If anyone could be a serious game-changer and contender for the presidency now, it would be David Petraeus. Here’s why:
Americans love war heroes
Military glory has a significant impact on electoral appeal in America.
Alexis de Tocqueville, who did not think highly of Andrew Jackson, and who he labeled a “man of violent character and middling capacity” (Democracy in America, Vol. 2, Chapter 9), hypothesized that the reason Jackson was re-elected was the “memory of a victory carried off by him before the walls of New Orleans [in 1815].” Tocqueville believed that American society celebrated wars and placed men who won battles on a pedestal, much like the white knight riding off into the sunset.
As a veteran of several successful wars, Petraeus was called in to salvage the fiascos in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to some extent, his measures have worked. Admiral Mike Mullen compared Petraeus to Grant, Eisenhower, Pershing, and Marshall as one of the “great battle captains of American history."
He has clout (and supporters) in Washington
Politics is all about who you know and how you use them to get what you want. Petraeus is admired and widely celebrated. John McCain once wrote a glowing profile for Petraeus in a TIME 100 list of most influential individuals in 2007.
His field manual on Counterinsurgency now influences the way military operations are being carried out, and it is widely believed that this strategy helped ameliorate the violence in Iraq. Petraeus’ views on nation-building (developed since his doctoral thesis on Vietnam and later military experiences in places like Bosnia and Haiti) have caught on, even though the former Bush administration once disregarded these ideas.
He knows how to play the political game
Petraeus also demonstrated an ability to survive within bureaucracy. Petraeus published a 14-point Military Review that openly defied former Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld’s strategy to win the war in Iraq with as little troops as possible in 2003. He argued for a more aggressive counterinsurgency strategy, more reconstruction projects, more cultural sensitivity, and more partnerships with the State Department and other civilian agencies. He went to Fort Leavenworth to head the Combined Arms Centre — widely viewed as political exile.
But the resourceful Petraeus co-authored his field manual with Marine General James Mattis during his 2005-2006 posting and was later sent back to Baghdad as the top U.S. commander in February 2007, just as sectarian tensions were boiling over and public confidence in the war was rapidly waning in order to implement his recommendations. Today, the success of the “surge” in Iraq is widely attributed to his efforts.
The man looks good on camera
Let’s face it, in politics, image is everything. Kennedy might have lost the debate to Nixon to radio listeners, but TV viewers thought he won, and their opinion reflected the eventual result more. An October 2011 study by MIT had participants from America and India rank a series of candidates’ photographs in terms of attractiveness and whether they thought they would make better elected officials. The judgments on physical appearances corresponded closely with those on a candidate’s perceived capability.
While the researchers point out that the trend might not apply for races with incumbent candidates, whom voters have had time to familiarize themselves with, the importance of physical appearances does play a role in candidate’s success, although it really should not.
The question though, is, will he run?
Photo Credit: talkmedianews