4:50 pm Aug. 27, 2012
Are you a politician who lost a primary election so convincingly that you have absolutely no future left in your party?
Are you willing to contradict nearly every public statement you gave a few short years ago, and alter most of your political principles?
If so, you may be eligible for a handsome consolation prize: a speaking slot at the political convention of the party you spent your entire career railing against.
If you do really well? Who knows, maybe your new party will talk about you as a possible candidate for another position, or even float your name for a cushy appointment. Mostly, you must be willing to spare no expression of outrage or disappointment in condemning your former colleagues for having spoiled the party you once loved. No statement is too histrionic.
Here's what you can't do: mention that the reason you hate your former party is because the voters threw you out of it by voting for another candidate by a huge margin. Remember that as far as the public and media are concerned, the party left you, not the other way around.
You won't be the only one doing this. Someone from the other party will be doing the exact same thing, saying (just like you!) that his or her old party is the one that isn't recognizable anymore. Don't worry about this. Your transformation will get lots of attention from the media, because it's interesting, and whatever political failing led to your primary loss won't, because it isn't. You'll matter again, is the point.
If you’re thinking this sounds too good to be true, just look at some current examples.
Artur Davis, a former congressman from Alabama who got trounced in the Democratic primary for governor, was a man with no future in the party. But now he’s speaking at the Republican convention, regaling us with tales about how the Democratic Party and the president he loved a few short years ago have gone off the deep end. Just a little while ago he was a washout. Now there’s talk of him running for Congress in Virginia as a Republican, or getting some position in President Romney's Justice Department.
You may be wondering how the man who spoke eloquently at the 2008 Democratic convention of the need to end the war and care “for the fate of the least of these and the lost among us” can now argue that the Republican party is his ideological home. The answer is it doesn't matter. Most of the stories about his transformation will focus more on its political ramifications than its cause.
At the same time, Charlie Crist, a man who passionately praised John McCain and criticized Barack Obama when the president passed his health care reform, will be pulling the same move this year for the Democrats.
This past weekend, the former Florida governor—so decisively rejected by Republican voters in his 2010 race for senator that his only option was to run as an independent—announced that he, too, had a change of heart. Now the man who recently saw himself as a future Republican president, described himself as a “Reagan Republican,” and said, “I don't agree with [Obama] on hardly anything he does,” regrets to inform you that the Republican Party has changed.
This method can work for almost anyone, provided their willingness to commit to the bit is complete.
Joe Lieberman, remember, was the Democratic nominee for vice president in 2000, and ran for president, again as a Democrat, in 2004. But he lost badly that year, then got trounced in a Senate primary in 2006, before winning in the general as a sort of independent. He went on to play key role at the 2008 Republican convention, after narrowly missing out on the vice presidential nomination.
But if you choose to go this route, the guy you really owe a debt to is Zell Miller, the former Democratic senator and governor from Georgia who brought down the house at the 2004 Republican convention.
Miller hadn’t lost a primary, but he was retiring and had no future. Certainly, he had no expectation that the national media would pay him any mind, absent some kind of dramatic gesture.
What it boils down to is this: If you are a lame duck or a loser and you're interested in becoming a convention-time mascot for the other party, go for it. Just avoid challenging anyone to a duel and you should be all set.