Eeyore vs Tigger

Dateline: 21 March 2007

Eeyore’s home is called “Eeyore’s gloomy place” and his favorite food is thistles – though he doesn’t like thistles very much.

Tigger, of course, is much more upbeat. It is well established that bouncing is what tiggers do best.

One thing you can guarantee is that in an election, Tigger always beats Eeyore. America is an optimistic place – a shining city on a hill. A nation founded on a dream. Optimists always beat pessimists.

Even the presidents of recent years who have both won and lost elections fit this pattern. Nixon was less optimistic than Kennedy, more optimistic than Humphrey, and much more optimistic than McGovern. Bush (41) was more optimistic than Dukakis but less optimistic than Clinton. Carter was more optimistic than Ford but less optimistic than Reagan.

In fairness, it is also probably true that both Carter and Bush (41) were ground down by their experiences in office and were less optimistic at the end of their terms than at the beginning.

The most Tigger-ish president of recent times was undoubtedly Ronald Reagan, and this is reflected in the fact that he won 93 states in his two elections, an all time record.

How does this effect the candidates currently persuing the presidency? There has to be something optimistic about anyone wishing to become the first black or first female president. John Edwards also maintains a permanently upbeat demeanour. On the other hand Obama and Edwards are economic isolationists calling for the false protection of tariff barriers. There is always something suspect about politicians who don’t believe American business can compete internationally and needs corporate welfare to survive. Bill Clinton has apparently said that trade is the one issue on which he and his wife disagree, so she is far out of line with the free-trade Democrats of the nineties. Al Gore, despite supporting trade, has the most Eeyorish manner of any contemporary politician and his environmentalism is positively alarmist.

There is also something inherently depressing about a party that wants to run from war. Witness the uncharismatic Nixon’s crushing of George McGovern. War seems to drag Democrats down.

On the Republican side we see a mayor who actually believed he could reverse instead of merely managing New York’s decline. That he succeeded is even more astonishing. There has to be something special about a candidate who can remain optimistic in the face of all the problems New York had in the early 1990s.

John McCain survived torture as a prisoner of war and remains largely sunny – though with a formidable temper. Mitt Romney also has a touch of Reagan’s optimism. For a member of the LDS Church to seek the Republican nomination is plainly the action of a Tigger.

With the exception of Gore, all the leading candidates seem a cut above the eeyorish John Kerry or Bob Dole, but it is on the GOP side that the candidates seem to really relish the sunshine.

Quentin Langley is editor of an academic at the University of Cardiff and is a columnist with Campaigns & Elections. This article was first published in the Common Sense series for Lake Champlain Weekly.

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