This is basically a commentary on the election of 2012. I will explain why I think the outcome was mostly a matter of luck and why the entire thing (including most of the results) were just more symptoms of the ongoing sickness of democracy in modern America.
First I have to include a disclaimer to prevent neo-GOP authoritarians from claiming this proves liberals agree with their defense of their OWN incompetence and their OWN reality-divorced stupidity. They are projecting again. The rest of the world doesn't require monolithic thinking and conformance to the official party line. That was how the Bolsheviks, Nazis, and Maoists (among others) ran things, and for largely the same reason. When you actually represent an extremist minority position, you have to speak with a single voice and single opinion. If you try to cite my comments in defense of your propaganda, this disclaimer will emerge into the full context and I will be quite glad to say you are lying AGAIN. If there is ANY lesson you right-wing authoritarians should learn from this election, it is that there are limits to how far you can carry a lie. Even Romney reached his limits, and he is almost certainly the greatest liar I've over seen.
Here are my main points:
- President Obama is an extremely lucky fellow, and though luck is quite important, luck alone can't cure what ails America. Actually I feel like the best we can hope for is that Obama's luck helps keep the patient alive until a real cure appears. Unfortunately, even as an amateur historian, I'm unable to feel a lot of optimism.
- Superstorm Sandy was the primary factor that led to his reelection. Though it was bad fortune for a lot of people, the precise timing and location had a powerful and fortuitous effect on the election. I'm not saying it was the only factor, but it certainly mattered and in a narrow election, I tend to believe it was decisive. Extreme weather events are becoming almost routine as the climate changes, but the details are a matter of luck, uniformly bad in the case of Katrina (mostly due to poor preparations and responses), but relatively mixed in this case, especially considering how many more people could have died if the response had been weaker.
- The presidential election should not have been a close contest from the day when Romney picked Paul Ryan as his V-P nominee. Romney's statements about his policies and positions are meaningless, but picking Ryan was his first binding presidential decision, and it clearly defined Romney as part and parcel of the lunatic fringe of American politics.
- Even worse, the House of Representative, which is part of a Congress with a current approval rating around 10%, managed to reelect almost all of it's incumbents. The neo-GOP retained its House majority even though the neo-GOP candidates received substantially fewer votes than the Democratic Party candidates. The Founding Fathers intended that the House would be MORE responsive to the will of the voters, and this travesty is strong evidence that the system they created is on its last legs.
- In conclusion, if the neo-GOP extremists and authoritarians continue to block smooth evolutionary change, then the problems they are unintentionally and foolishly nurturing will lead to the chaotic revolution they most fear. Since the speed of change is so rapid these days, their catastrophe may arrive quite soon.
The tradition of how to win in American elections has been for both candidates to claim the center and sell themselves to the moderate voters. Romney's campaign had realized (probably from the start) that they needed to make a play for the center to win, and apparently their market research convinced them they could delay that play until the last few weeks of the campaign.
In the closing days of the campaign, Romney was pivoting to the center around a claim that President Obama was weak, incompetent, and too partisan to govern American effectively. Then Superstorm Sandy struck. Essentially for an entire week Obama received nothing but favorable media coverage showing how strong, competent, and bipartisan he actually is. Romney's attack ads were also cut from the air. It certainly helps that this view of Obama is basically the truth, and it put the lie to Romney's sales pitch. The attack on Obama as partisan was especially offensive insofar as the documented reality was that the neo-GOP had resolved NOT to cooperate in ANY way from the day that President Obama took his oath of office--and in spite of their OWN oaths to the Constitution.
However, the truth was never relevant to Romney's campaign, which was an endless stream of lies from beginning to end. At that point in the campaign Romney need to hold on to that particular set of lies for another week. There was no time to create plausible new lies with the appropriate new ads, and the result was President Obama's victory. I don't know how to price the week of free publicity and the loss of Romney's advertising airtime, but I think Romney's (mostly secret) monetary advantage was at least a billion dollars, and that was obviously cancelled out by Superstorm Sandy.
Romney's entire campaign was like a kleptomaniac visiting the lie store. I want to call it "Adventures of a Kleptomaniac in the Field of Lies", but a real kleptomaniac is sick and acting compulsively. As I've noted elsewhere, I think Romney just lies because the truth has no intrinsic value to him. He's like Nixon, in that I think he is smart enough to know what is true and false, but like Nixon, his only concern in his statements is instrumental, in whether or not he can use a statement to his advantage, and truth or falsity is irrelevant.
Romney never should have mounted a serious campaign because he didn't start with an albatross around his neck. It was more like several flocks of albatrosses, and President Obama's failure to use those albatrosses more effectively against Romney is the only reason I think the campaign was ever close. One flock could be tagged "Dubya", and even if you dismiss the junior Bush as irrelevant now, Romney had surrounded himself with many members of that disastrous administration. Another flock involved his business dealings and tax returns, and there was a third flock around his "severely conservative" performance as governor in Massachusetts. It wasn't until the end of the campaign that I learned how false were his claims of bipartisan leadership at that time, where the reality was large numbers of vetoes and many overrides of his vetoes by his legislature, sometimes even including the overriding votes of the members of his OWN party.
Early in the campaign I actually said this kind of outcome was worthless. We have already watched several years of the obstructionist Congress putting their neo-GOP partisan concerns ahead of the nation while loudly accusing their opponents of doing exactly that. I think President Obama should have almost turned his back on Romney in the campaign and focused great efforts on the worst of these political hacks. He should have made them into national figures and forced Romney to their defense, while also forcing the neo-GOP to pour money into those black holes such as Michele Bachmann, who barely managed to survive by outspending her opponent by $12 for every $1 (that we know of, but there was probably more money under her table). As it actually came out, only a few of these lunatics were defeated, and Romney was only caught in a couple of embarrassing endorsements. In one of those cases (the Senatorial race in Indiana), Obama's campaign advantageously exploited Romney's endorsement in a very powerful series of ads.
By the way, I only made two small donations in this campaign, and one of them was targeted at 11 of these extremists. Four or five of the 11 were defeated by relatively small leverage. Unfortunately Bachmann and the one Romney had endorsed were two of the survivors, but if the Democratic Party had gotten more heavily involved in these races, I think their defeats could have helped lead the way to the rout the neo-GOP Congress richly deserved. (My other donation was to Mother Jones for their part in publication of the 47% video, which quite probably hurt Romney's campaign as much as Superstorm Sandy.)
In spite of the pessimistic title of "Distant View of America's Fall", I want to end on an optimistic note. Maybe the neo-GOP will realize that there is no reason to be totally obstructive now. President Obama is done with his political career now, and he has nothing to do but run the country, more easily with their assistance (even if it is grudging), but it would suit me just as well if he did it on top of their political corpses. Most of them are going to have to run again in two years, and they could actually claim some credit if the country is in better shape at that time. So let me close with a few suggested issues that President Obama could use for seeking a more bipartisan working relationship with the same politicians who have tried to cut his hand off every time he's extended it towards them. Hope spring eternal, eh?
Here are some possible areas of bipartisan agreement:
- Disaster relief for Superstorm Sandy. No reason for the neo-GOP to punish the victims, even though many of them are still angry at Chris Christie for his 'treasonous' bipartisan behavior when his state was drowning.
- An agreement to defer to the states on marijuana. States' rights has been a favorite topic of many conservatives, and two states have just voted to decriminalize marijuana in spite of the federal laws.
- Normalization of diplomatic relations with Cuba. Hey, even many of the neo-GOP pundits realize that their relationships with Hispanic-Americans need to be improved, and I think everyone should be able to agree that Castro is no longer relevant.
- Campaign finance reform. Unfortunately, there is already evidence that the neo-GOP extremists think the "real lesson" of this incredibly expensive campaign was that they didn't "invest" enough money in the campaigns, especially at the presidential and senatorial levels. Gamblers have a tendency to throw good money after bad.
- Stopping the neo-GOP war on women and their rights. Oh wait, now I'm babbling.