Dan has been really tough on the deadlines for my blog lately, but I thought asking me to write a re-cap of the November 6 election in early July was a little much. But as I am a loyal foot soldier in the Patch Army, here is my column about the presidential election, post-dated for November 7th.
It's official - President Barack Obama has been re-elected to a second term in office by a fairly substantial margin (at least by modern presidential election standards). A 54-46 victory in the popular vote that translated to a 310-228 electoral college margin gives the president a mandate to be stymied by excessive use of the filibuster for the next four years, at which point he will gladly walk away from the Oval Office. Let's talk about how he got there, and where we go from here.
The best analogy I can come up with for this election was to compare it to President Clinton's 1996 re-election campaign against Bob Dole. Dole, a long-term senator was basically given the presidential nomination by his party as the political equivalent of a gold watch at retirement, was a relic of a Senate that believed in deliberation and embraced their role of cooling off the hot tempers in the House of Representatives. The campaign was effectively over before the nominating convention, with Clinton running an early ad blitz in battleground states and cutting out the Senate Majority Leader's knees before he could even really start his campaign. We saw the same thing in this election, especially in Virginia where President Obama ran a series of ads attacking Romney's record at Bain Capital and set-up the main theme: Romney's preference for tax cuts for the 1% against Obama's willingness to fight for the middle class. Whether that's true or not, it resonated with voters and Romney's poll numbers peaked in early-July when he briefly ran ahead of President Obama in trial heat polls and slowly bled support from there.
Despite what the Tea Party crowd and many of the Republican elites are saying, what most certainly did NOT happen was that Romney lost because he was too moderate. History has shown that, in competitive elections against decent Democratic candidates, Tea Party candidates manage to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory (see Angle, Sharron). Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, and all the rest of the Republican top tier of candidates all knew that Obama was going to win a long time ago which is why they sat this round out with an eye toward 2016. That's why Romney won, and he most certainly matched up better against Obama than Santorum or candidates even further to the right of him.
However, the Republican echo chamber most certainly contributed to President Obama's re-election. The sneers at the "Occupy Wall Street" crowd who just need to get a job, the insistence that the 1% are in fact job-creators (all empirical evidence to the contrary), the borderline obsession with a healthcare bill that is, at best for the GOP, a wash politically, and the insistence that regulations are "job-killing" (except ones about gay marriage, abortion, and the financial black hole that is the "War on Drugs") are out of touch with the median voter. Obama's ads touting his belief in "in-sourcing" vs. Romney's belief in "out-sourcing", Bain Capital profiting while shuttering the doors of American factories, and a fragile recovery ultimately won the day for Obama despite the Republican elites shouting that the American people disagree.
So where do we go from here? Expect the Republican echo chamber to quickly become a circular firing squad. The right-wing elites and Sarah Palin are going to insist that the party needs to move further to the right to capture the hearts and minds of the American people. That stuff plays well with the base at rallies, so it must be what the median voter wants. The slim margin the Democrats now hold in the Senate won't be nearly enough to thwart the Republican opposition who continue what David Mann describes as the one-sided polarization of American politics. Meanwhile, President Obama continues to ignore the ideals he was elected to uphold and leaves his real legacy in office: the deployment of unmanned drones over all 50 states to aid law enforcement and continue the erosion of constitutional rights of the American people.
Looking forward to 2020, following the logical extension of the idea that "corporations are people" the American people finally just elect Google as our new president, but I'm going to hold that column back until next week.