A Pre-Election Post-Mortem
With each passing day, it appears that Barack Obama will be rendered a one-term President. His agenda, such that one exists, may not be the death of liberalism in this country, but it certainly will be death of his brand of liberalism which skirts the boundary with European-style socialism. After the concession speech and rally before a tired and losing battle-weary crowd, the Obama team will lick its wounds and begin the tortuous duty of looking at where things went wrong. Allow me to help them.
Without any doubt, the first presidential debate in Denver, Colorado was the turning point in the campaign. But, it was not because Obama arrived later than Romney and was less accustomed to the higher elevation (as Al Gore suggested), or a lack of preparation or taking your opponent too lightly, or any other of the suggested reasons out there. A sitting President who is running around the country either campaigning or fundraising should not have to “prepare.” In essence, his first term should be all the preparation needed. The fact is that despite all the alleged Obama “accomplishments-” where for two years he had a Democratic Congress- were actually no accomplishments at all. Frank-Dodd and Obamacare were the two significant bills passed, yet years later Obamacare remains generally unpopular with the American public. Frank-Dodd cannot even get off the ground given its complexity and even when it does, it would create more burdens on businesses and the financial sector that they too are rejecting it.
Meanwhile, resting on his alleged laurels, Obama spent the better part of the campaign when it became apparent Romney would be the nominee towards tearing apart Mitt Romney- the man, not the candidate- down. The absolute negativity, which he projected onto Romney, dealt with his failure to release more years of tax returns even though Obama will not release something as simple as his college transcript, not to mention Justice Department communications regarding Operation Fast and Furious. They focused on Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital, an enterprise he is no longer involved with and cut ties to 12 years ago. They focused on Romney’s tenure as Massachusetts Governor by throwing out arcane statistics that bored, more than educated the electorate. To his credit, Romney used this to his advantage by showing how a Republican executive can work WITH a Democratic legislature to enact laws. The legislature Romney will deal with in Washington is certainly less Democratic than the one he dealt with and accomplished so much with in Massachusetts.
When the polls began to shift to Romney’s favor, all the talk was and is about the so-called electoral “firewall” that Obama had built. Romney had to play more offense and needed to flip several states while Obama simply had to hold together his coalition in these states and eek out a victory. Florida, for example, was seen as just such a firewall and look at the statements of the Obama team when Romney chose Paul Ryan. Almost in knee-jerk fashion, they said that choice would cost Romney the senior citizen vote given Ryan’s vision for Social Security and Medicare. But a funny thing happened along the way. Subsequent polling and to this day shows that senior citizens support the Romney ticket in Florida to the tune of in excess of 60%. Again, an allegedly popular sitting President who allegedly accomplished so much and had allegedly set the country on the right path should not be maintaining or building electoral firewalls one week before the election.
There is also a change on the campaign trail. After losing the first debate because the unfiltered Mitt Romney totally negated the Mitt Romney that the Obama campaign portrayed, Obama became like a rat backed in a corner. This descended into a scene from a play in the theater of the absurd. Big Bird and Elmo became symbols of why the electorate should vote for the incumbent. That is sad. After the contentious second debate where the candidates literally circled one another, Obama declared victory and invented the word, “Romnesia.” Actually, that debate did two things. First, it showed that despite Obama’s new-found fight, Romney was not going to back down. Secondly, it showed that Romney could be just as much a pit bull as any Democrat. Third, because it was so contentious, the very voter Obama needs was basically turned off. That is tougher on the incumbent than the challenger. A President is expected to act presidential and Obama clearly failed that test. While his tactics may have appealed to the children at DailyKos.com, these were people going to vote for him anyway. Of course, he then doubled down on the tactic in the third and final debate that had liberals guffawing at how “Romney got schooled” in foreign and national defense policy.
But did he? All Romney had to do is show that he had what it takes to be Commander-in-Chief, not solve all the world’s problems in 90 minutes of debate. Here, he succeeded which is why Obama received no bump in the polls. In short, the person Obama portrayed as the Republican standard bearer was effectively blown to pieces in four and a half hours of face-to-face debate.
So Obama shifted tactics somewhat all while playing the electoral college firewall game. He released an agenda for a second term which was generally panned as the same old, same old. His tone of sarcasm and condescending rhetoric increased on the campaign trail. We now have political advertisements equating the loss of virginity with a vote for Barack Obama. We now have an incumbent President using profanity in Rolling Stone magazine to describe his opponent. By the way, Rolling Stone is about as good a political rag as they are influential in the music world- basically nil.
The problem is that sarcasm and condescending tones and rhetoric as well as use of expletives in inconsequential music magazine interviews may elicit laughs among the Obama faithful, but it turns off voters. After the first debate when women realized that Romney was not the ogre Obama was portraying him to be, he ate enough into that so-called gender gap that it moved the polls in Romney’s favor. Again, it was a tactical error that began well before the debates when they embarked on the “Romney is a bad guy” campaign.
Everything after the debates showed Obama flailing to rediscover his footing. The carefully crafted narrative of Romney now in shambles, they had to, in effect, reintroduce the President to the people he governed in the past four years. Memories are short and what they see is a sluggish economy, people working two jobs to make less than they were making at one job four years ago if they are working at all, gasoline prices eating into declining family income and overall middle class wealth depleted over the past four years.
Liberals will blame this loss at the feet of a still racist country rejecting its first black President. This will be suggested even though race has played no role in the campaign other than the fringe elements talking about dog-whistle rhetoric. Obama’s most recent commercials running in Pennsylvania are a sad attempt to retrieve some of that female vote. Again, this is an insult to every woman voter. To the liberal, the Democrat and Obama, the female vote is predicated upon Roe v. Wade, Planned Parenthood, and contraception. Their view makes a mockery of women, reducing them to their conception of “the woman.” He portrays the Ledbetter Act as the greatest achievement in women’s rights since they were allowed to vote when in reality it is a reaction to a Supreme Court decision basically about the statute of limitations for filing pay discrimination suits. Will it equalize the pay of men and women? Of course not, but it will make some trial lawyers richer.
In the end, this campaign achieved something that was never achieved in 2008. Barack Obama was finally vetted by the electorate. That vetting process was four years of his Presidency. Unfortunately, it cost this country four year’s of its life.