Let me begin this blog by explaining that I'm not a huge fan of Barack Obama. Good intentions aside, he's the most mediocre Democratic president since Jimmy Carter and maybe since Lyndon Johnson, and for all the hate directed to him by the right, he's also equally let down the left.
Still, he will trounce Mitt Romney on Nov. 6. Here's why:
Romney is the John Kerry of 2012. He's not especially likable, and he's done a great job of painting himself as a rich, out-of-touch candidate who can't relate to anyone. Voters know he's lacking in his own ideology, morphing his candidacy to do what it takes to win. Most of the damage to Romney in this campaign is self-inflicted. He's shown he doesn't have the temperament to lead, and smart voters on both sides of the aisle know this.
Which is unfortunate for the Republicans, because there are a whole lot of Americans who would vote for anyone – or anything – else but Obama, including Clint Eastwood's empty chair. It's not these voters, however, who decide elections.
Obama enters this race extremely vulnerable because he hasn't made the sweeping changes he promised, but also because he made tough choices that average Americans should actually be thankful for but are not. The stimulus bill and administration of bailouts for the auto industry were decisions that no one liked, but had they not happened, most economists agree that this country would now be mired in a deep depression. For "pro business" Republicans to criticize this is a cheap shot; they would've done exactly the same thing. Don't forget that Bush first bailed out Wall Street in fall 2008 with TARP, and he started the auto bailouts at the waning moments of his second term, too.
Obviously, Obama's biggest accomplishment in office was enacting health care reform, but while it's convenient to criticize it, Americans generally agree with most of its specific provisions. But really, there should be way more criticism from the left. Without the "public option," the work is far from finished. At best, Obama moved the ball down the field. At worst, he spent all his political capital without scoring a touchdown.
In essence, Obama just hasn't done enough, and he gives the public the impression that it's not his fault. He compromises with and panders to a party with elements that are out to destroy him. Democrats long for a president like Bill Clinton ... but Barack Obama is no Bill Clinton.
But if it's not his politics that enrage, why else do half of Americans hate Obama so? I doubt it's over gay marriage or the "birther" controversy. The president hasn't been nearly as activist as George W. Bush, who started two wars financed by deficit spending and radically changed the economy through dogmatic tax cuts.
Yet, while a lot of people hated Bush, that level never extended to the vitriol applied to Obama. How many interviews have we heard from people threatening violence if he's reelected, or remarking that Michelle Obama doesn't look like a First Lady?
Let's just get this out of the way and move on: many Americans definitely are not cool with a black president. And that's why Romney should've just had to show up to win. He's locked up his base. He's locked up the people who would vote against Obama no matter what. He just needed to convince a few percent that he could do better than the incumbent who hasn't done all that much.
But he won't. Instead of choosing a moderate vice presidential sidekick, he went with Paul Ryan, who certainly appeals to the extreme right wing of the party. Again, the problem is they were voting for Romney, anyway.
The rest of America – the America that decides elections – knows that this Tea Party darling who has literally never had a real job outside politics, is the enemy of an increasingly aging populace. Because of his approach to Medicare, he has alienated older voters and will cause Romney to lose the swing state of Florida. By the way, Obama certainly seems like he's trying to lose Florida, too. His repeated dismissals of Israel regarding Iran, the world's worst current bad guy, have hung wealthy Jewish donors and voters out to dry. Many of this small but influential group won't vote for Obama on the Israel issue alone.
But back to Ryan. All he had to do was be better than Joe Biden, which isn't awfully hard. Every time Biden opens his mouth, out comes a punchline. Biden forced the gay marriage issue upon his boss. Biden, too, is a career politician who is good at politics, but lacks an important internal filter to keep his mouth shut.
In other words, this is a race between mediocre and not good enough, and mediocre will win. The media knows this, too, but for some reason continues to pretend that it won't be a blowout.
Sure, in terms of popular vote, it will be "close," because it usually is, but popular vote doesn't determine the victor. The states that matter will all go the incumbent's way, and unless something very dramatic happens, so will the so-called swing states. The losers will complain about the outdated Electoral College; that is, until the next election when they need it.
And again, America will look divided. A sea of red, with blue on both edges and a little in the middle.
The main reason Obama will win, though, is because the GOP has lost its way. It used to be great at staying on message, making the Democrats look like whining, hand-wringing apologists. Now, the House of Representatives looks crazier than ever, and with the Senate in play, too, most moderate Americans want to keep the country as far away as possible from the crazies like the Michelle Bachmanns and Todd Akins.
Lest you think this is an Obama endorsement, there is light at the end of the tunnel for Republicans. This stinging loss will force the party to look inward, just like the Democrats had to do after 2004. Also, Obama won't do much that will completely repulse the right in the next four years, especially if it really looks at the situation and realizes that the incumbent's presidency will be defined more by righting the ship rather than making sweeping changes.
And obviously, Democrats can be relieved that the neocon fringe will be held off for at least a little while longer, that Obama might have the opportunity to reload the Supreme Court, and that hopefully for them, the president can lead a little more like a progressive and a little less like a, well, Republican, in this second term.
Either way, try not to get too fired up. This isn't the election of your lifetime. Neither candidate will destroy the country. Neither will reshape it into a republic you can't call your home. The fury and the emotions are still there, and that's good, but this term is more about keeping the seat warm until the next president takes office.
Here's to hoping that both parties introduce someone truly worthy of the job in 2016.
I wonder how much education and healthcare we could afford if we stopped the wars.
"Many Americans are definitely not cool with a black president".
A truly sad statement to make in the year 2012. Just one among the many backward steps we've taken this year.
Not a critique of your column, Andy. Just an observation.
It doesn't matter who wins if the two sides don't work together...that's what angers me the most. Give all of us the same health insurance and pensions that our politicians get and we'd all be happy as clams. (why are clams so happy?)...
Andy, how many times did you log into your laptop last night and think about taking this blog down? Be honest!
I'm just joshing you there... but you have to admit that debate was brutal for Obama. I was waiting for the secret service to step in and tase Romney, or something to at least slow the guy down. Obama looked like he couldn't find his car keys; baffled, lost, a little angry, and mostly just trying to remember the last place he put his hope and change.
There's so much wrong with this article:
- GW Bush was hated by his opponents more than anyone that I have ever seen. Sure, there's an element that feels the same way about the President, but it doesn't seem nearly as widespread. People still get unhinged if you talk about Bush.
- There may still be a small element that's "not cool with having a Black president", but I think it's an extremely small percentage and it's more than offset by people who will vote for the President simply because he is black.
- How many real jobs did the President have? Paul Ryan has essentially been a career politician, but I wonder if you'd make that same point if the running mate was Russ Feingold or Tammy Baldwin? You may not agree with Ryan's views, but I think anyone has to admit that he has a firm grasp and works hard on the issues. Is there any doubt he's going to destroy Joe Biden in a debate?
- You are dead on with Mitt Romney though. He is very similar to John Kerry. That said, he is a very accomplished guy in both the private and public sector. If we were hiring the best qualified guy to do the job Romney wins easily and to be honest he's probably the sort of moderate politician that most people say they want. Trouble is that today's elections are won with clever 30 second commercials and by excoriating people who are successful. Just ask Tammy Baldwin.
- The reason that this should not be a close election is that as James Carville once said, "It's the economy stupid". This has been the worst recovery that we've had since the Great Depression. Consumer income continues to fall. Unemployment seems like it will permanently be stuck at 8%. George HW Bush lost because of this as did Jimmy Carter. The President should too, but he might survive because a large part of the electorate (as Mitt would say - the 47%) have decided that taxes are the big issue and that people other then themselves should have to pay more. Simply put it's easy to put out an ad that says Mitt Romney's tax rate is 14% and get people riled up than to explain that investment income was already taxed once and that raising the cost of capital would decrease the level of investment in this country and thereby hurt the economy.
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