By Tim Arnold
November 7, 2012
Obama consistently posed the same question Ronald Reagan asked in a landmark television commercial from his winning re-election campaign in 1984, “Why would we ever want to return to where we were less than four short years ago?”
Seven elections later, America has responded the same way: we don’t! We’ve re-elected a president who has faced a multitude of more complex issues than the economic issues Reagan based this TV commercial on. And now we are confronted with a congress dedicated to the goal their House Leader, Mitch McConnell, stated at the outset, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”
As so many Republicans claimed following the 2010 congressional elections, “The American people have spoken!” Indeed they have.
The Republican failure was not due to a uniquely brilliant Obama campaign, although it did resonate on several important core issues. Nor did they fail because of a lack of spending, or a lack of focus on key swing states. The Republican failure was not because of tactical mistakes, as Newt Gingrich is asserting. Nor do they need to reassess their strategy, as he is urging – at least that is not their primary problem.
Romney lost because the majority of Americans rejected fundamental Republican values and the very things they stand for.
Obama’s re-election is a testament to the outright rejection of a set of positions and values that run counter to everything America once stood for, rejection of a party whose platform was dragged too far to the right, and whose stance on big business, the economy, immigration, taxation, women’s rights, government’s role in our society, education, global warming and green energy, same-sex marriage, a trickle-down economic theory that has already failed dramatically, twice, catering to the rich, foreign policy, short-term responses to long-term issues and more – all of them rejected by the majority of Americans, and most of them long before this season’s campaigning even began.
The rejection of a man who was willing to say absolutely anything – including outright lies – to appease the current political flow, as he saw it – first the Tea Party and later the center right – all of it seemingly guided by a single ego-driven compulsion to be crowned president. And a myopic would-be underling who preached Ayn Rand without fully realizing what she stood for (or that the vast majority of his supporters would likely not know who he was talking about), and went on to contribute his own set of lies to the party platform.
The rejection of a once great Grand Old Party whose legitimate conservative values have been corrupted by emotionally-charged extremists who haven’t the first clue how to fix anything they have complained about.
A rejection dramatically underscored by the defeats of Todd Akin, Linda McMahon, Scott Brown, Richard Mourdock. Amplified by the fact that neither Romney nor Ryan carried their own home states! Underscored by the fact that virtually every voting demographic out there went for Obama, except one – older white men. Minnesota, Maryland, Maine and Washington passing marriage equality measures add an exclamation mark to it all. The first openly gay woman joins a US Senate that will be occupied by an historic high 20 percent women. Two states legalize recreational marijuana. In fact, if you compare the demographic and psychographic makeup of the states Obama won vs the states Romney won, well, they differ dramatically, and say a lot about the glaring chasm between the two parties and our country. So does the fact that Obama dominated with urban voters, Romney with rural.
This country would benefit, again, from a healthy balance with a Republican party that once upon a time was center-right, and committed to solving issues, thru compromise when necessary, and who at least represented a reasoned alternative – not the party they are today, openly committed to limiting Obama to a single term, no matter the cost. Well, it didn’t work, so now what?
Obama has us on the right track, generally – his intentions are certainly honorable – and now his efforts have been re-endorsed by much of America, even though many of us are hoping he’ll be able to do a lot more than he’s done to date. The single primary reason he hasn’t been able to, and won’t be able to, is if the Republican congress continues to be beholden to a Tea Party and Norquist mentality and refuses to consider reasonable solutions and compromises. If they continue to dig their heels in, the Republicans are destined to remain the minority party for a long time to come. Obama has demonstrated a willingness to compromise. Are the Republicans? Since Mitch McConnell and many house Republicans have to run for re-election in two years, perhaps they’ll reconsider.
Had Romney won we would have owed the rest of the world an apology, an explanation that what he represents is not America, nor do Akin, McMahon or Mourdock. As it stands, we should still apologize for allowing them to get so damned close.
Above all, we remain a divided nation. The senate gets a bit more Democratic, likely given their broader constituencies, the house – which returns to work with a miserable, record low approval rating of 9 – a bit more Republican, probably a result of narrower, more isolated bases. I agree with the description of Obama’s re-election as not so much a mandate as one of renewed hope that he’ll be able to take better advantage of this second chance.
Hope, indeed, that they’ve all gotten the message.