I am not a student of electoral trends and I am not good at predicting the results of elections.
For example, earlier on in 2008, I believed that Obama would suffer a loss of McGovernesque (RIP) proportions. I lived in Chicago. I knew about Obama. I knew him to be an impressive-appearing-and-sounding pol. I knew him to be far left of the American mainstream. I knew him to be a poorly-regarded state legislator and an undistinguished Representative. I knew he had never accomplished much of anything else in his life, nor could I describe a single community organizational initiative with which he had been associated. I believed that these things would become known to the electorate.
Obviously, there were some things I did not know. I did not know John McCain would be such a weak, old, candidate, or that he would make the Palin misstep. I knew of the electorate’s deep dissatisfaction with George Bush (I shared it), but did not know how profound that revulsion was. I assumed Obama would disguise his leftism, but I did not foresee the mainstream media’s wholesale abdication of its duty to report what it knew, or should have known, or should have discovered about the man if it cared to stand back from its lover’s blindly protective embrace. By the time the election rolled around, I was not under any illusions as to its outcome.
This time around, the auspices were not much more comforting. With the exception of Fox News and The Drudge Report – formidable exceptions, to be sure – the media’s coverage of the Administration and the campaign has run true to their 2008 form. The layout of the electoral college appeared to be seriously tilted against Romney. The polls in the swing states didn’t look good for the GOP.
And then there’s that immovable 47%. Saw a great article on who is supporting the President that I thought hit the nail on the head – of course, I’ve lost track of it and I’m not going to remember all of its points. It’s blacks; Hispanics to a somewhat lesser extent; people who rely on the government for welfare or employment or contracts, a truly frightening slice of the electorate; and college graduates steeped in “social justice” theory and socialist/collectivist economic and political dogma. And, of course, there are those people who cannot shake off the romance of a skinny black "cool" president. Others, of course.
These people are not insincere or dumb (at least, not in numbers any greater than those on the other side) – they may really think that the socialization of medicine and cheap doctors is a good idea, and are happy to support and defend everything the President has done. I’m not arguing with them here. The point is, there’s nothing Republicans can do about those people (just like there’s nothing the Democrats can do with the Tea Party folks), and Romney needs pretty much everyone else, in addition to a major change in the prospects in the swing states.
So post-conventions, things did not look good for Romney. And I'm hearing that early voting in some swing states is favoring POTUS. On this Election Eve, the polls still give Obama a decided edge in the Electoral College.
But for awhile now, I have had a feeling that Romney was going to win. I felt that yeah, there’s a good chance Romney is going to get a lot of those undecideds and things were going to tighten up in enough of those swing states to give him the victory. I see the Electoral College polls that continue to give Obama the swing states and the election. But I just get a feeling that the President is going to be defeated, possibly decisively.
I think the President believes it too.
In the closing days of the campaign, he has become increasingly angry. He is astounded that the electorate no longer perceives his magnificence and inevitability. His remark the other day that "voting is the best revenge" perfectly portrays his smallness, his bitterness, and his conviction that the American system is an oppressive one against which "revenge" must be taken through his policies attacking it.
I'm prepared to be wrong about that prediction. But I think I'm right about a larger point this election is likely to prove:
In important respects, even if he secures another term, Barack Obama has already lost.
Because as this dreary administration stumbled through its term, certain things were becoming clear about this President to a whole lot of people who voted for him in 2008. An administration that began with such excitement over its historical grooviness has grown pouty, angry, and even smutty. Many people who didn't vote for the man, like me, were willing to see whether his administration would usher in an era of bipartisanship, improved race relations and international harmony.
But the promise was false, the man himself not what he pretended to be. And the media could not possibly cover it up over the course of a campaign where people really had to think had about who they’d put in the White House. Even if he wins, it will be the victory of a hack, the baleful legacy of the New Deal and the Great Society spawning a host of hands-out Democratic client constituencies -- not a glorious affirmation of the wisdom of inclusion.
I started ticking off the reasons this election is even close after Barack Obama’s extraordinary electoral achievement of 2008, and each time I return to this draft I think of a couple more. But I'll stop with an even dozen:
(1) His Policies Don’t Work and Will Damage the Country Even More as Time Goes By. I’ll pass this – too big a topic for this entry, and others have done a more thorough job on any one of them than I could.
(2) When It Comes to His Job, He's Lazy and Disengaged. He makes George Bush look like a paragon of concentration and a dervish of productivity. Historic levels of golf. Many parties – Michelle especially loves them, and vacations. Can't be bothered to attend national security briefings. And did you read that article by Obama fan Ryan Lizza in Obama fanmag The New Yorker? His style of decisionmaking is to examine checklists created by aids that he writes little comments on or checks off ("OK"). He doesn't like to meet with people. He really doesn't like to do press conferences. I was not at all surprised at his game-changing performance in the first debate – stories of his loathing of studying up for it had been circulating for some time.
(3) In Fact, He Doesn't Like to Be Questioned At All and Is Discomfited and Angry When Challenged. Because a guy who's gotten promoted on a record of near-zero accomplishments in private or public life is not going to be able to answer those questions or bat back those challenges. And because he is not, in fact, “eloquent.”
(4) Now That We See that He's Not All That Capable, that Shadowy Personal History Starts to Matter. He can't help it that his parents were who they were or that his father was unreliable and gone. But he could have done a whole lot more to put the Kenya/Hawaii business to bed, and he behaved badly about it even when that somewhat peculiar birth certificate finally emerged (and was peculiarly exposed to a friendly press) –I wrote about it here, my point being that Obama does not think where he was born should matter, the Constitution notwithstanding. I think he was born in Hawaii, but does anyone really believe that the 1991 book promotion blurb saying he was born in Kenya was an error deliberately introduced solely by his agent or anyone else? Wouldn’t you like to see what he put on his college application?
It is now pretty widely accepted that he did not compose Dreams from My Father, but that it was written by radical professor William Ayres. And that much of that book is (1) put generously, a composite of experiences and people (including women) Obama claims to have experienced and known and not a reliable autobiography, and (2) put ungenerously, false. His academic career? Extraordinarily opaque. Evidence of self-composed “eloquence”? Similarly missing. His mysterious world travels, his contacts, his ties to radicals, his ties to race hustlers like Rev. Wright, his financial support – smoke/fire. There remains much about this man that is unknown, and that is going to come out sometime, whether or not he is elected. Like the Kennedys’ incredible womanizing while in office, there will come a time when we will be staggered at the character of the man we elected, and some of us loved.
(5) If Anything, His Policies and Attitudes Have Exacerbated Racial Tensions. Even though his 2008 campaign repudiation of Jeremiah Wright was half-hearted, it was a step in the right direction. I thought we would hear more about the value of education and other critical steps to continued improvement of race relations and the economic circumstances of urban blacks. We did not. The message continued to be the standard Democratic line of continued dependence. He has been entirely content to let his supporters accuse his critics of racism. His economic and labor policies have discouraged employment. On balance, resentment over Democratic celebration of his mediocre tenure has fueled interracial suspicion – yep, contrary to the hagiography, his story is one of affirmative action writ large.
(6) It's Really True – He Believes in the Forced Redistribution of Wealth. And I don't mean "wealth" in the sense of "a whole lot of money owned by people we would all agree are 'rich,' whatever that really means," I mean "assets owned by a person who has more than another person, irrespective of talent, industry, judgment, family, and other circumstances not controllable by the state." His morality – in fact, the morality of much of the left – is that forcibly leveling prosperity is “right,” irrespective of the tendency of that policy to retard economic progress.
(7) It's Really True – He Believes that the United States Has Been a Force for Ill in the World, and that the Principles of Freedom and Capitalism Should Not Be Promoted. No doubt the U.S. has made mistakes as a world leader, and has proceeded clumsily and sometimes corruptly. On balance, though, the United States has been and remains (so far) a beacon of freedom, opportunity, and progress. This President believes in the same leveling of countries that he promotes among persons of unequal wealth in the country he runs.
(8) He's Actually Rather Unpleasant. Mitt Romney suggested in his (disappointingly bland and shallow) convention speech that Obama is a nice guy. I don’t think he’s a nice guy. I think he’s motivated by jealousy and insecurity and this campaign is Exhibit 1. He believes that wealth and merit should be punished, is an adversary to be defeated. His campaign has been angry and negative. He has refused to lend his personal charm to Democratic candidates. His bus can’t move, there are so many corpses stacked under it. The buck always stops well short of him.
Every president must have a healthy-self regard, but he is singular in is inability to disguise an ego bordering on megalomania. The comparative frequency of his use of “I” in his public addresses is well-documented.
|Can you imagine any other campaign releasing a formal photo like this?|
(9) It Matters that He's Never Accomplished Anything, Other than Electorally. The public was aware of his lack of work experience and his relative lack of legislative experience, and that experience was decidedly lackluster (and notably unindustrious). This was deemed not to matter with his personal charm and exciting message on the other side of the scale. But now that that charm and message are in tatters, voters are recalling that this guy is pretty much just a guy, nothing more.
(10) His 2008 Posture of Moderate Bipartisanship Was a Fraud. No one, not even the 47%, is any longer claiming that he is a moderate or interested in bipartisanship. I’m not a big fan of bipartisanship myself where principles are at stake, but the point is that this is how he held himself out, and how the media portrayed him, and why the center voted for him.
(11) He Is Protected by a Biased and Dishonest Media Establishment. Speaking of which, his coddling by the mainstream media is undeniable. You can howl about Drudge and Fox News all you want, but they are the exception and do not self-righteously deny their opposition to POTUS. For the purposes of this list, the point is not whether either of the sides is right or wrong, it’s that the public can see that the MSM is steadfastly refusing to report carefully on this administration, and they resent it.
(12) He Believes that He is Historically Inevitable. And believes as well that that is a substitute for positive governing results. Many of the moderates and undecideds who were caught up in the historic possibility of our first black president – and one with undeniable charisma when his fury over opposition isn’t bubbling to the surface – now perceive that the drama of his election was just that, a drama, a story, show biz. They suspended disbelief and went with that story, but the second act has been a bust. The President, however, has the sand to make “Forward” his campaign theme, and Mrs. Obama was caught the other day exhorting a crowd to think ahead to the wonders that can be accomplished if her man is awarded four more years. But he has not proven to be an inspirational leader, or, in the solitude he’s most comfortable with, any other kind of a leader. The mythology constructed for his 2008 campaign was brilliant – but, in the end, only a myth. His presidency is no more a natural result of historical forces than is the administration on Mt. Olympus.
* * *
The reader will have noticed I didn’t say anything positive about Mitt Romney. It is true that among the reasons I have voted for him is that he is not Barack Obama. But he has run a strong campaign, he has a strong record of public and private achievement, he supports American capitalism, and he believes in American exceptionalism in the world. Lots of reasons to vote for the man.
I’m caught up in his momentum and I am not going to deny that I believe the momentum will carry him to victory because I want to believe it. Even if he loses, though, Barack Obama will be governing a country where more and more people have found him out.
The textbooks of the future will dutifully report his historical significance. The illusion of transcendence, however, has evaporated. The promise of competence, a murky half-remembered dream. For many of us – including those of us who did not vote for him but who were ready for a fresh breeze blowing through the White House – his defeat is already assured.