Republicans could easily have taken the White House this year. But they didn’t.
Their candidate sucked. Their campaign sucked worse than their candidate.
First, let’s talk about the candidate. If you’re going to win the Kentucky Derby, you need a horse. The Republicans didn’t have a horse to ride in this election. Governor Romney was one rotten candidate. Nobody, except possibly his family and his dog, wanted Governor Romney to win. They wanted President Obama to lose. The people who voted for Governor Romney didn’t vote for him. They were voting against President Obama.
From beginning to end, this election has been Obama vs Obama. And it was close.
In the final analysis, more people wanted the real Obama than they wanted the robot-man not-Obama for their president. The last time we saw this was 2004 when the Democrats ran not-Bush Senator John Kerry for president. They got pretty much the same result.
Both President Bush before him and President Obama now were strategically-elected presidents who used wedge issues and highly targeted campaigns which basically said “I don’t care about you” to about half the people. Both men got their half to the polls and won a second term. Unless President Obama shifts course (something he has shown no sign of being capable of doing) both men will go down in history as presidents of some of the people most of the time and all of the people none of the time.
Governor Romney, if he had won, would have been the president of none of the people all of the time. He would have been the not-Obama president with a mush-minded platform whose only fealty was to multi-national corporations. I’m sure some of his big money backers are chewing on bitterness with their oatmeal this morning. They are not the kind of people who put money in political campaigns and politicians because of ideals. They view their campaign donations as investments. Governor Romney has been a bad investment.
In addition to their not-Obama candidate, the Republicans ran a not-Obama campaign. They never gave anybody, except the aforementioned multi-national corporatists, any reason to vote for their boy. Romney was the not-Obama candidate running on the not-Obama platform. Their only strategy was to keep on keeping on attacking the President in the same old ways over the same old issues just like they’d been doing for the past four years. The Romney campaign was an idea-free zone, and it showed.
My half-deaf 20-year-old cat could have come up with a better campaign strategy than going over and over the same old stuff that had been used against the president since 2008. I believe that President Obama’s positions on social issues were a net sum loss for him in terms of votes. But I know that he had already lost every single vote he was going to lose on those issues when he walked into this campaign. The Republicans had zero gain from attacking him on this over and over again. They already had all the votes they were going to get on those issues.
What they needed to do was offer reasons why somebody somewhere should actually vote for their candidate. It is compelling that roughly half the people of this country cast their votes against President Obama, even when they knew they were voting for a zero when they did it. That’s a big base.
But a base in any campaign is just that. It’s your base. If you want to win, you need to build something on top that base. Incumbents usually walk into an election with a big enough base to win. President Obama was the incumbent in this election and he began the campaign with that advantage. The Republicans never gave any reason, except things that people had already decided about, to switch.
The Rs ran a lousy, I’m-not-much-but-I’m-not-him campaign. The fact that it was close is a testament to how winnable it was. However, their narrow and absolute fealty to the big corporations has shut down so many options and ways of dealing with major issues concerning foreign policy and the economy that all they dared talk about were the same social issues that had gotten them to the half-way mark. They couldn’t build because they dared not. They had the money men breathing down their necks.
I’m already hearing the self-serving excuses from the R side of the political kitchen concerning this race. They are cooking up an analysis of things that will not require one single change in their absolute obeisance to the extreme nutso economic philosophy of Ayn Rand coupled with the economic policies of the greed-is-good corporatists who foot their bills. This determined self-deception precludes an honest appraisal of what went wrong.
The Democrats, after Kerry, jettisoned the dead weight. They picked their wedge issues and stopped trying to be the party of anything else. I expect the Republicans to go through a similar reappraisal. I think that there is going to be a considerable push within the party to de-couple from “social” issues and move toward a more “moderate” position on things like abortion, same-sex marriage, etc. This is the direction the money-men who own the party have been pushing for right along.
I imagine there will also be a big hate-Romney move within the party. In truth, Governor Romney only failed the party by winning the nomination. He was a no-magic man in a campaign that needed a star. But, given the field of candidates they had to choose from, what else were Republican voters supposed to do?
The field of appallingly bad candidates that Republican voters had to chose from in the primaries is a direct result of the lock-step thinking that is enforced within the party. Time was, Democrats allowed themselves the freedom to, as Wesley said, think and let think within their party. But those days are gone for them, too.
Both parties have narrowed their field of possible candidates with their internal censorship of ideas and constant self-purging, but the Republicans have paid the highest price for this so far. In the past two presidential elections, their major weakness showed in the primaries. They did not have a healthy field of intelligent, attractive candidates who inspire people. Instead, they offered us the slightly daffy, the bitter, the inane and the mean and nasty.
I know that Ron Paul inspired a lot of support, but in truth, there was no candidate in the Republican presidential primaries who had any business anywhere near the White House.
In spite of all this, the race was still close. The President eked out a win in the popular vote, and, as a result of his highly-targeted, wedge-issue race, won handily in the electoral college. It could easily have gone differently. All the Republicans needed was a candidate.
In some ways, politics is like a horse race. If you want to win any horse race, but especially a really big one like, say, the Kentucky Derby, you’ve got to have a horse to ride. The Republicans showed up for the race without a horse. The rest, as they say, is history.