It’s pretty simple actually. The Republican brand is tarnished and more and more of America is becoming moderate to liberal. In other words, contrary to the Fox News spin, we are not a center/right country. We are a center/left country. More and more every day.
George W. Bush fought two wars on a credit card, lying his way into one of them, failing to have an effective plan for either of them. He cut taxes, but increased spending, and pretty much spent eight years being a doofus. The single biggest reason we are in the mess we are in today (although, as discussed below, it actually isn’t as bad as all of the doomsayers insist) is the result of GWB’s presidency. This is not about blaming him for what is happening now to escape any responsibility Obama and the Dems may have. It’s simply a reality. He was not a responsible steward of the nation’s resources and as he left office he left our country in the worst place it has been in in decades. Have no doubt, the man will go down as one of our worst Presidents in history. And Americans, most of them anyway, know this. Why go back to that? If he was the end of the downward spiral of the Republican Party, they might have had a chance this year. However …
It didn’t end with him, though. In response to Obama’s victory in 2008, the Republican Party became, not just the party of no, but the party of the extreme right wing. Yes, there are still moderates in the party, but the face of the Republican Party — the leaders in Congress and in statehouses around the country — has become a screaming, tantrum-throwing ensemble of the worst the Republican Party has to offer. There are too many examples of this, but the best are the statements of Republican Senate candidates regarding rape. Maybe those comments make sense to a subset of America, but to the rest, they sound extreme, dangerous, and, well, loony.
Put another way from Thomas Friedman in the NY Times:
Many in the next generation of America know climate change is real, and they want to see something done to mitigate it. Many in the next generation of America will be of Hispanic origin and insist on humane immigration reform that gives a practical legal pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants … Many in the next generation of America see gays and lesbians in their families, workplaces and Army barracks, and they don’t want to deny them the marriage rights held by others. The GOP today is at war with too many in the next generation of America on all of these issues.
In its reaction to the election of the first black President, the Republican party has sunk to the depths of reactionary fear. They have become the party of older white men and are experiencing their last angry gasp. As a result, the Republican brand isn’t just tarnished, it is become more and more irrelevant in ever larger parts of the country.
As well, while the Republicans ran around the country telling us how horrible things were, I think a lot of people were looking around and thinking “what are they talking about?” Yes, the unemployment level is still too high. Yes, the economy is not growing as quickly as we would like. But the simple reality is that there are still a lot of people who are doing OK. The demise of the American economy is an event that hasn’t actually occurred.
Into this world the Republican Party nominated Mitt Romney and allowed Clint Eastwood to engage in the most bizarre convention speech ever — the same Clint Eastwood, by the way, who narrated the Chrysler commercial during the 2012 Super Bowl which touted its comeback — made possible by Obama’s auto bailout. Anybody see any inconsistency there. I do. It shows tough guy Clint to be nothing more than a shill — giving his name and voice to whoever will pay. Clint’s a sideshow, however.
Mitt Romney was the first, second and last act of this year’s Republican effort to re-gain the presidency. Let’s see … wouldn’t disclose his tax returns. Primary claim to fame was running a hedge fund responsible for the destruction of jobs and companies. Millionaire with dollars coming out of his pores and elevators for his cars. A man who “struggled” while in college, while living on the $100,000 in stock given to him by family. There are far too many examples of why he didn’t fit the American mood this year — but, it’s really pretty simple. The party with a tarnished brand nominated as their standard-bearer a man out-of-touch with most of America (witness his 47% comment) and who represented so much of what is wrong with the system for those of us who are working and struggling to make a living.
Add to this the following from Real Clear Politics summary after the election:
After calling the president to congratulate him, a spent and disappointed — but nevertheless smiling — Mitt Romney made a brief speech to his supporters in Boston. Afterward, numerous pundits noted that his remarks were uncommonly gracious. But Democratic consultant Paul Begal and former Republican White House press secretary Ari Fleischer also found the speech notable for what was not in it: There was no list of issues and causes that he’ll fight for in the future, no real discussion of the specific choices Americans will have to make in the future. It was simply not, Fleischer and Begala observed, a concession speech from a movement leader.
This shouldn’t have been a surprise. Romney’s critics on both the right and the left often accused him of lacking ‘a core” but those who are close to him believe this misses the essence of the man utterly. ‘Core” values to Romney are his church and family, and to them he is a consistently devoted servant.
The point being, I believe, that not only did Romney represent so much of what is wrong with the system, he also failed to offer a vision of the future because he has none. He’s comparable to Mondale in 1984 and Dukakis in 1988. Technocrats. Wonks. Candidates who have all the facts and none of the vision or passion people want as their … ready for it … leaders. Mitt Romney may be fine at running the Olympics, or managing a hedge fund, but that does not make him the kind of leader people choose to run their government.
Finally, I offer two things. First, although the Republican Party tried relentlessly to suggest that President Obama had done nothing in the past four years, I think more Americans saw through that lie. And, seeing that was a lie, questioned the rest of the foundational claims made by Romney and his party. The man he accused of an apology tour killed Osama Bin Laden when GWB couldn’t. He ended the Iraq War when GWB couldn’t. He took strong action to ensure the overthrow of Qadhafi. On the economy, while Republicans were claiming we were doomed, the rest of America saw a President who bailed out the auto industry, saving millions of jobs. They recognized he had inherited an impossible situation and didn’t expect overnight miracles. The list of accomplishments could go on, but I’ll leave it at that. Most Americans, rather than seeing the doomsday scenario of the current Republican Party, actually recognize the progress being made and the value of the man who is President.
Second, there are plenty of other events that took place this week to support the thesis that we are becoming more center/left than center/right. How many states’ voters approved marriage equality? How many states’ voters approved the legalization of marijuana (something I oppose)? Here in California, the voters agreed to tax themselves and approved a rational loosening of three strikes. The extremism of the Republican Party was rejected in enough states that the Democrats actually gained seats in the United States Senate when all predictions were for the opposite.
Which brings us back to the title of this post. Why did Obama Win? As Thomas Friedman suggests … at a time when this country is becoming more and more diverse and more tolerant, the Republican Party is becoming the complete opposite. Either they figure out that America is filled with the most diverse population ever put together in the history of this planet or they don’t. And, if they don’t, they will become less and less relevant as time goes on.
As a lifelong Democrat, I hope they figure it out. I don’t believe in one-party rule. I believe in compromise and moderation and the value in two strong political parties that force that compromise and moderation.