Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Obama Re-Elected, but why?

Last night President Obama was re-elected for a second term. Many of my friends immediately went into mourning. Other friends of my friends are very happy. Pundits on both sides have already started picking apart the campaigns of both candidates and are doing their level best to intellectualize and explain why the election went the way it did. I have already heard that Obama's strategy of avoiding discussing Obamacare and the Economy and of demonizing Romney from the start, was what worked (that's hard to argue with since he won). Others said that it was Governor Christie giving Obama a bear hug and praising him over the Federal response to Hurricane Sandy that made the difference (it made Obama look Presidential and bipartisan and therefore tipped the independent voters in Obama's favor). On the right, the explanations have started running from Romney not being conservative enough, to Romney not being bold enough and being 'too nice', to Romney blowing the opportunity to exploit Obama's handling of the attack in Benghazi.

Horsepucky! I can tell you what it was, and it does not take a rocket scientist or an overpaid political pundit to figure it out. In fact, I did tell you, in several blogs last year. It's 'center-right', stupid! This country is, has always been, and will always be, a center-right country. If the Republicans had nominated someone who did not promote far-right agendas and had, instead, appeared to be center-right and willing to work with the Democrats and be bipartisan, they would not (could not) have lost.

The problem with that is simply this. In order to run for President, a candidate must first be nominated. The primaries are dominated by each party's 'hard core' elements. For the Republicans, that means the far right Conservatives and 'Christian Conservatives'.  The result is, in order to get the Republican nomination, a candidate must make statements and promises that appeal to the far right -but that scares off the independent and minority voters. Add those two blocks (minorities and independents) to the Democratic base -and you get last nights results, every time.

Romney and Ryan should have moved more to the center as soon as they got the nomination. They should have softened their positions on making drastic cuts to spending and spent no time at all talking about social issues (the whole abortion thing was a loser for Republicans). They should have picked up on Rubio's version of the Dream Act for Hispanics and made a real effort to win over more of that minority vote. They didn't and 66% of the Hispanic vote went to Obama.
Perception is everything and the Democrats have always been perceived as more friendly to minorities.  Women now make up 56% of voters. Women broke in favor of Obama. Blacks make up 15% of voters. 85% to 90% of the Black vote went to Obama. Hispanics are 10% of the voters. 66% of Hispanics voted Democrat. Gays and Asians make up about 7% each of the vote. 82% of them voted for Obama. Even the Jewish vote broke for Obama, in spite of his perceived hostility towards Israel.

Like I said, it is not rocket science. These numbers are no surprise. We've seen them before. The Republicans have only themselves to blame. Republicans are not "Anti-Minority". In fact, their policies are probably better for minorities in the long run. But it's the perception that matters. Republicans needed to work on changing that perception -but they didn't. They put all their faith in people being unhappy about the economy. What they utterly failed to understand was how effective the Obama people were at convincing the minorities that Romney's plan for improving the economy would hurt them (not true, I know -but that was the perception they got and Romney made very little effort to correct it).

This election was close. Damned close. Romney tired to appear more moderate and bipartisan in the last few weeks -but he should have done that as soon as he got the nomination. He should have gone to war with Obama over the minority vote. He didn't. He should have explained his plan for tax reform, specifically what deductions he was going to eliminate. He didn't and many middle-class home owners saw their mortgage deductions going away in a Romney Administration. He should have gone after Obama on Benghazi, especially in the 2nd and 3rd debates -he hesitated and fumbled. Doing any of these things could have tipped the scales in his favor. Doing all of them would have assured him a victory.

But, this is all "Monday morning quarterbacking" -and we are now about to hear one hell of a lot of that. The fact is that the election is over and Obama is going to be President for 4 more years. Nothing in Washington has changed and unless the two parties get over their polarization and learn the art of compromise, nothing is going to change. The politicians will keep on posturing and bickering -and we poor schmucks will go on suffering.

My advise for Republicans is simple. Next time remember that this is a center-right country, far right rhetoric won't work. Pay attention to the minorities. Their vote can make a big difference. And last -get a nominee who's smile doesn't always look like a goofy smirk.

Live Long and Prosper... (and smile, 4 years goes by faster than you think)

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