Thursday, November 15, 2012

Grown Folks Politics

To listen to the news reports on Election 2012,  you would think that President Obama stood around whistling while Mitt Romney lost the election.  They cite the vulnerability of President Obama because of the slow  economic recovery, record levels of debt, the so-called "failed" stimulus plan,and the fact that no incumbent except Roosevelt has been re-elected with an unemployment rate higher than when they entered office.  They cite the damage done to the Romney campaign by the extended Republican primary season, denial of facts, and Hurricane Sandy.

If I ask some of  my preacher friends,  they say that the victory of One Named Blessed (the definition of "Barack") was caused by  a 'mighty wind' sent by God to sweep the enemy away.  They say that the result was forewarned when God dispatched a hurricane at the beginning of the Republican convention.  All the signs in Heaven made Election Day's outcome clear, they say.

Heavenly intervention notwithstanding,  there  are discernible realities here on earth that explain President Obama's re-election.

President Obama had one of the most superb political campaign organizations in the history of the United states.  They met or exceeded the fundraising of the far more deep-pocketed Romney and friends.  Anticipating the nastiness that the Romney campaign was preparing to unleash, the Obama campaign took the fight to their opponent, releasing adds about Bain Capital weeks before Romney television commercials.  By maintaining field operations for the President's entire first term, they wielded a vastly superior voter turnout operation.

Applying a key ancient battle tactic of Sun Tsu's "The Art of War" Obama campaign strategists ensured victory before the the first vote was cast.  They defined the field of battle. They duped the Romney campaign to focus their efforts in the so-called "battleground states."  It is true that the election was decided in those states, but the Romney campaign may have had greater success if they had developed an original strategy.  Romney's failure to consider alternative approaches to defeating an incumbent President demonstrated a glaring lack of creativity and  an ignorance of history.

President Obama did not just win the election. Republican leadership did too much to lose it.  They ignored the reality of present-day demographics of our country.  It is mind-boggling to imagine that a party leadership would bank its political fortunes on appealing exclusively to one declining demographic.  Romney wasted hundreds of millions of dollars on television commercials that inflamed the hopes and fears of that one demographic. This is the reason for the outpouring of disappointment, dismay, and despair among so many Romney voters.

Unquestionably, a number of those who voted for Romney hold genuine concerns about the economy, national debt, the cost of health care reform and President Obama's ability to turn these huge problems around.  On their own, these are legitimate arguments for questioning the effectiveness of Barack Obama's first term as President. The President himself admits that more could have been done to strengthen the economic recovery.

The fact is, Romney chose not to allow these arguments to stand on their own. He embellished the criticism of the President's policies with  innuendo about the President's religion, patriotism and character.  He denigrated the President's supporters as un-American, burdens to society, seekers of government entitlements.  He painted every Obama administration accomplishment as less than impressive, a failure, attributable to the Republican-dominated Congress or the result of President  Bush' policies.  Everything Obama was labeled as wrong, failed, un-American, anti-American, alien, or evil.

The Romney campaign zeroed in on the fears of white America while insulting or ignoring the concerns, hopes and fears of Americans from other racial and ethnic backgrounds,  LGBT Americans, and young Americans.  The Romney campaign was a years' long repetitive chant that said "Elect Mitt Romney because we're mad as hell about everything "Obama" and we're not going to take it anymore."  That may have worked for a Hollywood movie, and maybe for the America of 30, 40, or 50 years ago.  Not today.

President Obama's margin of victory in the Electoral College was overwhelming (332-206), and in the popular vote, decisive (almost 3 million).  But President Obama's victory was not an overwhelming mandate. Almost half of voters did not support the President.  As flawed as it may be, huge swaths of the American populace believe in the vision of our country that Romney touted.

But there is a ray of hope _nay, an entire rainbow of hope_ that can be discerned from President Obama's re-election.  Those who voted for President Obama  _over 62 million people_ proved that the right to vote is the greatest privilege of our democracy.  They proved that money is not the only powerful force in American society.  They exemplified the hope, the essence, and the spirit of our foundational principles;  that all people are created equal with certain inalienable rights, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  They proved that the American dream is not the exclusive domain of people from any single racial group, economic class, gender or sexual orientation.

On Election Day 2012 the majority of voters proved that Americans are not a collection of voting blocs that can be objectified, courted, ignored, bought, lied to, insulted, dismissed, wooed, or bullied.   As the population of the United States has become more diverse than ever, voters proved that ours is the most durable, healthy and  dynamic democracy in the world.

My prayer is that more white people come to realize that they have not lost America.  Rather, the country that was once a cute baby has grown up into the most attractive adult in the world.