Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Essential thinking for reading Catholics.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

I'm back, but not happy about it.

I'm taking something of a sabbatical from Facebook and Twitter. There are too many people there whom I otherwise like and for whom I'd rather not develop an irredeemable distaste. So, to keep my sanity, I'm back here. Thus endeth the housekeeping.

I am mindful of a few things: Despair is a sin. I have to keep repeating that to myself, over and over because, frankly, the temptation is too strong.

There are a lot of things I have been ruminating these last few hours, some existential, and some practical. I'll get the practical ones off my chest first and feel free to hold me to what I say. There are many reasons why Romney lost last night. I don't know which one proved the straw which broke the electoral camel's back, but surely they are share a portion of the responsibility. In no particular order (well, OK, in the order in which I think of them):

Hurricane Sandy. Going into the last week Romney was slowly edging away then Hurricane Sandy hit. This had several aftereffects: 1) It gave glowing coverage to the President, looking all Presidential, 2) It caused Romney to stop campaigning, while the President took advantage of the incumbency, 3) Gov. Christie's behavior looked anti-Romney in a "what does he know that we don't?" way. This caused one subtle - I doubt we'll be able to get the numbers on this, ever - shift, one that to me elegantly happens to capture what happened and why it caught so many intelligent and learned pundits out: The dispirited base turned out in somewhat greater numbers than they would have a week prior. (It doesn't take much.) So, an election that probably would have been a D+2, turned into a D+6. The exit polling data was clear that 15% (!) of voters were influenced by the President's Sandy response. And thus what you saw.

Mitt Romney. The single biggest Achilles' Heel of Obama was the deeply unpopular Obamacare. The one man whose signature achievement in the office he won as the result of his ONE electoral victory - Romneycare - was in a singularly ill-suited position to sharply attack it. The fact he let Team Obama run unanswered ads against him all summer was another crucial mistake. Resting on his laurels after his victory in Debate 1 was another fatal mistake; he never fully recovered after Candy Crowley incorrectly corrected him (Can you imagine, say, Newt Gingrich letting that slide?) on Libya and never took aim at the issue again even after the details as they emerged showed an ever mounting horror show of foreign policy.

Team Romney, at least in my TV market, never ran the sorts of ads that, sadly, work. Perhaps he thought they would tarnish his nice guy persona - the President never seemed to suffer any such scruples - perhaps he has a particular distaste for them. But the GOP apparatchiks have never gotten over the Willie Horton thing. They save those ads for, inexplicably, the primaries. (Don't doubt me, compare the anti-Gingrich ads to anything aired during the general campaign.)

A moderate-ish record, both in terms of governance and pronouncement, alloyed with a rather malleable set of positions (i.e. Etch-A-Sketch) all as revealed throughout the GOP primary season; and, sadly, his Mormon faith, probably tamped down GOP turnout. (One number thrown around last night was that evangelical voter turnout was down 7% in Virginia.)

Furthermore, Romney is the latest in a series of GOP nominees who simply canNOT speak well extemporaneously, and whose speeches were lukewarm and insipid.

I am on record as saying that Paul Ryan was a tactical mistake for VP. Nothing wrong with Ryan qua Ryan, mind you it's just that I never saw in him, at this point in history, the ability to actually generate a positive vote flow. Almost certainly, Team Romney overestimated the positive Gov. Walker results and assumed Ryan would flip Wisconsin. And thus what you saw.

The media. It is now a hackneyed trope that the media is worth X points to the Democrat nominee.  That after all these years a GOP nominee can't figure an effective end-around is dismaying. Newt Gingrich soared to contention chastening the in-kind media, directly and forcefully and, for much of the campaign, rendering it a spent force. But Romney never took the opportunity to go after a free target - given the media's abysmal approval ratings - and thus what you saw.

George W. Bush. Four years after leaving office, it now becomes clear how destructive the feckless Presidential management (and some policies) of GWB have been to the GOP. A candidate like Romney, for example, was never able to distance himself from GWB enough in a climate where, true or false, a substantial number of voters still hold Bush responsible for the economic woes that bedevil the USA. That Romney never refuted (or to my eyes, even tried to) the "this can't be fixed in one term" also cost him dearly and helped inoculate Obama. Obama by 2010 should have "owned" the mess we're in, but the aftertaste of GWB was/is so bitter still that, the assertion left unchallenged, he was able to convince enough people.

What passes for a silver lining is that even with all of these handicaps, Romney managed 49%. The storm cloud is that he couldn't punch through after the shoreless ocean of abject failure (Solyndra, Benghazi, Stimulus, QE1/2/ know the drill) of Obama's 1st term.

And now to the more...intangible.

There is much that worries me about the future. Not so much the "will/won't we get it back" aspect. But, rather, whether there's anything recognizable to get back. This boils down to a very painful thing: "If America really, truly believes the candidate with the usual promises of spending more and taxing more is really going to save America, I don't know that I can help you."

The only way I see a happy outcome is through a crucible for the US as a nation. Obama took over mid-mess and made it worse, but for reasons alluded above, was able to only receive some glancing blows therefrom. But in a 2nd term - and historically 2nd terms are the graveyards of presidencies - such shelter won't be forthcoming. Especially in light of the impending economic perils.

Obama was able to make a case (we'll set aside the merits of that case for now) that things were getting better and sufficient voters agreed that yes, things were getting better. But once economic storm clouds break loose again, his semantic lines of retreat towards "failed policies" and GWB will be significantly weakened. But that will entail a likely harrowing economic trial for the USA.


  • At 11:47 AM, November 07, 2012 , Blogger gnelson said...

    I'm glad you're back blogging. This post is more interesting than the little tidbits you post on Facebook (except for the cooking notes, of course!). Keep up the good work. A couple things you didn't mention about why Romney lost--lame Catholics, and a non-critically thinking populace. I also heard some people taking about the immigrant vote, but I don't know enough about that to comment. (p.s. I made homemade pasta again last night)

  • At 6:02 PM, November 07, 2012 , Blogger Joe said...

    1- This is partly why I am back to blogging. That and that this is "my" turf.

    2- Not disputing the lame Catholics (partly to blame on enuretic bishops and anti-catechesis of the last 45 years) or the non-critically thinking (i.e. innumerate) voting public. But that's not something that can be laid at the feet of any given candidate.

    3- The BIG loser in all this is Ann Coulter. She laid much on the line on behalf of Romney during the primaries and look at where it's gotten us.


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