BAYHAM: The Triumph of Politics – Or, How Obama Won a Second Term
Barack Obama should not have been re-elected.
I don’t say this just as someone opposed to his agenda but as an objective political observer.
The misery index was working against the president in all corners of society: high gas prices, high unemployment, high cost of necessities, high cost of college, etc.
That’s before you even consider his failures on other fronts: the sour relationship between Congress and the White House, an additional five trillion in debt and the systematic Benghazi cover up to name a few.
President George H. W. Bush wasn’t burdened with nearly as much baggage when he was turned out of office in 1992, so how did the 44th president succeed while the much more respected 41st did not?
The first difference was Obama’s lack of a primary challenger. Ask Bush and Jimmy Carter about the value of this luxury. Conservative commentator Patrick Buchanan has often been blamed for mortally wounding Bush the elder in the primaries. The truth is that Buchanan did not so much damage to the president but expose what the GOP establishment had been in denial about: people were angry. Free from distraction of an intra-party fight, Obama used his primary money to integrate his constituency into his general election campaign operation.
While Mitt Romney was struggling against Rick Santorum in his home state of Michigan in February, Obama’s camp was identifying hardcore supporters and devising technologically ingenious ways to turn them out in November
Secondly, unlike Bush, President Obama did not compromise. On anything.
Bush was haunted by his breaking of the “read my lips, no new taxes” pledge both in the primary and in the general election thus pouring a pail of cold water on his base and planting the seeds for a Ross Perot constituency.
Obama brazenly defied the conventional wisdom of tacking to the center, steering further to left, risking his appeal to the larger electorate but firing up his base that much more. Obama lost millions of votes between his 2008 election and his 2012 bid for re-election but that didn’t concern him in the least, for good reason.
Third, Obama engaged in a level of character assassination no other president had ever pursued. The worst to come out of Bush in 1992 were references to his opponents as being bozos and a “Captain Ozone” crack at Al Gore. To his credit as a gentleman, Bush was contrite for his unpresidential remarks.
Obama, on the other hand, reveled in “your mama’s so fat” politics. The epitome, or nadir pending on your outlook, was an ad that accused Romney of killing a blue collar worker’s wife because of a decision he made at Capital Bain that affected her insurance.
There were no limits for the Obama campaign, just new angles of distortion. The constant sliming of Romney allowed the Democrats to define the Republican candidate before he gave his acceptance speech at the convention and depressed turnout of true undecideds while participation by Obama hardcores spiked.
Fourth, black voters went into the election aiming to “protect the house” and turned out in higher numbers to do so. To say black Americans voted on race is an unpleasant yet indisputable reality. Instead of Obama being a transformative figure related to the politics of race, he became a lightning rod. New Orleans had an advance screening of this show in 2006 when Ray Nagin, who had not been popular with the black community, received their overwhelming support when pitted in a runoff for mayor against a white candidate.
Fifth, Obama aggressively worked the iVoters, stumping at college campuses in swing states prior to the convention. Obama was the candidate of free sex (pills) and free consequence (free abortions). Obama is such a trendy politician that he is our first president identified with a logo. The same people who counterintuitively wait in ridiculous lines for a phone with an apple symbol also waited in line to vote for a president who presided over increased college costs and a terrible job market for graduates. Old man Bush’s feeble attempt to win over young voters was having his equally aged press spokesman don a bright Mtv “Rock the Vote” cap.
Six, incumbents are hard to beat and only two Democratic presidents have lost general election campaigns in the past 125 years (Grover Cleveland and Jimmy Carter). Yet Obama had an advantage none of his predecessors could enjoy: the American public wanted the country’s first black president to succeed and they were willing to validate him by grasping on to any positive that could be used to rationalize voting for him.
His prematurely awarded Nobel Peace Prize captures this spirit.
Bin Laden’s corpse sufficed as a foreign policy success and the perceived good health of the auto industry represented a domestic positive. Yet those two were not enough.
Obama’s edgy political rhetoric was costing him swing votes and then a last minute crisis struck that the president was not going to waste: Hurricane Sandy. Choreographed photo ops with one of his most prominent Republican critics gave him a flash of bipartisan leadership Obama never sincerely displayed during the other forty something months he was in office.
Finally Obama got some considerable help from the opposition: Romney out-gaffed Sarah Palin on her worst days, his campaign played zone defense while two scores behind and two GOP senate candidates served as Exhibits A & B in the Democrats’ “War Against Women” narrative, the latter giddily relayed by a community of journalists who decided that what comes out a senate candidate’s mouth matters more than the death of American ambassador.
If not a good president, Obama proved himself to be a great politician by keeping the disaffected out of the voting booth while increasing support of minority groups who disproportionately had the hardest time during his administration and selling style to young voters who lacked hope for jobs where they can apply their expensive college degrees.
A good salesman can sell snow to an eskimo; Obama did one better, selling chilli peppers to a thirsty nation.