Thursday, November 08, 2012

Election 2012: Myths, Lies, and Losers

Barack Obama’s victory was more than a defeat of Mitt Romney. Obama also vanquished prejudice, winner-take-all economics, and attacks on the safety net. The winner is 21st-century America.

On Election Day, Barack Obama was home in Chicago on his way back to the White House—and the Romney campaign was R.I.P., lurching its last ditch way back to Pennsylvania and Ohio. As the results rolled in, the ballroom in Boston descended into despair and the crowd in McCormick Place roared as the states were called and reelection was secured. But something more happened yesterday than in most presidential contests. Myths were confounded, lies proved unavailing, and there were big losers beyond Mitt Romney.

Barack Obama
President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Jill Biden, and First Lady Michelle acknowledge supporters on election night in Chicago on Nov. 6, 2012. (Jewel Samad, AFP / Getty Images)

A few months ago, the conventional wisdom doomed Obama on the grounds that no incumbent in modern times had won with unemployment above 7.2 percent. In fact, voters thought the rate was 7.5 percent on Ronald Reagan’s triumphant morning in America. In addition, until Reagan, the benchmark would have been 5.6 points. What the Reagan experience suggests—and Obama’s success validates—is that the decisive factor is no fixed number, but the direction in which the economy is moving. And for this president, despite a GOP determined to block every measure for recovery, the economy picked up and unemployment more than ticked down in the final months of the campaign.

Another long-held myth holds that it’s better to run for president as a governor than a senator. But across more than half a century, the nation has sent two sitting senators to the White House—JFK and Barack Obama—and two sitting governors—Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, although the latter was selected by the Supreme Court, not elected by the voters. Richard Nixon and LBJ sat in the Senate before they sat in the Oval Office. Jimmy Carter and Reagan were former governors. So there is no preferable path to the presidency. And in Romney’s case, his governorship, purchased by pretending to be a moderate and then flipping afterwards to being “severely conservative,” reinforced deep concerns about the character of a candidate who refused to be specific on taxes and palled around in a TV ad with “legitimate rape” Todd Akin, who threw away a Republican Senate win in Missouri.

Two other myths were written in the events of this cycle rather than in the “rules” of a faux history.

The first is that Hurricane Sandy untracked Romney as he was rising in the polls. As Nate Silver demonstrated in The New York Times, the Mittmentum, such as it was, slowed and then “stalled” after the vice-presidential and second presidential debates. Obama’s defeat in the first let Romney into the race, but never reshaped a fundamental structure that accorded the President many more roads to an electoral vote majority—and back to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Full piece at The Daily Beast

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