Back on October 28, I forecast a comfortable Romney win. How wrong I was. The only comfort is that I was in distinguished company, which included, among others, Michael Barone and Roger Kimball. By the way, a shocked and incredulous Roger Kimball has just issued a mea culpa at PJ Media.
It would be tempting to dream up excuses. It appeared that Romney was picking up momentum before Frankenstorm Sandy interrupted his campaign. Yet I believe that the storm’s impact on the poll was marginal.
What went wrong? Some commentators are blaming changing demographics. Yes, identity politics played an important role, especially the Hispanic vote in states like Florida, Nevada and Colorado. But how does one account for the dramatic reversal from the result in 2010 in New Hampshire, which is old American Caucasian?. As Mark Steyn succinctly puts it:
As disappointing for me as Mitt losing New Hampshire has been the down-ticket races in the Granite State. In 2010, Republicans won both House seats, the Senate seat, three-quarters of State Reps, 80 percent of State Senate seats, and 100 percent of the Executive Council. Two years later, Democrats have taken the governorship and may well take both House seats, and the vote tallies they’re racking up in hardcore plaid-clad North Country towns far from the Massachusetts border are remarkable.
Maybe Mark Steyn is right when he states that the voters in New Hampshire seem comfortable with big government, entitlements and micro-regulation. Perhaps Caucasian non-immigrant Americans elsewhere have also shifted. If so, in the space of just two years, America politics has shifted from centre right nation to centre left.
I am particularly struck by the fact that the huge and enthusiastic rallies for Romney in the swing states failed to translate into Republican majorities. In states like Ohio, it seems that the silent majority was indifferent to the Republican campaign and message even if enthusiasm for Obama had greatly diminished. In the past, huge conservative crowds would have reflected a broader community support for the Republicans. Apparently, this is no longer the case.
At this early stage, a few random thoughts will have to do. It seems that there are two Americas, which inhabit parallel universes. In addition to the obvious demographic divisions, there is an information division. Unless voters were tuned to the Fox News Network or followed conservative blogs, they would scarcely have heard of the scandal concerning the White House’s repeated denial of requests for backup during the terrorist attack at Benghazi. The mainstream media did a brilliant job covering for Obama.
Mitt Romney played Mr Nice Guy. President Obama played the demagogue. But nice guys finish last. PJ Media’s Richard Fernandez has reproduced a message from a long-time commentator, Leo Linbeck, part of which I quote as follows:
The President ran a brilliant campaign. He ran overwhelmingly negative ads, early and focused and targeting the battleground states. He was able to define Romney, and his messaging was perfectly calibrated for his target audiences. Given his first term record, he really had no other choice, and his execution was first-rate.
But now he will reap what he sowed. His pretense of being a uniter, someone who can reach across the aisle and work together to solve pressing problems, lies in ruins. Whatever reservoir of goodwill and trust that existed in January 2009 is now bone dry.
So, yes, he won. But it will almost certainly be a Pyrrhic victory. He chose to divide the country deeply to win his second term. He will find that the nation he will again lead is not governable by him, and he may have tipped it to where it is not governable by anyone. He is so deeply despised by so much of the country that he will never be able to do what needs to be done (assuming he even wanted to, which does not appear likely).
The reaping will begin sooner than he probably expects. The ship of state is heading toward the Scylla and Charybdis of the fiscal cliff (in 2012) and Obamacare (in 2013). At work, we have been looking at the impact of Obamacare, and all I can say is that the average person has absolutely no idea how enormous the impact will be on their life. It will be an enormous shock to the system, and it will hit almost everyone in the country.
Is the America with which we were so familiar now gone? Clearly, much of the old paradigm is now dead. With a financial apocalypse now inevitable, we can only face the future with foreboding.
Christopher Carr is a frequent contributor to Quadrant Online