The Obama Dividend


First things first.  Congratulations to President Barack Obama and his supporters on the re-election bid.  And to Mitt Romney, thank you for your tremendous dedication, energy, and effort on behalf of America and the conservative cause.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about “The Romney Dividend,” the delayed gratitude that came after the October 3 debate.  It was the natural reward for the nomination of such a disciplined, diligent man.  Now that Barack Obama has won re-election–though by a percentage smaller than 2008–it appears there is something of an Obama dividend.  But this one was not born of the President’s character and ideas as much as the perfection of the Democratic party vote-getting machine.

A fine report at the Wall Street Journal looks at the anatomy of the 2012 Obama victory.  Jim Messina and other top advisers sold the President on a risky, early blitzkrieg of negative advertising.  Some have complained that Romney should have responded sooner, but the Journal report indicates that Federal election laws tied the Romney campaigns’ hands until after the August nomination.  Whatever the case, the smear job, which at its worst insinuated that Romney gave one plant worker’s wife terminal cancer, indelibly poisoned Midwest working class voters against the GOP candidate.

That the President won re-election with such an intense, interminable hatchet job is beyond depressing.  Recall how the campaign wound up, even in the days after Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy:  “Don’t boo, vote!” and “Voting is the best revenge.”  Scorn and panic was far and wide on the Left.  Samuel L. Jackson unleashed coarse rhymes and Will Ferrell promised to eat trash if only you would vote Barack Obama.

Remember when the media pegged the Tea Party as driven by hate and fear?  The second Obama term has its foundations on these two base emotions.  Of course each individual has their own calculus going into the voting booth, but how many boneheads were stoked by Michael Moore’s videos featuring elders’ vulgar threats of violence?  And along those lines, how many first-time women voters were really driven by Lena Dunham’s comparison of voting for Obama to great sex?

Where is the civility and decency in our public life?  The same place that Hope and Change got left at.  Perhaps in the rough of some golf course in these great United States.  And now the President thinks he can go from the dirtiest Chicago mudslinging one minute to become the Magnanimous Unifier in the next?

Despite the outrageous situation, we have to hope and pray that the President actually matures and changes as he’s said he has and as polls show Americans demand.  Even if he does not, I steadfastly believe that regardless of color, age, sex or any other way you can slice and dice the electorate, Americans will ultimately be amenable to reason.

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About Lewis W
I earned an M.A. in Christian apologetics at Biola University, and occasionally write on ethics, truth, science and politics.

6 Responses to The Obama Dividend

  1. chicagoja says:

    I thought that the election was a replay of 2000, with Obama following George Bush’s voting machine strategy. By the way, it won’t matter if Americans, or even Congress, are amenable or not because we are now run by executive order. All hail the Fourth Reich.

  2. Grady says:

    Unfortunately, I’m not as optimistic. I hope I’m wrong, but I have been optimistic for years, and I’m having to realize that there has to be some disconnect that would allow a large portion of our population to both say we are on the wrong track and we need to change things to save the economy and put all of the same do-nothing leaders (both Congress and President) right back in power. We know what the outcome will be… more unbelievable levels of spending with no written budget, more gridlocked “negotiations” about taxes, spending, and the debt that end in commissions that are destined to fail and “fail-safes” that are designed to cripple our country to induce compromise. All the while, we get no real solutions and lots of finger-pointing while claiming to be bipartisan and open to all ideas.

    We’ve been there for two years, we know it’s not good, and yet, the majority of our population just willingly gave us another two years of that. By the time they are open to trying a different approach, will there be time to correct what’s been done? Even now, if we started cutting back spending and reducing the role of government back to just the basic functions today, the general population would not acquiesce to cutting back over forty percent of the government just to get to a surplus. And if we did somehow manage to get to a surplus in the next decade, how many more decades of surpluses would it take to pay off what’s been spent in the last twelve years?

    As hard as that would have been, we’re going to get another four years of massive deficit spending to add onto that debt before we can start. I’ve tried to be optimistic that people would realize the trouble we’re in, but now I have to realize I over estimated this great nation, and we missed what is likely to be the last opportunity we had to reverse course before it’s too late. Like all nations, ours will eventually fall from power… I just hoped my children and I wouldn’t live to see that time.

    • Good points Grady. There is something to the idea that this was our last best chance. Nevertheless, we must push forward with what we’ve got. I do think the extrapolitical arenas need work like we haven’t seen before. Media and the academy. Hopefully this election will have been such a huge shock as to reorient conservative energies into the proper channels.

      I’m still stumped on the race/ethnic thing though. The idea of pandering to narrow identity topics seems antithetical to principle. And it is a bit of shame that all too many people don’t care for that anymore.

      • Grady says:

        Pandering to ethnic groups will not work. Even now, I’m hearing Republican leadership talking of trying to win votes through an amnesty-style immigration reform, but as we’ve seen in the past, that will only lead to a bigger immigration problem. Thus, even if it worked for one election, the end result would be increasing the number of government-dependend voters who can barely speak English voting for Democrats. It’s the surest way to seal our own demise.

        Furthermore, if our strategy for winning elections is to adopt a liberal platform, what is the point of the party? So what if we win under those conditions? We would no longer push for consevative values once in office, and nothing would be corrected.

        No, Bush, Jr. tried that soft/compassionate conservatism and pushed for immigration reform. He started the bail-outs, and he over spent, and he did nothing to correct the sub-prime housing market before the crash. I still like the guy, but he and the Republican leadership was too moderate, both fiscally and socially, and they got thrown out of both houses of Congress and the White House for doing it. Now the same advisors are telling us that’s the winning strategy? That’s idiotic!

        Even in this election, we tried pandering. We tried pointing out that we have strong leaders of all ethnicities elected in predominantly white districts (as opposed to Democrats who elect old white people in predominantly white districts and generally only elect minorities in minority districts). We had numerous minorities, many of them women, who have come from immigrant families with nothing to live the American dream and rise up into positions of leadership. And guess what? They’re all attacked by Democrats and the media. THOSE minorities apparently don’t count, and the party is still labeled as a bunch of rich, white bigots trotting out token minorities to prove a point. It doesn’t matter if we pander to them, they still won’t vote Republican.

        The only thing I see that might drive them to vote differently is to simply allow Obama to wreck the economy with increased taxes (which he argued against doing that four years ago). Then, we also need to be promoting a Reagan-like vision (Rubio does a great job of this) for liberty and freedom from government intrusion. Meanwhile, states (namely governors) need to cut off as much entitlement support as possible to the illegals so there’s no longer a magnet drawing them in. Illegals may not vote, but they can protest, and they can alter the political affinities of the minority citizens, so something needs to stop their influx. And even this, probably won’t work. If the liberty-big government dichotomy didn’t work this time, I’m pessimistic about it’s chances four years from now, but I currently see it as the only option. Feel free to challenge/correct my thinking.

  3. This is a good conversation. Yes, the substance of our policy must remain conservative. Yet, we must shake off and evade attempts to cast us as angry and hateful. Media portraits of Republicans must be more than lamented or barked against. They must be defied by our words and actions.

    At least we’ll need to tread very carefully around the Dream Act. The “basic fairness” factor about a child who grew up only speaking English being barred from citizenship is an inescapable Democrat’s bludgeon. Medved suggests Romney’s earlier insistence on was particularly damning.

    I had a recent conversation with someone who is sympathetic to fiscal conservatism but for whatever reason sees Republicans as too extreme and vitriolic on abortion and immigration in particular. That’s why there is something to Bush’s “compassionate conservatism” rhetoric. Let our messaging consistently come back to the idea that liberal policy is anything but compassionate.

    I tend to think the GOP profligacy leading up to 2006 is overrated in the conservative mind. Yes, some voters hold a grudge against that kind of fiscal hypocrisy, but I think the much bigger gain is to be made among voters who can be disabused of equating Republicans with the gender/racial/class bogeyman.

    • Grady says:

      Social policy definitely creates a challenge for Republicans. If we could keep the debates on fiscal policy, we’d win every time (at least, if we have politicians we can trust to be fiscally conservative, which is part of why the GOP profligacy is critically important, but more on that later). Fiscal policy is rather fundamental and quite easy grasp without a lot of context and long explanations. Sure, the other side will still argue against it and make up inaccurate numbers and grossly distorted reasons for the numbers, but they’re constantly on the defensive in this area, and as long as they’re the ones forced into long contextual explanations, we win. But social policy is an entirely different beast. We can argue that conservative policies are more compassionate, that they result in greater opportunities for all, but can you convince moderates to turn out and vote based on that without turning out just as many opponents? The problem is that while finances are almost entirely logical, social policy for most of the country is emotional. Even in the way you frame it, it is about compassion. Yet, if you see a homeless person starving under a bridge, are you moved to provide a meal and maybe a coat, or are you moved to donate to long-term organization that not only provides food and shelter to the homeless, but also provides training and support for getting them back to work? It’s generally obvious that the latter provides better long term opportunity, but people tend to be moved to the former by emotion. Similarly, voters who are emotionally moved to vote for social issues are going to vote in much greater numbers for the short term solutions (amnesty instead of border security, fewer restrictions on welfare instead of incentives for work, free healthcare instead of free-market healthcare that drives prices down, gay marriage instead of civil unions, etc.).

      For almost every social issue, Republicans have offered good solutions that are neither extreme nor vitriolic. The problem is largely that they do not get the message out. This is a two part problem in the media being extremely biased, and the Republican leadership not focusing on communicating with the public through the media outlets they have. We can only address one of those immediately, but when was the last time you saw Republicans going on TV to explain their positions? Compare that to Obama, Axelrod, Cutter, and other Democrats. There’s a major discrepancy there, and Boehner and McConnell don’t appear to be doing anything to change that. Until they do, they can’t even begin to argue the merits of their social policies. And until they do that, the media will continue to frame conservatives as extreme, but if they were to step up their messaging, they could start exposing Democrats for their extreme positions and start to turn some voters away. Things like Obama’s record on abortion in Illinois should turn the stomach, and heart, of many voters. As I said previously, I think this is still largely a losing battle simply because of short-term versus long-term compassion, but it would help to balance out the media narrative that drives so many to simply vote against Republicans while not really knowing what they are voting for.

      As for the spending binge under Bush #2, I don’t know that the issue can be emphasized enough. I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of the data, but just go back and review government spending, debt, earmarks (both by number and cost), spending per household, etc. for the last couple decades. The spending on earmarks from the end of Bush #1’s term to the end of Bush #2’s first term (12 years) rose by 880%! Just two years later, it was an additional 235% higher than 1992 levels! How can that be overstated? That kind of growth in spending is absolutely irresponsible and unsustainable, and it is impossible for us to argue for fiscal conservatism, a topic we can otherwise win easily, when our own party leadership does that. And really, I see the answer to some of our social issues hiding within that fiscal debate. If we can win the fiscal debate and enact massive government cuts, cuts that are intentional and not blind, we can eliminate much of the unlegislated policy and regulation forced on the country by agencies like the EPA, Dept. of Energy, Dept. of Education, Dept. of Agriculture, Dept. of Interior, etc.

      Ultimately, I’m tired of watching the Republican leadership being reactionary instead of strategic. We need to communicate the benefits of our policies and not lash out against the conservative base (as the leadership has done on multiple occasions to look “moderate”). But part of the strategy needs to be framing the argument in our terms, in terms of liberty and freedom as Reagan did, and not trying to argue the merits of social policy according to the way the media has already framed it. Don’t argue social issues on their terms or we will continue to lose.

      I agree with you that we must tread lightly simply because of the associations already ingrained in the minds of many voters, but continuing to use the “compassionate” messaging that our leadership has used for the last decade should be obviously foolish considering the results we’re seeing.

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