by Joe Shea
October 5, 2012
WHY OBAMA LOST
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- If you're an optimist, you can be comforted by the fact that, in Mitt Romney, the Republican Party has a candidate so unpopular that even with a huge money advantage, Romney cannot be sold to the American people as a plausible alternative to President Obama.
At the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., last month, it wasn't a surprise that it was left to the only other Democratic president besides Franklin D. Roosevelt to get elected to more than one term to make the case that Mr. Obama should join that club.
Former President Bill Clinton put on a bravura performance, using facts and logic to make the case to the fence sitters what the stakes are in November:
"My fellow Americans, you have to decide what kind of country you want to live in," he said. "If you want a 'you're on your own,' winner-take-all society, you should support the Republican ticket.
"If you want a country of shared opportunities and shared responsibilities - a 'we're all in it together' society, you should vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden.
"If you want every American to vote and you think its wrong to change voting procedures just to reduce the turnout of younger, poorer, minority and disabled voters, you should support Barack Obama.
"If you think the President was right to open the doors of American opportunity to young immigrants brought here as children who want to go to college or serve in the military, you should vote for Barack Obama.
"If you want a future of shared prosperity, where the middle class is growing and poverty is declining, where the American Dream is alive and well, and where the United States remains the leading force for peace and prosperity in a highly competitive world, you should vote for Barack Obama."
And that, in a nutshell, is the antidote for the haters and their enablers in the Republican Party: championing the American idea of the common good.
We know Obama's failures and imperfections, but we also know which candidate and which political party still believes in "we're all in it together" society.
In his acceptance speech, President Obama spoke of "the hard and frustrating and necessary work of self-government."
It was a simple reminder of something that can't be said enough. Government is "them." Government is "us." Government is an alien, far-away thing. It is something created with our votes, and that everyone, whether they vote or not, shares in the blame for the government we have now.
Because we create our government, we can change our government. That's why Republicans are trying to game the system to keep those they deem "the wrong type of people" from voting. They know that the system that put them in office to comfort the comfortable and afflict the afflicted is also the same system that can remove them.
However, in spite of all the fears on the left that Karl Rove, the Koch Brothers, and the rest of the villains on the right are going to steal the 2012 election, I still have faith in the democratic process.
Is President Obama perfect? No.
His Administration's record on national security issues is almost as bad as that of the Bush Administration.
His Administration has done little regarding the central issue of our time - climate change.
His Administration has failed to go after the architects of the worst financial collapse since the Great Depression.
His Administration has been too cautious at a time when bold action is needed.
But the reality is that for all its flaws, the Obama Administration accomplished more than could expected, considering the Republican Party was determined to thwart him at every opportunity.
We can at least negotiate with the Democrats. As for the Republicans, they have given up all pretense of being a responsible partner in governance, and are now a political party led by berserkers.
Faced with this situation, you don't have to be a deep thinker to see that the political party that can be reasoned with, and still takes the ideas of self-government and commonwealth seriously gives us a better chance at achieving a more perfect union than the political party that loathes self-government, is contemptuous of democracy, and substitutes temper tantrums for public policy.
The old Army aphorism - "unless you're the chaplain, hope is not a strategy" - is only half-correct. Hope alone is not enough to achieve victory, but there can be no victory without hope. In the words of author and activist Rebecca Solnit: "To be hopeful means to be uncertain about the future, to be tender toward possibilities, to be dedicated to change all the way down to the bottom of your heart."
We face an uncertain future as a nation, yet as we saw last year from Tunis to Zuccotti Park, there are a slew of possibilities waiting to be seized by those who are willing to take the chance to seize them.
President Obama will prevail on Nov. 6, but it will mean nothing unless Americans reclaim the power that rests in their hands to do the hard work of self-government, and not be afraid of the setbacks that will inevitably come along with the victories.
Hope, not fear, is what we need now.
AR Chief Correspondent Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 30 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at email@example.com.