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Lessons from the election

November 10, 2012
By Dr. David Turner , The Inter-Mountain

Not since the Spanish Armada was knocked off course has the weather seemed to play such importance in politics. Barack Obama took the events of Hurricane Sandy and rode them back into the White House.

Although it was close, he was able to thwart Mitch McConnell's wish that he become a one-term president.

Of course the red hots among the Republican Party will never accept that 2008 or 2012 meant anything. But smart GOP politicians will be wise to ponder the course they set for themselves four years ago. Clearly the party's lack of diversity hurt its chances against the president. As the election demonstrated, the Republicans are becoming more rural and traditional. They have become the party of the new Bryanism railing for the fading voice of the past.

Mitt Romney himself could never get beyond simply anti-Obama votes. His campaign was denounced by the Washington Post as an "insult" to the American electorate. He embraced and denied, denied and embraced; in the end he was an anti-vote rather than one who had vision. But he did make it close, depending on more money than Croesus and scant regard for the truth.

Romney left the Republican Party no legacy except he was the one to face the despised one. In the end he left no loaves or fishes. He, however, did leave his last reserves of gall.

Romney's dilemma is one faced by every GOP moderate: it is impossible to win that Party's nomination and make sense. So controlled it is by ideologues, no flexibility is allowed. For Romney to win he had to renounce all that he believed in during the primaries. By the time he changed course it opened him up to the charge that he was "Janus faced." And yet if a storm had not hit, he may have made it.

George H.W. Bush in 1988 ran a campaign of equal viciousness and lack of content. Although he won, it severely hampered his ability to govern. Flags and prayer in school all predominated. Certainly that campaign left nothing but Lee Atwater's fraternity pranks to remember. Ronald Reagan, who spent years articulating a conservative message without prejudice or bile, saw his efforts destroyed during 1988 and the ensuing Bush presidency.

George W. left a political legacy shaped by the other trickster, Karl Rove. Rove, a masterful tactician, nevertheless left nothing to ponder. Bush's re-election gave the country a four-year void and did a great deal to strengthen the Democratic Party, instead of taking time to explain to some Republicans that all their problems are not caused by the "other," but the changes of the modern world. To demagogue as Romney did on coal or Bush Sr. on flag burning does little to move a nation.

This should have been a lesson for Obama. He did not put out before the American people a vision for the future. Unlike FDR in 1936, he did not point out the battle lines. No less than 2004, this was a victory of incumbency and mobilization. He still has four years to do so.

Yet his actions during Hurricane Sandy showed a president who is engaged and humane. Gov. Chris Christie's response showed what can be done if partisanship is eschewed for the common interest. Perhaps a new spirit can be advanced and some good found for the storm that ravaged the East Coast and West Virginia.



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