William Katz: Urgent Agenda
THE MORNING AFTER – AT 8:36 A.M. ET: There is no point in denying the obvious. We were beaten badly, and we are frightened for the future of our country.
It may not even be the presidency that was the greatest disaster. At this hour the Democrats have actually gained three seats in the U.S. Senate, including an independent who will caucus with them. They picked off Scott Brown in Massachusetts, defeated by the habitually dishonest Elizabeth Warren, proving once again that dishonesty in politics is widely accepted. They won Senate seats in Indiana and Missouri that had been easy Republican wins until the GOP nominated two goofball candidates. One of those wins, in Indiana, has been a Republican seat. They won what had been seen as an easy Republican pickup in North Dakota.
The new Senate will be far more likely to confirm radical U.S. Supreme Court nominees.
It will be more likely to confirm leftist Cabinet nominees. And to go along with Obama's disastrous foreign policy, a foreign policy that played almost no role in the campaign.
We retain the House. We don't know the final number, but the House should stay more or less the same. However, we may have lost Allen West in Florida (still too close to call,) and the Democrats are sending back madman Alan Grayson, also from Florida, who was defeated in 2012 in part because of his antics, but will now come back from a new district.
In Chicago, members of the black community re-elected the ridiculous and corrupt Jesse Jackson Jr, who doesn't even show up for work, and hasn't for months and months. He's depressed, you know, hanging out at the Mayo Clinic, but won in a landslide. Indeed, one of the tragedies of last night is that black America has effectively given up its franchise, its hard-won freedom, and now follows its leaders off any cliff. The black voting numbers for Obama are the kind we normally see in dictatorships, not democracies.
I will not attempt a deep "analysis" of the returns. They have to be studied. We have to find out more about who voted, and why. Much of the vote seemed to contradict stated beliefs of the electorate. We'll have to examine. I will simply make these observations:
1. It wasn't a famous victory for Obama. He becomes, as we've noted, the first re-elected president in modern American history to be re-elected with less support than he received in his initial election. True, it now appears he will win the popular as well as the electoral vote, but with barely 50%. Almost half the electorate voted against him.
2. The Democrats turned out their people in a superb ground game. The "enthusiasm gap" was vastly overrated. As in Jack Kennedy's case in 1960, enthusiasm did not necessarily turn into votes for the GOP. The electorate was +6 Democratic, almost the same as in 2008, something we hadn't expected. I still cannot explain those electric rallies for Mitt Romney toward the end, and the anemic rallies for Obama.
3. The pollsters did a far better job than we'd thought. Our side disparaged them, but a very large number came in within the margin of error. Gallup warned that the enthusiasm gap was exaggerated, but we ignored the warning.
4. We had the right message, but although Mitt Romney is a fine man who ran a good campaign, he was probably the wrong messenger. He could not overcome the distorted image of the unbridled white capitalist with the huge mansions. He also chose, in Paul Ryan, the wrong vice-presidential candidate. Ryan is a fine, admirable man, vastly superior to the embarrassing Joe Biden, but added nothing to the ticket. Urgent Agenda had advocated the selection of Marco Rubio, and I stick to that conviction.
5. Douglas MacArthur once warned that all defeats begin with two words: "Too late." The Republicans started their campaign too late, not understanding that the summer before a presidential vote is crucial. By the time Romney got up to speed, the Democrats, who ran a vicious, nasty, small-time Chicago campaign, had defined him.
6. Press bias is real, and is damaging our democracy. But Reagan proved that, with the right message, the right candidate, and the right press strategy, it could be overcome. I consider this to be possibly the worst crisis we face. An American institution, the media, has surrendered its role of watchdog over government, and the ideal of objective, fair reporting is becoming a memory. The suppression of the Libya story by the mainstream media in the final weeks of the campaign was disgraceful, as was the failure of the media to examine the massive failures in federal response to Hurricane Sandy.
7. The Republican Senate operation is a complete and utter failure, as it was in 2010. How do you take the House easily and lose the Senate so badly...two elections in a row? There were some bright spots, as in the election of the brilliant Ted Cruz to the Senate from Texas. But the rest was gloom. Weak candidates, weak candidates, clowns and fools.
8. There will be much written about a "changing America." Yes, it's changing. But please remember that the Republican disaster of 2008 was followed by the smashing Republican House victory of 2010. Nothing is permanent in politics. The 2014 mid-term planning begins right now. A changing America doesn't have to mean a more leftist America, unless we continue to work at failing. Remember that George W. Bush, reviled by the press in 2004, was re-elected. Remember that Harry Truman, who was supposed to give way to a new Republican era in 1948, was also re-elected. A three percent change this year would have elected Mitt Romney and turned the Electoral College.
9. Republicans must reach out to the Hispanic community, with its naturally conservative core values. Traditionally, Republicans have been disgraceful in their refusal to engage emerging voter groups.
10. We saw yesterday one of the flaws in a great nation, and a sign of its decline. In the 20th century the educator Robert Hutchins warned that we prolong adolescence in America. Jacques Barzun, who died last week, wrote that we are declining, and that emphasizing the trivial was adding to that decline. I watched the Obama crowds last night, and I was truly frightened. They seemed more like children than adults, doing their little dances and waving their arms in their little 1960s gestures. They are a population that actually believes free birth control for law-school students is an important issue. They are poorly educated, taught by teachers who themselves are poorly educated in institutions that themselves seem to exist to prolong childhood, rather than grow out of it.
11. We must see yesterday, not as a rejection of our core beliefs, but of our failure to fight sufficiently for them. We are, in a way, two Americas – the mature, reasoned America that we love, and the America that grew out of the failed generation of the 1960s, an America that envies the decadence of Europe. We can win, and overcome last night, just as Ronald Reagan overcame the psychological American depression of the 1970s. But it will take more than we gave it.
I'll have other observations later.
November 7, 2012