NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

November 8, 2012

What enthusiasm gap?

As I See It Dan Kurtz
Newburyport Daily News

---- — Barack Obama’s historic re-election proved a number of things. First, that billionaire plutocrats and corporations can’t simply buy an election. Second, that government leadership in a crisis matters, and the image of the president working hand-in-hand with Chris Christie spoke volumes. Third, that voter suppression schemes failed because people were determined to vote, including those who stood in line for up to eight hours. Four, that women should not be trivialized and objectified or have their bodies controlled by others. In effect, they had — to paraphrase failed Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin of Missouri —a way of shutting things down … that being the candidacy of Willard Romney and the GOP hopes of capturing control of the Senate. And finally, Americans rejected a return to the failed Bush solution of more tax cuts for the wealthy.

Republicans will look back at this election and wonder what went wrong. On paper, they thought they had the perfect candidate. Of course, that was part of the problem because the Obama campaign defined Willard M. Romney long before he had a chance to make his case before the American people. The irony is this was the strategy Republicans used to re-elect George W. Bush because they defined John Kerry.

Unlike 2004, this election was not particularly close. Spare me the popular vote was close argument. It’s irrelevant. Ask President Al Gore about it. We no more elect our presidents based on the popular vote than we award the winner of this weekend’s Patriots game to the team that gains more yards.

A few months ago, I wrote here that Paul Ryan would be like an anvil for Romney. It certainly help sink Romney’s chances in Florida and may have been a factor for older voters in the upper Midwest states of Wisconsin and Ohio.

However, in Ohio, I think it was Romney’s opposition to the auto bailout that sealed his fate. No matter how much he tried to lie his way out of it, Romney, the son of the former American Motors CEO, could not escape his 2008 New York Times Op-Ed piece: “Let Detroit go bankrupt.” Even worse, Romney tried to take credit for the bailout, despite the fact that the type of bankruptcy he advocated would have liquidated Chrysler and GM because no one but the federal government was able to d provide a bridge loan until the bankruptcy was finalized.

One has to wonder if a better candidate would have defeated Barack Obama. My biggest fear was that Republicans would nominate a sensible candidate like John Huntsman. Instead, they chose a shape-shifter because they overestimated his business background.

Voters also rejected a candidate who paid a lower tax rate than even workers that don’t make enough to pay income taxes and had the audacity to demand an additional tax cut that would have reduced his overall tax rate to less than 1 percent.

My sense is that Republicans will look back and determine they lost this election because they weren’t conservative enough. If only they had a real conservative candidate, they would have won. I think not. Americans rejected the Ayn Randian-selfishness that labeled the elderly, the disabled, our troops in combat zones and the working poor “moochers.” They rejected a “you’re-on-your–own” philosophy of Republican governance exposed by Hurricane Sandy.

The question is, will the moderate wing of the Republican Party be extinguished by some kind of Tea Party purity test or will the moderates, energized by the example of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, retake their party. If they can’t, they risk turning into a modern version of the Democratic Party of the 1980s. Moreover, the electoral map has experienced a seismic shift and the future looks much worse for Republicans. The odds are the Republicans will double down and pick someone like Rick Santorum.

Demographics are indeed destiny in electoral politics. All the states that gained population in the most recent census mainly did so because of a huge influx of Hispanics and other minorities. The United States is becoming less white and more diverse, and right now, those voters are overwhelmingly Democrats. The future holds potential Democratic breakthroughs in Arizona, Montana, Georgia and perhaps the huge prize of Texas, the last remaining GOP firewall against a landslide defeat.

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Blogger Dan Kurtz and his wife, Wendy, live in Amesbury.