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Lessons We Learned From Election 2012
Every national election teaches us something. 2010 did, and now 2012 will.
Republicans all wanted a crack at Obama. Romney got the final chance. What did we learn?
It is true. Most leaders in the Republican Party felt that defeating President Obama in 2012 was the next closest thing to "a done deal."
The result was a hotly contested series of Republican Primaries in which the money started to flow as each contender took their best shot.
Unfortunately for them, they were shooting at each other. To defeat Romney from winning the nomination, they had to tear him down. His previous experience at Bain Capital, the 202 Winter Olympics, his governorship in Massachusetts, his character and personality, even his religion, were all well-tested by the time he finally entered the contest against incumbent President Obama.
For Obama himself, and the Democrats, the Republican primaries provided enough time, and enough insights, to strategize how they would attack Governor Romney, and overcome President Obama's own lackluster first term as president. They could, for example, see what anti-Romney messages had resonated even with some Republican faithful as the primary season came down to Romney's final victories over a persistent Rick Santorum.
For Romney himself, unifying his own party, after the series of knock down drag out internal fights, became an urgent task which at the same time had to position him for the fight against Obama. He chose Paul Ryan as his running mate, and the Tea Party Republicans and true conservatives within the Republican ranks seemed satisfied....though the Republican Convention succeeded in angering many of the Republicans who had supported Ron Paul (and still do.)
During the latter Republican primaries the Democrats were already testing their campaign strategy with ads centered on the themes they had observed as seeming to give Republican voters the most pause in their support of Romney: "rich guy", "preppy", "pirate venture capitalist", "system gamer", etc.
By the time the general campaigns started, Romney was on the defensive, faced with the task of defending who he really was. The attention was, at least temporarily, off Obama's own record, and on Romney's biography.
Psychologically Romney had a historical phobia to deal with. His father, George Romney, had also been a Republican contender for the presidency, and his father had committed one gaffe which had been severe enough to scuttle his chances of victory. He had said that he had been "brainwashed" about the situation at that time in Vietnam. It had been enough to deny him the chance to be president. Romney and his staff of advisers were determined that nothing like that should happen to him. As a result he seemed at times tentative in answering questions.
As Romney adjusted his political focus from familiar state politics to his national campaign, he modified several policy positions to satisfy the constituencies he would need in order to win the presidency. His own signal accomplishment as governor of Massachusetts had been fashioning nearly universal medical insurance for Massachusetts citizens. Obama had done the same under the tax provisions of the Constitution, while claiming all along that what becme known as "Obamacare" was "not a tax." [Had it been presented as a tax, the final legislation would never have become law. The ambitious program had occupied much of the energy of the two years in which the White House and Congress had been controlled by the Democrats,]
Critical to Election 2012, just as it was to the Republican primaries, the Supreme Court ruling in favor of Political Action Committees (which quickly became Super PACs) opened the flood gates for every kind of special interest money given to both campaigns. This avalanche of funds didn't stop until Election Day. It was the most expensive national election ever held.
By July 2012, a good four months before the actual voting, the handwriting was becoming legible on the wall, President Obama would have enough electoral votes from "winner-take all states" to stay in office for a second term.
Despite clearly winning the First 2012 Presidential Debate, and a good showing by Paul Ryan in his debate with seasoned Vice President Biden, the dwindling number of actual "Swing States" which Romney/Ryan would need to win, for even a narrow victory over Obama/Biden, meant that money, or no money, the election was closed before the voting booths were opened.
What lessons did we learn from Election 2012?
(1) The Supreme Court ruling that opened the way for Super PACs gave too much power to special interests at the expense of the average voter and average candidates.
(2) Term Limits on how long candidates can serve as Representatives and Senators were widely supported by voters, but not enough so to see them eventually passed into law.
(3) The choice of electors in states with "winner-takes-all" legislation, disenfranchises the minority party voters in such states.
(4) Gerrymandering continues to allow the dominant party in any state to protect their dominance.
(5) Campaigns can end without a clear definition of the way forward after the election.
(6) At a time of serious public concerns and issues, they can often be distracted by puffballs one or another of the two candidates are urged to throw at each other.
(7) The less-populated states can give the majority of their votes to one candidate, be a large plurality of the 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia, in a national election, and have little or no say as to the actual outcome of the election. And,
(8) There are usually enough eligible voters in America, whose votes (if they had been cast) could have made the losing candidates into winners, and the winning candidates into losers., while significantly changing the future of their country.
Copyright 2012 Demas W. Jasper All rights reserved.
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