Thursday, November 8, 2012

Thank You for Your Service

Once it become clear that Obama had defeated Romney, CNN's "partisan" contributor Paul Begala noted that he felt empathic for Mitt Romney. After all, Romney had just spent the better part of the past six years, really, running for president. For the man so richly blessed, not finishing first in this week’s presidential race must rank as the bitterest disappointment of his life.

Like Begala, I found myself feeling bad for Romney, too.

This isn’t the first time I’ve felt bad for the runner-up in a presidential election. In 2000, I didn’t support Al Gore. Not, at least, until it was clear that he was not going to be president. But when Gore conceded the race to George W. Bush, he displayed an aspect of character that had been missing during the campaign. By accepting defeat, he proved himself to be an honorable man. Although conservatives would continue to belittle and mock Gore for the rest of the decade, I grew to respect his leadership on the issue of climate change. His passion to serve his country was real.

The opposition’s treatment of Gore made me wonder why Republicans tend to be sore winners. George W. Bush wins the election, and Republicans still do not have anything nice to say about Al Gore. Gore is still a joke, and his work to make the world a better place is rejected solely for one reason – his political affiliation.

When Mitt Romney gave his concession speech, I turned to my wife and said, “Wow. Wouldn’t it be great if a person ran an entire campaign like a concession speech?” What I meant was simply this: Romney was genuine; he was honest. And, he was likeable. Maybe he actually does believe in America after all; his tone was humble, his words were gracious.

He had nothing more to lose. That’s probably why a campaign cannot be run like a concession speech, by the way. The stakes are too high, and winning is everything.

I don’t know what Mitt Romney will do now that his dream of being president is over. Whatever he does, I wish him well.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Mitt and the Gipper's Slipper

On the eve of the 1992 election, the unemployment rate was 7.4%. Bill Clinton ran a campaign on the economy, and with a little help from his little friend, Ross Perot, his message resonated.

On the eve of the 2012 election, the unemployment rate is 7.9%. Mitt Romney has tried everything he can to make this an economy election,  but he hasn’t been able to seal the deal. Why not? Because 2012 isn’t just an election about the economy.

When Ronald Reagan was re-elected in 1984, unemployment was 7.2%, but Walter Mondale didn’t stand a chance against Reagan. Why not? Because people genuinely liked Reagan; more than that, they liked his broader “morning in America” message.
Obama in 2012 isn’t Reagan in 1984; but neither is he Bush in 1992. He will not win in a landslide over Mitt Romney, but he will win. The reason is simple: this election is about much more than the economy. The nation is deeply divided on most issues. From healthcare to gay marriage to energy, people tend to take the view of the left or the right. Some talk about America as being Red and Blue, but really America is Black and White. People do not see the nuances of the issues. They see only see in sound bites.

But enough people believe that more than just the economy is worth fighting for, and that’s why Obama wins re-election. If this was just an economy election, maybe Obama loses, and maybe he even deserves to lose this election. But a majority of Americans do not believe that Mitt Romney is the right man for the job. (In private, if Republicans were honest, most would admit that they aren’t voting for Romney so much as they are voting for party – or more accurately, voting against Obama.)

The Republicans have been looking for the next Ronald Reagan for the past 25 years. So far, no one has been able to fill his shoes, and most likely, no one ever will. Like Cinderella, Reagan is a fairy tale, and the reality of the Republican party is this: Most of its members are more suited for filling the role of the evil Step-mother than they are for fitting Reagan’s slipper.