An Election Year Impervious to Bad Press

Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump has been getting a lot of bad press lately, even by Republican president nominee standards, and by now it’s almost to a point where even such avid news readers as ourselves can hardly keep up. The bad press doesn’t seem to be having the the same effect it had on Republican presidential nominees in past election years, however, so it remains to be seen if the latest spate of stories will do any lasting damage.
The most recent round of stories have concerned many of the cast and crew and production staff of Trump’s long-running and highly-rated reality show “The Apprentice” testifying to his vulgar and sexist behavior, but at this late date in the race his vulgarity and sexism are already old news.
Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has by now spent millions airing aids that include the audio and video and print interviews where the thrice-married and boastfully adulterous former strip club owner has disparaged women’s appearances, joked about how you have to “treat ’em like “s**t,” and laughingly admitted he had no respect for women, among numerous other objectionable statements. With sources ranging from his appearances on Howard Stern’s shock jock to his time on Republican presidential debate stages, the record of vulgarity and sexism is hard for even his most fervent supporters to deny. Just four years ago the press was able to use an inadvertent and inoffensive allusion to “binders full of women” to convince much of the public that such a gentlemanly sort as Mitt Romney was an incorrigible sexist, even though he was perusing those binders to find qualified women for state government positions while he was governor of Massachusetts, but this time around they’re somehow finding it harder to stoke the same outrage.
Many of Trump’s most fervent supporters seem to relish the vulgarity and sexism, his more reluctant supporters can rightly note that Clinton’s husband is similarly vulgar and sexist and has always enjoyed her ruthless support, and even the most vaguely informed and still undecided are well aware that the Democrats and their press allies always say the Republican presidential nominee is vulgar and sexist. Trump was already polling poorly among women in general and most worrisomely song college-educated Republican women in particular, so his on-the-record rants have had some effect, but the added testimonials of some reality show co-stars seem unlikely to exacerbate the damage.
Just four years ago Democratic minority leader Sen. Harry Reid was able to harm the electoral chances of the scrupulously honest Romney’s reputation by flat-out lying that the Republican nominee had paid no income taxes for a couple of years, but this time around Trump will likely be unscathed by his apparent boasts that he’s been dodging a tax bill for a couple of decades. The flap started in the first presidential debate when Clinton was making the predictable arguments Trump being the first nominee from either party in the past 40 years who hasn’t divulged his tax records, and speculating that one reason might be that it would reveal he’s paid no taxes despite his much boasted-about wealth, to which Trump responded “that makes me smart.” Since then The New York Times has been reporting that leaked income tax information reveals Trump reported a $915 million loss back in ’95, which entitled him to 18 tax free years according to the convoluted tax code, and happily implied that Trump had taken full advantage of the opportunity. Trump hasn’t denied either the factual truth or implied speculations of the story, and instead has bragged further about his savvy understanding of the convoluted tax code, so we’ll leave the reader to draw his own conclusions about the veracity of The Times’ reporting and implications.
This time around, though, we don’t expect the truth will do so manage as the lies did the last time around. No one in America pays a penny more in taxes than that convoluted tax code requires, not Hillary Clinton or The New York Times or any of its reporters or even such self-righteously disgruntled Republicans as ourselves, so we can’t imagine any vaguely informed and still undecided voters holding it against him if he kept all his ill-begotten earnings to himself.
Trump is even claiming he had a fiduciary duty to his stock holders and employees and creditors to do so, and although we can’t think of any reason they should care what he paid on his personal taxes, and can more easily imagined why they’re probably more peeved about all the bills he’s shorted them on, so we don’t expect any vaguely informed and still undecideds will stop to think about that at all. He’s also claiming that such a shrewd fellow as himself understands that convoluted tax code better than anyone else, and how it’s used by greedy billionaires such as himself to dodge their fair share of the burden and shift it onto such suckers as yourself, which does have a certain populist appeal, even if his current tax plan does nothing to stop it and none of his ever-shifting opinions on the topic have once proposed a fairer solution. Still, we doubt the vaguely informed and still undecided will notice any of that, while Trump’s more reluctant supporters will glumly and rightly protest that Clinton and her perv husband once took a write-off on the underwear they donated to charity and are just as bad, as they are in all things, and we can’t see the poll number nudging in either direction as a result of this big story. There remains the presently undisputed fact that Trump somehow managed to lose $916 million in a single year, which in past years would have called into question his constant boasts about bringing his remarkable business acumen to at long last saving our deep-in-debt federal government, but this time around The New York Times has buried that tidbit six column inches under the lead paragraph, and Trump’s more reluctant supporters can rightly note how very suspiciously rich Clinton has become in the public service sector.
The Washington Post is gleefully reporting that the New York Attorney General has now shut down Trump’s charitable foundation, which has been the subject of at least three scandals they’ve already reported involving tax-dodging and and personal profit and no contributions for many years from the eponymous philanthropist, but the vaguely informed and still undecided probably won’t read about it, and if they do their reluctant Trump supporter friends can glumly and quite rightly recite all the scandals about Clinton’s phony-baloney pay-to-play “family foundation,” which they’ll have to glumly admit Trump once financially supported. It’s tawdry stuff, all around, but once again unlikely to nudge the polls in either direction.
There’s so much more going on that even such avid news readers as ourselves are hard-pressed to keep up with it, but the benefit of the more vaguely informed and still undecided among you the gist of it seems to be that both Trump and Clinton are every bit as awful as you already knew from the past few decades of occasionally paying attention. It’s enough to make us nostalgic for the last time around, when the press had to work hard to suggest that the Republican nominee was a vulgar sexist and the Democrats had to flat-out lie that he was a tax-dodger and neither candidate was making an issue of the other’s blissfully boring sex life.

— Bud Norman

Webb Withdraws and the Democrats Lurch Leftward

Former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb never did have a chance to win the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, so his withdrawal from the race on Tuesday won’t much affect the race. The reasons for his early departure say much about the current state of his party, however, so we do find it noteworthy.
Once upon a time, not so long ago that we can’t recall it clearly, Webb would have made a formidable candidate and an even more formidable nominee, but his parting speech frankly acknowledged that at this particular moment in history “my views on many of the issues are not compatible with the power structure and the nominating base of the Democratic Party.” This should have been apparent to Webb even during his little-noticed campaign announcement speech, but it simply could not go unnoticed after the party’s first presidential debate. Webb was forced to defend his past support of the Second Amendment and his past opposition to race-based affirmative action policies, was the only candidate to voice any commonsensical skepticism about the last seven years of foreign policy in general and that awful Iran nuclear bomb deal in particular, and even as he went along with the rest of the candidates he was clearly the least enthused about providing subsidized health care and other expensive government benefits to the untold millions of illegal immigrants that the Democratic Party is intent on inviting to the country. Throw in a few other heresies against the latest Democratic orthodoxy he uttered during his few minutes of airtime, and Webb was the glaringly obvious answer to one of those “which one of these does not belong” questions on all the standardized tests.
Webb was even so gauche as to note that he not only fought in Vietnam but had also served his country as Secretary of the Navy during the Reagan administration, which one liberal Politico “tweeter” immediately characterized as “Jim Webb admitted he killed people.” We don’t remember any liberals being so critical of John Kerry, who “reported for duty” as the Democratic nominee on the basis of his dubious war record rather than the more indisputably documented anti-war activities that launched his career at another radical point in Democratic party history, or raising any objections to President Barack Obama’s boastful claims about killing Osama Bin-Laden, as if he’d rappelled down from the helicopter and done the deed with his own bare hands, but with Webb the reaction from the debate audience and the attending press was plainly apoplectic. We found ourselves almost liking the guy, despite his unenthused support for expensive benefits to untold millions of illegal immigrants and his many other heresies against conservative orthodoxy, but of course that only further confirmed his unsuitability to the current mood of the Democratic Party.
Our liberal friends love to repeat that old cliche about how the Republicans have lurched so far to the right during the past decades that even Ronald Reagan could no longer win its nomination, and we’re sure it seems so to them as they lurch ever further to the left. From our perspective, which has admittedly been fixed here in the middle of the country at the same rightward spot ever since we started reading National Review back in junior high, it is hard to see how GOP’s nominations of George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole and George W. Bush and John McCain and Mitt Romney demonstrate any rightward lurching since Reagan, and we don’t see anyone in the current field that’s likely to lurch it the right of that sweet spot, and yet all that leftward lurching on the Democratic side seems apparent.
Our beloved Pop still likes to recall how President Harry Truman stood firm against the Commies, we were raised on tales of PT-109 and that John F. Kennedy speech about bearing any burden and paying any price to ensure the ultimate victory of democracy, and from our childhood we recall how President Lyndon Johnson had the hippies outside the White House chanting “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?” despite all his Great Society liberalism. From our own adulthood we still remember when Washington Sen. “Scoop” Jackson and a few other hawkish Democrats had prominent standing in their party, not to mention the Bosnian-bombing President Bill Clinton and peacenik war hero Kerry and Bin-Laden-killing Obama among other recent Democratic warmongers, so the sudden Democratic repulsion to Webb’s much-decorated martial spirit strikes us as a significant development.
Webb’s admitted support for the right to self-defense and opposition to affirmative action policies that favor Obama’s Sidwell Friends-educated children over some Appalachian coal miner’s more promising kid were also respectable opinions within the Democratic circles of our relatively recent recollection, too, and even that unmistakable hesitancy about giving expensive benefits to untold millions of illegal immigrants and the rest of his unforgivable heresies he uttered would have easily been forgiven by the power structure and nominating base of the Democratic Party. At this particular point in the party’s history, though, the putative front-runner Hillary Clinton is running against her husband’s record of tough-on-crime measures and defense of traditional marriage and insouciance about sexual assault while the self-described socialist and surging insurgent and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is arguing that even after seven years of Obama the economy is horrible because we jut haven’t lurch far enough left yet, the party seems to agree that Black Lives Matter and others don’t,  and from our fixed position seem awfully far left at the moment.
Although admittedly situated to the right, we suspect that our position and Webb’s is closer to the center than his former rivals. There are still an awful lot of white people and even among the Democrat kind of them there’s bound to be some resentment that Obama’s Sidwell Friends-educated children have some legal advantage over their own kids, and Americans of all colors and party affiliations have become accustomed to the right of self-defense, and a commonsensical appraisal of the past seven years of foreign policy in general and that awful Iran nuclear in particular will be skeptical, and it takes a certain sort of Democrat to be sufficiently enthused about paying expensive benefits for untold millions of illegal immigrants, so Webb’s departure does not seem to bode well for the Democratic Party’s general election fortunes. The Republicans seem intent on screwing up such a golden opportunity, of course, but it still does not bode well.
Webb’s much-decorated martial spirit was still on display as he retreated, saying that while his party is not comfortable with many of his policies “frankly I am not comfortable with many of theirs.” He hinted at a third party-challenge, a one-in-a-zillion shot that seems his best bet for the presidency at this point, and we’d like to think it might drain a few votes from Democrats who still believe all the traditional Democratic nonsense but aren’t so leftward lurched that they buy into all the latest nonsense. We’re not sure how many Democrats fit this projection, though, and he might wind up stealing a few Republican votes if Donald Trump wins the nomination, so at this point we’re not sure how noteworthy is withdrawal really is.

— Bud Norman

Romney Rides Again

The Washington press is abuzz that Mitt Romney seems poised for another run at the presidency, but we wonder how many of the people who will be voting in the Republican primaries and caucuses share the excitement.
There’s no wondering why the press is excited. The investment mogul and former Massachusetts governor and past Republican nominee adds a familiar name to to their too-early-to-read campaign reports full of little-known governors and congressional long shots, sets up an intriguing storyline about the inevitable fight for big-money donors and the party establishment’s support against a former Florida governor with the familiar last name of Bush, and otherwise serves a favorite press narrative about top hat-wearing and moustache-twirling plutocratic Republicans and their internecine battle with the tin foil hat-wearing conservative crazies. Romney will also be a legitimate contender for the nomination, given all that big-donor money and establishment support and the fact he was once palatable enough to the people who vote in Republican primaries and caucuses to become the past nominee, so there are even valid journalistic reasons for the attention being paid.
Presidential re-runs are not unprecedented, of course. In the early 1800’s Charles Pinckney was twice the candidate of the Federalist Party, losing both times, which helps explain why there is no longer a Federalist Party. Grover Cleveland won, lost, then won again for the Democrats in the late 1880s. William Jennings Bryan won the Democratic nomination three times in the late 19th and early 20th centuries with his brand of prairie populism, and lost the general election in each case. Thomas Dewey was twice the Republican nominee in the ’40s and twice the loser to Franklin Roosevelt, and Adlai Stevenson was twice the Democratic nominee in the ’50s and twice the loser to Dwight Eisenhower. Nixon was the Republican nominee in ’60 and lost but came back “tanned, rested, and ready” to win in ’68, so unless you remember how that turned out the record isn’t entirely gloomy.
There were those polls a while back showing that Romney would have won a re-match with President Barack Obama, too, and the next batch of surveys will no doubt show that he has a lead on all the candidates whose names are being thrown in the mix. Whoever survives the early blows between Romney and Bush will have the “establishment” support to himself while a wide field of contenders are still battling for “conservative” bloc, and that does provide a plausible plot for the Romney scenario. Money and organization and professional expertise matter, as well, and Romney will have plenty of them. There’s also an argument to be made that he would be a good president, and we proudly made the argument that he would have been better than Barack Obama, and that also matters even if it won’t be a part of the press narrative.
All of that will earn Romney a look from Republicans, but we expect it will be quite skeptical. A more robustly conservative candidate running an effective national campaign could have beaten Obama at any point in the last two years, which Romney failed to do when he had the chance, and that lead you see in the next batch of polls is over a group of more conservative Republicans that have not yet announced their candidacy much less launched a campaign. Among those little-known governors and congressional long shots are some impressive candidates, and they comprise a field far more formidable than Romney faced last time around.
Texas’ Gov. Rick Perry imploded with poor campaigning after a surgery and the weight of the deals he had made on immigration to win a crucial share of the Latino vote in his home state, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was tarred by personal scandals and lobbying ties and the years of vituperation by the left, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum couldn’t resist being lured into divisive social issues, former pizza magnate and future talk show host Herman Cain had a sex scandal, “tea party” favorite Rep. Michelle Bachmann dropped out early on, promising former Minnesota Gov. Tom Pawlenty dropped out for no apparent reason even earlier, and the likable and competent Romney suddenly seemed the best shot. This time he’ll face the likes of Gov. Scott Walker, who has won three elections to serve two astoundingly successful terms despite the most furious efforts of the Democratic left, Governors Rick Snyder and John Kasich of Michigan and Ohio, respectively, who have won re-election in their crucial states with the same sort of conservative policies, as well as a fully-recovered Perry who managed to demonstrate his anti-illegal immigration bona fides before leaving office, and the likes of Kentucky’s Sen. Rand Paul and Texas’ Sen. Ted Cruz, who have shown the sort of boldness conservatives desire on economic issues and represent the polar ends of a crucial intra-party debate on foreign policy.
Any candidate that emerges from that field should be able to win the nomination. Our guess is that the Romney will win the fight with Gov. Jeb Bush for the “establishment” mantle, given that Bush has irrevocable positions on illegal immigration and that horrible “Common Core” curriculum that the federal wants to impose on local education systems that are anathema to all but the wealthiest Republicans, but the Washington press doesn’t seem to understand that “establishment” is now a most foul epithet among the people who vote in Republican primaries and caucuses. The intense scrutiny that the other contenders have already endured suggests there won’t be scandals to knock any of them out of the race, and they’ll have strong arguments to make about Obamacare and regulations and taxes and getting the government out of the way that the technocratic Romney will have trouble countering. He’s a legitimate contender, but by no means a front-runner.
We might be proved wrong, of course, in which case our only consolation is in knowing that Romney would be a better candidate than anyone the Democrats might put up.

— Bud Norman

Heckling to the Choir

Regular readers of this publication are aware that we disagree with almost everything President Barack Obama says and does, but we wish he wouldn’t take it personally. Some of our friends say and would do equally stupid things, and for the most part our disagreements do not become disagreeable. The president seems to believe that it’s all about him, however, and on Wednesday was pouting to another crowd of hand-picked adorers in Kansas City that his critics should “Stop being mad all the time, stop just hatin’ all the time.”
The hand-picked crowd of adorers started chanting “We love you,” laughed raucously at all the boilerplate ridicule of Republicans, and the president was temporarily transported back in time to those happier days of ’08 when hope and change were in the air and it actually was all about him. Perhaps the president hasn’t noticed that hand-picking such adoring crowds has become a harder chore for his aides as his cult of personality has dwindled down to Jonestown levels, or that a majority of disapproving Americans outside the arenas are no longer paying any attention by his very un-presidential act. It’s not just the phony hip-hop folksiness of that dropped “g” at the end of “hatin’,” and the petulant foot-stomping about that stupid Constitution that allows those mean old congressmen to spitefully vote for what their constituents want rather than what he wants, but mostly how very obvious it is that the ridicule is being offered in lieu of a reasonable argument.
Surely you’ve encountered liberals at the right sorts of cocktail parties who respond to any unfashionable opinion with a dismissive laugh and a sneering put-down, and when asked have nothing to explain the response except another dismissive laugh and sneering put-down, but one expects better from a president of the United States. We recall the president ridiculing Mitt Romney’s statement that Russian President Vladimir Putin should be regarded as a “geo-political” by recycling an old “Seinfeld” gag and chortling that “The ’80s called and they want their foreign policy back.” Now the ’80s are calling back, and America wishes that Ronald Reagan were still around to answer the phone. We also recall another hand-picked crowd of adorers laughing it up about complaints that the southern border isn’t secure, with such zingers as “next they’ll want us to build a moat, and put alligators in it,” and you would have gotten the sense that those crazy Republicans truly believed a hundred thousand or so minors could just waltz across the border unaccompanied. Those crazy Republicans’ paranoid fantasy that if you liked your health insurance plan you wouldn’t be able to keep it under Obamacare got a lot of laughs from those hand-picked crowds of adorers, too, and a lot of the president’s other frequent forays into ridicule now look just as ridiculous.
At this point an argument, complete with facts and logic and a proper respect for the swelling opposing opinion, would probably be more effective. We’re not hatin’, just hoping.

— Bud Norman

Wising Up the Youngsters

Back in our younger days the old folks used to fret over the lack of trust we had for our national institutions. Now that we’ve reach old fogeyhood, we find ourselves slightly heartened to see that the current crop of young folks are at long last becoming mistrustful of government.
Although we have not noticed this trend in our own occasional encounters with the under-30 set, we are assured it is underway by a recent poll from Harvard University’s Institute of Politics. The ivy-covered organization’s annual survey of “millennials,” as today’s 18- to 29-year-olds are often called, found that their trust of government has dropped below even last year’s “historically low levels.” Almost every institution has seen its numbers slip, with Wall Street and the United Nations being the unaccountable exceptions, and it’s gotten to the point that even President Barack Obama is trusted by only 32 percent of the respondents.
Given the youngsters’ overwhelming support for Obama in the past two elections, the polling results are potentially good news for Republicans. Other hopeful numbers in the poll are that 44 percent of those who voted for Romney say they will definitely vote in the mid-term elections, compared to only 35 percent of Obama who say the same thing, and those identifying themselves as Republicans have increased in number even if they remain a minority. More importantly, the broader finding that “millennials” are less trusting of the government suggests they might at long last be persuaded to stop voting for more and more of it.
The wising-up of the young folks is not surprising, as they were bound to notice sooner or later that the candidates they have embraced are eager to stick them with the old folks’ medical bills along with a $17 trillion national debt and a massive regulatory state and meager employment prospects, but it remains to be seen if the GOP can win their votes. Our experience of young folks suggests that the lure of hope and change and free stuff has a powerful effect on them, and the next Democratic candidate could still convince them that despite whatever disappointments they’ve experienced in the past the next time is going to be different. Republicans still suffer from a reputation as sexually repressed squares, too, and the only things young people seem to desire more than hope and change and free stuff are sexual license and being thought hip. Undoing the the damage done by the public schools and higher education and all those touchy-feely soccer leagues might require an ever greater catastrophe than the one they’ve been living all their adult lives.
The best the Republicans can likely hope for is that fewer young people will bother to vote all, but even that might be enough to swing a few elections their way. If the Democrats are obliged to make their promises at least somewhat more plausible, and have to campaign without the youthful idealism and energy of the whippersnappers, that would also represent a significant improvement in America’s politics. Youthful idealism and energy are the most destructive forces known to history, and the sooner they are blunted by the hard-earned cynicism and lethargy of old age the better.

— Bud Norman

Politics and the Single Woman

Like so many of us, the Republican party seems to have a problem wooing single women.
Although the “gender gap” that has allowed the Democrats to win strong majorities of the distaff vote is so widely acknowledged it has become a quadrennial cliché, a closer look at the data reveals that the GOP’s more specific problem is with the unmarried variety of women. According to the almighty exit polling Mitt Romney won the votes of women with husbands by the same 11 point margin that he lost the overall female vote, and similar disparities have occurred for the past several elections.
A widely believed theory attributes this phenomenon to the Republican party’s well-known opposition to abortion, and this seems plausible enough. Some polls show that women are split almost evenly on the issue, as is the country at large, but it is a reasonable assumption that the single women are more likely to favor abortion rights than their married counterparts. Still, given the apparent permanency of Roe v. Wade and the abundance of other issues that are of importance to even the most avid abortion enthusiasts, there must be more to the problem.
We suspect that that the economic insecurity that comes with being single is a more important factor. Without the a spouse to rely on during times of unemployment, or even during the times of less-than-affluent employment, women are more likely to look to the government and its varied entitlement programs for support. Obama’s never-ending re-election campaign seems to have reached the same conclusion, as it made a specific appeal to such anxieties with its much-ridiculed “Life of Julia” web site and countless speeches that also enumerated all the government-bought goodies that Democrats are in business to provide.
This notion is bolstered by the fact that single men are also more likely to vote for Democrats than their married counterparts. Indeed, in the last election Obama won the single voters by a whopping 62 to 35 percent while Romney won the married folks by a slightly less whopping 56 to 42 percent. Single men are still somewhat less likely than single women to vote Democrat, which we would chalk up to a persistent if diminished desire for self-sufficiency that tradition has inculcated in the male of the species, but the financial worries that also afflict single men apparently makes the welfare state ever more attractive to menfolk as well.
The problem with single women wouldn’t be so severe if there weren’t so many of them. Unmarried American women now outnumber the married ones, a fact that would have been thought unthinkable just a few short generations ago, and the disappearing stigma against illegitimacy and the decline of other old-fashioned notions about marriage make it unlikely that the trend will soon abate. Indeed, a widespread belief we’ve noted among the single women of our acquaintance that the mores of a few short generations ago were somehow oppressive is probably another reason that a Republican party that is proudly associated with the old-fashioned values of that lost era is probably yet another reason for the gender gap.
It is not at all clear what the Republican party can do it about, short of giving up on its reason for being and trying to outbid the Democrats for the votes of single men and women. The government could stop the numerous welfare policies that encourage single motherhood, revise divorce laws that make marriage a less attractive option for men, and otherwise stop discouraging people from getting married, as well as emphasizing the social costs of illegitimacy, but that would require the Democrats to act their self-interest and thus is unlikely to happen. Republicans could also try to explain that their economic policies make it more likely for both men and women to get jobs that would free them from dependence on the government, but they’ve been doing that for the past many years with desultory results.
The Republicans still have many exceptional single women in their ranks, and should give them a more prominent role in shaming their liberal sisters into the self-sufficiency that feminism once claimed to stand to for. As many a single man has unhappily discovered, though, those women are exceptional.

— Bud Norman

In Search of the Missing Voter

All of the amateur psephologists on the right have been glumly sifting through the election data, searching for some hopeful explanation of what happened on Tuesday, and several have seized on the curious case of the missing voters.
Early counts of voter indicate turnout was lower than in the 2008 election in every state, and although the unaccountably prolonged process of vote-counting will eventually increase the final numbers it appears the decline was significant. Conservatives can find some consolation in the fact that Obama almost certainly won’t match the number of votes he won four years earlier, but they also have to face the sobering truth that Romney will likely wind up with fewer votes than the famously uninspiring campaign of John McCain.
Although some of the decline can be attributed to the storm that swept through much of the northeast in the week preceding the election, other reasons are clearly required for the rest of the country. The fall in Obama’s vote haul is easily explained by the vast gulf between the extravagant earth-healing promises of his ’08 campaign and the dismal economic record that he was saddled with in ’12, but it’s harder to say why anyone willing to take the effort to vote for McCain wouldn’t have done the same four years later for Romney.
Some will say it was because the election was of little interest outside the swing states that were blitzed with campaign rallies and constant television advertising, a plausible theory given that most of the mass media quite were happy to distract their audiences from the important issues of the campaign, but turnout was apparently down in those beleaguered swing states as well. Others will contend that Romney was never fully embraced by the most hard-core conservatives of his party, but by the election day he was certainly regarded as a more rock-ribbed type than the even squishier McCain. There are the predictable suggestions that Romney’s Mormonism scared off evangelical voters, but our wide circle of evangelical friends and acquaintances seemed genuinely enthusiastic about his candidacy.
Only in retrospect do we see that Romney’s upbeat and well-behaved campaign might have failed to motivate those McCain voters to trudge back to the polls. The campaign’s assumption was that animus toward Obama would suffice to turn out the right-most voters and that a soft sell was required to win over the moderates who might be scared off by an angrier tone, which seemed reasonable enough at the time and at one point even seemed to be working, but as of now there is no denying that it simply did not work. A more alarmist campaign that screamed of the impending debt crisis and collapse of the entitlement system might not have worked, either, but at least it would have given the Republican party’s candidate in 2016 a chance to say that the voters were warned.
Our best guess, though, is that all those missing voters simply gave up on politics at some point in the last four years. Some were likely the usual sort of apolitical Americans who got caught up in the unusually high level of interest in the ’08 campaign and quickly reverted to their less depressing interests, while others were people who followed politics with a sufficiently keen attention to notice how very badly it is going and how unlikely it is that anyone currently in the political arena will be able to change course. It was always a gamble that Romney would have been able to tame the ravenous appetites of the public for the government goodies, and one that we were willing to make, but it’s not entirely irrational for someone to conclude that it really wasn’t worth leaving the house and standing in line.
Those people aren’t going to like what they’ll get, of course, and one can only hope that they’ll dislike it enough to be back the polls next time.

— Bud Norman

Election Day

At some point today we will don cap and jacket to stroll over the fallen leaves and past the humble bungalow houses toward a nearby Lutheran church, where we will cast our vote. After so many years in this old neighborhood it has become a familiar ritual, and we can anticipate that it will involve the same friendly banter with the curmudgeonly old retiree from the local university who always mans the polls, the same short chats with the familiar faces who somehow always show up at the same time, voting the same straight Republican ticket, and the same stroll home past the aging limestone elementary school for assurance that the kids are still stuck in class.
This time will be different, though, in some vague and disquieting way. Every election is the most important of our lifetimes, or so the candidates would always have us believe, but this one truly is of the utmost importance.
If Barack Obama manages to eke out a majority of America’s voters, it will nudge the country past a point from which no Republic has returned. A coalition of the government class and its dependents will have triumphed over those who are expected to pay its bills, a majority of Americans will have acquiesced to the government’s power to force individuals to purchase products they do not want and venerable religious institutions to act contrary to their most cherished beliefs, a cult of personality sustained by a corrupt and decadent media will have triumphed over truth, and the unsustainable costs of the new order’s ravenous appetites will careen the country toward economic disaster.
A victory by Mitt Romney will not necessarily avert these disasters, but it will make better outcomes possible. Romney and his running mate are honorable men, rooted in the best traditions of the country, who see the nation’s economic health with clear eyes and have demonstrated the political courage needed to take on the great challenge of setting the country back on to a path of freedom and self-reliance.
Thanks to our country’s brilliantly devised constitution it is within the realm of possibility that a Republican-controlled House of Representatives or a sufficient number of resistant state governments could slow the march toward the same welfare state model that is currently falling apart throughout Europe, Latin America and other benighted parts of the world, but an Obama victory would make the momentum almost impossible to resist. Even the most brilliantly devised constitution is only as strong as the men and women that the citizenry entrust with its care, and the people are always free to choose badly.
This will make for a long walk back from the voting booth, but we’ll walk with hope and a prayer for the country.

— Bud Norman

Campaigning Up a Storm

In the immediate aftermath of the Islamist attacks on America’s embassies throughout the Middle East, which resulted in the death of an ambassador and three other Americans in Libya, a determinedly Democratic friend of ours expressed confidence that the events would prove a benefit to Barack Obama’s re-election campaign. Various media were in high dudgeon about Mitt Romney criticizing a cable from the embassy in Egypt that seemed to sympathize with their attackers, and our friend anticipated that the inevitable rally-round-the-president reaction to a national security crisis would carry Obama to victory.
It remains to be seen how the election will turn out, but it is not too soon to conclude that our friend was wrong. Despite the best efforts of many of the national media to emphasize Romney’s supposed gaffe and ignore the series of deadly mistakes made by the Obama administration, polls suggest that a majority of Americans now disapprove of the president’s actions in the matter.
Although it will have to happen much more quickly, the Hurricane Sandy issue seems likely to follow a similar trajectory.
Many of Obama’s cheerleaders in the media saw the devastating storm as a an opportunity for him to appear “presidential,” a lucky break given that four years of being president have apparently afforded so few such opportunities, and their resulting coverage made the most of it. The post-storm news cycle has been filled with images of a solemn-looking Obama waxing concerned, signing important pieces of paper, and walking purposefully along the devastated shores of New Jersey with that beleaguered state’s portly governor. Democratic pundits seem particularly pleased to constantly re-run the effusive praise of Republican and erstwhile Romney supporter Gov. Chris Christie, whose comments have probably served him well in his 2013 re-election race in deeply Democratic New Jersey but utterly destroyed any hopes he might had for winning a Republican nomination outside his state.
There’s been the expected condemnation of Romney, too, and even ridicule of his request that supporters donate money or any needed supplies to the storm victims. The criticism has been that Romney callously failed to visit the storm-damaged areas, but if he had the criticism would have been for interfering with the rescue efforts for a cheap photo-op, and the jibes about his well-intentioned fund-raising effort suggest he wasn’t going to escape ridicule in any case.
The problem with the strategy is that the last weekend of the election is almost certain to be filled with stories of looting, dumpster-diving, power outages, gas shortages, transportation failures, and all of the other unpleasantness that invariably follows a natural disaster in a densely populated area. New outlets will be forced to run these stories even as they offer up more assurances about the excellent job that the government is doing, and the discrepancy will be stark.
Expect the Romney campaign to wisely refrain from any criticism of the recovery effort, which would only provoke a charge of politicizing a tragedy from a media that has spent the past days eagerly politicizing the tragedy, but the failure of the administration to live up to its implied promises will go without saying. This is not to say that any government can prevent the vicissitudes of nature, but that is what the press and the Democratic party have maintained during every Republican administration, and it is only fair that they be held to the same standard now.
The footage of Obama and Christie walking along the shore was touching, even reminiscent of Rick Blaine and Capt. Louis Renault walking into the “Casablanca” night and proclaiming the beginning of a beautiful friendship, but images of the post-photo-op mayhem should be fresher on Tuesday.

— Bud Norman

Politics in a Hurricane

There is less than a week to go before the most consequential presidential election in generations, and the big story is the weather.

We wouldn’t want to downplay the significance of Hurricane Sandy, which has killed 50 people, severely disrupted the lives of millions, and caused untold billions of dollars of damage to beloved and irreplaceable property, and we sympathize with all of those who have been affected by the storm. Although the weather has been quite pleasant around here lately, those of us who live on the plains know all too well how very brutal nature can be.

Still, one hopes there will be some space left in the news for the election. Sandy’s winds seem to have blown all mention of the presidential race off the front pages and out of the newscasts, and that is a shame. As horrible as the storm has been, it is not at all hyperbolic to say that a second Obama term could be even more destructive.

What little attention has been paid to the presidential election in the past few days has mostly concerned how it might be affected by the storm. Some alarmists have fretted that Obama will somehow contrive to delay the election, which is too paranoid even for our tastes, but most of the speculation has concerned which candidate is most likely to benefit from the weather.

Any break from the news that has lately seen Mitt Romney surging in the polls is thought to be beneficial to Obama, a plausible theory, but the four years’ worth of unpleasant stories won’t be immediately forgotten and are bound to resurface once the campaigns resume today. There’s also a hope among the Democrats that Obama will seem more presidential when the helpful media broadcast images of him solemnly running the government’s response to the disaster, which is also plausible, and especially walking around the rubble with whatever elected officials can find time for him, but a president’s role in these affairs is mostly limited to signing orders to spend money and there have already been countless images of that. Every natural disaster now entails the usual cries about global warming, which is still considered an issue for the Democrats, but no one seems to pay them much heed any longer.

Another theory holds that Romney could benefit if lingering bad weather, power outages, road closings, and various clean-up chores keep large numbers of voters away from the voting booths. This strikes us as reasonable, given that Romney’s voters will crawl across broken glass on their knees to vote while Obama’s supporters seem to be less enthused these days, but the areas that are most likely to still be struggling through Election Day are in states that usually vote Democratic in any circumstances. There’s also a good possibility that Obama will blunder through the hurricane, or at least say something that reminds people of their pre-storm reasons for voting against him, and a good probability that at least some of the storm victims will be without electricity or have some other valid complaint on Election Day.

Here’s hoping that all who were affected by the storm recover quickly, and that any effect the storm has on the election will benefit the challenger. It’s an ill wind that blows no good, as they say.

— Bud Norman