I’ve been listening and reading, both this morning and over the past few days, and have been amazed at the number of conservative commentators who, early on, called this election for Obama. Though their tones have been largely condescending – it is clear that most of them loathe the fact that they had to make these predictions – they analyzed why Romney would/did lose and have gone on to say what the Republican Party and its affiliates can do better next time. Part of the irony to me is that the GOP tried to change its tactics after Obama won in 2008. This election shows just how miserably they have learned their lesson.
In 2008, Obama changed the nature of politics and the nature of running for president. Though he has relied, at times, on the old political trick of playing to the fears of the people, his overarching message has been one of hope in the future and the need for hard work, difficult choices and endurance of hardship to get to that future. He has used data to mine the vote, very effectively targeting specific groups and sub-groups and probably even specific individuals. He recognized the change in the American demographic, realized that we, as a people, are subdividing into smaller and smaller groups which cannot be treated as monoliths of opinion, that even within those groups there are often significant differences depending on the specific issue. His message of hope and equality and togetherness appealed to many, despite the differences they might have harbored.
Republicans, on the other hand, after making a showing of change by promoting the likes of Michael Steele, Alan West, and Mia Love, have again shown that they are not up to the task of uniting broad swaths of the people. The consistent message of the Romney campaign and its affiliates stoked fear. They treated America as though her people had only a few divisions among them. They favorite division seems to have been between the job creators and the job holders. In the Republican mantra only one of these groups is important. And this was, arguably, their most fatal error. In ignoring the subtleties of diversity (reference Romney’s 47% remarks), in promulgating an image of one set of Americans as more important or more worthy than others and by playing almost solely to people’s fears the Republican ticket alienated a large segment of the American electorate and again sowed themselves to be woefully out of touch with the majority of Americans.
The bottom line is that the candidate that unites the greatest portion of the population will win the presidency. You don't unite people by scaring them with tales of economic apocalypse or impending doom brought upon by the masses of government dependent leaches. You unite by appealing to the better parts of people, by promoting unity and community, by promising not that the road will be easy and the solutions simple, but that through the hardship the leadership will be with and for the people. On November 6, 2012, Barack Obama showed himself to be better at uniting the people than Mitt Romney. Hopefully he can continue to stoke this unity through his second term and accomplish real and lasting, positive change for the country and the world.