By Primus Mootry
For The Herald Bulletin
Most television watchers saw last week’s film footage of President Obama’s remarks to his campaign staff a day or so after his bid for a second term victory. He told them he was proud of them. He told them they were great people whose accomplishments would one day exceed his own.
At a point in his remarks, the energetic, cool, cerebral Obama began openly to weep. Wiping tears away, he carried on with his lavish praise of the people who had fought so hard and so long, not just for a victory, but for the big ideas behind the super-heated, divisive contest.
The praise was well deserved. But most of the post-mortem political pundits I listen to openly wondered about the reasons for President Obama’s decisive electoral and popular vote victory without considering the genius of his campaign.
Was race a factor? Was it Mitt Romney’s frequent gaffes and “etch-a-sketch” bombast? Was it a repudiation of the far right and the “take our country back” narrative? Was it the monster storm, Sandy?
Was it luck?
Stunned Republicans like super PAC leader Karl Rove gave their own speculations as to why their candidate lost. Rove, for example, said Democrats had engaged in voter suppression. What nonsense.
Former RNC Michael Steele insisted that the Republican party had failed to reach out to blacks, Hispanics, Asians and women. Senator John McCain’s daughter, a newspaper columnist, agreed with Steele and argued that, if the Republican Party does not change its message and methods, it will not survive as a major political party.
As to the first four questions, the answers are yes, yes, yes and yes. With regard to the question of race (minority voters), a friend of mine often calls it the elephant in the room.
MSNBC news analyst Al Sharpton says in the past blacks had to deal with Jim Crow (the bib-overalled symbol of historical white supremacy). Now, he opines, blacks and other minorities have to deal with three-piece-suited James Crow Jr. Most thoughtful social scientists agree: Racism is still a problem in America.
As to people like Rove and the right-wing super PACs, they must explain to donors who collectively poured billions of dollars into attack ads and other campaign strategies why all that money wasn’t enough to unseat Obama.
These hucksters will offer any reason for failure, including that foolishness about Democrats suppressing the vote. Apparently they did not understand that the American people cannot easily be fooled, or bought.
What should be of real concern to Republicans, however, is their message and methods. The country is swiftly becoming a majority of minorities, with Hispanics outpacing all other groups.
Further, in all future general elections, no party can afford to discount (offend) Hispanics, blacks, Asians, women, young voters, gays or other voting blocs and expect to win. The margins of victory are simply too slim (for example, Obama won Florida by less than 100,000 votes).
Anyway, other than Rove’s desperate claim of voter suppression, I believe all of the speculations and questions have some validity. In particular, our political system and our government needs viable political parties. It would be unfortunate if the Grand Old Party allowed itself to be hijacked by fervent but sadly misinformed right-wing extremists.
In my view, the real question is not “how do we take our country back,” it’s how do we move this country forward? Abraham Lincoln said, “A country divided cannot stand.” He might well have added, neither can it move.
As to the Nov. 6 elections, however, most of the questions and speculations overlook a simple, overriding fact: President Obama, as the head of the Democratic Party, ran a brilliant campaign. Republicans took to the air. Democrats stuck to the ground.
In a strategy focused on swing states, they didn’t suppress the vote. It was just the opposite. They knocked on doors. They called. They held hundreds, maybe thousands, of rallies to reach out to otherwise eligible non-voters.
In addition, their ground game was nimble. Key people such as the president and his surrogates could move throughout the country to build get-out-the-vote momentum, while the crucial “pick and shovel” work of registering new voters and, where necessary, arranging for them to get to the polls, churned on.
At this crucial moment in history, the victory — ultimately a victory of ideas — was enough to move the president of the United States to tears.
Have a nice day.
Primus Mootry is an Anderson resident. His column is published each Wednesday.