Conservatives can be forgiven for seeking to rationalize Mitt Romney's loss – “media
were against him," "the primaries dragged on too long," "Paul
Ryan was a poor choice," "Seamus ate his master's homework," whatever.
But progressives should bite their tongues.
Late on election night Chris Matthews of MSNBC blurted out that he was "glad
we had that storm last week," implying that Hurricane Sandy was partly responsible
for Pres. Obama's win. He apologized profusely the next day. Meanwhile, his network
and its competitors are spending much of their post-election time focusing on
the science of campaigning, as if Tuesday's vote occurred in some exotic computer
|Liberal pundits are
gushing over the "Chicago team" that crunched
numbers, targeted voters in the right places, and engineered a carefully calculated
win. On Fox, Bill O'Reilly stated flatly that if Obama's guru David Axelrod had
been running Romney’s campaign, the Republican would have won.
Both sides make the election sound like a game in which the American people are
chess pieces – mostly pawns.
The science of campaigning is growing exponentially, there's no doubt about that.
Howard Dean is often cited as the first major candidate to harness the Internet
for his 2004 presidential bid, building what came to be known as a Netroots campaign
and using the Internet to spread messages, raise money, and track voters. Obama's
2008 campaign took it further and, for the 2012 race – with more time,
money and tools – the president's staff ran the most sophisticated campaign
Of course, it was also the most expensive, with over $2 billion spent by the
two parties and their backers. In Iowa, for example, it's estimated that the
final price of each Electoral vote was $12.3 million.
But money couldn't buy this election any more than computer science was able
to engineer it. Karl Rove's super PAC spent over $100 million on television ads,
and came away with what the Sunlight Foundation computes was about a 1 percent
return on investment.
Despite the spending and demographic targeting, this election may have been one
of the most democratic ever. It was, from the start, about issues. It was about
the clear philosophical differences regarding how government should work, and
a majority of voters indicated they share the president’s views.
But even in conceding that much, some conservatives point out how this philosophy
divides demographically, and all of a sudden we’re back on the chessboard.
The suggestion is that demographic groups – blacks, Latinos, young women – who
voted heavily for the president, simply weren’t “targeted” properly.
That if they had somehow gotten the message, things would have turned out differently.
They got the message. And no amount of advertising, spinning or even intimidating
could change it.
There’s an even more sinister angle at work here, grabbing space on conservative
blogs and being whispered about on cable-TV. It seems to hint that the coalition
of minorities that backed Obama is somehow less American, less deserving of an
equal say. “The moochers re-elected Obama,” is how one blogger put
Rush Limbaugh, bombastic mouthpiece for the far right, acknowledged the situation. “If
we're not getting the female vote,” he asked his radio listeners, “do
we become pro-choice? Do we start passing out birth control pills? Is that what
we have to do?”
The best thing that can be said about Limbaugh and his followers is that they
are not willing to compromise their beliefs. Voters recognized that in rejecting
not only the top of the GOP ticket but also many extremists down below.
Thus, with due respect to Karl Rove’s checkbook and David Axelrod’s
computer, it seems Americans can be manipulated only so far. If the puppeteers
on either side hope that voters will pay no attention to the man behind the curtain,
they overlook the fact that the real force behind the voting booth curtain is
(c) Peter Funt. This column was originally distributed by the Cagle Syndicate.
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