Next Tuesday, Obama will win. The unemployment rate will still be nearly 8%. The housing market and the construction industry will still be depressed. A record number of people will still need food stamps to feed their families. An unpopular war will still be killing Americans.
Even though he’s black and intellectual, and some people still say he was born in Africa, Obama will beat a blue-blood son born into politics and wealth. He’ll beat billions of billionaire dollars poured over the past four years into an unending campaign of vilification of himself and his policies, and then unleashed in unfathomable amounts during this election, with the blessing of a Supreme Court appointed by Republicans. He’ll defeat an unprecedented congressional campaign of intransigence and obstruction led by a coalition of party leaders and Tea Party newcomers.
How did he manage that? Barack Obama deserves much credit for his first four years as President. Eight years of Republican control of domestic and foreign policy had left the United States in its worst shape since the combined oil crisis, stock-market crash, and Vietnam defeat back in the early 1970s. Two wars raging with no end in sight, an economy beginning to free-fall into an almost great depression, and worldwide opinion horrified at the arrogance, dishonesty and incompetence of American foreign policy.
Each of these crises had taken years to develop. Now all three have been reversed. In two years we will no longer be fighting in the Middle East. The economy is recovering, not as fast as anyone would like, but the last great depression took a decade to recover from. Our standing in the world has rarely been higher – our few enemies are everyone’s enemies.
But I don’t think Obama’s successes will be the deciding factor in this election. It’s Republican failures.
I don’t mean the Republicans I see every day in my small town in central Illinois. There are plenty of them, enough to dominate local elected offices. They are normal people who advocate normal policies. When the state government tried to shut down a historic facility for the mentally ill with which Jacksonville has identified for over 150 years, our local legislators, all Republicans, have pushed back. Although such closings are precisely what would happen everywhere if the congressional Republican budget were passed, here they have fought for the well-being of the patients, the employment of the staff, and the spirit of the town, even if it costs more.
A series of Republican mayors backed by a Republican city council have spent millions and asked the federal government for millions more to make the downtown work again, investing now in our collective future.
My local Republicans are nothing like the cartoon Republicans who have dominated our TV screens for over a year. Their extreme ideology is the big loser. American public opinion has moved on, past gay-bashing, past shoot-first, think-later foreign policy, past the condescending racism of self-deportation, past conspiracy theories about socialists and scientists, past the tried-and-true Republican political tactics of the 20th century.
When someone stands up at a party and says that global warming is a hoax perpetrated by evil scientists or that gays will go to hell or that a woman must deliver her rapist’s baby, people start edging away. The cartoon Republicans haven’t grasped that yet.
The blind wrath that brought a few Tea Party zealots into federal and state offices in 2010 is gone. The economy is getting better. The angry men in Congress and in governors’ houses have accomplished nothing but get other people angry.
Mitt Romney has tried hard to erase the cartoon image he created for himself, in order to defeat the wacky line-up of extremists he faced in the primaries. He almost made it, replacing the “severe conservative” persona he has been working on since 2007 with a reasonable Romney in the last few months. In this final week, I expect him to lurch again in some direction, either to the middle to win some undecided voters or to the right to energize the extremists.
But why vote for a man who just reentered the real world from far right Fantasyland since the Republican convention in August, when the other man on the ballot had been struggling with real-world problems for the past four years with some success?
Obama’s victory is not Romney’s personal failure. The country is moving away from the extreme form of Republican conservatism which has come to dominate the party since Ronald Reagan’s presidency.
Obama’s victory in 2008 meant only that the failures of Republicans under Bush were too obvious to ignore. Now, despite the continuing economic disaster, despite lingering racism across white America, despite the daily uncertainties of the world outside our borders, Barack Obama wins again. His victory in 2012 means that Republican ideology is a failure.
Jacksonville ILpublished in the Jacksonville Journal-Courier, October 30, 2012