It is obvious by now that both Obama and Romney campaigns were trying to keep the race as close as possible in order to maximize fund raising. Our political campaigns are in the potlatch tradition. They provide the means for us to make payouts within the tax code without the appearance of impropriety. Very little of the activity has much to do with influencing votes
Dick Morris, the manic depressive Delphi, argues that the United States electorate should be romanced like an adolescent with a constant barrage of upbeat optimism.
When we step back from all the clutter there appear to be some fundamentals driving the voting choice. I believe that we can build a model for these beliefs based on our history. It is generally held that we Americans have no historical sense or memory but I contend that we do have a mythology based on our collective memory of historical events.
One of our collective modern issues is that most of us, at least below a certain age, have never been in a true drag out physical fight. In the past, one of the earliest lessons learned on the playground was that you can be right and you can lose the fight. Conversely you can be wrong and you can win. Deprived of practical experience and subjected to constant bombardment of TV people seem to have confused winning with moral superiority. A classic example is the statement:
-We were wrong to go to war in Vietnam because we lost.
The “because” is the fallacy. We may well have been wrong and we certainly lost but that is not the reason.
Unions are a good example. The success of unions in the thirties and forties was met by legislation restricting trade unions, wild cat strikes and boycotts. Once the union movement was stifled most people took the position that unions were no good because they failed. I have yet to hear a free market proponent call for unleashing our unions because international competition will keep them in check.
This moral vindication paradox is the reason that the Romney people speak of disillusionment. For them Obama’s ideals must be invalid because they were not implemented.
Looking back in recent memory, who were the best and worst presidents? Over time presidents that were reviled have become sainted and the accomplishments of the heroes have been lost.
Eisenhower looks pretty good, getting the troops out of Korea and into Little Rock. He was a general, he excelled at using the minimum force necessary to flip governments, suppress rebellions and put out brush fires around the world. Later, however, each of his successes became new and greater conflagrations. Much as we have come to realize that we need brush fires to prevent catastrophes, stifling national autonomy leads to eventual global crisis. Eisenhower, because of his competence, may have been our worst president.
Kennedy is the most frightening, by his own count taking us to the edge of nuclear destruction three separate times. The portrayal of Kennedy and his brother as idealistic has once again conflated idealism with recklessness.
Nixon has the greatest infamy but he was handed the worst mess in recent history. He blew smoke, kicked sand and somehow bluffed us through our international bankruptcy while convincing the China lobby to go along with recognizing China and the strategy of Vietnamizing the war.
Bush Senior is another who pulled us out of disaster. Clinton gets the credit for sticking to the course that Bush set.
Given this history, it is not surprising that Americans almost preferred a lying double talker to a party ideologue.
How can you criticize someone for selling out his ideals when the ideals are so rotten? Good for Romney, taking the tease party for a ride with that ridiculous platform.
The one group I really disliked from the Vietnam War was the Vets for Peace. They would always start their speech by saying that they didn’t know what they were getting into when they went off to war. Talk about not listening. What did they think the peace movement was carrying on about? This passionate naiveté is our worst quality. Please don’t tell me you didn’t know that going up to Tyson’s hotel room would end badly. The Vietnam War wasn’t Johnson’s mistake. It was the price Johnson paid to the China lobby for backing his legislation. Being disappointed with Nixon’s illegal activities is a howler. Who would have thought that big spender, fight anyone anywhere Bush Jr. would lead to fiscal disaster?
I suppose that the voters were frightened that Romney might actually believe that his platform had popular support, rather than that we were hoping for his betrayal of it.