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Barack Obama's Carefully Crafted Economic Populism Carries the Day


US Politics & Gov't  (tags: americans, candidates, congress, constitution, democrats, economy, elections, ethics, freedoms, gay rights, government, healthcare, housing, marriage equality, media, obama, politics, SupremeCourt )

Kit
- 525 days ago - truth-out.org
Second, the country is nowhere near as closely divided as the popular vote indicates. That's because non-voters, who were about 43% of the electorate in 2008, favor Obama by a margin of about 2.5 to one.



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Kit B. (277)
Wednesday November 7, 2012, 9:19 am
(Photo: US President Barack Obama and defeated Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney -- Picture: GETTY IMAGES)


President Obama's re-election was never much in doubt, except perhaps briefly when he took a plunge after the first debate and we didn't know where the bottom was. But by the end of the campaign, Sam Wang of thePrinceton Election Consortium was giving Obama a better-than-99% chance of winning. Nate Silver of the New York Times, more cautious, put the odds Tuesday at about 90-10 in favor of Obama.

Those who point to the popular vote as evidence of a very tight contest, as much of the media did before the election, should consider two things: first, that is not the way the game is played here (unfortunately). If the popular vote determined the presidency, the Obama team would have put more resources into big states like California and New York to ensure that Obama would win the popular vote by a wider margin. Instead, the resources went into swing states, in order to ensure a victory in the electoral college vote.

Second, the country is nowhere near as closely divided as the popular vote indicates. That's because non-voters, who were about 43% of the electorate in 2008, favor Obama by a margin of about 2.5 to one.

Indeed, the resources and political power that Republicans mobilized in an effort to deny millions of Americans their right to vote, and to suppress voter turnout, raise serious questions about their legitimacy as a political party. A legitimate political party does not rely on preventing citizens from voting, in order to prevail at the polls, any more than a legitimate government relies on repressing freedom of speech or assembly in order to remain in power.

How did Obama win?

In this election, as in almost every presidential election for decades, the biggest block of swing voters has been white working-class voters (however defined: for example, without college education). No Democratic candidate has won a majority of white voters for decades, since the Republicans adopted their "southern strategy" in the wake of historic civil rights legislation, and became the "white people's party". (In fact, Obama did better among white voters in 2008 than John Kerry did in 2004 his racial identity was not a handicap because most voters who wouldn't vote for an African American don't vote for Democrats.) But in this contest, Obama had to win enough of the white working-class voters in battleground states to win the election, while winning about 95% of African-American voters and a large majority of Latino voters.

This he did primarily by making a populist appeal to working-class voters, more populist than any major party presidential nominee in decades. In the last debate, which was supposedly about foreign policy, Obama repeatedly referred to Romney as someone who wants to make sure that rich people "don't play by the same set of rules" as everyone else. Throughout the campaign, his team attacked Romney for being a rich, unscrupulous politician who didn't care about working people.

Of course, it helped that Romney fit the stereotype a rich corporate raider, a private equity fund CEO, who said he "like[s] being able to fire people", and paid less of his income in taxes than millions of working Americans. His infamous secretly-recorded remark dismissing 47% of Americans as moochers "my job is not to worry about those people" was a gift from God, and became one of the Obama campaign's most effective TV ads.

But for those who have followed Obama's political career, his re-election was always extremely likely and indeed, it would hardly have been in jeopardy if he had actually debated in the first debate. We knew that he would be as populist as he needed to be in order to win. Even with 23 million people still unemployed or underemployed (as Romney repeated endlessly), it's not that hard to convince a lot of working-class voters that Romney and his party don't have their interests at heart if you are willing to make the kind of economic populist appeal that Obama ultimately made.

The downside risk, for a candidate, is the potential loss of rich campaign contributors and media; but Obama was willing to take these risks in order to win. This was a historic difference from previous presidential campaigns: Democratic candidates such as Michael Dukakis and Al Gore flirted briefly with economic populist appeals, but backed off in the face of media pressure.

The media are a huge factor in most elections in the US, and outside of Fox News and the rightwing press, most of the major news outlets were more sympathetic to Obama than to Romney. They still helped Romney quite a bit, however, especially with swing voters, with poor reporting on key economic issues. Most Americans didn't know that the federal stimulus had created an estimated 3m jobs; in fact, they didn't even distinguish the stimulus from the unpopular federal bank bailout. They didn't understand the benefits that people would derive from Obama's healthcare legislation. They didn't know that they'd had their taxes cut under Obama. And millions believed the hype that federal deficit spending and the US public debt were major problems. (For the record, the US currently pays less than 1% of GDP in net interest annually on the federal debt less than it has paid during the past 60 years.)

The confusion on economic issues was probably the most important influence on swing voters, who supported Romney against their own economic interests, thinking that the economy might improve if he were elected. For this, and other misunderstandings, we can thank the major media, although we should also include the public relations blunders made by the Obama team. Perhaps the biggest strategic error wasPresident Obama's refusal to go after Romney's proposal to cut social security, thereby losing the majority of senior citizens' votes (a big vote in swing states like Virginia and Florida), which he could potentially have won by defending America's most popular anti-poverty program.

Obama's silence on social security is a bad omen for the future of his second administration, when facing almost immediately the "fiscal cliff" political, media, and business leaders will be pressing for a "grand bargain" on budget issues that will screw the vast majority of Americans. It will take a lot of grassroots pressure to prevent the worst outcomes: likewise, to get us out of Afghanistan and to prevent another disastrous war, this time with Iran. Obama's foreign policy has been mostly atrociousand the never-ending "war on terror" continues to expand, while most Americans' living standards have been declining.

It's going to be an uphill fight for progress, but it could have been a lot worse.
***********

By Mark Weisbrot, The Guardian | Op-Ed | Truthout |
 

Brian M. (142)
Wednesday November 7, 2012, 9:54 am
Excellent article. The final paragraph makes the most important points. "Obama's silence on social security is a bad omen for the future of his second administration, when facing almost immediately the "fiscal cliff" political, media, and business leaders will be pressing for a "grand bargain" on budget issues that will screw the vast majority of Americans. It will take a lot of grassroots pressure to prevent the worst outcomes: likewise, to get us out of Afghanistan and to prevent another disastrous war, this time with Iran. Obama's foreign policy has been mostly atrocious and the never-ending "war on terror" continues to expand, while most Americans' living standards have been declining."

We should all start getting familiar with the term, austerity.
 

Jae A. (321)
Wednesday November 7, 2012, 10:35 am
Whenever I see the words.."war on terror" I think of the 'terror' as being rightwing extremist....and last night they met with a serious defeat...even within the Republican party only minutes after Romney's loss.. Their Insanitea was written on the wall ,way to visable ,making it obvious that they had let their extremist fring groups take it too far.

Yes it is going to be an uphill climb but for this morning...all I really want to do is smile and dance !
 

Nancy M. (219)
Wednesday November 7, 2012, 1:53 pm
"But in this contest, Obama had to win enough of the white working-class voters in battleground states to win the election, while winning about 95% of African-American voters and a large majority of Latino voters. "

And what was it- 55% women versus 44% for Romney?

Interesting article. There may be hard times ahead still. Social Security, yes, may still be probblematic. I may still have to work till I am seventy. But I do feel we are better off in the long run.
 

Craig Pittman (44)
Wednesday November 7, 2012, 1:54 pm
Good going for all those who got out to vote. I am not entirely clear on what sort of the working mandate the President has with a Republican House of Representatives but it's a step in the right direction anyway. Or could one say a slight step away from (the) right.

The economy is going to be a challenge but I really hope this ridiculous "war on terror" is shelved to concentrate on helping out the environment.

 

Trudy Killa (126)
Wednesday November 7, 2012, 2:41 pm
I for one am glad the election is over with. All the ads & need to truly fact check issues discussed during the debate. It is my hope that our President can indeed work with our other elected officials & really move this country FORWARD!. I disagree on the statement that we are not as a country divided. We are in fact more divided on issues than we ever have. It seems that we have become assigned to a specific group based on our particular beliefs on how to go. But as he said during his acceptance speech- it should not matter our race, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status or health, we as a country can not sit back & just allow those we have elected to vote or not vote on issues based on who has contributed, how much & what affiliations they have for they really are to represent those that have elected them based on what they believe those representatives will do the very best for the people they represent & not who has bought them out! We truly must not sit back but take action by following the voting patterns those we have have elected are in fact doing. We have our right to vote but must also make certain those we voted for, do the job we elected them to do.
 

Allan Yorkowitz (458)
Wednesday November 7, 2012, 3:00 pm
I just posted this same opinion. Having won only a little over 300,000 popular votes, Obama was not America's favorite candidate. He has a lot of convincing to do in a second term.
My fear is, as it is a second term, will he make anymore effort than he did in the first?
 

Jennifer C. (172)
Wednesday November 7, 2012, 4:03 pm
Thanks for the article.
 

pam w. (187)
Wednesday November 7, 2012, 6:21 pm
OF COURSE there will be hard times ahead! OF COURSE we face difficulties...not the least of which is an embittered, angry Republican clacque of angry white men and deluded women. Oh...and Allan Y.

I'd like to enjoy the moment for at least a day....is that ok?
 

Rana Sinha (50)
Thursday November 8, 2012, 3:36 am
Noted, thanks for sharing.
 

Val R. (208)
Thursday November 8, 2012, 6:17 am
Trudy - glad it's over but is it really - and there were so many issues with fraud - who knows what the real #'s were - the globablists want Obama again so we got him.
 

Jae A. (321)
Thursday November 8, 2012, 8:08 am
We suffered throught the Spend and Borrow,death and destruction, eight years of the Dubya Aministration followed by four years of GOP obstructionist along with the Teabaggager rightwing insaniTea...we've got no where to go now but forward.........with or with those mentioned...of which Allan Y. is of course one of. Chill out Allan...the rest of us have made it this far despite the G..D. crazies on the extremist rightwing side so you can either try and help stop the division or keep it going...that's fricken up to you. One day and you're already going with division so if that's you choice you/re not going to get along with the rest of us on care2 any better than before the election...maybe less as we're feed up with the division/obstructionish and extremist on sites ...not going to keep the polite going as we've no more time to waste on the extremist now. Your time has come and gone , as the saying goes. Either work with others or leave the playground :-) ....would be my advice.

Many things to focus on but the GOP in Congress are the ones that must get our message that it is time they helped our economy after four years of doing the opposite like the last four ...or they might be looking at a no confidence vote from the people in the very near future. That's the dumb F's that have stalled and tried their best to take us down over one man's job...who has that same job now for four more years and they best get F'n use to it and to us in their faces to stop the B.S. and get this nation back on track a.s.a.p. ..........in my opinion.
 

Kit B. (277)
Thursday November 8, 2012, 8:16 am

Sometimes I don't know whether to feel sorry for Allan or just give up. A teacher - so he has some education, but believes every wacky conspiracy theory out there - check the latest numbers on the results, Allan. BTW...without Florida the election was called for Obama.

JFK won the presidency with only 100,000+ in the popular vote. Obama on the other hand - has a mandate. With big wide coat tails.
 

Kit B. (277)
Thursday November 8, 2012, 9:01 am

Mitch McConnell's new mantra - "We will not allow Barack Obama to have a third term in office..." Hey, that just might work.
 

Arielle S. (313)
Thursday November 8, 2012, 9:05 am
Mitch McConnell is an old geezer frozen in time - I hope his butt gets kicked to the curb and soon. Enough of the childish behavior - either this Congress gets with the program and starts working for the COUNTRY instead of the party, or they go the way of all useless, worn-out objects.
 

Nancy M. (219)
Thursday November 8, 2012, 9:10 am
My husband and I were talking last night. We have a Tea Party representative. We both plan to right and say that we expect him to work with the President and work across the aisles. He probably won't but if more people did this, it might work. The expectation is there when they get elected that they will WORK. That does man across the aisle.
 

Kit B. (277)
Thursday November 8, 2012, 9:25 am

I know that Arielle has done the same thing, and honestly I've been doing that for years. Maybe at long last someone will begin to listen. Most of the Tea-bags are gone, except of course, (embarrassed to say) in Texas with Ted (owned by Oil and Gas) Cruz.

Write letters, send emails - call at least once a week and you are not limited to who can call or how often you may call. Phone calls must be documented for the Library of Congress. Buy a big batch of post cards and mail those out during the week. If you sign a petition follow up with a phone call and an email. Annoy them, let them know we are watching - now and every day. The more all members of Congress (both Houses) hear from you the more they remember this is not about what THEY want, but what YOU want.
 

Nancy M. (219)
Thursday November 8, 2012, 9:41 am
I'm in Indiana, famous for being republican. At least we voted down Mourdock but still many others around.
 

Kit B. (277)
Thursday November 8, 2012, 9:46 am

No more backward or embarrassing than Texas, Nancy.
 

Nancy M. (219)
Thursday November 8, 2012, 10:38 am
Well/// obivously! LOL
 

Kit B. (277)
Thursday November 8, 2012, 10:54 am

Yeah, yeah - sure have a laugh at my expense. Just remember I wore a Van Jones t-shirt to the polls... (Blue with the words "DEEP Patriot") though I was stoned in the parking lot. ummm.....Could there be a connection?
 

Lois Jordan (54)
Friday November 9, 2012, 4:18 pm
After continuing to count votes, it looks like Pres. Obama is now ahead by about 3 million votes. This is not a small margin---this is a mandate filled with new political capital that I hope he will use progressively.
 

Jim Lauder (9)
Friday November 9, 2012, 10:56 pm
Are there any Republicans here? I want to understand why someone who makes more than $250,000 a year needs tax cuts. I don't make that much but I am happy to pay taxes so that, among other things, my universal health care continues.
 
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