But they were Obama’s values and his voters. Nov 19, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 10 • By CHRISTOPHER CALDWELL
Had this presidential campaign been a chess match, one move would have merited a row of exclamation points. A chess master will violate the rules of strategy as neophytes understand them (“You’re gonna lose your Queen!”) but only because he sees possibilities on the board that are invisible to others.
In January, the Obama White House set out to pick a fight with the Catholic church over contraception. A Health and Human Services directive ordered that all insurance plans cover contraception, morning after pills, and sterilizations with no exceptions for religious conscience. This looked like an act of folly. Not only was it an affront to the free exercise of religion, but Catholics are the largest group of swing voters in the country. They are heavily concentrated in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and other potential swing states. And it was in the name of Obamacare—the most unpopular federal program in living memory—that the administration thumbed its nose at them.
The Obama campaign understood that “reproductive rights” are similar to “gun rights.” Even if the number of people who care about protecting them is small, all of them vote on the issue. And in a country that now has as many single women as married women, the number is not small. President Obama won the Catholic vote on the strength of a landslide among Hispanics. (Non-Hispanic Catholics opposed him 59-40 percent.) His pollster Joel Benenson credits him not just with identifying new demographic groups but also with figuring out how to appeal to them. “He won,” Benenson wrote in the New York Times, “because he articulated a set of values that define an America that the majority of us wish to live in.” For this election he is right.
Not since Jimmy Carter has a Democrat won an election this way. “Values” campaigns have favored Republicans. The journalist Thomas Frank warned in his book What’s the Matter with Kansas? that Republicans were talking about the Bible and gays and abortion in order to distract attention from their failed economic agenda. “People getting their fundamental interests wrong is what American political life is all about,” Frank wrote. In Republicanism he saw a movement “of working-class guys in Midwestern cities cheering as they deliver up a landslide for a candidate whose policies will end their way of life.”
That is elegant writing, but the argument was wrong in three ways. First, the Democratic alternative to the Republican economic program had been failing since the 1970s. (That is why Bill Clinton himself rejected it.) Second, to the extent it involved regulation and welfare, federal economic policy ruffled the values even of those who stood to benefit from it. And third, Republicans were not the only ones peddling a values agenda. They were just the only ones succeeding at it.
This year Democrats’ arguments on values were heard. This was a “values” election as strident as the ones from culture wars past in which Christians marched against subsidies for Mapplethorpe, creationists vied for seats on Kansas school boards, and William Bennett demanded to know where the outrage was. What was different about this year’s culture war is that Republicans lost it. They ran a campaign without any of the abrasive stuff Frank disapproved of. Their presidential candidate lost himself in theories about what motivates “job creators.” Certain senatorial candidates did try to raise cultural issues. Those in Missouri and Indiana showed themselves out of practice.
The values were different, but structurally the outcome was the same one that we have seen decade after decade. Where two candidates argue over values, the public may prefer one to the other. But where only one candidate has values, he wins, whatever those values happen to be.
Barack Obama has a core moral belief about abortion. It is that women should always be able to get one. Mitt Romney’s views on abortion are roughly those of the old Groucho Marx declaration: “These are my principles, and if you don’t like them . . . well, I have others.” President Obama has a core moral belief about gay marriage, too. He supports it. His May interview on ABC in which he announced his rallying to the cause was a liberation. He had stacked his Justice Department with pro-gay-marriage litigators. He had announced, along with Eric Holder, that he would not defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act. He had grown dependent on donors who cared about gay marriage a great deal. To have claimed to defend traditional marriage would have exposed him to accusations of hypocrisy. At least in theory—there was, in retrospect, little danger that the Romney campaign would bring such things up in practice.
Nov 19, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 10 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
After his defeat in Britain’s 1945 general election, Winston Churchill’s wife Clementine consoled him: “It may well be a blessing in disguise.” Churchill replied, “At the moment it seems quite effectively disguised.”
The Democrats’ success was Obamacentric.Nov 19, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 10 • By FRED BARNES
The last thing Republicans need is an identity crisis. The losses in the 2012 election shouldn’t be sugarcoated. President Obama’s reelection does mean Obamacare will go into effect, and another shot at capturing the Senate was squandered. But the election was a setback, not a catastrophe.
To the 2012 campaign. Nov 12, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 09 • By FRED BARNES
Aside from who won or lost, there was a lot not to like in the 2012 campaign. I say this as one who has followed campaigns from the local to the presidential level since I was a teenager and mostly enjoyed every moment of it. But not this year.
How Biden and Obama blew it.
Nov 5, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 08 • By FRED BARNES
Joe Biden was forewarned. When he did a walk-through at the site of his debate with Paul Ryan, he asked if there might be double screens when the debate was broadcast. Yes, indeed, he was told, though it would be up to each TV network and cable channel whether to show both candidates at once on a split screen.
Nov 5, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 08 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
When GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney announced on August 11 that he had selected Paul Ryan as his running mate, the consensus was that he had made a daring choice with a huge risk: being demagogued on Medicare cuts.
That’s Ryan’s hope.
Nov 5, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 08 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
Speaking at a Tea Party rally on a sunny Saturday in June in southeastern Wisconsin, Paul Ryan confidently predicted Governor Scott Walker would win the recall election he was facing that coming Tuesday, June 5. “On Tuesday, we save Wisconsin,” Ryan said to applause from the crowd of 4,000. “And on November 6, Wisconsin saves America.”
Josh Mandel’s uphill struggle.Nov 5, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 08 • By KATE HAVARD
You might think an über-liberal like Democratic senator Sherrod Brown would be losing big time in moderate Ohio this year, but he isn’t.
Four scenarios for the next four yearsNov 5, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 08 • By JAMES W. CEASER
For the small school of political analysis that draws its inspiration from the great French 17th-century philosopher René Descartes, the cardinal methodological rule is to begin from what one can know “so clearly and distinctly as to exclude all ground of doubt.” The only important fact about the election contest today that meets this stringent threshold is that someone named either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney will be declared president, most likely on November 7.
Romney’s advantage with unaffiliated voters could prove key. Nov 5, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 08 • By JAY COST
With a week to go until the 2012 presidential election, Mitt Romney has a decided leg up on President Barack Obama.
Entrenching his first-term ‘achievements.’ Nov 5, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 08 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
Observers on both sides of the political aisle have noted, often with surprise, President Obama’s failure to offer an agenda for a second term in office. It would be a mistake, however, to assume Obama has no second-term agenda; he simply doesn’t have one he can express aloud. In truth, the president’s main agenda item for a second term is to cement the result of his first term that Americans like least—Obama-care.
Nov 5, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 08 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
Six months ago, in an editorial titled “President Romney,” I speculated that Mitt Romney—then behind in the polls—could prevail this fall: “If Romney can speak to Americans’ sense that it’s a big moment, with big challenges, and if he can make this a big election rather than a petty one, then he can win—perhaps big.” I continued: “Romney needs, over the next six months, to convince some number of swing voters he can and should be the next president.
Oct 29, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 07 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
Over the last few years The Scrapbook has watched the rise of the behavioral social sciences with a profound sense of unease. It’s best to be alert to the limits of social science for many reasons, but chief among them is that any supposed insights into human behavior are rapidly seized upon by professionals who manipulate people for a living.