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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Last Night's Election: A reasonable incumbent defeated a poor challenger

The largest debt of any country in the history of the world and a decline in global leadership weren't enough to dissuade Americans from re-electing Barack Obama last night.

There are a variety of reasons but some are so obvious that it's amazing the Republicans haven't figured them out. The most glaring is that people vote for a candidate they like and it's suicidal to field someone that isn't particularly likable or compelling. Mitt Romney the candidate was not someone that exited anyone.

We live in a time where people have very short memories, but force yourself to think back to the Republican primaries and remember how just about anyone who wasn't Mitt Romney was able to lead the pack for a brief time. Herman Cain who had no governmental experience and Newt Gingrich who managed to decimate the Republican House with his awful Congressional leadership were both front-runners and only ceased to be so because of their campaigns having imploded. It wasn't that the Republicans were particularly enthused about them, any more than potential savior Rick Perry whose apparent ineptitude sank his campaign almost immediately after it was launched. But none of them were Mitt Romney and that fact alone made them appealing to most of the GOP.

If dedicated Republicans were so unenthused about Romney, it's hardly surprising that he lacked Ronald Reagan's ability to win over Democrats and enough independents to win.

But there's more to it. Every year, more people reach voting age and that young generation is for the most part alienated by the social conservatism that characterizes so many Republicans.

Abortion is a killer issue for the Republicans. Even many who think it is morally wrong do not want the state to impose laws criminalizing abortion any more than they want to see laws criminalizing immoral behavior like adultery or lying. If abortion is a sin, then let God punish it and leave the state to worry about more pressing matters like the deficit.

Being seen to be hostile towards Gays is another big problem for the Republicans. Whatever one thinks about homosexuality, being the party that wants to discriminate against people based on what they do in their private sexual lives is not helpful for convincing voters that you are the party of the future.

The people that are concerned about the next four years of an Obama presidency should try to relax a bit. Despite the partisan hyperbole, he's not nearly the radical the Republicans tried to portray.

For people concerned about American energy dependence on the middle east, a conversation I had with David Jacobson, the US Ambassador to Canada, left me with the impression that Obama will OK the Keystone Pipeline soon in his second term.

For those concerned about foreign affairs issues like Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon, they should rest assured that sources close to the White House have told me that the grey hairs Obama has developed in the last couple of years have as much to do with that as the economy. Obama is determined not to let Iran get a nuke and he is no Jimmy Carter. If it's going to take bombing to prevent it then Obama will bomb Iran.

For supporters of Israel who worry about Obama's commitment to the security of the Jewish state, they should be calmed by the fact that many in Israel, from doves like Shimon Peres to hawks like Moshe Arens, have said they are fully confident in Obama's support. Part of the optics of the Israel/Obama divide have less to do with the American President's coolness to Israel than to his personal disdain for Israel's Prime Minister Netenyahu. But former Lukid Foreign Minister Arens has said that Obama's speech to the UN was as pro-Zionist than any he has heard from an Israeli leader and it reflects the stability of the two nations' relationship.

There are concerns that Obama's declared flexibility with Russia will weaken America's security abilities. On that score those disparaging Obama as being untrustworthy might be able to have hope. With any luck, Obama's promise to the Russians will be as untrustworthy as they credit him to be to Americans.

With a Republican House firmly in place, the President only has so much wiggle room. With ambitious Democrats looking ahead to 2016, a destructive Obama second term would work against them, so they will do their best to prevent any serious harm to America.

All-in-all, those who hoped against Obama's reelection have reason to be disappointed, but should not feel they have reason to fear.           

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