Winning and Losing, Especially LosingPosted: November 5, 2012
One day to go, a day when everyone thinks they’re winning, so let’s talk losing.
If Romney loses, the GOP’s internal post-election kerfuffle will be fascinating to watch. Is losing two in a row to a guy you frame as a proto-socialist Kenyan enough to get through to the faithful that a gay-baiting immigrant-hating anti-science white people’s party is just not going to fly long term as a vehicle for national political influence? Or will they just rationalize: Romney’s conservatism wasn’t the genuine article, or it was Hurricane SandyChristie’s fault. Are we doomed to enduring another four years of Tea Party obstructionism in Washington, and in 2016 another GOP primary cycle of red-meat penis size competition? Or will a close Romney loss send the signal that the moderate Mittbot was the solution, not the problem — the fatal flaw in 2012 being the hollowness and jejunity of the man rather than the concept?
If Obama loses, the internal shitstorm on the left will be far less clamorous — more of a pee sprinkle, really — since many Dems understood all along that Obama’s re-election prospects were always going to rise and fall with macroeconomic developments. While a drowsy economy has managed to shake itself half-awake with more good numbers than bad in the campaign’s final weeks, the larger narrative of economic lethargy never really dissipated. The overarching Obama problem has long been his unwillingness (and/or inability) as president to forcefully communicate his policies and priorities in ways that bring people aboard — healthcare reform being, of course, Exhibit A. A telling moment came a month ago following Obama’s calamitous evening in Denver, when he told supporters that Romney’s debate performance was “salesmanship” not leadership. A president who doesn’t see effective salesmanship as a key aspect of the job is a one-term president waiting to happen.
Divergence in recent weeks between national polls and battleground state polls has many wondering if we might be in for the magic split between popular vote and Electoral College outcome. The prognosticators are dubious— Sam Wang at Princeton makes it a 16-1 longshot — and Dems would obviously prefer the illusion of a governing mandate rooted in a consistent outcome on both fronts over a split decision. (I say Dems because it’s hard to fathom the split happening with a Romney win. The turnout wave that would help Romney overcome his conspicuous battleground state polling disadvantage would surely carry the popular vote with it.)
But I count myself among those who say mandate schmandate: If we are ever going to get rid of this senseless anachronism we call the Electoral College, it is probably necessary for Republicans to feel its emotionally piercing sting as Democrats did in 2000. Only then we can experience the dawn of true bipartisanship: that gleaming glorious day when the two parties with their gridlock are unable to save the country from its economic doom, but can go hurtling over the fiscal cliff hand in hand knowing that the Electoral College is soaring with them to its long overdue demise. Now that’s winning!
A version of this post appears on the Nashville Scene‘s Pith in the Wind blog.