And so ends the election season.
A few last points before I lay this theme to rest:
1. Winning is nice. I’ll enjoy it while I can, because wins don’t last. (And for those who lost, don’t despair: losing doesn’t last, either.)
2. I understand how and why it happened—Gingrich, Trump, Cain, Santorum, Perry, Bachmann—but I’m still amused that the Republicans nominated the man who lost to the man who lost to Barack Obama in 2008.
3. Similarly, while I understand why it happened, it seems to me that a man who made his fortune as a financier was not the best person to send into the ring in the midst of a shaky recovery from a savage recession. It could have worked—turnaround specialist!—but that’s not really what Romney did, and his political personality didn’t allow him to transcend the sense that he was the boss who fired you, not the boss who hired you.
4. I won’t diagnose the ills of the Republican Party or recommend fixes because a) I am not a Republican and b) concern-trolling is annoying, and c) I’d rather put my efforts in trying to figure out a left-political program than a right-political program.
(And that, it seems, is necessary. Barack Obama deserved the votes of leftists not because he was leftist but because, unlike his opponent, he would at least inch us toward something better. Those of us on the left need continually to make sense of that something better, and to find effective ways to blunt policies which are decidedly not better, e.g., regarding secrecy, surveillance, and the drug war. Oh, and that whole capitalism and immiseration thing.)
5. That said, developing some sort of philosophy of or program for governance might be worth considering. “No!” is a slogan, not a platform.
6. It is entirely too soon to begin speaking intelligently about the chances for possible candidates in 2016. For those who might want to run, however, it is not, unfortunately, too soon to begin thinking about it, and in a year (and certainly in two) to begin working toward it.
That is among the many reasons I am very glad that I am not now nor will I ever be a candidate for president of the United States.
7. That presidential campaigns are multi-year endeavors is a pox on our polity.
Election campaigns and governance are not the same thing, and what is required to win in elections can be detrimental to good governance. To the extent that we are fully in an era of the permanent campaign bodes ill for said governance.
8. I take back nothing I said about the “everything goes” nature of presidential campaigns, and I expect that same sensibility to drive the 2016 race.
Now, that lying didn’t always work this campaign doesn’t mean it won’t be a part of the toolkit for future campaigns—although, again, smart tacticians will recognize when such lying is counterproductive. Romney was able to make deft use lies during the primary, but the Obama campaign was much swifter (first debate excepted) in rebutting those lies than were Romney’s fellow Republicans, which meant that lying should have been abandoned in favor of more effective tactics.
The Romney tacticians didn’t do so, which speaks poorly of their abilities.
9. To be fair to those same tacticians, however, the road to the White House is always steeper for the challenger than for the incumbent—that’s just how it is.
There’s plenty of easily-available information on the advantages of incumbency, as well as the role that a declining, advancing, or stagnant economy plays in the election. The US economy was/is still weak in 2012, but it is also clearly in recovery. The Romney campaign focused on the first part without taking account of the second, and thus were unable to shape a message which matched the reality.
10. How much campaigns matter is still up for debate, but in the face of uncertainty, it seems prudent to act as if the campaigns mattered more than anything.
Romney said in his concession speech that he and his staff “left it all on the field”, and I don’t doubt that. But it’s also clear that the Obama campaign was demonstrably superior in organization, especially in voter mobilization. Whatever Romney left on the field, Obama had more, and better.
And, of course, Obama was a good candidate. Yes, he was flat in the first debate, but that misstep was so magnified in part because it was so rare. Romney wasn’t terrible as a candidate, but as the challenger he needed to be much, much better than the incumbent. He was not.
Herein lyeth the end of the Mayan campaign mashup of 2012. May we all find some peace and comfort before the circus beginneth again.