Why Obama Won’t Win This Time …

April 4, 2012

While I don’t discount Republicans’ almost uncanny ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, and while I don’t discount the awesome power of incumbency that Obama can be counted on to use and abuse, I’m going out on a limb here. Obama won’t win this time – and there is a very specific reason WHY Obama won’t win in 2012.

In a short phrase, “been there, done that.”

The people who voted against pattern (i.e., people who voted who don’t usually vote) and people who voted for a symbol, rather than a candidate, and those people who embraced a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to participate in history-in-the-making – none of them will have any compelling reason to vote in 2012 – or if they vote, no compelling reason to vote for Obama, rather than voting for their own rational self-interest.

Looking back to 2008, consider how Obama became President.  First, let’s set aside what a poor candidate John McCain proved to be – he was the ultimate example of the Old White Guy In A Suit Strategy (for more on that, read http://barnettonpolitics.blogspot.com/2008/02/campaign-strategy-watch-old-white-guy_22.html).  For several reasons, in 2008, Obama might have won against any Republican, so it may not have been McCain’s fault.

First, Obama won in 2008 because, for every adult black American, he represented the first time that they could vote, in a Presidential election (not just a primary) for a black major party candidate.  It should be no surprise that black voters turned out in record numbers to vote for Obama, for their opportunity to elect a “First” and to go on record, for all time, that blacks in America were finally completely the equal of whites.  That was a powerful incentive for a population group that traditionally turns out in relatively low numbers to turn out (this time) in record numbers.

Next, Obama won in 2008 because he was able to make a connection with idealistic young voters, giving them the opportunity to repudiate the racist society that that had still lived (virulently) in their grandparents’ generation.  While relatively few young Americans have experienced the kind of real racism that those of us who grew to adulthood in the 40s, 50s and 60s saw at first hand.  The chance to help change America, dramatically and for all time, was seductive, and compelling, and young Americans – who, like blacks, typically turn out to vote in relatively small numbers – turned out in near-record numbers to vote for Obama.

Finally, many white adult Americans – regardless of their core political beliefs (though this argument had more sway among Independents than among Republicans) saw voting for Obama as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make a bold statement that America had finally changed, that our heritage of racism which dates to slavery and Jim Crow, was finally dead and buried.  The Civil Rights movement – which arguably began in 1948 when Harry Truman forced the integration of the military, and continued in the mid-50s when Eisenhower implemented the Supreme Court’s Brown Decision, forcing integration in Little Rock schools at the point of a Federalized National Guard bayonet, and came to fruition with the Civil Rights laws passed under Presidents Johnson and Nixon – could be said to have achieved its ultimate goal with Obama’s election.

Many men and women who care deeply for America – black and white, young and old – eagerly embraced the opportunity to once and for all repudiate America’s racist heritage.  Their vote for Obama was symbolic – they  were voting not so much for Barack Hussain Obama but for the First Black President.  It was indeed a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and that opportunity proved irresistible.

Just as James Buchanan has gone down in history as our only bachelor President (and, though this isn’t as widely know, our first openly Gay President), Obama will go down in history as the First Black President, and every man and woman who voted for him knows that they helped create – and participate in – an historical moment, one that will never come again.

That was in 2008.

But in 2012, we’ve already had our First Black President.  There is no compelling historical or symbolic reason for giving him a second term.  Black voters who turned out in record number to change America forever by electing our First Black President have already been there and done that.  It is my belief that, as a voting block, black voters will return to previous patterns of low voter turnout.  Those who do vote will almost certainly vote for Obama – but since the mid-60s, blacks have voted as a block for Democrats, so there is nothing special about this.

This will also apply to those independents of all electoral stripes who wanted to vote for a symbol, to send a message to the world – and to history – saying that America has finally put its racist heritage behind us.  That message has already been sent, and I do not see any compelling reason for these voters to vote again for a symbol instead of a man.  This time, they will be voting on Obama’s four-year record instead of his symbolism.

Finally, the excitement of creating history – and of participating in dramatic, once-in-a-lifetime social change – the reasons why Young Americans voted in 2008 for Obama, and voted near-record numbers, will not apply.  After four years of Obama, they’ll be voting – if they vote at all (and most of them won’t) based on issues that matter to them in their lives, issues such as student loans and incredible young adult unemployment rates.

This is a projection, but I predict that all three of those groups who – collectively – gave Obama a 53% majority in 2008, will stay home in droves in 2012.  Their absentee status in the electoral process will prove to be the margin he depended on to win in 2008, a margin he won’t have in 2012.

Further, those who do turn out to vote will be far more likely to vote based on what Obama has done for (or to) them since 2008, and on how the economy is treating them.  Given the unemployment rates remain at brutally-high levels, given that the economy – despite the stock market’s rebound – is still stagnant and suffering, young and idealistic Americans will vote with their wallets, and their self-interest, or they’ll stay home.

At least that’s how I see it.

Ned Barnett – Nevada Conservative



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