November 11, 2012
Why Mitt Lost and Obama Won: A Different PerspectiveBy James Arlandson
That title was hard for me to write. But the knot in my stomach finally left, Wednesday, just before I taught my small Bible study on Romans.
Some may believe it is too soon to offer a postmortem, but I figure that since the knot has left, I'm ready to take a shot. I can't do worse than the national pundits whose predictions were so far off. I still respect them, and they should keep doing their job because generally they're accurate.
But their collective "wisdom," so badly mistaken this time, should teach them to consider what I have to say. No, I don't have exit polling data in front of me. Instead, I use common sense, my life experiences, the ethos in the air, and the obvious.
The reasons that follow are ephemeral, but I believe I got some clarity, post-knot feelings. The reasons may not be the only ones, but they should be considered.Maybe they can help explain Obama's victory despite the economic fundamentals being against him.
1. The patrician white challenger v. the first black President
If you couldn't see that one coming, then you were desperate to see the Republicans win, for the sake of the budget and foreign policy -- for the sake of fiscal sanity and the country's economic health. Truthfully, you're the mature and evolved one because you looked beyond race. You didn't care about it.
Let's not deny another obvious, conflicting truth. Millions of people didn't look beyond race, or so I believe, and my belief is based on American history, common sense and the political optics - the obvious.Obama voters were equally desperate to find a reason not to throw out the first black president, and they may have found it in such things as the OBL kill shot, Sandy, "blame Bush" and other factors - the subject of this piece. A few days before the election I had the sobering thought that America will simply not vote against history.
2. Scary changes v. the status quo
Mitt and Paul Ryan are qualified number crunchers. They're really smart. Long may they live and contribute to our nation.
However, all this talk about "reforming" and "restructuring," so necessary for the fiscal health of the country, intimidated some of the public, or so I imagine. People don't like sudden changes, and that's what, ironically, conservatives were all about this time. A double irony?
Who had the easier message to preach? Conservative Romney's rapid change to austerity or radical Obama's push to keep (conserve) things the way they are after "compassionate" Obamacare and the stimulus for "the little guy" became law? Change is scary, and when sudden change leads to austerity, matters get even scarier.
3. Game Show Government v. the Gospel of Austerity
Speaking of slouching toward the fiscal cliff, I've written earlier about Game Show Government. "Vote for us, and we'll send you a check!"Never "misunderestimate" the magic spell that the left has cast over the American mind since FDR's New Deal.and LBJ's Great Society. It will take decades to unwind the spell, and maybe never. The game show is in the air. We breathe it in like oxygen. Without it we suffocate, feel unsafe. It's a fact of life. The left, it must be admitted, has been effective.
The magic spell, which does not appear in focus group questions or in +6 D survey samples, explains why people don't want to give up the game show. Too many cash and prizes. Never mind that our economic health is now threatened by the Dems' mismanagement of their own utopia.
Yes, you have cold, rational economic reality on your side, but people have the warm pleasure principle inside them. That need for pleasure may explain, in a big way, why Republicans lost seats in the Senate and the House.
What's the solution? There's only one. The warm pleasure principle inside them must turn cold and painful. They must reap the whirlwind. How? When? When the economy gets so dragged down and threatened, a significant percentage of the pleasure seekers can no longer deny it. Tough on our nation, but I see no other way. It's sad when so many of us see the obvious, while so many of them don't see it, but win anyway. Knowledge v. ignorance, and ignorance won. Hence the knot (I used to have).
Whoever of the Republicans preaches the Gospel of Austerity better have Reagan's warm heart, uplifting personality, and big, winsome smile (Rubio?). Warmth and charisma matter. As much as I hate to admit it (the knot is gone), Obama may have a smile that many consider winsome, and he may have some postmodern cachet. You and I scoff at it. But others don't.
Bottom line: Next time, the Republican presidential nominee who preaches austerity better not be a just-the-facts number cruncher. He should practice his smile and brush up on his charisma.
4. The cool guy v. the square guy
Many believe Obama is cooler, smarter, and smoother than all the James Bond actors rolled into one, with Jack Lord thrown in. Obama even believes it. Think how many times he pauses just to gaze out over the horizon at no one in particular.
Romney, dressed in his white polyester short-sleeve shirt and conservative tie, was the opposite. I had a little hope when Mitt picked cool-looking Ryan. But then I had hope when old-man McCain selected attractive Sarah. At least they got more votes.
We live in the I-Age. TMZ land. You figure it out.
5. The white Mormon missionary challenger v. the black amorphous Christian incumbent
No one in his right mind would admit to an exit pollster that he didn't vote for Mitt because he's a Mormon. But the political optics must be factored in. It was a close election, after all. How would you explain, in addition to the first four points, Obama's victory when the fundamentals were unsound and should have worked against him?
Whatever the case, if you didn't see the Mormon thing coming, you were focused only on the economy, the number one issue, and rightly so. For the good of the economic health and future of the nation, you were willing to overlook this obvious political optic. You're more mature and ahead of everyone else.
But let's face it. Religion matters in America.
No one but God knows what Obama's faith is like, but the president says he's a Christian. I imagine most people -- except some on the mean right -- take him at his word. They certainly don't believe he's a Muslim (nor should you). He, by their perception, is a known quantity.
We know that the challenger is a Mormon. People don't like the unknown, and Mormonism is largely unknown. And what is known about it seems strange to them.
"Wait a second! Evangelicals and devout Catholics voted for Romney!" Yes, they did, to their credit. I voted for Mitt and gladly, too. I didn't think twice about it. But I'm not talking about us. I'm talking about everyone else. I thought a lot about them as I watched the campaign unfold.
In my world religions classes in southern California, if I have thirty students, about six of them take their faith seriously (think Calvary Chapel and mass-attending Latino Catholics), while another six sneer and mock only Christianity -- not the other religions. The leftover eighteen seem open-minded or dazed and confused. I don't know which sometimes.
By common sense and simple observation I believe my classroom represents the larger society, when it comes to religion.
Assuming they voted, how many of the devout six voted for Mitt? Five? Four? How many of the mockers voted for him? Zero. What about the eighteen? I don't know for sure, but I assume from my classroom experiences that some were scared off by Mitt's Mormonism and voted for Obama. Uncommitted, the others may have stayed home.
Mormonism is doubly subjected to mockery. Two Mormons were in one of my classes a few years back. The male had recently finished his mission, while the female was about to go on hers. I asked if they would like to share their faith from their desks, not in front of the class (too intimidating and formal). We did some Q and A too. They were eager to do so. They're missionaries, after all. After they explained their religion -- no, during their talk -- students of all backgrounds piled on and gang-tackled them. I had to step in and defend the sweet-spirited missionaries.
The sad lesson I learned on that day: there's something about Mormonism that sets people off.
Therefore, it was a mistake, in my view, when Mitt proudly told the audience at the end of the townhall "meeting": "I -- I served as a missionary for my church. I served as a pastor in my congregation for about 10 years."
I winced when I heard it, not for me or you, but for everyone else. How did that sound to the masses who have heard throughout grades 9-12 and college that missionaries are needless, oppressive cultural imperialists? With that background, do Americans nowadays really elect pastors and missionaries? A missionary and pastor of the LDS, to boot? To repeat, McCain and extra-devout Palin got more votes in 2008, but they too were defeated.
I believe Huckabee the former Southern Baptist pastor, if he had been nominated in '08, would have lost to Obama. Bush the serious Christian barely won in 2000. That's why Pat Robertson did not get the nomination in 1988.The so-called "kook factor." I feel a significant percentage of people are scared of national leaders of devout faith. And the LDS: too unknown. Too conservative. Too religious. Too straight-laced.
The bottom line, by people's distorted perception, not reality: Mitt the conservative white Mormon missionary colonialist v. Obama the black Christian victim of white colonialists.
But I think Mitt is a great guy and a man of integrity. His religion didn't scare me away. I hope he still gets involved in politics. Maybe next time America will be more accepting of Mormons in national politics.
6. Aristeia and the gods
For he stormed across the plain like unto a winter torrent at the full, that with its swift flood sweeps away the embankments; this [flood] the close-fenced embankments hold not back, neither do the walls of the fruitful vineyards stay its sudden coming when the rain of Zeus driveth it on; and before it in the multitudes the fair works of men fall in ruin. (Iliad 5.85-92)
That simile describes Diomedes, the Greek hero, when he was "in the zone," with Athena's help, in his moment of glory, his aristeia, the inhuman, irresistible force, decimating the Trojan ranks.
I'm not sure about the effects of Sandy and politics. The links between physical stuff, hard politics, and people's perceptions are unclear to me. But sometimes a person gets in the zone, and no one can stop him.
Though I really hate to admit it (the knot is gone), Obama may have a something extra about him that no intellectual dares to discuss or no pollster can pick up. It's barely perceptible, least of all to conservative intellectuals who want numbers and hard data.
But it doesn't show up in the polls and hard data, and anyone mentioning it risks immediate censure and derision. "Oh pul-leeze!"
But anyone who ignores the finer points built into life, the taste of fine wine, the indefinable, the it-factor, is susceptible to missing victory. Thimk about the Trojans. Just ask Obama's mythmakers who didn't miss it, but exploited it.
7. America and destiny
This one will be tough to understand for the intellectual, left or right. It will be hard for more rational Christians too. So if that's you, click out of the article now.
The rest of you, keep reading.
I don't have prophetic powers to foretell the future, but some who seem to have it tell us financial shaking. They quote these verses: "At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, 'Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.' The words 'once more' indicate the removing of what can be shaken -- that is, created things -- so that what cannot be shaken may remain" (Hebrews 12:26-27).
Why the shaking? The passage continues: "Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe" (v. 28).
But you don't need prophetic powers to predict that the economy has everything in place for tough times. Sadly, though, the Dems can't figure it out. They largely are the cause of it for the past four years.
After we come through this tough time, sooner rather than later, America has a future and a hope. "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future'" (Jeremiah 29:11).
I believe in America's destiny. I believe she still has a unique role to play in the world. I still believe in her economic prosperity and health. Most of all, I believe in God who is sovereign over nations. I put my faith in his unshakeable kingdom, Augustine's City of God. It's time to return to God, as never before.
Have hope. Let's stand together, united, and pray for America. She will come out of this better and stronger.
She still has hope and a future.
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