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Forget 'hope and change'- this was a victory for fear and loathing

By FnF Desk | PUBLISHED: 08, Nov 2012, 14:50 pm IST | UPDATED: 09, Nov 2012, 10:40 am IST

Forget 'hope and change'- this was a victory for fear and loathing Mitt Romney was right about one thing. He was secretly taped back in May telling fund-raisers that half the country would support Barack Obama because they depend on the government for all or part of their income.

Romney correctly identified America’s burgeoning entitlement culture as a major obstacle to a Republican winning back the White House.

‘There are 47 per cent of the people who will vote for the President no matter what . . . who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe they are entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing, to you name it.’

Striking an almost defeatist note, he concluded: ‘I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their own lives.’

Romney’s leaked remarks caused a predictable storm of confected outrage, but his analysis was bang on the money. Just as Gordon Brown cynically constructed a client state in Britain to maximise Labour’s electoral advantage, so the Democrats deliberately drain the public purse to feed their supporters’ insatiable appetite for handouts.

When 47 per cent of the electorate depends to a greater or lesser degree on government largesse, the Democrats have only to target another four or five  per cent of voters to secure a majority.


With the overall result pivoting on a handful of battleground states, Obama’s supporters concentrated successfully on turning out the Democratic base and convincing sufficient wavering independents that they  would be hurt financially by a Romney victory.

This wasn’t a ‘hope and change’ election like 2008. Obama’s campaign this time was based on fear  and loathing.

Romney was portrayed as a ruthless predatory capitalist, hell-bent on grinding ordinary Americans into the dust, sending their jobs abroad and denying them even rudimentary healthcare provision.

One advert showed Romney pushing an old lady in a wheelchair over a cliff. Another even accused him of causing a former employee’s wife to die of cancer. It was garbage, but it was effective.

By the time of the first televised debate, which Romney won convincingly, the damage had probably already been done — at least in the minds of enough voters to help Obama belly-flop over the line in the swing states that mattered.

Even so, it still went down to the wire, with Obama only just taking a smidgin over 50 per cent of the popular vote nationally. This was nobody’s idea of a landslide, despite the electoral college system giving the President an impressive victory on paper. Obama actually polled ten million fewer votes than he did in 2008.

Many voters told exit pollsters they had only made up their mind on the day of the election. Some pundits think Obama’s handling of Superstorm Sandy may have swung it for him.

The hurricane certainly allowed Obama to pull on his bomber jacket, visit the scene and look presidential. But the fact is that Sandy, which hit Atlantic City at a speed of 80mph, spent more time in New Jersey than Obama. And five minutes after the President had tweeted pictures of himself empathising with storm victims, it was everybody back on Air Force One for another election rally in Nevada.

Meanwhile, the devastation visited upon parts of the North East remains every bit as awful as Katrina inflicted on New Orleans in 2005, and the clean-up just as patchy and poorly co-ordinated.

Yet while George W. Bush was held personally responsible for Katrina, Obama’s visit to New Jersey was reported in the same reverential terms the Pathe newsreels used to reserve for the Queen Mum’s morale-boosting wartime walkabouts in the bomb-ravaged East End of London.

Romney wasn’t just taking on the President, he was battling a hostile mainstream media every bit as biased in favour of Obama as the BBC is towards Labour. Of course, the BBC loves Obama, too. And plenty of British commentators suspend their critical faculties when it comes to America’s first black President.

This probably explains why a recent opinion poll showed that 80 per cent of people in Britain wanted Obama to win. They only know what they read and watch on TV, which for the past few years has been a constant fanfare of fawning praise.

But just to put this in perspective, it’s not that long ago that three-quarters of Americans wanted Tony Blair to be their President.

For the record, I welcomed Obama’s election in 2008, although I doubted whether he would live up to the hype. From the ashes of race riots of the Sixties to a black President 40 years later is remarkable testimony to America’s genius for renewal and reinvention. Obama’s election was a milestone on America’s journey from its white European roots to rainbow nation.

I have life-long Republican friends who voted for Obama in 2008, proudly, not reluctantly, because they believed he might unite the country after the turmoil of the Bush years. On that score he hasn’t only failed, he hasn’t even tried.

America’s most popular talk-show host, Rush Limbaugh, joked on Tuesday that they might just as well divide America in half along the Mississippi river and let all  the Republicans live on  one side, with the Democrats on the other.

He predicted that it wouldn’t be long before self-styled ‘liberals’ would be clambering over the wall — like refugees from Cold War East Berlin — to escape the Democrats’ big government, high taxes and economic irresponsibility.


Limbaugh’s got a point. On the basis of Obama’s record, he probably didn’t deserve to get re-elected. The deficit has soared to $1.3 trillion. Unemployment remains stubbornly high. The country is teetering on the edge of a fiscal precipice. The election result has changed nothing.

But Obama’s fortunate that more than half of voters still blame Bush for the financial crisis — and just enough of them are prepared to give the President another four years to put it right.

The worry is that the drift from a dynamic ‘can-do’ nation to a dependent ‘something for nothing’ society continues to stifle economic recovery. The world needs America’s red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalism to fuel global growth.

What’s of equal concern is that under Obama, as in Britain, rampant hostility to private enterprise and ‘the rich’ has flourished.

That probably cost Romney the presidency. He may have had the credentials to kick-start the economy and prosperity. But he wasn’t a perfect candidate — simply the best of a deeply unimpressive bunch.

His self-made $200 million fortune — which should have been a source of admiration, not resentment — left him exposed to accusations of being ‘out of touch’ and only caring about ‘the rich’. (Now where have we heard that before?)

So can the Republicans win next time, or is this as good as it gets? Romney actually polled fewer votes than John McCain four years ago.


It didn’t help that, despite his Mormon faith, Romney came across as one of those aloof, ‘born-to-rule’ WASPs who have dominated the Republican establishment since the days of Abraham Lincoln.

With minorities flocking to Obama and America’s demographics shifting, can a middle-aged white man ever get elected again? Some commentators think not.

(Mind you, Obama’s campaign featured so many white, middle-aged male celebrities that some of his rallies looked like TV adverts for erectile dysfunction medication.)

Obama’s victory wasn’t  entirely down to minority support, though. The swing states which took him over the line are predominantly white, which suggests whites are equally comfortable with the idea of sucking on the government teat.

In fact, immigrant communities are responsible for some of the most enterprising sectors of the economy, especially Hispanics and Asians, who should be natural Republican supporters.

Hispanics increasingly form  a vital component of the  American electorate.

That’s why my money is on the Republican candidate in 2016 being Cuban-American senator Marco Rubio.

I watched Rubio electrify a Tea Party rally in Florida 18 months ago. He’s the most impressive young politician on either side of the Atlantic.

He could win and win big. But only if enough of his fellow Americans are prepared to start asking what they can do for their country, not what their country can do for them.

# Source: The Daily Mail, By Richard Littlejohn