I don’t pretend to know the outcome of the coming election. Events could change the dynamics of the race. Events in the Middle East could take a nastier turn, they could turn for the better, another national or international crisis could happen and the debates are still looming. Any of those things could change the fundamentals of the race, and nobody knows what that could mean.
What is certain at this point is that President Obama holds a lead over Mitt Romney. In both the horse race polling and in the battleground state polls, the President appears to be opening up a lead over Gov. Romney.
Of course, Fox News doesn’t buy that. They only believe what they think must be true. That’s why they dismiss polling that shows President Obama ahead. It must be wrong.
To be fair, some of that lead is an indicator of a bounce resulting from the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. Some of that bounce is going to recede, and weekend polling seems to show some of that. In addition to the daily poll for the candidates, the right track/wrong track polling number seems to be moving in the President’s favor as well. While still less than 50 percent of Americans think the country is headed in the right direction, the numbers are starting to trend to the right track number.
For many on the right, these polls contradict their theory of the race. From the beginning, the most vocal critics of the President believed he would be a sitting duck, ripe for the GOP to vanquish President Obama to Illinois, Hawaii or Kenya to hear many of them talk about it.
So why isn’t it happening? Isn’t he’s a foreign socialist Kenyan immigrant hell-bent on installing Sharia law who has no regard for the American way, American troops or the American people?
Many of them believe that– and that’s why Romney is losing. He’s a prisoner to their thinking.
The right wing blogosphere has created this internet meme of the President that seems perfectly believable inside their echo chamber but seems just as implausible to the rest of the world.
Think of most anyone in public life: a celebrity, an athlete or a politician will do. Our perceptions are formed by their body of work in many cases. A series of tiny bits of information that overall create a sense of who a person is. Through publicizing what they do or hiding what they do, it creates an image.
What the right has done to the President is no exception.
Here’s a small example. On Friday, Michelle Malkin, one of the right’s most vicious and ludicrous yarn-spinners when it comes to the President, posted the President’s schedule for the day on her blog. She mentions the President’s security brief, meeting with the US Olympic and Paralympics athletes and lunch with Vice President Biden. She jumps from there immediately to a campaign fundraiser held Friday night.
She skipped something. Did you catch it? If you were near a TV on Friday afternoon or picked up a newspaper on Saturday you saw that the President’s afternoon was consumed with another event. It was an event that she knew about because she pulled the official schedule from the White House.
The President’s afternoon was primarily spent at Joint Base Andrews to welcome home the four Americans killed in Libya on Tuesday.
It’s a small detail, and doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme, but it’s the details that paint the right wing’s bizarre online meme of Barack Obama. Its intent is to somehow hide the fact that Obama is the President and does care about American lives. It instead paints a picture of the President as a man consumed with the fun stuff of the Presidency and his efforts to hang on to the White House through fundraising.
This week, the right wing media capitalized on the attacks on US interests in Egypt and Libya to peddle another one of the pieces of the image it has created for the President: he’s weak and aloof.
The argument crystallized in the reporting on right wing news site newsmax.com which was quick to point out that President Obama reads his Presidential Daily Brief and sometimes does not participate in an in-person security briefing.
While the claim is structurally true, what they fail to point out is that the President can ask questions of the intelligence people who create the brief at any time by secure telephone and online video conferencing. Having the briefer who delivers the PDB in the room has no impact on security in the end. It’s useful to point out that on Aug. 6, 2001, President Bush received an in-person PDB in Crawford, Texas headlined “Bin Laden Determined to strike in US.”
Ask yourself if having an in-person briefer there that morning made a difference. Different people consume information in different ways.
Over the last few days Fox News has tried to peddle the charge that President Obama is somehow weak on security and terrorists. Ask al-Qaeda how they feel about that one. One of the worst kept secret programs of the Obama administration is the devastating Predator drone operation that has decimated al-Qaeda since the President came into office.
“Mr. Obama has placed himself at the helm of a top secret “nominations” process to designate terrorists for kill or capture, of which the capture part has become largely theoretical,” according to the New York Times report.
The right wing also has asserted that the President got a gift from al-Qaeda in the form of Osama bin Laden. On Wednesday, Rush Limbaugh asserted that the terrorist group gave bin Laden up so that he could be killed by the Obama administration.
Why? Because al-Qaeda wanted President Obama to “look good.”
So there’s the right wing meme of the President: he’s an aloof, ineffectual celebrity President without awareness of the world around him who has little regard for American lives. He might also be part of an al-Qaeda conspiracy.
So where does that leave Mitt Romney?
He’s chained to it.
Political analysts of all stripes and ideological leanings will tell you that this is largely a base election. Politico reports that there are between six and eight percent of voters in the electorate who are undecided. In 2008 there were about 11 percent undecideds going into the general election campaign.
Both the Obama campaign in Chicago and the Romney campaign in Boston know getting out the base is the key to victory. Alternately, keeping the other side’s base away also helps out, which is why GOP legislatures around the country are trying to enact voter ID laws to suppress Democratic voters among the poor, the elderly or minorities.
For the candidates, a base election means that keeping every vote on your side of the ideological divide is crucial to winning. For Romney, it means pandering to the people who believe the internet meme of President Obama.
On Tuesday night, the Romney campaign pounced on an attack on the US diplomatic outposts in Libya and Egypt in an attempt to characterize the President as sympathizing with those who would attack Americans, fundamentally accusing the President of treason.
“The Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks,” said the release.
Emailed to reporters just after 10PM EDT, the statement was embargoed until midnight to keep with the recent tradition to refrain from negative campaigning on 9/11.
GOP chairman Reince Priebus tried to keep it classy too, waiting until 12:01 on Sept. 12 to send out his screed against the President.
The trouble is that the statement about “sympathizing with the attackers” refers to a communication from the Cairo Embassy before the attacks had happened. Diplomatic staffers were simply trying to respond to the incendiary film that was believed to be the catalyst for the unrest.
Despite having more information on the attacks Wednesday morning, including the news of the death of US Ambassador Chris Stevens in Libya, Romney doubled down on his false attack in a hastily arranged press availability timed to beat the President’s Rose Garden statement to the air.
Accusing the President of “apologizing for America,” Romney perpetuated his own part of the false mythology of President Obama that he originally injected via his book “No Apology,” in which he accuses the President of beginning his administration by going on a global apology tour. Like most of the other claims by the right, this one has been roundly debunked by researchers.
But it’s a base election, so mobilizing the base is key, and that means doubling down on any false attack from the right that drives the phony mythology of President Obama.
Romney has also tied himself in knots over the Affordable Care Act. Obamacare has long been the most hated piece of legislation pushed by the President. The law will provide insurance to thousands more children, college students and poor people while also eliminating the ability for insurers to deny coverage based on preexisting conditions.
The law also eliminates copays for many preventative procedures like mammograms, blood testing for cholesterol levels and checkups.
The right fears Obamacare because it could be another constituency for Democrats much like civil rights, Social Security and Medicare spawned.
When health care reform was injected into the public debate, it became a rallying cry for the Tea Party, originally a group of tax activists who have morphed into cultural warriors and the most strident believers in the Obama Mythology. They are also a vital grassroots constituency for Republicans.
Cleaving to the notion that President is a closet socialist (another debunked claim), the right has consistently claimed that Obamacare is socialized medicine (it’s not, it simply creates a more equitable market environment for consumers of private insurance).
Last Sunday on Meet the Press with David Gregory, Romney stated that he liked parts of Obamacare and would keep them in place as part of his own healthcare reform. Unfortunately, complete repeal of the law is the rallying cry of the right. By Sunday afternoon, Romney had walked back his statements because of fears it would offend the right.
Of course, it’s useful to point out that all of the pieces of the law he wanted to keep were the parts that had already been phased in and have proven to be popular, despite the claims from Republicans that the law would undo the very fabric of our country.
Twice in the last week, he has been forced to cleave to the image of the President perpetuated by the right.
First, he was forced to walk back his statements that some of Obamacare was a good thing because the right believes that the President’s legislation is socialist (though for the life of me I’ll never know why being able to get a mammogram without a copay is an evil plot).
To many Americans, that makes him look like a flip-flopper going against his own convictions evidenced by his own healthcare legislation in Massachusetts.
Second, he was forced to double down on the accusation that the President is “apologizing” for America because of a statement issued by US foreign service workers half a world away trying to quell anticipated violence.
In this case, he looks like a crass political opportunist trying to capitalize on an incident where Americans were killed abroad.
In both cases, he just looks like a guy who has no belief system other than the one prescribed by the right wing media monster and its distorted view of the President. He seems to be a man who has no rationale for his candidacy other than “I want to be President so you should fire the other guy.”
That’s just in the last eight days.
It’s useful to remember that despite his overwhelming funding advantage in the primary, more Tea Party friendly candidates like Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum gave Romney fits. The Tea Party and the extremists on the right never bought Mitt Romney.
Now he has to sell himself to them all over again.
Inside the right wing echo chamber online, in think tanks, and in pockets around the country and particularly in the south (here’s looking at you South Carolina), there is a sense that the majority of the American people line up with the Obama mythology. People in the Romney campaign think that too evidently.
At each fork in the road, the Romney campaign has chosen to cleave to the views of the right instead of the popular strategy of tacking to the center in the general election.
They seem to think that moving to the right is where to find the voters, but they’re missing the point by driving the Obama internet meme. The people they’re trying to pick up already believe all of it, while the people Romney needs to pick up don’t believe any of it.
Meanwhile, that narrow band of six to eight percent of undecideds don’t believe it. If they believed that President Obama was a secret terrorist sympathizer who had no regard for Americans and was planning to socialize the country, they’d be in the Romney column.
So would a lot of Democrats– they love their country too.
The Republicans and the Romney campaign don’t seem to get that. They’ve decided that the true patriots, believers of the internet myth who hate the President, will propel him to victory. In the right wing echo chamber, if you’re not a Republican you’re un-American. In fact, you’re probably a communist. At least that’s what Rep. Allen West (R-FL) thinks.
Republicans think they’re the last bastion of freedom. That is, unless it’s a woman choosing to do what she wants with her body, allowing each citizen to vote, allowing people of all faiths to worship where they choose or allowing people to marry who they love or any number of places that freedom doesn’t matter.
The only freedoms they seemed to be worried about is the ability to carry an assault rifle to the movies or be unburdened by the taxes to pay for the wars they seem so anxious to begin anew or continue.
If you think that makes the Democrats a bunch of pacifists for bringing up the wisdom of the war in Iraq, it couldn’t be farther from the truth. What is the truth is that the Romney campaign has filled itself with neoconservative foreign policy hands who were the architects of the ill-conceived Iraq War. Google Dan Senor and try to figure that one out.
The new radical right also thinks everyone is free to live in poverty and go hungry and slip through the cracks without healthcare, education or a fair shot to get ahead in life.
They rant about the debt and forget their culpability in it. Two wars, a prescription drug benefit and a tax cut all in the Bush administration placed the economy on the road to ruin that culminated in the financial collapse four years ago this weekend. They promote more tax cuts to fix our woes when there is not much evidence to support tax cuts as a solution.
That’s why Romney is losing and that’s why the GOP-dominated House of Representatives fails. All of us are Americans and less than half of us are Republicans or believers of the Obama internet meme to which Romney clings.
On Saturday, Rick Santorum addressed the Values Voter Summit in Washington.”We will never have the elite, smart people on our side,” he said.
If you believe the polling, you’re right Senator. More than half of Americans don’t buy any of it.
Follow Hank Epton on Twitter @HankEpton
Hank can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.