Like these two commenters on my most recent blog post, I think fervent hope and bitter disappointment are both entirely appropriate ways to feel in the run-up to and in the aftermath of an election:To have so much invested in the world’s greatest contest; I think if it were me and even if Nate Silver had concluded I would lose, I too would be hoping against hope on election night, which would in turn lead to this kind of colossal letdown.Doris Keans Goodwin talked on Colbert Report about how this dissapointment after losing is pretty typical.
But that’s not quite what we’re talking about in this case. In this case, Romney and his team seemed quite certain that they would win.
Here’s a telling little morsel taken from an interview that Robert Gibbs did with Fox News on Tuesday that sheds some light both on the way that the right-wing media portrayed the run-up to the election — namely that Mittmentum would overwhelm Obama — and the way in which the most recent GOP contender went into the final day with a firm grasp of the way the campaign had played out:
Brian Kilmeade said that he had spoken with Sen. John McCain who confided that he knew on election day in 2008 that he was going to lose. Kilmeade asked Gibbs what he thought it meant that today’s election is truly a tossup and few are certain of the outcome. “Is the fact that it’s even this close disappointing to you and others,” Kilmeade asked.
“No,” Gibbs replied. “I think people forget that, four years ago, even though you said John McCain knew he was going to lose, Barack Obama got 53 percent of the vote. That means he didn’t get 47 percent of the vote that day. That’s a pretty closely divided election.”
He concluded saying that he felt good about Obama’s chances tonight and said that every battleground state could be won by the president.
David Freedlander did a piece for the Daily Beast the other day that grabbed some quotes on losing big elections from famous losers. They’re incredibly helpful in sorting out the difference between the hope that one might still win somehow and the certainty that one will win:
Here’s Walter Mondale:
Unlike maybe a lot of people it became pretty apparent pretty early that it was going to be very very hard. Reagan was sort of celestial I would say at that point. We had some momentum where we would hope a little bit. We had a very strong convention. We came out of the convention maybe even, but then it slipped substantially. And then the other point was when the first debate ended, it looked like we were getting a good bounce out of that debate but it disappeared in the second debate. And then the last oh, couple of weeks before the election I was just campaigning hard to do as well as I could. I wasn’t preparing my inaugural address. And I think most of us knew that. I didn’t want a collapse that would hurt Democrats who were running for other offices. So I would say there was a not a lot of dreaming going on there in those days. It wasn’t like now when you are fighting over one-tenth of one percent. We didn’t have any of that.
Here’s Bob Dole:
In our case we knew we were in trouble, but you still hope that lightning might strike, that something happens and you can pull it off. If you don’t keep a stiff upper lip, you will start losing all of your good supporters. If you don’t remain optimistic, what are the odds that people around you will?
We did a 96-hour all nighter—I see Obama did a 48-hour all nighter, well, we did 96 hours in ’96, where we could rev up the troops in places we visited. And also, I had in the back of my mind that I may lose but I didn’t want to take a bunch of senators, House members with me. But I wasn’t worried about keeping up appearances.
Here’s Michael Dukakis:
You never stopped even though I thought I blew the election by not responding to the Bush attack campaign. It turned out to be the biggest mistake I ever made. You knew going in that it was going to be you or the other guy. I knew I wasn’t ahead but thought I had a shot, and in fact we were closing fairly rapidly until the Boston Herald—no friend of mine—ran an edition the Thursday before the election, and the headline was “What a Mess.” By that time the recession was having an impact on the state, and that headline was about me. And Bush held it up at a press conference and the closing of the gap stopped. It didn’t mean we didn’t keep working.
If you go back and look at what Mondale, Dukakis, Dole, and McCain all say, it’s very clear these politicians knew they would lose but continued to hope otherwise. If you go back and look at what happened with Romney, it’s very clear he was convinced he would win. Indeed, the Fox News interview with Gibbs is telling once again because — if you look carefully at the wording — the interviewers are all suggesting that it’s Obama who should feel like John McCain felt on the last day of the 2008 campaign, not Romney.
Is this just a case of excessive optimism, of the mentality that determination and a gut feeling matter more than polling data? Or is this really about the way in which a fairly large segment of the American Right engages in a sort of disbelief whenever confronted by unpleasant truths?
More and more, I’m inclined to think it’s the latter.
by The Political Breakdown
Throughout the election the Republican party baffled me. Their stances seemed anachronistic, and at times offensive and hateful. The conservative rhetoric continued this trend. Small town America and small businesses were lauded. Any concessions for illegal immigration were denounced, marriage would remain as it always had been. There were times when it seemed downright surreal. I convinced myself that I, having lived in liberal New York City and now Los Angeles county, I was simply surrounded by a liberal bubble and that the Republicans knew what they were doing after all. It seems I was proven incorrect.
The Republican Party lost the election last night because they were appealing to a country that no longer existed. At the very least, they were pandering to a country that existed in numbers too small to garner a successful presidential election. It seemed like they thought if you spoke about traditional America, traditional values, and traditional views enough, if you flooded the television and the airwaves with advertisements lauding it, that you could bring that traditional country back into existence. You cannot. The country has changed. Latinos are now the biggest minority in the country. The Asian-American birthrate just exceeded that of the Latinos. Gay rights is going to continue to progress - get over it. And what could possibly make you think we’re going to regress to a point where a woman can be told what to do with her own body?
I am thrilled that President Obama won last night’s election, for reasons far more important than because his stances line up with my personal sociopolitical beliefs more closely than those of his opponent. I am happy because the Republicans will be forced to accept the fact that they lost touch with the keystone of the democratic system: compromise. The founding fathers of the United States specifically, intentionally designed our system of government to force moderation of viewpoints and keep anything too radical away from power. In order to receive power, one had to moderate their views and compromise with opposition to make their base powerful enough to win an election. Somewhere in the din of Karl Rove, Donald Trump, and Bill Maher, the Republicans forgot this. They thought if you shouted loud enough, you can win. Thank God this isn’t how our country works.
A Republican president will be elected again; it is only a matter of time. But when that time comes, I optimistically believe the GOP will have learned their lesson and have changed. They will have moderated their economic stance, and will have both accepted and appealed to new, powerful minorities within our country, whether they be of race or orientation. When that day comes, I probably won’t much mind a Republican president at that point, because even though I probably won’t agree with everything they have to say, they’ll be a tolerable leader of our country.
So Governor Romney lost, because his party and he forgot how a democracy works. In this end, this loss, and the lessons they will hopefully take away from it, might ensure our country’s successful future.
I thought the third and last presidential debate was a clear win for the President. He displayed the authority of the nation’s Commander-in-Chief – calm, dignified, and confident. He was assertive without being shrill, clear without being condescending. He explained to a clueless Mitt Romney the way the world actually works.
Romney seemed out of his depth. His arguments were more a series of bromides than positions – “we have to make sure arms don’t get into the wrong hands,” “we want a peaceful planet,” “we need to stand by our principles,” “we need strong allies,” “we need a comprehensive strategy to move the world away from terrorism.”
This has been Romney’s problem all along, of course, but in the first debate he managed to disguise it with a surprisingly combative, well-rehearsed performance. By the second debate, the disguise was wearing thin.
In tonight’s debate, Romney seemed to wither — and wander. He often had difficulty distinguishing his approach from the President’s, except to say, repeatedly, “America needs strong leadership.”
On the few occasions when Romney managed to criticize the President, he called for a more assertive foreign policy – but he never specified exactly what that assertiveness would entail. He wanted “tougher economic sanctions on Iran,” for example, or “stronger support for Israel” – the details of which were never revealed.
Obama’s most targeted criticism of Romney, on the other hand, went to Romney’s core weakness – that Romney’s positions have been inconsistent, superficial, and often wrong: “Every time you’ve offered an opinion,” said Obama, “you’ve been wrong.”
Nonetheless, I kept wishing Obama would take more credit for one of the most successful foreign policies of any administration in decades: not only finding and killing Osama bin Laden but also ridding the world of Libya’s Gaddafi without getting drawn into a war, imposing extraordinary economic hardship on Iran, isolating Syria, and navigating the treacherous waters of Arab Spring.
Obama pointed to these achievements, but I thought he could have knitted them together into an overall approach to world affairs that has been in sharp contrast to the swaggering, bombastic foreign policies of his predecessor.
Like George W. Bush, Mitt Romney has a pronounced tendency to rush to judgment – to assert America’s military power too quickly, and to assume that we’ll be viewed as weak if we use diplomacy and seek the cooperation of other nations (including Russia and China) before making our moves.
President Obama won tonight’s debate not only because he knows more about foreign policy than does Mitt Romney, but because Obama understands how to wield the soft as well as the hard power of America. He came off as more subtle and convincing than Romney – more authoritative – because, in reality, he is.
Although tonight’s topic was foreign policy, I hope Americans who watched understood it was also about every other major challenge we face. Mitt Romney is not only a cold warrior; he’s also a class warrior. And the two are closely related. Romney tries to disguise both within an amenable demeanor. But in both capacities, he’s a bully.
And foreign policy!
And sweaty upper lips!
And letting Detroit go bankrupt!
And George W. Bush!(via inothernews)