Delegitimization of Obama begins

November 5, 2012


The Republican drive to delegitimize President Barack Obama’s possible second term has started.

As recent polls have allowed for the possibility that Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney could win the popular vote while the president carries the Electoral College, the conservative blogosphere has lit up not only with long-overdue attacks on the Electoral College but also with the specious argument that a popular-vote loss for Obama will undermine his mandate and justify continued obstruction by Republican lawmakers.


Under the Constitution, the Electoral College winner becomes president. Candidates know that when they plan their campaigns, and wise candidates could care less about the popular vote when they plot strategy and deploy resources. The popular vote, therefore, is a misleading measure of a candidate’s success or the strength of a mandate.

Obama came into office in 2009 with a powerful mandate after an overwhelming victory in both the popular vote and the Electoral College. Yet the experience of his first term demonstrates all too painfully that Republicans feel no need for excuses to obstruct every initiative the president supports. Rather, it is enough for them – as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) so boldly stated – to pursue the goal of defeating the president by denying him success.

Their strategy has been to refuse to compromise, or even support, measures they had previously promoted, so they can assert that the president failed to bring people together and could not forge legislative results. They have worked tirelessly to stymie him ‑ and then accused him of being stymied.

The list of thwarted initiatives is long. Republican efforts nearly defeated the president’s stimulus bill, which economists agree created millions of jobs. They fought to prevent passage of universal healthcare ‑ turning on the individual mandate, a Republican creation. They opposed or slowed his Cabinet and agency nominees, preventing him from getting key people in place to staff his administration. They also threatened routinely to filibuster judicial nominees ‑ even when they had no substantive objections.

In the most irresponsible action taken by any political party in memory, Republicans united to bring the country to the brink of fiscal default and refused any deficit-reduction package that contained a dollar of new revenue. The damage to the country was significant ‑ and unnecessary.

In 2000, of course, Al Gore won the popular vote by more than a half-million votes but never contested the notion that the winner of the Electoral College vote should become president. Democrats did not question George W. Bush’s mandate because he had lost the popular vote. Rather, many resented Bush because he had lost the popular vote and had persuaded five justices of the Supreme Court to intervene in the electoral process to award him an undeserved Electoral College victory.

Fortunately, repeating that scenario remains highly unlikely.

Polling shows that Obama leads the popular vote in every region except the South, where, according to Gallup, he trails by 22 percent. While Obama trails among white voters in other regions, nowhere is this discrepancy as great as in the states that fought to preserve slavery. No small part of Obama’s Southern deficit is due to the Republican Party’s embrace of voters fueled by racial resentment, which has brought the party consistent support across the former Confederacy. Since the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act the following year, the South has moved steadily into the GOP column. Beginning with Richard M. Nixon, the Republican Party pursued its “Southern strategy” to encourage white voter backlash against remedies for racial injustice. Without these voters, Romney would not be competitive in the popular vote.

By contrast, Obama enjoys enormous leads in major population centers, including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, and in the states of New York, California and Illinois. He is certain to receive all their electoral votes without spending any real effort campaigning or running a TV ad in any of them.

If the goal were to accrue as many votes as possible nationwide, the Obama campaign could pump resources into getting out the vote in these states, as well as the rest of the Northeast ‑ where the only competitive presidential contest is in tiny New Hampshire. An Obama campaign to win the national popular vote would look far different from his campaign to win a majority in the Electoral College ‑ and would produce a far larger popular vote.

Sadly, the popular vote in this election is likely to be further skewed by Hurricane Sandy, which hit most devastatingly in the Obama strongholds of Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island. In many areas, the infrastructure needed to operate and get people to the polls will not be fully operational on Election Day. Perhaps more significant, people trying to recover from Sandy’s devastation are, quite understandably, less likely to focus on getting to the polls. As fundamental as the right to vote is, in the absence of power, fuel, food and transportation, it is likely to slip as a priority.

In the unlikely event that Obama should be reelected without carrying the popular vote, however, there will surely be members of the opposition irresponsibly hurling that fact around as reason to reject the president’s second-term agenda.

Anyone who believes them should be embarrassed. Rather, we should all turn our energy to rethinking the Electoral College ‑ which has long since become obsolete.

PHOTO: The Supreme Court in Washington.  Molly Riley / REUTERS



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This is an excellent and thoughtful article. Thank you very much, William Yeomans.

Posted by PhilosopherJay | Report as abusive

This obviously liberal biased article does not support it’s title.

Posted by agurusguru | Report as abusive

You talk about the electoral college process and what happened with Gore as if only fringe nutjobs could be bothered by a popular vote win and an electoral loss. I’m sorry but you’ve obviously forgotten the huge amount of uproar that took place after Gore lost (and no he didn’t just smile and nod about it but spent the next few years talking about how he won and then lost).

I voted for Gore during that election and I was -furious- that in a system where we tell our kids that every vote counts that it was not true at all that year.

There is a problem with the electoral college when the majority vote loses. It doesn’t matter if the person that happens to is a democrat or a republican, it shouldn’t happen.

Posted by txnicole | Report as abusive

All points well-made about the Republican Party. Alas, between hapless Democratic “strategists” who have been asleep for 33 years and a press determined to get out from under the “liberal bias” shibboleth, all these points are utterly lost on the American People, who have swallowed the Republican line completely.

Romney will be President as of January 20, 2013. The outcome has never been in doubt. He will steal the election in so many states that the hundreds of stories of voter suppression and outright fraud will never get traction.

The United States of America is absolutely, irretrievably finished.

Posted by JackMack | Report as abusive

JackMack, I desperately hope you are wrong but have a very sick feeling that you may be right. Our democracy will be stolen out from under us again. If Bush/Cheney didn’t kill your support for the GOP, nothing or no one will.

Posted by sylvan | Report as abusive

Don’t worry about a electoral college/popular vote split. That isn’t going to happen. Romney will win both! The CNN poll out Nov. 5 used a +11 Democrat sample to get the results to show them virtually tied, plus Romney is winning independents by 22 pts, in the same poll. Actual 2008 vote only had +7 Dem. There’s NO WAY they are going to get 4 pts more Democrat turn-out than in 2008. They are delusional. I think they know this too. That’s why they buried this information on pg 29 of the poll. They didn’t want people to see it!!

Posted by JC321 | Report as abusive

For a fair and balanced view, one needs to watch the PBS frontline video on – The Choice 2012 choice-2012/

It properly puts both the candidates in perspective –

Obama – as principled and selfless in service of public but gets a rude awakening to the fact (as Mrs.Clinton points out) that his reaching out to the other party gets met with open hatredness and discrimination, that grounds his enthusiam to current-day levels.

Romney – successful in texbook business approach to solving problems but the selfish gains come at the reckless disregard of the local systems.

Bottomline – one tries to reach out to do good for the public at large but gets met with barriers, while the other shamelessly wills, talks and acts to cripple the former, destroy local systems for quick and selfish gain of few alike, all the while strongly believing that he is doing good as well and this in fact is good for the public at large and what’s needed.

Posted by Mott | Report as abusive

The Electoral College is a totally legitimate way to choose a president, as long as everyone plays by the rules and we don’t have any states holding the process to ransom with “pregnant” or “hanging” “chads”, corruptible electronic voting systems, discriminatory voting law/administration, gerrymandering, unreasonably faithless electors etc.

If presidents were chosen by the popular vote, there would be a far greater opportunity for politically-polarized minorities to distort the results. The Electoral College system helps ensure that the winner is a candidate with broad-based support from all sections of American society (whose distribution naturally varies geographically).

American politics is already polarized enough without de-legitimizing this essential part of the US system.

Posted by matthewslyman | Report as abusive

The insidious aspect of all this theorizing about what constitutes legitimacy is that so many people seem to accept the fact that the GOP may get their way through manipulation of the election process. Of course, many Democrats never accepted George W. Bush as a legitimate President, and the fact that he has never once been seen in this campaign lends some credence to this view. My fear is that if Romney were to ‘win’, there really is no reason for anyone on the left to compromise an inch to a leader they do not believe rightfully came to power. Sadly, we’ve seen this the last four years in the operative mindset of the right vis-a-vis Obama. But in Obama’s case no one could truly doubt that he came to power through legal and legitimate means. Still, the right seems to feel he was not a legitimate President for reasons that still elude me. If this sort of delegitimizing process were to become the norm in our nation, then we would be on the precipice of a very dangerous slippery slope indeed. If I were to feel that Romney was elected through fraudulent means I would not accept him as my President and would work tirelessly to see that he was ineffectual and reduced to figurehead status.

Posted by IntoTheTardis | Report as abusive

Anyone who puts the party ahead of our country, is a traitor.
Republicans are traitors.
I wish they would all move to Iran where they would be happy.

Posted by americanguy | Report as abusive

I so admire op-eds that boldly tell the truth, as Mr. Yeomans does here. To say our democracy is being threatened fails to capture just how much we’ve already been sidelined by “our” government. It’s more accurate to say that the last vestiges of our democracy are now being squelched.

As a couple of the comments reflect, I, too, am concerned about the legitimacy of tomorrow’s election outcome(s). There has already been so much effort to skew this election; one has to assume that the most egregious acts will be saved for last. All the Republicans have to do is get Romney declared the winner. Then it’s game over. And it doesn’t matter how they accomplish that. Has anyone seen the pictures or videos of the long voting lines in Ohio for early voting? The average time allotted for early voting has been cut back from 24 hours to 16 hours. Why? Why do you suppose the Republican who’s in charge of overseeing elections in Ohio would do that? And it’s not even uniform across the state. There is less time and fewer voting machines in heavily democratic districts. There should be no argument that voting should be encouraged as much as possible, not restricted. Yet thanks to the Repubicans, the new norm is to get fewer people to participate in our democracy. And they have the means to get a majority to believe in that.

And this doesn’t even touch on what happens, or doesn’t happen, after the election. If Obama wins, what he’ll be able to accomplish will be minimal due to the plutocrats who are really the ones in power. Romney is their choice, their boy. And even though Obama will do little to interrupt their wealthfest, he’s not one of them and might even raise their taxes a few percentage points. Not that any millionaire pays 35% in taxes anyway. One of the most important things Obama’s Presidency accomplishes is that he slows down the plutocratic agenda, which is why they’ve taught so many of the blind followers on the right to despise Obama, why they began their smear campaign against him on day one, why they have the Republican Party oppose everything Obama tries, even in cases where Obama is proposing Republican ideas. Obama may very well be the last President we have who isn’t in lockstep with the plutocrats who own this country. And there’s one other important reason they are so strongly aligned against Obama: He could affect the Supreme Court in ways that deal a serious blow to the plutocratic agenda. That’s extremely important to them, and should be to everyone (just for antipodal reasons.)

So the question is, what do we do about this? It’s as serious as things can possibly get. It’s past the point of being fixed through the democratic process of elections. If George W. Bush can pull off what he did in going to war with Iraq, and then get reelected, then the fix is in, we’ve crossed the Rubicon and now it will take an unprecedented effort to get our country back. Any serious movement to reclaim our country will be met with extremely powerful, sophisticated, and well-funded resistance.

If, for example, we organized and that organization began to grow, it would immediately be branded as unAmerican, socialist, anti-Christian, whatever label studies show to be most effective in influencing people’s thinking in such as way that makes a majority turn against them. And until we find a way to effectively counter that, it will work. Hey, if someone like Romney, who is running on a platform he won’t reveal, who changes positions from week to week, who has no compunction about telling whatever blatant lie he thinks will help him win the election, can be running neck and neck with Obama in the polls, then the propaganda is working. Because there’s nothing appealing about a Romney Presidency. Just imagine for a moment if Obama was a Mormon, advocated sending Americans to fight in Vietnam, and then got deferments to avoid having to serve himself, then refuses to make his tax returns public, drove hundreds of miles with his dog strapped to the roof of his car, is known to have held a boy down and force-cut his hair in prep school, and is known to avoid paying taxes by holding millions of dollars in offshore bank accounts. If that was Obama, does anyone think HE’D be tied with an incumbent President who had done a reasonably good job, is honorable, and squeaky clean?

The first step people can take is to speak out and tell the truth at every opportunity, as William Yeomans has done in this op-ed, and don’t allow yourselves to be persuaded by the propaganda. And understand that you will be a minority and may often experience isolation because you refuse to abandon your country and your principles. Like I said, this is as serious as it gets. We were warned by Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, even Adam Smith in his seminal book The Wealth of Nations. Now is when we get to see who the real patriots are.

Posted by flashrooster | Report as abusive

@flashrooster: Interesting and thoughtful remarks; although you mention a number of things that are “off-topic” for this discussion… I will read your remarks more thoroughly later! I just bought an Amazon Kindle Paperwhite and downloaded Adam Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations” free of charge — I’ll read that soon too.

“Not that any millionaire pays 35% in taxes anyway.” — They might start doing so, if Romney is good to his word in eliminating deductions, and if Americans have the good sense to elect Romney president alongside a Democratic congress.
It’s a shame about Romney’s position on capital gains & inheritance taxes, but Obama just isn’t fixing the fundamental economic problems — he hasn’t even started doing that.

If American voters are smart, they will vote in Romney as president and vote in a DEM Congress; giving Romney an ideal excuse to “work with Democrats” and do what’s best for America while controlling the congressional pork; like Bush I did in his famous pledge-breaking compromise over taxation, which helped set the stage for Bill Clinton’s near phenomenal performance in the management of American economic affairs…
It would take one phenomenal “flip-flop” from Romney over taxation to do this, but I feel this is the only way for the American economy to be fixed.

Posted by matthewslyman | Report as abusive

Excellent article. It seems quite plausible that the Republicans are not acting in the interests of the people who put them in office. Or perhaps the people who put them in office share their stated goal of simply blocking the President and his party at every turn. The Republican party should be renamed to the Obstructionist party. Their goal seems to be bankrupting America by continuing to allow wealthy individuals and corporations to avoid taxation, looting the very system that enabled them to build their wealth. In this, they have common ground with al Qaeda, whose interest in bombing and killing is just part of a larger stated agenda of ruining the US economy and diminishing America’s reputation and international power.

Posted by Nullcorp | Report as abusive

From my earlier comment:
> “…corruptible electronic voting systems…”
— It seems like someone heard me because: 11/e-voting-chaos-nj-voters-sent-to-offi cials-personal-hotmail-address/

Posted by matthewslyman | Report as abusive

There are fixes for the Electoral College, one would require a constitutional amendment, one would not. A popular vote would be disastrous in a close election – every precinct would become Florida 2000. We should keep the electoral votes but delete the electors (the problem of the unfaithful elector is real and carries the potential to truly produce an illegitimate President – an elector could be bribed or go crazy and there is nothing which could be done about it. The electoral votes should be kept and be awarded automatically – and it should be done by congressional district, the way Nebraska and Maine do it – with the extra 2 votes going to the statewide winner. On this year, while not illegitimate, Obama may accomplish an historical first – being re-elected to a 2d term with less support than the first time – something which has never happened. Every re-elected to a 2d term President does better the 2d time around. That will not happen here – while not illegitimate, it is a weakened position politically – the unprecedented loss of support after the first term.

Posted by SayHey | Report as abusive

So one thought keeps coming to mind after reading all of this and other pieces. Can we all agree to start loudly ridiculing anyone who reads an opinion piece and then posts a comment calling it biased?

Posted by notnews | Report as abusive

notthenews, I agree. Good point.

Posted by PCScipio | Report as abusive

No need to de-legitimize Obama, he did that to himself. His answer to failed policies (shoveling debt-financed money at unions and cronies for ‘job creation’) is to do more of what already failed. His obsession over dubious environmental ideas is driving up prices for electricity and gasoline (he as much as said he would put coal companies out of business). He doesn’t really care about the environment, witness his lack of response to Fukushima – he could have been a hero by forcing Japan to accept an emergency international solution, but he did nothing. He’s the most anti-rights/anti-liberty president in history, with his own assassination list and the power to seize and incarcerate Americans with no recourse to due process. He and his sick DHS have brought in a nascent police state, with pronouncements and policies that Bush would have been skewered over. His health care plan is now estimated to cost 2-3X as much as promised, and every aspect of it is behind schedule.
He’s failed utterly, in spite of every advantage – a veto proof majority in congress, and a sickeningly sycophantic press. But of course every one of his manifest failures is someone else’s fault, in the eyes of the left. Like little children, they are never to blame for their misdeeds. Everything bad that ever happens or has ever happened is someone else’s fault. Most Americans would gladly break the country in two, one part for the left, one for the right. But in a few years the leftists would be scurrying away from their own like rats. And of course the left would never accept such a break – their leaders know that their ideas must be total: everyone must be forced to bend, or people will flee to freer lands. That’s why history calls them totalitarians. Even those totalitarians with a ‘rightist’ bend share the critical element with the left: worship of the state as the fulcrum of human life.

Posted by GMBuls | Report as abusive

This article spews Democratic socialism, irreverently attacks the Electoral College, Constitutionally mandated to prevent a few populous States from domination the election, and proposes the most ludicrous liberal views, which have perpetrated Big Government, Big National Debt which increased by 50% in Obama’s first term, an enormously Big Deficit enhanced by illegal use of taxpayer’s money for “green projects” like the half a billion loss of Solandra, and makes us conservative Americans wonder why this man chooses to attack us as “Southern strategists,” racists, ideologues who will not compromise, and all the other liberal epithets he uses, rather than address the real painful fiscal mess that Obama and Obamacare has forced upon all of us.

Posted by N5YS | Report as abusive

“…..Delegitimization of Obama begins..”

I find articles like this interesting, why weren’t any like this written when the Democrats refused to work with Bush?

I have read how Republicans saying they would work to make Obama a “one term president” meant they were all “haters. Are people suggesting the Democrats did not work to try their best to make Bush a one term president also?

Democrats constantly complain that Republicans hate Obama and that they do not “support the president”. Odd, I do not recall seeing a lot of Democrat love for Bush or them doing anything to support Bush policy.

I am baffled how each party can do the same identical thing, but somehow its OK when one party does it, but some form of crime when the other does it!

Posted by HeatherGirl | Report as abusive

“The popular vote, therefore, is a misleading measure of a candidate’s success or the strength of a mandate.” Supporting the Electoral College is the ONLY part of this article you got right – and you only blindly stumbled into THAT.

Posted by beezdotcom | Report as abusive

The Republicans “Plan B” was to win the popular vote by disenfranchising as many legitimate voters as possible by voter suppression laws. One virtue of the electoral college system is that it limits the amount of damage that such tactics can do. Had the courts not pushed back, the Republicans could have won the popular vote by racking up absurd advantages in states like Texas, where their electoral college win was never in doubt. As it was, the confusion from their voter suppression attempts may have cost Obama hundreds of thousands of popular votes.

The election is over and Obama won both the electoral college and the popular vote. Democrats won an advantage in the Senate. However, the House remains in Republican hands. Why? Did you really get to vote for your choice of Representative? Most of us had no real effective vote due to gerrymandering. Most Representatives chose their voters through gerrymandering rather than having voters in reasonably drawn districts make a legitimate choice. That is the systematic problem in American politics that needs to be addressed, not the electoral college system.

Posted by QuietThinker | Report as abusive

Begins? That is all that has gone on since the day he was elected to his first term. All the Birther BS, and demands for birth certificate, school records, etc. I haven’t seen this kind of behavior in 60 plus years.

It is time the Republicans get used to the idea that we have a mixed race President, who so far is doing a better job than the last President inspite of Republican opposition.

Posted by Robert76 | Report as abusive

I believe if you would care to do a little research yourselves and not rely on such heavily biased outlets you might have a little more concerned about the state of this country. The Congress has done their job, it has been the Senate, with Reid at the forefront leading the charge to do nothing.
Play a blame game and look for more ways to take your freedom is the status quo. we are a divided nation because of race driven propaganda that the liberal media has stirred the pot with.

Posted by bluigrl52 | Report as abusive

This article spews Democratic socialism, irreverently attacks the Electoral College, Constitutionally mandated to prevent a few populous States from domination the election, and proposes the most ludicrous liberal views, which have perpetrated Big Government, Big National Debt which increased by 50% in Obama’s first term, an enormously Big Deficit enhanced by illegal use of taxpayer’s money for “green projects” like the half a billion loss of Solandra, and makes us conservative Americans wonder why this man chooses to attack us as “Southern strategists,” racists, ideologues who will not compromise, and all the other liberal epithets he uses, rather than address the real painful fiscal mess that Obama and Obamacare has forced upon all of us.
Posted by N5YS

Posted by user83 | Report as abusive