Delegitimization of Obama begins

By William Yeomans
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.

Nonsense.

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

 

25 comments

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“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