Sun Journal, Lewiston (Nov. 9)
People in the media fancy themselves as independent thinkers, but there is way more herd mentality than original thought in the nation’s commentary business.
Within three days of the election, national pundits — known in some circles as the chattering class — had seized upon two words and run them into the ground: “soul searching.”
They argue that humiliated Republicans should be off licking their war wounds and examining their inner elephant hearts.
Elaborate demographic scenarios are being constructed showing that the Republicans’ philosophy is unsustainable, that the party is becoming older and whiter while the country is becoming younger and more multi-racial.
This is the customary reaction after election defeats, but both Democrats and Republicans would be wise to remember a few things.
First, let’s put this defeat in perspective. At this time two years ago, Democrats were headed into soul-searching psychoanalysis after being “shellacked” in the mid-term elections.
Let’s recall the dimensions of that Democratic rout.
The GOP gained 63 seats in the U.S. House and recaptured the majority. It was the biggest midterm loss for a party since 1938.
Republicans also gained six seats in the U.S. Senate and would have gained more had not their primary election process produced some seriously strange candidates.
Just as importantly, Republicans picked up 680 seats in legislative races, leaving them controlling 10 more state legislatures (including Maine) than before the election. Republicans also took control of a majority of the nation’s governorships (again, including Maine).
It was a stunning reversal of the 2008 election that swept Barack Obama and Democratic majorities into the U.S. House and Senate.
Predictably, the nation’s pundits said for a week after the 2010 thrashing that the Democratic Party had a lot of “soul searching” to do.
Hmm. Can anyone think of a way Democrats changed their core philosophy between 2008 and 2010? If so, please send us a telegram.
Second, these wild gyrations between parties simply reflect voter fear and uncertainty in this long, painful recession.
If one party doesn’t produce quick results, that party is unceremoniously booted out the back door.
Two years ago, Republican strategists looked like savants; today they look like dunces.
Third, we should always remember how hard it is to beat a presidential incumbent.
Only three of them have been defeated in nearly 40 years, and those three faced either third-party competition or survived bitter primary election challenges.
The president gets to look presidential, fly around in the most impressive jet on the planet and handle the occasional crisis, like a hurricane.
Finally, despite being plagued by a political career of major flip-flops and gaffes, Romney nearly won the most votes.
His defeat was magnified by the idiotic vagaries of the Electoral College which places unfair and out-sized importance on just a handful of states.
Now, in recent memory, we have had a Democrat (Gore) win the popular vote and lose in the Electoral College and a Republican (Romney) nearly win the popular vote and get slaughtered in the Electoral College.
Why should Ohio and Florida be so all-important to selecting presidents? The Constitution is a great document, but the Electoral College is undemocratic anachronism.
This is a closely divided country, and this was a darned close election, 50 percent for Obama and 48 for Romney.
Major political parties are like adaptable organisms. Republicans will quickly make the necessary changes to be competitive again, and without selling their souls.