I read today in the Sunday Telegraph that until recently Barack Obama’s re-election was regarded as inevitable. Really; after what must count as four disastrous years and conceivably one of the worst presidencies in American history? Surely there was only one explanation for this: the focus was not on Obama at all but on his potential Republican opponents, none of whom looked particularly good in the primaries.
More than that, they were representatives of a party that seemed to be more at war with itself than focused on the legacy of Obama; a party many of whose members were determined to push a social and religious agenda that took them far from the American mainstream.
Things change. Mitt Romney, after a hesitant start, is emerging as a credible challenger; the gap narrows; the margin of difference gets closer and closer. There is desperation in the Obama camp. They are trying so hard to turn attention away from the dire condition of the American economy. Here the mantra has to be ‘it’s anything but the economy, stupid’. What’s it about, then? Why, it’s about gay marriage and such, the sort of fashionable causes that means so much to ordinary American voters. The heck it does!
As far as the economy is concerned the outlook really is bad and getting worse. The jobless total is stubbornly high while Obama has added to a mountain of debt that will take generations of Americans to climb, assuming they ever see the top. I have no figures to hand but my hunch is that interest payments alone dwarf most other areas of public expenditure.
To take the public eye off this particular ball Chairman Obama has launched his own version of the Cultural Revolution. This has involved an attempt to force Catholic employers to provide contraceptive advice to employees as part of the state-sanctioned insurance plans. Then there is the biggie; there is gay marriage.
This is an issue, for want of anything better, that is being pushed by the present coalition government in England, which took comfort from the fact Obama also embraced it as a jolly good thing. The fact is, beyond a vociferous minority, few people here have any interest at all in the measure. In the States attitudes seem to be even clearer. So far thirty-two states have voted on gay marriage; so far thirty-two states have rejected it, including hyper-liberal California.
One can hardly expect Republicans to be enthused by Obama’s cultural wars, but what about Democrats? Well, I see that in presidential primaries held last Tuesday Obama was rejected by 39% of Democrats in Arkansas and 42% in Kentucky. That’s nothing: in West Virginia 41% of the state’s Democrats put an imprisoned criminal before Obama!
Then there is the Mitt factor, uncharismatic, undemonstrative…and reassuring. He is the one thing that the Democrats fear most – a caring conservative who does not really appear as a conservative at all. He was never going to set the earth on fire; he is not the harbinger of a new American Revolution. Rather it is his no nonsense ordinariness that seems to be appealing to more and more Americans, people who have had enough of the Great Helmsman; they just want a helmsman, a sure hand on the tiller. After all, this is the man who won over Massachusetts, the state I associate most of all with hyper-liberal mannequins of The West Wing!
In 2008 Americans were sold charisma and little besides. The same package is being offered in 2012, now tired, unconvincing and tawdry. There is a real alternative; there is “a focus-group tested model president from 1965”, at least that’s how the pro-Obama journalist Andrew Sullivan described Romney recently.
And so he is: solid, good-looking, successful and dependable; an apple pie conservative, as Tim Stanley noted in the Telegraph, who recalls an age marked by low unemployment and stable families, something obviously beyond the comprehension of the likes of Sullivan. It’s an American dream. At last there would seem to be a way clear of the Obama nightmare.