The reasons why Romney can beat Obama

“Incredible!” American liberals are crying. “Incredible! Romney has changed positions countless times over the past few years, doesn’t seem to have any kind of moral center, wants only to re-establish the failed policies that Obama revoked just in the nick of time. And with all that, Romney and Obama are in a dead heat in the polls! What is wrong with America?!”

Lee Siegel, O Estado de S.Paulo

03 de junho de 2012 | 01h00

A few months ago I wrote that if voters come to accept Romney’s Mormonism, Romney will be elected president this November. Well, there has been barely a peep of protest about his religion. For all the confident liberal talk about evangelical Christians never being able to bring themselves to vote for a Mormon, evangelical Christians are embracing Romney wholeheartedly. It turns out that when evangelicals called Mormonism a pagan cult, they were paying it homage. America’s conservatives are becoming more pagan and less Christian every day, as they call for a frenzied evisceration of Obama’s policies and a reconstitution of civic harmony that is straight out of Euripides “The Bacchae.” The spirit of Dionysus animates Christian conservatives now, not the spirit of Christ.

Romney will win, primarily, because the country was never ready for a black president. Obama was elected when the country was on its knees, begging for a redemptive savior, the more of an ousider the better. Yet the election of a black man put economically dislocated whites on the margins where, in their minds, blacks had once been. Now these white people, sliding downward out of the middle class, were the outsiders. And a black man in the White House, elected on the Democratic ticket, merely confirmed the conservative belief that liberals care only about certain protected groups-blacks, gays, women-and not about the working poor and the middle class.

But beyond race, there are other powerful reasons why Obama is about to become a one-term president. One is that Romney is riding high on an utter collapse of respect for authority. Since the Vietnam War and Watergate discredited the deceptive politicians, and the Iraq war discredited the gullible media, respect for authority has been worn away in just about every realm throughout American life. Obama himself was elected partly because he seemed the very antidote to the standard (white) image of American authority.

Romney flourishes on account of this erosion of authority for two reasons. First, he claims to adhere to the right-wing program of shrinking government to the size of a fire hydrant. If the Republicans had their way, people would be arresting each other on the street and delivering their own mail.Second, Romney’s seeming lack of spine and moral center give the lie to any authority he might represent. He is all at once authority itself and the very spirit of anti-authority. The fact that he appearst to be so flawed, so reduced, so absurd in his cynical expedience means that voters can look down on him, even as they pull the lever in the voting booth that will elevate him to the presidency. Americans like to be inspired by leaders they can also look down on.

Romney has something else going for him. Americans are now perhaps the most restless people in the world. Constant change is the only thing that stabilizes them. The impossibly accelerating waves of technology-from Ipod I to Ipod 5 in what seems like minutes-have shaped the rhythms of life in general. It is a rare child who has not had several different nannies, pediatricians, nursery and elementary schools, possibly even parents by the time he or she is 8. Fewer people are married in American now that at any time in American history, preferring instead to swing from relationship to relationship. Employees are no longer any more loyal to their employers than the latter are to them. Why, in the midst of all this whirl, settle for the same president for four years? In four years, you will have had 16 different cellphones, 10 Ipads and 8 computers, and a dozen lovers.

If Romney does win-and nothing, despite my air of certainty, is certain-the liberals have themselves partly to blame. All through the Republican primaries, the liberals laughed at Romney’s gaffes, deluded themselves into thinking that the bruising Republican contest would actually harm him in the polls, repeatedly derided him over his treatment of his dog (he once put the animal in a cage and tied the cage to the roof of the car on a family trip). Yet the gaffes made him human, no one remembers what happened five minutes ago, and the most anti-Romney conservatives would never withhold their vote and risk giving Obama another four years. And people who have lost their houses and their jobs don’t care about a dog safely tied to the roof of a car, protected in a cage, enjoying the wind blow through its fur.

I left out one other reason why I believe Romney will win in November. He is an intelligent man guided by substantial principles, who as governor of Massachusetts, adapted himself to the needs of his constituents. I don’t like him. I don’t like him one bit. But I cannot deny him his humanity.

So many liberals, on the other hand, are incapable of taking seriously anyone who sees the world differently from them. Rather than being an opportunistic cipher, Romney strikes me as a serious man, a pragmatic technocrat who, as president, would consult with dozens of advisers, from various walks of life, before setting policy. He has no love, either, for the extreme right wing of his party, which tried to derail his candidacy, and whose ancestors destroyed his father’s presidential chances. I don’t want Romney to be president, but he could well be an effective president. He made healthcare universally affordable in Massachusetts, after all. For liberals, however, the simple fact that they don’t like him means that he must be a depraved fool. Their contempt breeds apathy, and apathy will allow him to win.


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