Let it be stated clearly, I am no fan of Barack Obama.  That said, he should be doing far better with the voting public than he is.  The fact that this presidential contest is as close as it is, absolutely sends my mind reeling.  Given the lack of substance, decency and authenticity of Romney – Obama should be ahead by a veritable landslide.  Sure, the argument can be made that there are millions of people out there that simply do not have a clue – and it’s true.  My personal understanding of those who vote Republican for any reason – and in any season, is threefold:


  1. They are very wealthy, greedy and selfish.
  2. They are filled with hate of one kind or another.
  3. They are dumber than a sack of nuts.


Still, the fact that they are apparently neck-in-neck still seems impossible to me.  The general consensus out there in political dreamland, is that Obma needs to appeal to the undecided, the independents, the swing voters – that odd and morally malleable group of fantasy individuals.  Therefore, all he has to do is persuade them that he is reasonable and remind them of all the good he’s done for them and the country over the past three and a half years.  So, whether in the debates, or in interviews, he keeps repeating his talking points – healthcare reform, Wall Street reform, more oil drilling and gas production to decrease our dependency on foreign oil, ending the war in Iraq and killing Osama bin Laden, saving GM and Chrysler, tweaking student loan debt, keeping more folks out of foreclosure through his HAMP program – ya know, stuff like that.  So, if he just keeps reminding all those forgetful citizens of how good he’s been for them under trying circumstances with a monstrous Congress, they will think good thoughts and vote for him in November.


My take on this is completely opposite from the conventional wisdom.  Forget the undecided voters, or the swing voters (I picture that rare breed swinging from trees like monkeys, by the way).  His problem – why he is not leaving Romney in his wake in a cloud of dust and sand – is because he is not addressing the many millions of people who are disillusioned and disgusted – not only with him, but with politics.  They had some hope and belief in 2006 during the Democratic midterm landslide, and again in 2008 – and they are either not voting at all – or they’re voting for a third party.  When they hear him spout his carefully rehearsed list of greatest hits – they know a little bit better what the reality is.


For students (and parents) stuck under crushing and permanent loan debt that they may never dig out from under – they understand that the interest rates are still high.  If you think 6% interest (and in many cases higher) is such a blessing – you try paying that off without a great job at your disposal.  They understand that even if they had to take the unwanted step of bankruptcy, they still can’t get rid of it.  They know that even the income based repayment that is available for some loans, is a confusing endeavor and that they have to deal with the lovely loan servicers – like the always horrible Sallie Mae.


For those underwater on their mortgages or facing foreclosure – millions of people – that have been through the process of HAMP and found it to be not only unhelpful but costly and emotionally debilitating, they are not fooled by his happy words.  They might also know that the policy wasn’t instituted to really help them, but to help the banks keep too many foreclosures off their books at one time.


For environmentalists, they are well-aware that Obama only gives lip service to climate change – and the debacle of the BP oil spill is still fresh in their minds.  For every time Obama utters the phrase, “clean coal” – he probably loses another ten thousand voters. 


For those who opposeAmerica’s imperial aggression around the world – they hear only talk of more war and the sickening mindset of “inAmerica’s interests” – knowing that means against someone else’s.  They hear him lament the death of four Americans inLibya, but not a word about the innocent lives taken through his drone attacks.


For those who care about civil liberties – they are well aware of Obama’s ramping up Bush’s warrantless surveillance, indefinite detention and other crimes.


For the health care bill – although it does some good, to be sure – they know it was a big French kiss to the insurance companies. 


For illegal immigrants, this is the president who deported and arrested more people than Bush.  Those kinds of memories are not easily forgotten, especially if the one deported is someone you know.


His Dodd-Frank reform bill – that has more holes in it than the sieve I drain pasta in, and a lot of people know it.


I could go on and on, but that would take forever – and I’ve got other things to do today, like finish reading the latest issue of Rolling Stone and watching The Maltese Falcon.


Obama continues to state that he has more to accomplish in his next term, although what those things are exactly, he’s not entirely clear on.  And what little he does offer, gives the more politically and socially engaged little to hang their hat on.  But, lesser of two evils?  Sure, why not.  I suppose that’s a good enough argument for some.  But that still doesn’t help his position overall.  And I think that’s because he has let those who were fired up in 2008, just flap in the breeze of neglect while he tries to win over some magical Walmart Mom inAkron,Ohio. 


If he wanted to win back his old constituency, or motivate them enough to give him another chance to do some more good work on their behalf, then he should have lied.  Give them the illusion that he hears their complaints and disengagement.  He already had the devoted Democratic voters in his pocket.  They would vote for a baboon if it had a “D” next to its name.  What he’s missing this time around though, are people who refuse to identify with a political party, but who would never vote for a Republican.  People that often vote for a third party, and might have done so in the 2008 election as well, if they hadn’t voted for him.  All those young people who were engaged and idealistic and truly hopeful for some meaningful change – only to be left staggering in the face of his corporate friendly White House.  Forget the so-called undecided’s or swingers or whatever.  It’s all the millions of others who know the truth of his policies and his bromides and do not buy his simplistic assessments for a minute that he should have been courting like a lovesick puppy.


Does that mean I’m advocating lying?  Of course not.  I hate lying.  Hate it more than just about anything.  But, let’s be real.  It’s not like lying is morally repugnant to him or most every other politician.  They don’t have any true, living, breathing moral compass to protect or guide them.  They can lie away with nary a second thought or uncomfortable feeling. 


I don’t think the closeness of this race-to-the-bottom is because Mitzy got independent voters over to his side and away from Obama.  I think he would’ve had the same amount of voters overall in any event.  Apparently there are tens of millions of people who really don’t know anything worth knowing about anything.  But I think Obama’s numbers would’ve been higher had he sought to attract back those he has lost – likely voters turned unlikely or toward a third party.  And his middle-of-the-road, carefully parsed, moderate, bipartisan approach is not going to cut it with them – not this time.

Kate Flannery

Kate Flannery