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The 2012 election produced more than its share of ironic results, but there is one that will stand above all others: Mitt Romney is the candidate of 47 percent of the American electorate.
As the long count of ballots cast in last Tuesday’s presidential election nears completion, Barack Obama’s popular-vote margin over Romney continues to expand. The Democratic president’s percentage of the vote has been steadily rising. As this has happened, his Republican challenger’s percentage has fallen.
Whereas on election night conservative commentators could speak of the finish to the long and bitter campaign as “almost a tie,” Obama now has a 3.4 million popular-vote, and 50.57 percent of the total.
Romney has drifted down to… 47.84 percent.
Some websites are still rounding Romney to 48 percent, just as they’re rounding Obama to 51 percent. But those that are interested in precision have Romney in the 47 percent range. And his percentage is likely to keep dropping as the counting of ballots in Democratic-leaning states on the west coast is completed.
What that means is that the country is headed toward a final tally of the 2012 election that formally identifies Mitt Romney as the candidate of 47 percent of the American electorate.
Romney inserted the phrase “47 percent” into American politics as a term of derision, suggesting to wealthy campaign donors in Florida that “there are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing, to you name it.”
Romney told his backers that his responsibility as a candidate—and, presumably, as a president—was “not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
The comments created a firestorm, especially as it was recognized that the 47 percent Romney referred to included the elderly, veterans, Americans with disabilities and the working poor. Indeed, the controversy grew so great that, even now, there are commentators who suggest that it cost the candidate the presidency.
Romney tried to correct himself as the campaign progressed. “Well, clearly in a campaign, with hundreds if not thousands of speeches and question-and-answer sessions, now and then you’re going to say something that doesn’t come out right,” he told Fox News. “In this case, I said something that’s just completely wrong.”’
Maybe not completely wrong.
There was a candidate in the 2012 presidential race who had 47 percent of the electorate who would vote for him “no matter what.”
But it wasn’t the 47 percent Romney was trying to divide out of the American mosaic and conquer.
Mitt Romney is not the candidate of “the 47 percent.”
“He is, however, the candidate of the 47 percent that stuck with the candidate who chose—with his comments and his campaign—indicated a disregard for the principle that this is one nation and candidates for its presidency should reach out to the whole of the American electorate.
Conservatives have a different explanation for Romney’s loss—like blaming the media, or even Hurricane Sandy. Check out Ben Adler’s coverage here.
Ron Johnson is not a familiar name to most Americans who are pondering the politics of the “fiscal cliff.” But Johnson’s reaction to the 2012 election results will tell folks everything they need to know about the challenge rational Democrats will face when it comes to negotiations with not-so-rational Republicans.
A senator from Wisconsin who announced his candidacy at a Tea Party rally and was elected—with help from a family fortune, Karl Rove and the US Chamber of Commerce’s political operations—Johnson has been a congressional absolutist when it comes to budget issues. He embraces House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan’s austerity agenda, perhaps even more than Ryan does himself. And he swears, against all economic evidence to the contrary, and against all political evidence of opposition on the part of the American people, that there is only one way to address the challenges facing America: tax cuts for rich people like him and benefit cuts for everyone else.
Johnson would be a laughable figure—he’s the subject of a Wisconsin website titled “Our Dumb Senator”—were it not for the fact that he takes himself so seriously. And he is part of a Republican caucus in the Senate that, like the parallel Republican caucus in the House, must deal with its Ron Johnsons before it can function legislatively.
Where Johnson and other absolutists like him take themselves most seriously is it comes to fiscal concerns.
So seriously, in fact, that Johnson greeted the news of Barack Obama’s re-election by suggesting that the president—whose ideas were backed by Nobel Prize–winning economists such as Michael Spence—won by securing the votes of “people who don’t fully understand the very ugly math we are facing in this country.”
That sparked a flurry of national commentary on Johnson in particular and the over-the-cliff wing of the GOP in general.
But the even more telling comment from Johnson was his response to the election of Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, to the US Senate by telling the Associated Press: “Hopefully I can sit down and lay out for her my best understanding of the federal budget because they’re simply the facts. Hopefully she’ll agree with what the facts are and work toward common sense solutions.”
In other words, Johnson wants Baldwin to agree with him.
Unfortunately for Johnson—if not America—what he refers to as “facts” are actually his “opinions”—that the United States cannot afford to maintain Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid because it needs to maintain tax breaks for rich guys like, um, Ron Johnson.
Baldwin is too smart and too experienced to believe what Johnson does.
Yet, she was gracious in her response to his “mansplaining” of how to do math.
“I was a double major in college in mathematics and political science, and I served for six years on the House Budget Committee in my first six years in the House,” Baldwin explained, when asked by the Huffington Post about her colleague’s greeting. “And I am very confident that when proposals come before the US Senate, I will be able to evaluate them as to how they benefit or harm middle-class Wisconsinites. A yardstick of ‘does it create jobs,’ ‘does it lower the deficit’ and ‘does it help grow the middle class’ is an important one. I’m quite confident that I have those abilities.”
Baldwin is dramatically better prepared to be a useful contributor to budget debates than Johnson. She knows her way around Washington, and she has been a thoughtful critic of wasteful spending for years. The difference is that she is far more willing than Johnson to hold wealthy and powerful interests to account. Indeed, as a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, she and her colleagues have over the years proposed plans that balance the budget more quickly and responsibly than the proposals made by Ryan.
If Ron Johnson really was interested in facts, he would seek a briefing from Tammy Baldwin.
Johnson isn’t the only legislator that could learn a thing or two about the so-called “fiscal cliff.” Check out the latest from TomDispatch, “CliffsNotes for Washington.”
The vote count in national elections is never finished on election night. It takes days, sometimes weeks, to count all the ballots in fifty states, 3,077 counties and tens of thousands of local jurisdictions. So if Americans want to know the real results, they must wait a few days and add up all the numbers in order to get a clear picture.
That clarity is based on something we call “math.”
Former Republican National Committee chairman Haley Barbour said on the morning after the election that it was “pretty close to a tie.” Barbour was echoing conventional wisdom going into the election: that it would be very close, that President Obama might win an Electoral College majority but lose the popular vote, that the United States was a closely divided nation that would send no clear signal.
Now we know that Barbour was wrong.
It was not “pretty close to a tie.”
By Friday morning, Barack Obama had a vote total well in excess of 62 million, as compared with Mitt Romney’s 58.8 million. The president’s popular-vote margin is now in excess of 3 million.
Obama has now won Florida with a margin of 75,000 votes. That’s more than 100 times the alleged margin of victory for George Bush in 2000 in that state. And, with Florida, Obama has 332 electoral votes, as compared with 206 for Romney.
When all is said and done:
1. Barack Obama has won an overwhelming majority in the Electoral College, a daunting majority of the popular vote and a majority of the nation’s states—including most of the country’s largest states and states in every major region of the republic: New England, the mid-Atlantic, the Great Lakes, the South, the Southwest, the Mountain West and the West.
2. Barack Obama has won more popular votes than any Democratic candidate for president in history—except Barack Obama in 2008.
3. Barack Obama is the first Democratic president to win more than 50 percent of the popular vote in a re-election run since Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1944.
4. Barack Obama is the only Democratic candidate for president since FDR to twice win more than 50 percent of the national vote.
5. Barack Obama has, in both of his presidential runs, won a higher percentage of the national vote than any Democratic nominee since Lyndon Johnson in his 1964 landslide victory.
Add it all up and Obama has a mandate from this year’s presidential election that is significantly greater than those afforded John Kennedy in 1960, Richard Nixon in 1968, Jimmy Carter in 1976 or George W. Bush in 2000 or 2004.
But wait, there’s more: It appears that Obama had coattails or, at the very least, led a ticket that ran remarkably well in congressional, state and local races. To wit:
1. In a year when Democrats were in the worst position in decades to make gains in their Senate majority. They came into the 2012 race with the seats of twenty-one Democrats, plus two independents who caucus with the Democrats, up for election, while the Republicans had only ten seats up for election. Every early calculation had the Democrats losing seats, but they gained two Republican seats (Massachusetts and Indiana), held the seats of targeted incumbents (Florida, Montana and Ohio), picked up open seats that were once presumed to be unwinnable (North Dakota, Wisconsin) and came close in states such as Arizona and Nevada. Of thirty-three Senate seats up nationally, Democrats (and independents likely to caucus with Democrats) won twenty-five. Republicans won just eight.
2. Democrats won the most votes cast in contested House races. It can well be argued that only redistricting abuses and Karl Rove’s money prevented Democrats from retaking the US House. An analysis compiled the day after the election found that 53,952,240 votes were cast for Democrats seeking House seats, while just 53,402,643 votes were cast for Republicans. That 500,000-plus advantage for the Democrats has been steadily increasing as votes from Democratic states such as Washington and Oregon continue to be counted, along with provisional ballots. FairVote’s Rob Richie explains that because of the structural advantages created by Republicans through their control of state-based redistricting processes, the Democrats did not just need to win a majority of the votes—as they did. “Democrats would have needed to win 55% of the national vote to earn a House majority.”
The point here is not to suggest that Barack Obama, congressional Democrats or their gubernatorial compatriots should be celebrated as perfect political players. In fact, quite the opposite: they ran imperfect campaigns in a tough year. But the choice that was presented to American voters was stark: Did they prefer the austerity agenda of Paul Ryan and Republican governors who have attacked unions, public education and public services? Or did they want a more humane and equitable governance.
“After the most expensive election in our history, voters defeated the relentless efforts of billionaire bullies, voter-suppressing politicians, and political strategists who broke new ground with campaigns built on blatant falsehoods,” explained People for the American Way president Michael Keegan. “Americans re-elected a president who has offered a vision of an American community in which equality and opportunity are for everybody, a vision of government that is willing and able to advance the common good while protecting the rights of individuals, and a vision of society in which we embrace our growing diversity as a unique strength of the American Way, not a threat to it.”
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was just a little bit more blunt.
“My sincere hope is that the Republican Party now understands that the American people do not want a government pushing right-wing extremist policies. They want a government that addresses the needs of working families, the elderly, the children and the sick, and not just the wealthiest people in this country,” says Sanders.
If the Republicans do not get it, Sanders suggests that, instead of compromising away his mandate, President Obama should keep campaigning on it.
“My strong hope is that, on behalf of the American people, President Obama forcefully challenges the right-wing extremist agenda,” says Sanders. “My hope is that he visits states around the country where House and Senate members are defending the interests of billionaires at the expense of working families, and asks those Americans to demand that their members of Congress represent them—and not powerful special interests.”
That’s the right calculus. After all, while Obama got a mandate, Bernie Sanders secured a landslide—winning more than 71 percent of the vote and every county in Vermont.
For more on progressive hopes for Obama's second term, check out Robert Scheer's latest.
Congressman Paul Ryan had a lousy November 6.
The famously health-conscious Republican nominee, who admitted that he was “running on empty,” was forced to fly to Cleveland, Ohio, with running mate Mitt Romney for Election Day campaigning that seemed to be focused on lunching at a Wendy’s fast-food restaurant. Ryan pounded a quarter-pounder combo meal but passed on the Frosty dessert that Romney enjoyed.
Then they were off to lose the 2012 election. Decisively.
Romney said some nice things about his running mate in a brief concession speech early Wednesday morning. But Ryan was not invited to make remarks. And it was clear enough by then that Ryan’s contribution to the ticket was, indeed, viewed as a discreet one.
Ryan, whose selection as Romney’s running mate was once considered key to carrying the wring state of Wisconsin for the Republicans, turned out to be a miserable addition to the ticket. Not only didn’t he help win the state, he couldn’t even win his hometown of Janesville, which went overwhelmingly for the Democratic ticket of Barack Obama and Joe Biden, and surrounding Rock County, which gave the Romney-Ryan ticket just 39 percent of the vote.
It was even worse in Ryan's “safety” race for his seat in the US House of Representatives. The seven-term congressman kept his seat, thanks to partisan redistricting that grabbed off a chunk of Republican Waukesha County and attached it to Ryan’s southeastern Wisconsin’s district. Yet despite the machinations that made his 1st District decidedly more Republican, prevailed by the narrowest margin of his career—over Democratic challenger Rob Zerban.
Ryan ran especially badly close to home, losing Janesville and the portion of Rock County that is in the 1st. It wasn’t even that close: Zerban won almost 52 percent to Ryan’s 46 percent.
What made Ryan such an unappealing contender with hometown voters? The same thing that made Ryan such an appealing target for Democratic contenders around the country, such as Alan Grayson, who made opposition to the House Budget Committee chairman’s agenda central to a successful run for a new House seat representing Florida.
Ryan’s “Roadmap for America’s Future” budget plan outlined an American austerity agenda that takes pieces out of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in order to pad the pockers of Wall Street speculators, the for-profit insurance industry and wealthy campaign donors.
That didn’t play well in Janesville.
But what played even worse was Ryan’s attempt to play politics with the most traumatic event in the recent history of Janesville: the closing of the General Motors plant that for the better part of a century was the city’s top employer.
Ryan knew the plant closed at the end of the Bush years, yet he tried to suggest in his speech to the Republican National Convention that Barack Obama had something to do with it.
That political chicanery cost Ryan—not just in Janesville but across a congressional district that takes seriously the loss of auto jobs.
From his first congressional race in 1998 to his 2010 run, Paul Ryan never won less than 57 percent of the vote. And he has usually broken the 65 percent mark. Two years ago, he got 68 percent districtwide.
On Tuesday night, his total fell to 54.9 percent, a career low. And he didn’t just lose Rock County. He also lost Kenosha County, the other part of the district to lose a major auto plant in recent years.
Wisconsinites never really paid much attention to Paul Ryan until this year. When Mitt Romney put Ryan on the national Republican ticket, Wisconsinites did listen to the hometown boy made good. But they were, obviously, unimpresssed.
It wasn’t even close. That’s the unexpected result of the November 6 election. And President Obama and his supporters must wrap their heads around this new reality—just as their Republican rivals are going to have to adjust to it.
After a very long, very hard campaign that began the night of the 2010 “Republican wave” election, a campaign defined by unprecedented spending and take-no-prisoners debate strategies, Barack Obama was re-elected president. And he did so with an ease that allowed him to claim what even his supporters dared not imagine until a little after 11 pm on the night of his last election: a credible, national win.
“We’re not as divided as our politics suggest,” Obama told the crowd at his victory party in Chicago.
And he was on to something.
Despite a brief delay by Republican challenger Mitt Romney, and the commentators on Fox News, Obama claimed his victory on election night not the next day, as Richard Nixon did in 1960, or even later, as George Bush in 2000.
And it was a real victory.
Obama did not have to deal with the challenge of an Electoral College win combined with a popular-vote loss—as even some of his most ardent supporters feared might be the case.
By the time Romney conceded at 1 am, Obama had a 250,000 popular-vote lead, and it grew to roughly 2 million by dawn.
He was on track to win a majority of states and more than 300 Electoral Votes—at least 303 and, with the right result in Florida, 332.
Obama’s win was bigger than John Kennedy’s in 1960 (303 electoral votes, popular vote margin of 112,827), bigger than Richard Nixon’s in 1968 (301 electoral votes, popular vote plurlaity of 512,000), bigger than Jimmy Carter’s in 1976 (297 electoral votes, popular vote margin of 1,683,247), bigger than George W. Bush’s in 2000 (271 electoral votes and a popular vote loss of 543,816).
Our friend Karl Rove attempted to suggest Tuesday night that Obama’s victory was diminished by the fact that the president did not improve on his 2008 numbers, and recalled that some presidents (Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton) have done so. But he failed to note how over the past century, many presidents have stumbled in their bids for second terms, including: George H.W. Bush (defeated in 1992), Jimmy Carter (defeated in 1976), Lyndon Johnson (decided not to seek re-election bid after 1968 primary setbacks), Harry Truman (decided not to seek re-election after 1952 primary setbacks), Herbert Hoover (defeated in 1932 re-election bid), Woodrow Wilson (won by narrower margin in 1916 than in 1912) and William Howard Taft (ran third in 1912 re-election bid).
Significantly, Rove’s man, George W. Bush won his 2004 re-election run with just 286 electoral votes, and faced serious challenges to the result in the state that put him across the 270 line: Ohio.
Never mind, Bush claimed a broad mandate.
“When you win, there is…a feeling that the people have spoken and embraced your point of view,” Bush said. “And that’s what I intend to tell Congress, that I made it clear what I intend to do as the president; now let’s work.”
Bush told reporters: “I earned capital in this campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it. It is my style.”
When Bush tried to spend his capital “reforming” Social Security, he failed. Obama would be wise to avoid making the same mistake.
Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid do not need to be “reformed.”
They need to be strengthened and expanded.
The president could spend some of his capital on that project.
But he ought not stop there.
As he embarks upon the second term that not all presidents are given, Obama would do well to take the counsel of National Nurses United Executive Direector Rose Ann DeMoro, who said after the election, “The President and Congress should stand with the people who elected them and reject any cuts in Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid, strengthen Medicare by expanding it to cover everyone, and insist that Wall Street begin to repay our nation for the damage it caused our economy with a small tax on Wall Street speculation, the Robin Hood tax.”
That reference to the Robin Hood tax is worthy of note.
President Obama ought to get serious, in his second term, about finding the revenues to pay for the strengthening and expanding of necessary programs: ideally by taxing the wealthy as they were in the days of America’s greatest economic expansion, and also by imposing that “Robin Hood Tax” on financial transactions.
But Obama’s first task should be to fix the broken political system that imposes so many burdens on America democracy.
In his victory speech, Obama referenced the long lines in which Americans waited to vote for him and declared: “By the way, we need to fix that.”
That’s good. The need of democratic renewal is great after an unnecessarily crude political campaign that was, as Obama acknowledged, frequently “small… and silly.”
The place to begin is with a project he mentioned just before the Democratic National Convention: amending the constitution to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. “Over the longer term, I think we need to seriously consider mobilizing a constitutional amendment process to overturn Citizens United (assuming the Supreme Court doesn’t revisit it),” the president wrote, in response to a question about the Court decision to allow corporations to spend as freely as they choose to influence elections. “Even if the amendment process falls short, it can shine a spotlight of the super PAC phenomenon and help apply pressure for change.”
Seeking to amend the constitution to reform our election system is an ambitious endeavor, especially for a president who has just beaten the combined power of Karl Rove and his billionaire boys club.
But it is a necessary endeavor.
And a president who has been comfortably re-elected ought not think small. He should “spend his capital” on projects worthy of the trust Americans have afforded him.
Bruce Springsteen wrote the essential song of the 2012 campaign before he or anyone else knew what the year’s political landscape would look like, or the extent to which it would be influenced by shocking violence at a movie theater in Colorado and a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin, the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy or Mitt Romney’s dismissal of 47 percent of Americans as dependent class unworthy of his concern.
But Springsteen recognized something in the America discourse, a longing for a touchstone theme. “I’ve been lookin’ for the map that leads me home…” he wrote.
That search led him back to the most basic of American premises, the most patriotic of American premises: “We take care of our own.”
But Springsteen did not dare suggest that it would simply happen. In fact, he warned that it was a promise often left unfulfilled:
From Chicago to New Orleans
From the muscle to the bone
From the shotgun shack to the Superdome
We yelled “help” but the cavalry stayed home
here ain’t no-one hearing the bugle blown…
Springsteen “got it,” perhaps even before he knew he “got it,” that the 2012 election would answer core questions: “Where’s the spirit that’ll reign, reign over me? Where’s the promise, from sea to shining sea?”
And he answered for progressive America:
Wherever this flag’s flown
We take care of our own
We take care of our own…
Those words were destined to become the soundtrack for Barack Obama’s reelection campaign.
That destiny was confirmed when Americans heard Mitt Romney tell his big-dollar donors:
There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it… My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.
Then Romney picked as his running mate Paul Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman who had for years sought to turn Americans against one another — as “takers versus “makers.” Romney might preach a crudely divisive politics, but Ryan practiced it, and promised to codify it in a roadmap to an American future where America would not take care of its own.
Romney and Ryan made the 2012 election a test of whether America would be a “We Take Care of Our” country or a nasty and brutish place where any hope for prosperity who rely on the generous good spirits of millionaires and billionaires who, like Romney, had offshored their money to Swiss banks and Cayman Island hideaways.
After taking care of his own by leading a fundraiser that collected $23 million to aid the people of New Jersey, New York and other states devastated by Hurricane Sandy, Springsteen hit the road Monday with President Obama, on a remarkable final journey across the political promised lands of Wisconsin, Ohio and Iowa.
“For the last 30 years I’ve been writing in my music about the distance between the American dream and American reality,” the singer told the crowds in Madison, Columbus and Des Moines. “I’ve seen it from inside and outside: as a blue-collar kid from a working class home in New Jersey – where my parents struggled, often unsuccessfully – to make ends meet… to my adult life, visiting the 9th Ward in New Orleans after Katrina, or meeting folks from food pantries from all around the United States, who work daily to help our struggling citizens through the hard times we’ve been suffering.”
Then Springsteen spoke of the referendum: “The American Dream and an American Reality: Our vote tomorrow is the one undeniable way we get to determine the distance in that equation. Tomorrow, we get a personal hand in shaping the kind of America we want our kids to grow up in.”
On the night before the day, on a street in the middle of America, Springsteen expressed his deepest fears about the direction of the republic, and his highest hope.
“I am troubled by thirty years of an increasing disparity in wealth between our best off citizens and everyday Americans,” he said. “That is a disparity that threatens to divide us into two distinct and separate nations. We have to be better than that.
Then, with a hug from Springsteen, the president of the United States took the stage, each stage, on the last day of his last campaign and spoke of being “focused on one of the worst storms of our lifetimes.”
“Whenever I talk to folks in the region,” he said, “I tell them the same thing that I say whenever a tragedy besets the American family, and that is, the American people come together and make a commitment that we will walk with these folks whose lives have been upended every step on the hard road ahead and the hard road to recovery. We’ll carry on. No matter how bad the storm is, we will be there, together. No matter how bad the storm is, we recover together.”
No one missed the metaphor. He was not speaking just of one storm, not just a physical threats. He was speaking of the economic and social storms that whip a land where crude politicians imagine citizens as "makers" and takers. He was speaking of disparities that threaten to divide us into two distinct and separate nations. And, yes, he was saying we have to be better than that.
As the long campaign gave way to Walt Whitman's day of quadrennial choosing, it was Barack Obama, not Bruce Springsteen, who sang the last line of “We Take Care of Our Own.”
“We’re all in this together,” the president said. “We rise or fall as one nation and as one people.”
Obama is already doing well among early voters. Check out George Zornick's coverage here.
Toledo—Paul Ryan is really upset with Barack Obama about that auto bailout.
Which means that Ryan is upset with himself.
In a campaign where the standard for what constitutes the “big lie” keeps getting adjusted upward, Ryan is trumping even Mitt Romney by attacking President Obama and Vice President Biden for backing policies that Ryan backed.
Picking up on the Romney campaign’s closing claim that the moves taken to rescue General Motors and Chrysler somehow damaged the auto industry—despite the fact that GM and Chrysler say different—Ryan has been banging away on the bailout.
“The facts, they speak for themselves. President Obama took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy, taxpayers still stand to lose $25 billion dollars in the president’s politically managed bankruptcy,” the Republican nominee for vice president claimed at a rally in Racine, Wisconsin. “These companies, Chrysler in particular we know this story, are now choosing to expand manufacturing overseas.”
In the final days of a campaign that has taken the shine off his “golden boy” status, Ryan was going all-in on the Republican ticket’s biggest lie: a claim that Obama’s policies had somehow endangered the sprawling Jeep plant in Toledo, a critical battleground in the critical battleground state of Ohio.
That’s not true.
Yes, Ryan says, “These are the facts. These facts are inconvenient for the president but no one disputes them. The President and the Vice President, the problem is they simply can’t defend their record.”
That’s remarkably tough talk about the auto bailout that polling suggests is very popular, especially with voters in battleground states such as Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. It is, as well, remarkably dishonest talk, which tries to obscure the facts that—in addition to saving an industry with 1 million jobs—the bailout is credited with spurring an auto manufacturing resurgence that has seen the creation of almost a quarter=million jobs and a pattern of profitable quarters for the Big Three.
That may be why GM officials, frustrated by the Republican campaign’s attempts to create a false impression among voters, took the rare step of issuing a statement that said Romney and Ryan appear to be getting their information from a “parallel universe.”
Even as he was fact-checked into a corner, Ryan kept up the (in the words of the Cleveland Plain Dealer) “flailing”—seemingly convinced that constant repetition can spin fantasy into reality.
“GM and Chrysler are expanding their production overseas,” Ryan said in a statement circulated by the Romney campaign, which conveniently neglected to note that they are expanding in the United States, as well.
“These are facts that voters deserve to know as they listen to the claims President Obama and his campaign are making,” continued Ryan. “President Obama has chosen not to run on the facts of his record, but he can’t run from them.”
But records are funny things.
Obama and Biden aren’t the only candidates on this year’s ballot who supported the auto bailout.
The Wisconsin congressman was one of thirty-two Republicans who backed the bailout, and his support was critical, as he was the ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee—which he now chairs. Ryan’s support gave conservative credibility to the bailout at a time when Romney was writing a New York Times op-ed headlined: “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.”
In its response to the Romney’s attempt to create the false impression that Jeep production in Toledo might be shifted to China, Jeep’s parent company, Chrysler, dismissed Romney’s line as a “leap that would be difficult even for professional circus acrobats.”
But the Republican vice presidential candidate has outdone the Republican presidential candidate.
Ryan’s condemning President Obama for arranging an auto bailout that Ryan supported.
That’s not the work of an acrobat.
That’s the work of a contortionist.
Unfortunately, few in the mainstream media are holding Romney and Ryan accountable for their campaign falsehoods. Check out Eric Alterman's latest on the failed fact-checking of this election.
Paul Ryan was in Wisconsin Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday during the week before the election. And he’ll be back again on Monday.
Ultimately, the Republican nominee for vice president will have made more than a half dozen major campaign appearances around his home state in the seven-day period leading up to the November 6 election is done.
The House Budget Committee chairman even stooped to visit his own congressional district, for a high-profile rally at Racine’s Memorial Hall. He then returned to his hometown of Janesville for some trick-or-treating with the kids—which the Republican contender turned into a minor media event, as television camera crews were invited to tag along.
Considering the polls, which suggest that the Romney-Ryan ticket is having a hard time gaining traction in Wisconsin, it’s entirely understandable that the vice presidential nominee from Wisconsin would be putting in some extra time in the state.
But Ryan is also a candidate for re-election to his US House seat representing southeastern Wisconsin’s first congressional district. And he is in a serious race for the seat. To be sure, Ryan retains advantages. He’s never won re-election with under 62 percent of the vote. And thanks to partisan redistricting, the congressman’s district is more relaibly Republican.
But Ryan seems to think he’s in a real race. His re-election committee has poured money into a television advertising campaign that, so far, has cost $2 million. Why? Rob Zerban, a successful businessman and local elected official, is mounting what certainly looks to be the most credible challenge in years to the incumbent.
Zerban has raised a reasonable amount of money—more than Ryan in the most recent quarter—and that’s put him on television in the district.
More importantly, Zerban’s raised all the right questions about the incumbent’s extreme policies and even more extreme reliance on big-money donations from special-interest groups tied to the insurance industry and the Wall Street traders that would benefit most from Ryan’s schemes to radically restructure Medicare and Medicaid while beginning the process of privatizing Social Security.
Zerban has run as a progressive in the Wisconsin tradition, calling out the incumbent for his ties to special interests, and calling for real reform of the campaign system—as an advocate for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling.
The two men could have a great debate.
Unfortunately, while Ryan is more than willing to spend piles of money to fend off the challenge from Zerban, the congressman is unwilling to debate the most credible challenger he has ever faced in a re-election race.
Ryan has more than enough time to attend fund-raising events in Wisconsin and other states.
Ryan has more than enough time for rallies and photo opportunities.
But supposedly he does not have enough time to debate his opponent, and to offer his congressional-district constituents an honest accounting of his positions.
Ryan’s refusal to debate has clarified issues going into Tuesday’s election. Voters have the option of re-electing a career politician, Ryan, who seeks the congressional seat as a way to hedge bets if his national ambitions are dashed. Or they could elect a new congressman, Zerban, who says he’s ready and willing to participate in hometown debates, to listen to voters and to represent them.
Under different circumstances, New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg could have been running for president this fall. It’s no secret that the mayor, who made no endorsement in the 2008 presidential race, considered competing in 2012 as an unaffiliated contender who would speak blunt truths.
But Bloomberg didn’t run. So he faced with “the choice.”
Sure, Bloomberg’s a social liberal, like President Obama—only more aggressive, particularly on gun control and public-health initiatives that don’t make fast-food chains or soda pop producers all that happy.
But he’s also a businessman-turned-politician, like Mitt Romney—only much more successful in business, and perhaps more successful in politics.
So where would the Republican-turned-Independent mayor of America’s largest city—and one of the few reasonably well-regarded unaffiliated political players—go?
And for exactly the right reason.
Obama he argues “gets” that climate change matters.
Romney does not—or, at the least, does not want to say it matters because he fears the climate-change deniers in his own Republican Party.
As a campaign where both major-party candidates neglected climate change as the front-and-center issue it should be came to a close, the East Coast was hit by the second epic hurricane in as many years, And New York took a beating.
That, Bloomberg determined, was a tipping point.
He looked at the candidates and recognized: “One sees climate change as an urgent problem that threatens our planet; one does not. I want our president to place scientific evidence and risk management above electoral politics.”
That does not make Obama a perfect candidate in Bloomberg’s eyes, or those of environmental activists on questions of global warming. And the mayor’s association with Obama certainly does not make Bloomberg a perfect player; his stances on education policy, civil liberties and economic justice in New York City still merit scrutiny and objection.
But with his endorsement of Obama, Bloomberg has done something vitally important.
He has made climate change an issue, building on the tremendous work of activists with environmental groups such as Friends of the Earth, the Sierra Club and Greenpeace and with movements such as 350 that have been specifically focused on breaking through the wall of spin that has delayed real action on life-and-death issues.
Bloomberg has called for an issue-based vote, a science-based vote. As he put it in issuing what could be the most notable endorsement of 2012, Bloomberg wrote that he would cast “A Vote for a President to Lead on Climate Change.”
Here is how the mayor explained his unexpected decision:
The devastation that Hurricane Sandy brought to New York City and much of the Northeast—in lost lives, lost homes and lost business—brought the stakes of Tuesday’s presidential election into sharp relief.
The floods and fires that swept through our city left a path of destruction that will require years of recovery and rebuilding work. And in the short term, our subway system remains partially shut down, and many city residents and businesses still have no power. In just 14 months, two hurricanes have forced us to evacuate neighborhoods—something our city government had never done before. If this is a trend, it is simply not sustainable.
Here in New York, our comprehensive sustainability plan —PlaNYC—has helped allow us to cut our carbon footprint by 16 percent in just five years, which is the equivalent of eliminating the carbon footprint of a city twice the size of. Through the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group—a partnership among many of the world’s largest cities—local governments are taking action where national governments are not.Our climate is changing. And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it might be—given this week’s devastation—should compel all elected leaders to take immediate action.
But we can’t do it alone. We need leadership from the White House—and over the past four years, President Barack Obama has taken major steps to reduce our carbon consumption, including setting higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks. His administration also has adopted tighter controls on mercury emissions, which will help to close the dirtiest coal power plants (an effort I have supported through my philanthropy), which are estimated to kill 13,000 Americans a year.
Mitt Romney, too, has a history of tackling climate change. As governor of Massachusetts, he signed on to a regional cap- and-trade plan designed to reduce carbon emissions 10 percent below 1990 levels. “The benefits (of that plan) will be long-lasting and enormous—benefits to our health, our economy, our quality of life, our very landscape. These are actions we can and must take now, if we are to have ‘no regrets’ when we transfer our temporary stewardship of this Earth to the next generation,” he wrote at the time.
He couldn’t have been more right. But since then, he has reversed course, abandoning the very cap-and-trade program he once supported. This issue is too important. We need determined leadership at the national level to move the nation and the world forward.
I believe Mitt Romney is a good and decent man, and he would bring valuable business experience to the Oval Office. He understands that America was built on the promise of equal opportunity, not equal results. In the past he has also taken sensible positions on immigration, illegal guns, abortion rights and healthcare. But he has reversed course on all of them, and is even running against the healthcare model he signed into law in Massachusetts.
If the 1994 or 2003 version of Mitt Romney were running for president, I may well have voted for him because, like so many other independents, I have found the past four years to be, in a word, disappointing.
In 2008, Obama ran as a pragmatic problem-solver and consensus-builder. But as president, he devoted little time and effort to developing and sustaining a coalition of centrists, which doomed hope for any real progress on illegal guns, immigration, tax reform, job creation and deficit reduction. And rather than uniting the country around a message of shared sacrifice, he engaged in partisan attacks and has embraced a divisive populist agenda focused more on redistributing income than creating it.
Nevertheless, the president has achieved some important victories on issues that will help define our future. His Race to the Top education program—much of which was opposed by the teachers’ unions, a traditional Democratic Party constituency—has helped drive badly needed reform across the country, giving local districts leverage to strengthen accountability in the classroom and expand charter schools. His health-care law—for all its flaws—will provide insurance coverage to people who need it most and save lives.
When I step into the voting booth, I think about the world I want to leave my two daughters, and the values that are required to guide us there. The two parties’ nominees for president offer different visions of where they want to lead America.
One believes a woman’s right to choose should be protected for future generations; one does not. That difference, given the likelihood of Supreme Court vacancies, weighs heavily on my decision.
One recognizes marriage equality as consistent with America’s march of freedom; one does not. I want our president to be on the right side of history.
One sees climate change as an urgent problem that threatens our planet; one does not. I want our president to place scientific evidence and risk management above electoral politics.
Of course, neither candidate has specified what hard decisions he will make to get our economy back on track while also balancing the budget. But in the end, what matters most isn’t the shape of any particular proposal; it’s the work that must be done to bring members of Congress together to achieve bipartisan solutions.
Presidents Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan both found success while their parties were out of power in Congress—and President Obama can, too. If he listens to people on both sides of the aisle, and builds the trust of moderates, he can fulfill the hope he inspired four years ago and lead our country toward a better future for my children and yours. And that’s why I will be voting for him.
For more on Mitt Romney's disregard for climate change, check out "Romney's Extremist Energy Plan."
It is no secret that political candidates are capable of doing awful things when they are reach the desperate final days of an election campaign.
But trying to scare American workers into believing that a government initiative that saved their industry was some sort of secret scheme to shutter major plants and offshore jobs is more than just creepy. It’s economic fear-mongering of a sort that is destructive to the spirit of communities and to the very future of the republic as an industrial force.
George Romney, who led the remarkable American Motors Company project that would eventually produce the Jeep, never in a political career that saw him win election as governor of Michigan and seek the Republican nomination for president would have engaged in such calumny.
But George Romney’s ne’re-do-well son, a very different sort of businessman who devoted his career to taking apart American companies and offshoring jobs, is trying to resurrect his presidential candidacy with a big lie.
And the lie is about Jeeps.
Jeeps are made in Toledo, Ohio, where the iconic American vehicle has been produced since 1941, and Romney needs to win Toledo and the rest of northwest Ohio if he is to stand a chance of winning the battleground state that is key to the presidency.
Last week, Romney went to the region and shocked voters by suggesting that: “I saw a story today that one of the great manufacturers in this state, Jeep, now owned by the Italians, is thinking of moving all production to China.”
The story, an October 22 report by Bloomberg News, which specifically stated that: “Chrysler currently builds all Jeep SUV models at plants in Michigan, Illinois and Ohio. [Fiat/Chrysler executive Mike] Manley referred to adding Jeep production sites rather than shifting output from North America to China.”
Yet, Romney spoke of the company that manufactures Jeeps “moving all production to China.
The statement stirred fundamental fears in a regional that has been battered by plant closings. So much so that Jeep’s parent company, Chrysler, rushed to clarify that Romney was completely, totally, incredibly wrong. “Let’s set the record straight: Jeep has no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China,” announced Chrysler.
Company spokesman Gaulberto Ranieri said that Romney had remade the facts so aggressively that: “It is a leap that would be difficult even for professional circus acrobats.”
What was Romney’s response to being caught in a lie.
He lied bigger.
The Romney campaign is now airing an ad in Ohio that claims President Obama, with the auto bailout that saved domestic vehicle production, “sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China.”
The ad concludes that Romney—whose Bain Capital enterprise identified as “a pioneer of outsourcing”—“will fight for every American job.”
Kathleen Hall Jamieson, the director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, and one of the nation’s top experts on political advertising reviewed the ad and dismissed it as “inferentially false.”
“They are inviting a false inference,” Hall said of the Romney campaign’s attempt to suggest that Obama had engineered a change in Jeep’s status that would see the Toledo plant shuttered and its more than 3,500 workers idled.
The Washington Post “Fact Checker” site reviewed Romney’s ad and declared: “the overall message of the ad is clearly misleading—especially since it appears to have been designed to piggyback off of Romney’s gross misstatement that Chrysler was moving Ohio factory jobs to China.”
The pushback from Obama’s backers and his campaign has been aggressive.
Former President Bill Clinton flew to Ohio and decried Romney’s claim as “the biggest load of bull in the world.”
Vice President Joe Biden said: “I have never seen anything like that. It’s an absolutely, patently false assertion. It’s such an outrageous assertion that, one of the few times in my memory, a major American corporation, Chrysler, has felt obliged to go public and say, there is no truth.”
An Obama campaign ad announced that “now, after Romney’s false claim of Jeep outsourcing to China, Chrysler itself has refuted Romney’s lie.”
What was Romney’s response.
Up the ad buy.
Expand the big lie so that it is now enormous.
The deception has become such a serious issue that, on Tuesday, Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne felt compelled to clarify what is becoming an international controversy.
“Chrysler Group’s production plans for the Jeep brand have become the focus of public debate. I feel obliged to unambiguously restate our position: Jeep production will not be moved from the United States to China,” wrote Marchionne, who added:
North American production is critical to achieving our goal of selling 800,000 Jeep vehicles by 2014. In fact, U.S. production of our Jeep models has nearly tripled (it is expected to be up 185 percent) since 2009 in order to keep up with global demand…
With the increase in demand for our vehicles, especially Jeep branded vehicles, we have added more than 11,200 U.S. jobs since 2009. Plants producing Jeep branded vehicles alone have seen the number of people invested in the success of the Jeep brand grow to more than 9,300 hourly jobs from 4,700. This will increase by an additional 1,100 as the Liberty successor, which will be produced in Toledo, is introduced for global distribution in the second quarter of 2013.
There was nothing unambiguous about that statement. Yet Marchionne continued: “Jeep is one of our truly global brands with uniquely American roots. This will never change. So much so that we committed that the iconic Wrangler nameplate, currently produced in our Toledo, Ohio, plant, will never see full production outside the United States.”
“Jeep assembly lines will remain in operation in the United States and will constitute the backbone of the brand,” confirmed Marchionne. “It is inaccurate to suggest anything different.”
That’s a rare commitment by a manufacturer—far more clear and unequivocal than the commitment Bain Capital made to the companies it bought up, tore apart and outsourced.
Yet, Mitt Romney’s campaign is still running the ad.
That’s made United Auto Workers union president Bob King furious:
It is especially hypocritical of Mr. Romney’s statements and new ad is Bain Capital’s closing of profitable U.S. facilities and shifting work to China to make even higher profits like what is happening today in closing a profitable Sensata plant in Freeport, IL, to move the work to China. Romney says in the ad that he will fight for every American job, so why isn’t he fighting for the American jobs at Sensata? And why isn’t he intervening with his own Bain Capital to keep these jobs in the U.S. rather than outsourcing them to China? We just wish that Mr. Romney was as committed to investing in the U.S. as Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne is.
Americans will remember that President Obama stood behind American working families and American communities in rescuing the U.S. auto industry and that Mr. Romney opposed the rescue and now attacks Chrysler with misinformation. In putting out this misinformation, Romney is recklessly undermining Chrysler’s reputation and threatening good American jobs.
Imagine if Mitt Romney were to be elected president of the United States.
Imagine if he had to go into negotiations with Marchionne, or another CEO of another industrial giant, about protecting US jobs. Or expanding US manufacturing.
Would the executive trust Romney?
Or would the executive remember Romney as the politician who lied and then lied bigger in order to get what he wanted?
That’s a question that American voters who want their country to have a future as a country that makes cars and trucks and Jeeps would be wise to ponder as November 6 approaches.
For more on Mitt “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” Romney’s auto industry problems, check out John Nichols on “Obama Outsources Romney.”