So all the swing states, including Florida, went to Obama after all, as I thought they would. How did CNN, the New York Times, and to a lesser extent the Huffpost, get it wrong, and how did I get it right? Luck of the draw? I don’t think so. Absent in polling is an understanding that giving your opinion is one thing, the reality of voting is another. Opinion has no consequence and in the case of those so-called undecided voters, it was often driven by powerful emotion.
Their lives had been difficult for a long time, they were afraid of things getting worse. They had a lot of ‘information’ thrown at them by the Romney campaign, very little of it truthful, much of it fear-mongering, but how were they to know that? Fear diminishes your capacity for rational thought. It happens to all of us.
But, the problem was that nobody really liked Romney. When you’re not a fanatic, it’s very hard to place your trust in somebody who either doesn’t know how to reach you and connect with you, or doesn’t think it’s important. Plus, he’s not a trustworthy politician. He’ll say what he thinks people want to hear. This is not the first time he changed his policies mid-way. He did it when he ran against Ted Kennedy.
He started both campaigns as a conservative, didn’t make enough headway, so became more moderate. People who want to get rid of a politician because he threatens their status quo or because he’s the wrong color, won’t care about this absence of backbone and deep-rooted conviction and they have no investment in rational thought. They’ll blind themselves to something we all instinctively know if we let ourselves admit it, that a man who betrays once will betray again. And who he betrays isn’t of much concern to him.
But even those Romney supporters didn’t really like him and their reasons for voting were not that he had great leadership qualities. He doesn’t have them. It’s ironic that all the impassioned rhetoric about rescuing the American economy and society from the claws of a socialist came from people who were willing to leave things in the hands of a patent liar. Romney did now and then irrevocably and openly expose the truth of who he is, mind you, when he said 47% of Americans were irresponsible victims and they weren’t his concern.
He consolidated that with another bit of truth about himself when he added, in his clumsy and not particularly intelligent attempt to patch things up, that in a campaign you tell your electorate what they want to hear. That must have really reassured his wealthy supporters. But they didn’t care. Now that kind of stupidity is what causes the demise of all civilizations.
I watched this circus and became pretty sure that the ‘undecided voters’ were obviously not fanatics, and had no agenda in voting Obama out. I was sure they wouldn’t be able to blind themselves to Romney’s weaknesses or to how much he lied when it suited him, or to how much Obama connected with them at a humane level. They don’t like Romney but they do like Obama, not because he’s a con artist but because he’s a good man with powerful leadership qualities and a profound humanity.
He might not have turned the economy around sufficiently to completely alleviate their fear and discomfort, but he had succeeded enough against massive odds and despite great Congressional resistance, for them to see that he was a safer bet than Romney. That moment of voting is when the reality of consequence stares you in the face, when you realize that your choice could be the one that shapes your future. If you have an ounce of sense you cast your fears aside enough to think rationally, and you pick the safer bet.
I predicted that Obama would get all the swing states because I believed that the majority of Americans have that capacity. It’s easy to say you support somebody you don’t trust and don’t like. It’s very difficult to actually vote for them. People are so cynical about politics in the US, but I think they illustrate the degree to which its society has advanced in its capacity to make healthy choices that are truly about the improvement of their world, even if that improvement involves discomfort and challenge. And nothing could be more important than that.