Timing is everything in politics. If the election of Tuesday, November 6, 2012, would have been held the Tuesday before, Mitt Romney would have won easily. He had a sizable lead in the polls. But within a week, it was gone—gone with the wind of Hurricane Sandy.
Sandy wasn’t the only force that helped Obama. The other was David Axelrod and the Obama re-election campaign, which pulled off a political miracle.
How much of a miracle? Consider:
The American people reelected a man who presided over one of the worst four-year economic records in American history. By every objective measurement, the economy is far worse than four years ago: 47 million on food stamps, all-time record deficits and debt, chronic unemployment, exploding welfare rolls, 636,000 homeless, a doubling of gas prices, and on and on.
No president since FDR in 1940 won reelection with an unemployment rate above 7.1%. And for FDR, that number was a actually huge improvement from four years earlier.
How did Obama and his team overcome this? The answer: they successfully blamed it on George W. Bush, with Bill Clinton aiding and abetting the process. There were no limits to how much they blamed Bush, and how much it worked.
Sadly, other things worked as well. The framing of pro-lifers as favoring a “war on women” because they don’t favor forced taxpayer funding of abortion, Planned Parenthood, and contraception worked. The insistence that government-provided contraception is a new “entitlement” worked.
The electorate also allowed President Obama to get away with the HHS mandate that constitutes a grave threat to religious liberty.
In terms of social policy, the electorate, including its most religious demographic, African Americans, gave the green light to a president redefining marriage.
In short, what we saw on November 6, 2012 was a breathtaking display of political survival by Barack Obama, the first president to be re-elected with a lower number of Electoral College votes and popular vote. What we also witnessed was the final step in the fundamental transformation of America that Barack Obama promised four years ago.
For Catholic Exchange dot com and Ave Maria Radio, I’m Paul Kengor.