I’m going to admit something here that’s a little embarrassing. I was a political junkie by age 11. I know it’s not right and I know it says something hideous about me and possibly my upbringing, but bottom line, it’s true. However, my true coming of age as a politically invested American came in 1992. That was the first election in which I was allowed to vote. It is also the only election in which I didn’t vote on election day, in person, at my polling precinct. I was serving a mission for the LDS church in Manchester, England and so I had to vote absentee. I did so with pride and then had to spend the next few weeks learning, via snippets of information only available intermittently, that my candidate of choice, George H.W. Bush, was going down in flames. It was crushing. My first time out of the gate and my choice for President was a loser. I will admit to feeling a little depressed.
However, there was a lesson from that election that rears its head every other decade or so. During that election season, James Carville, an adviser for then candidate Bill Clinton, made a simple comment that has proven true over and over again. In very plain English he said, “It’s the economy, stupid!”
At the time, I was highly affronted. I mean, we had a president who had won the first gulf war and put Saddam Hussein in his place. Surely that alone warranted a second term, right? WRONG! That election taught me a truth that, looking back, has played out over the centuries: People Vote With Their Wallets.
Fast forward to this election cycle that we are in. For the first time in my life, I thought we might actually be headed toward a reversal of this undeniable truth. And admittedly, it could still happen. But in the midst of all these attacks regarding: Bain Capital, Murdering Spouses, Being a Tax Cheat and a Felon, Taking a Woman’s contraception away (By the way, no one seems to be worried about my contraception being taken away. I’m just saying), and just about everything else short of being Ahmadinejad’s illegitimate love child; it seems you should never bet against history. If Romney ends up coming back and winning this election, it will be because of one simple truth: It’s The Economy, Stupid!
Now, it seems to me, President Obama had a chance to be in a winning position even if the economy was still sluggish, but he blew it. And it didn’t happen just recently. Only one president that I am aware of this century who has been rewarded with reelection despite a sluggish, or worse, economy is Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In fact, he was rewarded twice under those circumstances. So what did he do? His actions said he cared. He spent every bit of his political capital and the majority of his time in office during his first two terms creating programs designed to put people back to work. Did they all succeed? No. But there was never any doubt he was trying.
Compare that to President Obama’s first term. For two years, he had overwhelming majorities in both houses of Congress. He could have done just about anything he wanted to do. So what did he choose? Bailing out GM, The Stimulus, and The Affordable Healthcare Act. Of the three, only two were even sold as being about jobs. The third was a clear play for legacy despite the fact that an overwhelming majority of Americans did not want what has come to be referred to as Obamacare. As a side note, getting Obamacare passed took up more time during his first two years in office than the other two combined.
As far as GM and The Stimulus are concerned. At first glance, both appear to be directed towards more jobs. However, as anyone who has payed attention can tell you, the stimulus actually did nothing of the kind. It sunk our nation deeper into debt when that was exactly what we couldn’t afford to do. Not only did we go into debt, but literally billions were given to companies that were political backers of the president and have since gone bankrupt. You can argue either way about the necessity of spending money researching new energy sources, but in a time of recession and massive debt, it is probably best to go with the vast reserves of energy sources we already know how to use, another thing this president refused to do.
With regard to GM, it does appear many jobs were saved. But again, it appears to be jobs for only those who helped finance the president’s election and are once again financing his reelection. Unions! Nothing is ever said about the millions lost to those who invested in the auto industry that saw their investments go up in smoke during a bankruptcy that rewarded unions first before bond investors. Something never before seen. And by the way, GM and Chrysler went through bankruptcies. They did. Just like Mitt Romney said they should, except the president took care of his “guys” before the true bankruptcies began.
Now if President Obama pulls off a victory in Ohio, he could still possibly win this election. If he does, it will be directly related to his efforts on the part of the auto industry. Which only backs up what we’ve known all along. To the voters in Ohio and Michigan, it was the economy, stupid, and he will have done enough for their economic situation to get back into the White House. But think about the landslide he could have won had he focused on jobs for the rest of us.
And if he loses, he will only have himself to blame. He might be able to console himself at night with the memory of being the first president to pass a truly comprehensive health care overhaul. But come January 2013, he will have to do so in Chicago.