Voters choose man they know over chameleon

C. Fraser Smith, The Daily Record Newswire

The parsing of Election 2012 has ended prematurely thanks to, of all things, Generalsgate.

As a result, President Barack Obama hardly had a minute to savor victory and to thank the American people for staying the course with him.

So here’s a thought that has gotten too little consideration: Obama probably hasn’t gotten credit for a first term that was remarkable.

The campaign was about the economy, as it should have been. On this subject, he readily conceded, he had “more work to do.” Thus his convincing win was all the more remarkable.

The American people re-elected him in spite of their pain. No one, except the 1 percenters, escaped the Great Recession unscathed. Even the privileged must have known people who were hurting.

Some accepted Mitt Romney’s campaign assertion that Obama’s first term was a failure. The president was a nice guy, Romney said, but he was finishing last. It was time for the hook.
Deep pain

Supporters of the president did worry that the pain was so deep and pervasive that voters would choose change — any change over four more years of Obama.

It might have been so if Romney had been less a chameleon — or if the Obama team and the media had not raised serious questions about his own job-creation performance in business. Or if Romney had not been unmasked by a spy cam while speaking to a country club audience about the 47 percent of Americans who, he said, are sluggards and wastrels, people who simply want free stuff, as Fox’s Bill O’Reilly put it.

Romney’s assertion of Obama failure focused on the unemployment rate, the number of labor force dropouts and workers with low-paying jobs. Rightly so — though a bit more on the solution side of the scale would have been welcome.

Again, Obama essentially conceded the jobs point — uncommonly honest in the world of politics. In fact, it may have been refreshing in a race where his opponent seemed to adopt new identities overnight. Obama fell short on the jobs front, but at least we knew who he was.

Meanwhile, many inanities were pushed aside in this campaign — the Birther thing, the government-as-problem thing. On this last point, ask New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie about the importance of government.

Without discounting the emphasis on jobs, I’m guessing voters did give Obama credit for his first-term achievements.

Hadn’t he saved us from a second Depression? Hadn’t he achieved Obamacare — which others had been unable to do over many decades? Hadn’t he saved the auto industry? Hadn’t he restored respect for America around the world? Hadn’t he insisted on bipartisanship in the face of those who would follow ideology over the cliff?

This was his record. These were monumental achievements. Each one will need tweaking or overhauling or even rejecting. That is, or should be, the process.

More proposals

Campaigns ought to have more proposals than this one had. Jobs, jobs, jobs? Yes, indeed, but when there are companies desperate for workers but can’t find the talent, we have serious issues.

We needed to hear that — but, of course, we voters have to be held harmless during campaigns.

For similar reasons — fear of offending someone — the candidates didn’t talk about climate change much either. All I remember is a joke by Romney. Obama, he said, wants to lower the sea level. I want to help your family.

And what about the 99 percent? Were the candidates afraid of the “class warfare” charge?

Now, all of that is behind us — unless we have a president determined to address some of these issues during the second term accorded by the voters.


C. Fraser Smith is senior news analyst at WYPR-FM. His email address is