Picking Up the Pieces: Who Voted for Obama - and Why

by PETER FARMER December 6, 2012

In the aftermath of the presidential election, various analysts, pundits and commentators on the right side of the political spectrum have begun the painful if necessary process of deconstructing the devastating loss suffered by Mitt Romney and the Republican Party on November 6th.  The explanations have been as varied and diverse as the people offering them.

Some analysts fault the Republicans for failing to run a good "ground game" and for their inability to get out the vote. Others fault the party for failing to make a persuasive case for its values and proposed policies. Still others fault Romney and his campaign managers for failing to reach minority voters and women. Team Obama exploited a decisive advantage in its use of information technology and the social media to reach the voters. Finally, Romney and the GOP were faulted by some for declining to attack Obama politically where he was weakest - on ethics, the lawlessness of his administration, and his murky origins and provenance. And so on...

Many if not all of these explanations contain more than a grain of truth, but few of them get at the root causes of the leftward surge in the electorate. Moreover, few explanations go back to first principles in analyzing why it is that a majority of the electorate chose Obama, statism and socialism over Romney, free markets and ordered liberty on 6th November. Analyzing trends and doing sophisticated computer modeling of the election results is all well-and-good, but if we are to get any sort of meaningful grasp on what happened, we must also go down to the level of the individual voter. To use the cliché, we must get into the "hearts and minds" of the typical man and woman on the street. After all, what is the polity but a collection of individuals?

The typical Obama supporter is probably tough to categorize definitively, but it is known that he scored very well among minorities, women - especially single women - and with younger voters. While it is sometimes problematic to generalize on the basis of specific incidents - to this author, two conversations stand out as harbingers of Obama's appeal and signposts for his path to a second term. The first was a widely-publicized comment that appeared in the electronic media and the press after the 2008 election; the second was a private conversation this writer had with a single mother and admitted Obama voter only days ago.

In the immediate aftermath of Obama's victory in 2008, a young black woman named Peggy Joseph1 was interviewed on camera, and spoke of her elation that Obama had won, and that now that he had, she would not have to pay for her mortgage or gasoline for her car any longer. She went on to say that "If I help him, he's gonna help me."

The second conversation, a private one between this writer and a single mother and admitted Obama voter, occurred the day after the 2012 election. I often take lunch at a local diner, and one of the servers is a personable woman in her early twenties, whom I will call Peggy. Over time - and many servings of food - Peggy and I developed a casual friendship. She knew me well-enough to share her opinions and thoughts in an unguarded manner and often trusted me with bits of personal information about her young son and various other matters. On November 7th, she casually asked whether I had voted, and when I answered "Yes, but the guy for whom I voted lost," she volunteered that she had voted for Obama. I was somewhat taken aback, because Peggy often spoke of being fairly conservative and traditional in her political views, but - hiding my surprise as best I could - I asked her why. She replied, "Because Romney was going to cut all the funding for education." Her son, who is learning disabled, needs special education instruction and her fear was that Romney would eliminate the programs her son needs.

What can be learned from the two conversations above? A number of conclusions are possible, and many more inferences. Let's examine some of them.

As Mitt Romney commented after the election, it is tough to win "against Santa Claus." While an exaggeration, it is not much of one; Obama won in part using the time-tested "Chicago Way" of buying votes with promises of swag and goodies for his supporters. Ms. Joseph was apparently entirely sincere in her belief that Barack Obama would pay her mortgage and her gas bills for her car in return for her political support. Other Obama supporters spoke of pulling the lever for him on the basis of promises that they would get free cell phones in return for their votes.

Alexis de Tocqueville, in his 1835 book "Democracy in America," wrote, "The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money." He apparently forgot that chief executives are equally-capable of the same sleight of hand - especially ones who hail from Chicago. 

What else is immediately apparent in Ms. Joseph's comment is her degree of naiveté - her belief that a cynical and extremely ambitious national politician cares for her personally. We see here the degree to which Obama's cult of personality has come to dominate his followers. As this article was being readied for publication, noted film star Jamie Foxx spoke (sic) of Obama being "Our Lord and Savior..."  Note the messianic fervor and the almost religious devotion surrounding Mr. Obama.

Note also the superficial nature of Ms. Joseph's thinking about Obama's "promise" to pay her mortgage and her gasoline bills. Apparently, she has done little in the way of deep thinking or analysis about the nature of Obama's offer, for she appears unaware of the fiscal and other obstacles that lie in the path of fulfilling such an outlandish claim. Even if Obama seizes a substantial sum from taxpayers as part of his plans to redistribute wealth in the United States, this young woman will almost certainly see very little of it; instead it will line the pockets of Obama's powerful friends and members of the leftist political elite. She will get crumbs from Obama's table, if that. Does she not see she is being used?

H.L. Mencken once noted acidly, "Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public." Where Obama comes from, they have a name for someone like the seemingly likeable young Ms. Joseph - they call such people marks. The sad part is that by the time this young woman figures out that she was played, Obama will be long-gone. That's the way seasoned, professional political grifters like Obama operate; they prey upon the hopes and dreams of those they would influence.

What of my conversation with Peggy, the young single mother with a handicapped child? Her choice also comports with de Tocqueville's warning about the danger to the nation of the buying of votes with public (which is to say, taxpayer) money. Secondly, it can be inferred that her decision to vote for Obama was based partly on the successful propaganda attacks launched against Mitt Romney, which painted him as an avaricious rich man who cared nothing for common people and their problems.  

In reality, in private life, Romney has a long record of giving very generously (far more than Obama) to charity and to individuals in need within his circle of friends and associates and elsewhere. This mattered little, because Romney and his handlers failed to respond to these attacks in anything like an effective way. It is one of the oldest and most-tested political axioms that - when in a hard-fought electoral race - one must never allow a personal attack to go unanswered. The charges made by the Obama campaign were blatantly false, but in letting them stand unchallenged, Romney allowed them to attain the status of truth, because by then they were too-widely believed to be refuted.

David Axelrod's successful use of smear tactics also obscured what should have been Romney's greatest strength - his proven record as a business leader and turn-around specialist in the private sector. Barack Obama had no such track record upon which to run. My acquaintance Peggy, an extremely busy single, working mother trying to raise a son and finish her education, probably didn't have time to dig deeper into the issues; she spoke of making her vote on the basis of media campaign spots and what appeared in the papers and maybe a few websites. Obama and Axelrod counted on this degree of ignorance on the part of undecided voters; aided and abetted by allies in the media, they exercised a much greater degree of control over political messaging than did Romney and his handlers - and were thus able to win the media war.

Peggy's situation also points to a reality that Obama and his handlers have exploited masterfully - the tendency of young, single women and single mothers to vote for leftist causes. Where once intact families with a married mother and father were the norm, today the intact nuclear family is increasingly rare. As the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) once so-presciently warned, the Johnson-era "Great Society" programs have weakened if not destroyed the intact family in many American homes and communities. Having foresworn marriage, many a single mother now looks to the government as a surrogate father and protector for herself and her children in the absence of a male spouse.

Obama and his strategists adroitly used political propaganda and attacks to turn potential Romney supporters against him, and skillfully exploited identity politics as a means of targeting and appealing to specific classes of voters. Just as the Democrats targeted single mothers and young single women, they also successfully targeted minorities, not only blacks but Asian-Americans and Latinos, using similar techniques. Finally, Team Obama reached out successfully to young voters, crossing racial and ethnic lines to do so. All along, Obama exploited his savoir faire and sense of "cool" to woo voters. Romney's campaign had no answer or counter to these efforts. Indeed, by playing the game according to the ground rules set by the left, Romney and the GOP lost an election they should have won - before it was even contested.

1 - http://times247.com/24-7-videos/flashback-obama-means-no-bills

Copyright 2012 Peter Farmer

Peter Farmer is a historian and commentator on national security, geopolitics and public policy issues. He has done original research on wartime resistance movements in WWII Europe, and has delivered seminars on such subjects as political violence and terrorism, the evolution of conflict, combat medicine, and related subjects. Mr. Farmer is also a scientist and a medic. 



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