President Obama has a problem, and with barely days till Election Day, I am not sure it is a problem he can resolve. Though he may still win this election, he will have to do it without resolving this particular problem. The problem looks unfixable. I shall tell you why and how.
This election, as in all elections, has been about a fight for the heart and soul of the middle-class. A group that has been hit hard by the Great Recession is in dire need of resuscitation. And since the middle-class constitute a majority of the American electorate and tend to vote in larger number than other groups, theoretically, it holds sway on who shall inhabit the White House this coming February.
Reports show that in the period following the financial markets mayhem of 2007 – 2009, we’ve seen a majority of income go to the top 1 percent of Americans—about 93 percent of income to be exact. It is no secret that our society is the most unequal we’ve seen it since the “glory” days of the 1970s. The American fabric is increasingly clothing the rich and super-rich at a blinding and immoral expense of the poor and middle-class.
So, at such a tremulous time as this, it becomes perceptible that the candidate who best articulates his vision for the middle-class; who can best outline how his policies will help achieve an equitable and just society gets the ordination of middle-income Americans for four years as head-of-state.
In this exercise of articulation and projection, President Obama has been superlative. In the latest Washington Post-ABC poll released this Monday, independents, who are crucial to the tilt of this election, deemed Mr. Obama by a two-thirds majority (64 percent) has having policies that will favor the middle-class. It is obvious that Mr. Obama’s message to this crucial block is resonating. They feel his empathy, they get a sense he understands where they are and what they are going through. On the other hand, it seems these same voters feel that Mr. Romney has no poor friend on his contacts list—especially with his candid comments disparaging 47 percent of Americans as losers. On the question of Mr. Romney’s policies, by a 10-point margin (48 to 38 percent), independents say Mr. Romney policies will look out for the wealthy ahead of the welfare of the middle-class.
However, with such numbers in favor of the president, this race is nationally tied. Some polls even give the edge to Mitt Romney.
The only way I can explain this, outside of a destructive first debate performance, is that the president seems to be battling a force bigger than himself. In this same poll, although independents favor Mr. Obama’s policies for the middle-class, by a national margin of 53 percent to 43 percent, they choose to elect Mitt Romney and reject the president for a second term.
It is confounding.
If the issue that matters most to middle-income Americans in this election is their pockets, what is happening? It is as though the electorate is intent on existential hara-kiri. A form of suicide formerly practiced in Japan where an individual rips open his abdomen with a knife or a dagger in a blatant act of suicide.
Whatever waste and catastrophe the Great Recession has laid to the American landscape, it seems it has also left a sizable portion of delirium where citizens consciously, (or is it subconsciously?), vote against their own interests. Mr. Obama, as the numbers do show, has been able to connect with voters on a visceral level. But that’s not translating into votes. Though these voters will be quick to note he is not responsible for the chaos that befell the country.
So, is it that the president’s policies have not worked? If the answer is no, could this be why independent voters nationally seem to be rejecting him with such a margin? But if these same voters claim Mr. Romney will not look out primarily for their interests, what then gives?
I will dare to posit that these crucial voters are suffering from a political variation of what psychotherapists term “posttraumatic stress disorder” (PTSD). While the worst of the economic downturn may have passed, Mr. Obama, for all intents and purposes, is the proud owner of this current economy and any failure to rocket out of the morass into the high heavens (whether just or unjust, reasonable or unreasonable) falls at his desk.
At his junction, there’s nothing the president can do to resolve this. His campaign has done all it can to impress on the minds of voters where his priority lay. His only chance of success in these next days is to continue to aggressively push a countermeasure that will offset the immovability of the problem.
Thanks to a quiet primary season, the president has been able to vastly solidify his ground get-out-the votes organization in key swing states. A luxury to which Mitt Romney has not been privileged due to his bruising fight for nomination in the Republican Party. That fight consumed a lot of his money, attention, and resources in building a ground game comparable to that of President Obama.
Hopefully, the president can blunt the impact of pro-Romney independent voters in vital swing states like Ohio and Florida by getting a disproportionate number of Democrat-leaning independents and registered Democrats to the voting booths between now and Election Day. Only through this can he prevent the threatened hara-kiri of a traumatized crowd.