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A triumph over pandering


God bless America.

God bless Americans for having the collective good sense to re-elect President Barack Obama.

It was anything but an easy victory for the president, but it was a decisive one.

He leads Republican challenger Mitt Romney by almost 100 electoral college votes, with results from Florida still up in the air.

Less important from a legal perspective, but vital for American national solidarity, Obama also won the national popular vote.

The margin was small: 2.6 million ballots of 115 million counted so far.

But that’s more than enough to deny Obama haters the claim that his win was tainted or that he lacks legitimacy in any sense.

Obama won this week after a wrenching four years of economic recession and social angst.

He came to power after U.S. financial institutions failed and the bailouts began.

Narrow though his victory was, the message of Obama’s second win is clear: Americans want to pull together and expect elected politicians to lead those efforts.

The Republican strategy has been to conquer Congress by dividing Americans.

Republican congressional leader John Boehner made that abundantly clear on the day his party took control of the House of Representatives following the 2008 election.

His prime goal was to ensure that Obama would never be re-elected. He said Republican congressmen would do everything possible to prevent that from happening.

Boehner was abetted every step of the way by the rabidly conservative Fox News network.

The result was a mean-spirited and dysfunctional Congress. It was incapable of meeting the needs of Americans during a time of great national uncertainty.

Surely the Republicans cannot adopt this plan again.

They have lost two presidential elections in a row by following a false script.

Republican presidential debates, dutifully hosted and dissected by Fox News, began 18 months before the presidential election.

Many policy positions that Republican candidates take to placate their hard-right-wing base and secure the presidential nomination are anathema to the broader American electorate.

That led Romney to look like a waffler in his campaign against Obama, climbing down from or remaining mute on positions he advanced to win the Republican nod.

Changing American demographics will make the Republican challenge more difficult going forward.

The Republican core voter is an aging white man.

Young voters are a lock for the Democrats. So are women, blacks, immigrants and big-city residents.

All those groups are growing in number.

Rich old white guys are not.

They can help buy a lot of campaign ads, but catering to their narrow needs is not enough for a political party to win an election or to serve America’s interests.

A video clip of Romney egregiously pandering to that demographic was the most telling and damaging aspect of his failed campaign.

He told an audience who had paid $10,000 each to hear him speak at a private fundraising dinner that 47 per cent of Americans are “takers” while folks like them uphold the nation.

Romney’s speech was secretly taped, then released on the Internet, where it became an election game changer.

Romney’s 47 per cent includes teachers, firefighters and wounded war veterans, a point that was made repeatedly and effectively by critics.

It was a shocking revelation to Americans who knew Romney only from his carefully crafted media image.

Perhaps it was not so shocking for those who knew Mitt and his running mate best.

The Republican ticket lost Michigan, where Romney grew up, Massachusetts, where he was governor, and Wisconsin, the home state of his vice-presidential running mate Paul Ryan.

They all voted solidly Democratic on Monday, delivering Obama 37 electoral college votes.

The U.S. faces enormous challenges. It’s important for the world that they move to solve them, because the U.S. is the world’s only essential nation.

It’s especially important for Canadians because the U.S. is our best friend, our largest trading partner and prime ally. Obama’s re-election promises to be good for Canada and particularly good for Alberta.

Candidate Romney pledged to approve the Keystone XL pipeline to carry Alberta crude oil to U.S. Gulf coast refineries on his first day of office.

Candidate Obama never matched that pledge, but there’s a growing sense that Obama will soon take that step.

Last weekend on the CBC Radio national political show The House, two former ambassadors — one American and one Canadian — said the project is a virtual lock to be approved soon by Obama on a safer route that protects Nebraska’s water supplies.

Many people in Alberta’s oilpatch also feel that a second Obama term will be better for business than one led by Romney.

Romney’s commitment to American-based energy supplies would have meant more fuel from domestic coal, displacing Canadian alternatives.

Romney is less concerned about the climate-change consequences of coal than Obama, who will temper somewhat higher coal production with offsetting environmental protections to limit global warming.

In the Republican Party, the new heat is not from global warming, but from an election strategy based on dividing Americans rather than uniting them.

On Fox News immediately after the election results became clear, thoughtful Republicans talked about how the party must change to become relevant to all Americans if it hopes to ever regain the presidency.

The unasked question is whether Fox News, whose ideology is stridently conservative and whose core audience is older white guys, will let them.

Joe McLaughlin is the retired former managing editor of the Red Deer Advocate.

 
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