The Losing Strategy

At yesterday’s Obama press conference one phrase stuck out. A female reporter from the Chicago Tribune prefaced a question by congratulating him on his reelection. She then said “I’ve never seen you lose.”

Something about that caught my ear. Yes, it was sycophantic. But that’s not the main objection. Reporters act that way around him all the time. We’ve come to expect that kind of sick groveling. No, that wasn’t it.

It was what she didn’t say. She didn’t say “win elections.” She said he doesn’t lose. There’s a big difference.

He doesn’t lose because he makes sure he controls as much as possible. In a normal election, with equal advantages and a fair playing field Obama wouldn’t win. His past races depended on contesting ballot signatures, intimidation and demonization of his opponents.

In the presidential election he didn’t rely on the issues. He used smear and fear. He didn’t talk about the economy and how to fix it. He talked about how rich Romney was and out of touch. He didn’t tell women his plans for helping them find jobs. He scared them with ideas that Republicans would take away their contraceptives and right to abortion. He never put forth a plan for his second term. He just talked about how Republicans would be bad for the country.

In the four years since his 2008 win Obama set up offices in Chicago and elsewhere to mine data. He had plenty of money to fund workers to comb through all of it. How could he fail with Google and Facebook in bed with him? How could he lose with a media that wouldn’t report negative events? And that’s all he needed – not to lose.

The president didn’t win over businesses who saw him as their standard bearer. He intimidated lots of them into donating to his campaign to protect their interests. They didn’t rally to any winning economic plans.

Obama didn’t win on the battlefield of ideas. He just didn’t lose.

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