I continue to be puzzled by suggestions that Campaign 2012 — and with it, the significance of Obama’s victory — were somehow “small.” And I’m glad to see there’s some pushback on this idea. Here’s E.J. Dionne:
Many have argued that the president ran a “small” and “negative” campaign, and he was certainly not shy about going after Romney. But this misses the extent to which Obama made specific commitments and repeatedly cast the election as a choice between two different philosophical directions.
He was not vague about what he meant. Obama campaigned explicitly on higher taxes for the wealthy as part of a balanced budget deal. He stoutly defended the federal government’s interventions to bring the economy back from the brink — and especially his rescue of the auto companies.
The president also called for higher levels of government spending for job training and education, particularly community colleges. And he spoke repeatedly against turning Medicare into a voucher program and sending Medicaid to the states. The voters who reelected the president knew what they were voting for. They also knew what they were voting against.
And here’s Jonathan Cohn:
Romney and the Republicans had turned the election into a referendum on liberalism — not just the liberalism of Obama, but also the liberalism of Johnson and Kennedy, of Truman and Roosevelt. They proposed massive, fundamental changes to the welfare state and wholesale rollbacks of women’s rights, and challenged the philosophy behind such policies — the whole idea that governments should act to protect vulnerable groups and to guarantee economic security.
It was a huge gambit. And it failed...Repeatedly, [Obama] asked the voters to settle Washington’s squabbles in his favor. On Tuesday, they did.
What happened yesterday is very clear. Romney campaigned on a platform of repealing (and not replacing) Obamacare, the greatest expansion of the safety net in 50 years; readjusting the social contract at the core of Medicare, one of the great progressive reforms of the 20th century; rolling back government’s role in engineering economic growth and protecting people from the excesses of the private market; and dramatically reducing the amount the rich contribute towards the upkeep of government, on the theory that so doing will lead to explosive growth and broadly shared prosperity.
Obama campaigned on the necessity of continuing to implement health reform and the moral bankruptcy of leaving those with preexisting conditions at the mercy of private insurance companies; on preserving Medicare without rewriting the fundamental mission at its core; on expanding government’s role in spurring growth, social mobility, and shared prosperity; and on the moral need for the rich to sacrifice a bit more to enable a more robust role for government in improving the lives of the less fortunate.
All of this was very explicit. Both sides argued that their own vision better represented what America is all about. And enough voters picked the latter vision to give Obama a resounding electoral college victory. According to CBS’s latest count, Obama has won 50 percent of the popular vote, to Romney’s 48 percent.
People keep arguing that the campaign was regularly drawn into petty squabbles over offhand remarks by the candidates. But some of those squabbles — such as the battles over Obama’s “you didn’t build that” speech and Romney’s “47 percent” remarks — went directly to the heart of the basic ideological conflicts outlined above. Those supposedly petty battles actually embodied big, consequential arguments.
Indeed, Republicans themselves regularly said that this election was a “big choice” between “two very different visions for America.” That was also the regular refrain of pundits just after Romney chose Paul Ryan, the leading architect of the GOP’s overarching ideological blueprint for the country’s future. So by the lights of Republicans and pundits themselves, this outcome should be seen as a big choice by the American people — a big decision about the future direction of the country. Why, now that Obama has won a resounding victory, is this suddenly being talked about as a small, no-mandate election?