Special Reports / The Most Important Election in the World

Obama won’t win. But don’t worry, Romney will lose

Benjamin R. Barber in conversation with Łukasz Pawłowski · 6 November 2012
Political scientist Benjamin Barber in an interview with Łukasz Pawłowski on the American presidential election, future of the Tea Party and Mitt Romney’s uniqueness.

Łukasz Pawłowski: Your political inclinations are widely known, so I assume you don’t have trouble naming your candidate in the forthcoming election? 

Benjamin Barber: What are my political inclinations? 

Liberal and progressive 

That is true, but does is it make me pro-Obama? Will I vote for him? Yes. Do I think he’s a progressive and liberal? No. Am I his whole-hearted supporter? No. 

Were you four years ago? 

No. 

Why?

Because his record before 2008 was quite clear. Anyone who took time to verify it knew immediately that senator Obama is a market centrist, who will never confront Wall Street and truly change American politics. He’s a Harvard educated technocrat, not a liberal progressive. 

Nevertheless, as many other people dissatisfied with Barack Obama’s presidency, you are not even considering voting for the Republican Party. Why do you think it ceased to be a real alternative even for those disappointed with the incumbent president’s policies?

Because it has been completely taken over by the Tea Party extremists, who refuse to make any compromises and will not engage in any bipartisan bargaining. 

What, however, will happen to this faction, if Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan lose the elections?

In all probability they will lose, but even leaving this aside I think the Tea Party is finished, because in demographic terms it represents the past. The reason for their anger and radicalism is that they are the face of an already disappearing America – white, protestant, poor and rural. The new America is primarily urban, multiethnic, and multidenominational. There is nothing that can reverse this change, yet the Republican Party keeps on ignoring it. It is enough to look at the parties’ national conventions to see how different Republicans and Democrats have become. Never mind what was said at the podium, let’s just look at the public. At the GOP convention they had to parade people of colour on stage, because there weren’t enough of them in the audience. At the Democratic one, about a half or one third of all delegates were people of colour. This is an adequate image of contemporary America. 

Does it mean that the future Republican candidates will eventually need to move back again to the political centre?

Very much so. If the Republicans attach themselves to radical political views represented by a disappearing demographic group – and this is the case with the Tea Party – they will become more and more marginalized. Not a single ethnic minority will vote for them. Nor a sexual one for that matter. 

There are many conservative gay people…

That’s true. Many gays are wealthy and conservative and many of them used to vote Republican, but they don’t any more – or at least not in this election – because the GOP has virtually launched an anti-gay war. The same holds for Latinos. The Republican Party used to receive about 40-45 per cent of votes in this group. Latinos are culturally conservative, they’re usually very religious and many of them – especially migrants from Cuba – like the traditional American ethos of free enterprise and minimal government. Yet again, inspired by radicals within its ranks, the Republican Party started a war on emigration. During one of the debates in the preliminaries Romney said that as a president he would force illegal immigrants to self-deport – do you think that after such statement Latino communities will vote for him? To win general elections you need to reach out beyond your core supporters, but due to the influence exerted by extremists the GOP simply cannot do it.

If all the above was true, Obama should have secured a considerable lead over Romney long before the election day. Instead, just before November 6th his victory seems more uncertain than ever.

That is because many people, who belong to the aforementioned groups, don’t vote. If all of them voted today, Romney would not stand a chance. Obama’s electorate is not as disciplined as the core Republican one. 

But will Obama win?

No, he won’t, but don’t worry, Romney will lose. Obama does not have a strong popular support, but the Republicans have simply become so ludicrous, that unless they come back to their senses and appeal to swing voters they will never win. This party has taken itself so out of the conventional political sphere where you fight elections that not only Romney is going to lose, but also the GOP will probably not get the Senate back and may even lose the majority in the House of Representatives. 

In the presidential debates Romney seemed to have followed exactly your advice. He presented himself as a moderate candidate, who could bring the two sides together. Do you think he was convincing?

During the debates Romney was reasonable and articulate, yet at the same aggressive and emotive. There is no doubt he won the first debate, when the president seemed disinterested, irritated and looking like he wished he was somewhere else. All that, however, does not change the fact that Romney’s answers had nothing to do with fact and his real intentions. He was making things up as he went along. He defended his legacy as Massachusetts governor where he had to cooperate with the Democrats, he said he would protect the middle class and he distanced himself from radical cuts in social spending advocated by his own running mate, Paul Ryan. 

Did Romney’s enormous wealth impair his chances in this election as well?

We used to have many presidential candidates and presidents who came from very wealthy families, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Kennedys being very good examples. However, these people were all perceived as in a way traitors to their class, since they advocated for the poor and middle-class. Romney is the first rich candidate in history, who openly advocates primarily for his own people.