As long as political pundits everywhere – particularly those on the right – are conducting post-mortems on the election, I might just as well throw in my two cents. My perspective is not one that stems from a deep understanding of politics; it is from the perspective of a clergyman, specifically that of an orthodox Rabbi.
The key to understanding Romney’s loss (and conversely of course, Obama’s win), is the following shocking and telling statistic: Romney’s campaign managed to generate roughly 3,000,000 less Republican votes than the singularly lackluster campaign of John McCain in 2008. While it is perfectly understandable why the final 2012 vote tally for Obama was way down from 2008, there was every reason to believe that Republican voter enthusiasm would have exceeded that of the previous election. Those votes would have spelled victory for Mitt Romney.
What emerges from all this – as the title of this article makes clear – is that this election was not really about the economy. Obama’s economic policies are by any standard dismal failures. If that was the electorate’s primary focus, not only would Mitt Romney have won, he would have won decisively. This election was about the fact that despite a miserable and floundering economy, a frightening 16 trillion dollar debt, the threat of a nuclear Iran, Obama’s shameless cover-up of the Fast and Furious and Benghazi scandals, his flagrant disregard for U.S. Immigration Law, the immoral decision of Eric Holder not to prosecute the transparent voter-intimidation of the Black Panthers (the black community’s version of the Klu-Klux-Klan), and the even more outrageous, politically-motivated labeling of the murder of 13 American soldiers in the Islamic terror attack at Ft. Hood as “workplace violence,” thus depriving the wounded of crucial benefits; that despite the fact that Mitt Romney is a highly intelligent and articulate individual, an accomplished businessman and politician with a proven record of executive experience, in short an excellent GOP candidate, and a very decent human being to boot, Republican voters could not be bothered to get up from their comfortable couch-potato positions and vote in the most crucial election of our times. Obama’s people did get off the couch and vote. What motivated them while apathetic Republicans stayed home?
Right-wing pundits in part blame media bias, that the mainstream media covered for all of Obama’s glaring deficiencies. Whether or not this is true is painfully beside the point; it does not answer the truly important question: Why did Republican voters stay home? This is a question that screams out for an explanation. I would suggest that if we are prepared to think a little bit outside-the-box, the answer is rather simple.
One thing about Barack Obama that is clear to me – but rarely, if ever, noticed or acknowledged by his antagonists on the right – is that he is a deeply spiritual person. This spiritual quality comes through in everything he says. His is connected to goals and ideals much greater than himself. In fact, he radiates transcendence. Conservatives may find the Greek columns amusing and even laughable; they may smirk at the “fired up, ready to go, let’s change the world!” rhetoric and the messianic-like imagery of the “moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and the planet began to heal,” but progressives, liberals, Democrats, and leftists do not find them amusing at all. They are mesmerized and inspired. Chris Mathews was deadly earnest when he announced that he “felt a thrill going up my leg.”
Barack Obama possesses that rare quality and ability to generate excitement by his very presence at the podium, by the timbre of his voice. In fact, Obama generates the same excitement among Conservatives and those on the right. There, however, it is manifested as intense antipathy. What is so appealing to those who adore him is not so much the message he brings to the table, but rather that Barack Obama is the message that he brings to the table. The only political figure in the Republican camp that can do the same is Sarah Palin. (It might also be worth considering that one factor which was present in both 2008 – with its 3,000,000 extra Republican votes – and the Republican surge in the 2010 elections, and was conspicuously missing in the 2012 campaign, was the participation of Sarah Palin.) People believe in Obama, so much so that they are prepared to overlook his litany of failures and get themselves off the couch to vote. All of the above are manifestations, and the consequences of, the deep spirituality that resonates within Barack Obama.
It is important to distinguish this from charm or charisma. Bill Clinton and Chris Christie are both quite charming and charismatic. However, if one were asked to describe their qualities, I don’t think that the words “spiritual” and “transcendent” would leap to the forefront.
Please do not misunderstand. I do not equate spirituality with goodness. There is also a dark side to spirituality. Jeremiah Wright and Louis Farrakhan come to mind. As far as I’m concerned, the spiritual vision presented by Barack Obama to the citizens of the United States is a dark one indeed. It is an Americanized version of the socialist/communist dream of a utopian society; where the wise and almighty State trumps the individual, who is prepared to accept his role as a subject in return for having all of his or her needs taken care of. Pay your very high taxes and let the State do the rest. This freedom from the yoke of personal responsibility coupled with government encouragement to satiate one’s sexual appetites – “we will educate you to accept any and all expressions of sexuality, give you all the contraceptives you want, and if there is a problem we’ll pay for the killing of the unwanted, unborn baby!” – can be quite appealing. When couched in noble language it gives people a sense of spiritual fulfillment inasmuch as they feel part of an enlightened and idealistic worldview while simultaneously granting them license to indulge in physical pleasures.
It is high time for Conservatives to stop the smirking and to start engaging in some serious soul-searching. It is not just about superior ideas, sound economic policies, or skilled politicians anymore. “Behold days are coming…and I will send a hunger to the land. Not a hunger for bread and not a thirst for water, but to hear the words of God.” (Amos 8:11) Human beings hunger for spiritual fulfillment, they hunger for transcendence; and in the presence of a spiritual vacuum will take whatever is available. We need a spiritual visionary of our own, a visionary who is the message, and we need him or her very soon. It’s worth praying for.
Rabbi Moshe Averick is an orthodox rabbi, a regular columnist for the Algemeiner Journal, and author of Nonsense of a High Order: The Confused and Illusory World of the Atheist. It is available on Amazon.com and Kindle. Rabbi Averick can be reached via his website. If you wish to be informed when new articles appear, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the email address and the word “Subscribe” in the subject line.