AND YET... – AT 10:24 A.M. ET: Despite the catastrophe of this administration, the polls remain locked. Romney can't catch an important break. A slight majority of Americans still seems willing to re-elect a major failure. Why?
John Hinderaker, at Powerline, believes, as I do, that this may turn out to be an election about culture, not policies. Culture has always played a role in elections. We often vote for the individual or party that makes us feel included, or wanted. In New York we long ago became used to the "balanced ticket" in state elections – One Catholic, one Protestant, one Jew, one black, one Hispanic, and so on, with some of those "ones" being women. But culture has played a magnified role since the election of Barack Obama, and the emergence, in leadership roles, of the 60s generation, which is obsessed with culture and "identity."
There was a time when images of American embassies under siege and a United States ambassador being dragged through the streets by a baying mob would have represented serious trouble for the administration in power, especially when coupled with obvious dishonesty about the circumstances that led to the debacle and an apparent lack of foresight and prudence on the part of the State Department. If anything might be expected to move the polls, this should be it. Yet the effects of the last week’s events on polling in the presidential race have been: nothing.
How can this be? I think it is a manifestation of the frequently-commented-upon polarization of the electorate. As I wrote here, this election shouldn’t be close, on paper, given Obama’s record of abject failure. But so many Americans are now cashing federal checks that self-interest drives many millions to vote Democrat, regardless of the public interest. Another factor is at work, too: more than ever, party affiliation reflects not so much empirical judgments about public policy issues, but deep-seated cultural affinity. As I noted here, the extent to which regular church attendance, or the lack thereof, is a predictor of presidential preference is shocking.
If all of that is correct, and given that the election now stands within the margin of error in any competent polling, it will come down to which side does the better job of turning out the members of its tribe. We can only hope that the Obama administration’s comprehensive failure dampens the enthusiasm of at least a handful of those whose monetary interest or cultural affinity normally leads them to pull the lever for Democrats.
COMMENT: A good analysis. But one way you break through cultural pull is sheer force of personality. Reagan had that. So did Clinton, I'm sorry to say. So does Marco Rubio, I'm glad to say. It's an area where we have legitimate doubts about Romney.
Romney can demonstrate strength and determination when he wants to. He just has to want to more often. He's a man of routine, and that is death in today's presidential politics.
September 17, 2012