Editorial: Election Returns

At the risk of taxing (we already regret the word choice) your patience, here are a few semi-final reflections on the 2012 elections.

The Obama campaign has been credited with running a masterful ground game, using sophisticated data analysis to identify potential supporters and then turning them out to vote. President Obama would be well served by employing similar means to build and bring to bear public support for his second-term initiatives on the deficit, immigration, climate change and other issues.

In this he would be applying a lesson we hope he learned from his first term, when he failed to mobilize on behalf of his health care reform package the enthusiasm his campaign generated. This, combined with his reluctance to use his oratorical gifts to explain to the public the historic nature of the effort and its practical benefits, presented his opponents with an open invitation to portray the Affordable Care Act in an intensely negative light.

In his speech on election night, Obama told his supporters: “The role of citizens in our democracy does not end with your vote. America’s never been about what can be done for us; it’s about what can be done together through the hard and frustrating but necessary work of self-government. That’s the principle we were founded on.” We only hope the president remembers his own words going forward.

While we’re on the subject of potential lessons learned, Republicans might want to reflect on whether it was politically wise to demonize Obama almost from the minute he took office. By the time this year’s campaign rolled around, there was very little new of a negative nature to say about the president, while there was much for the public to learn about Mitt Romney, lots of it not flattering to his business career. Many voters may have drawn the conclusion that the GOP failed to give Obama a decent interval of respectful opposition before unloading on him, and the party suffered as a result.

As we noted in this space on Sunday, the election results in New Hampshire represented a forceful rejection of what the Republicans wrought during the past two years with the huge legislative majority they gained in 2010. Democrats are ascendant again, and there’s every reason to hope that they pursue their mandate with the moderation that Republicans abandoned in favor of a radical social agenda.

For one thing, violent swings of partisan advantage do not lend themselves to stability in government. If the goal of the party in power is solely to repeal everything that the other guys did while they had control, then the net result is little or no progress. To our way of thinking, the idea is to build on the good that was done previously, while tweaking or getting rid of the not-so-good.

We certainly do not subscribe to the view of state Rep. Paul Mirski, the Enfield Republican who was closely aligned with the Tea Party contingent in the House and whose bid for re-election was crushed by voters. “Politics is an endeavor in which there are no goal posts or baskets. It’s just this field that you’re on, and you move back and forth from one end to the other. This is all just a part of that,” Mirski told the Valley News on election night. While this notion has a certain appeal to the inner existentialist, it is an impoverished conception of what can be achieved in politics.