Alan Chartock: Avoiding a Romney era in America

Saturday November 10, 2012


With Barack Obama’s win in Tuesday’s election, a major bullet has been dodged. In some ways, this election was one of the most important in our history. When you consider the "what-might-have-been" scenarios, you get the picture more clearly.

A President Romney might have had the opportunity to appoint several justices to the Supreme Court. When you look at some of the really bad decisions that court has made in recent years, you can get an idea of some of those might-have-been scenarios, with the overturning of Roe v. Wade for starters.

The Citizens United case is a pretty good example of the kind of creeping corporatism we are seeing in this country. If Romney had been elected, he surely would have followed in the footsteps of his Republican predecessors and appointed like-minded individuals to the court. We Americans do not think conceptually. For the most part, we vote on our perceived view of a candidate’s character.

Here’s an example. The other day a guy called in to the "Vox Pop" program to take issue with my contention that some folks saw Romney as "two-faced."

"In fact," said the man, "he’s not two-faced, he’s seven-faced."

Likewise, people often vote for candidates because they like them.

Look at Scott Brown. Some like his physique; some like his palaver. Very few stop to think that Republicans like Brown vote to organize the Senate and elect Mitch McConnell, the man who said his job was to keep Obama from being elected.

I find it incredibly scary that a single, albeit dramatic, event like Hurricane Sandy may have been enough of a catalyst to turn this election around.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s "attaboy" to Obama may have stopped the Romney momentum and assured the president’s re-election.

If that was the case, it really makes you wonder what was up. Was it just a random occurrence? Was the event directed by a higher power? Was it all a bunch of hooey and the Obama team was so disciplined and good at their jobs that they would have won anyway? Or was it a matter of just how Team Obama played the event?

I remember when New York Mayor Lindsay lost popularity because of the way he handled one particular snowstorm.

The Obama victory speech early Wednesday morning was so dramatic that people were calling the radio station the next day and breaking into tears. It was a sensational effort. I found myself wondering where this evocative, inspiring, preacher-like man was the night of the first debate. I found myself wondering whether this Obama was worried about being seen as an angry black man during that debate. It still fascinates me that Obama lost several points after the first debate, but those points never came back to the same degree after he won the next two debates.

Then there is the matter of newspaper endorsements. This newspaper, for example, endorsed Obama and senator-elect Elizabeth Warren, and they both won big. Warren’s victory over Brown was helped by a number of things, not the least of which was Obama’s presence in the race.

I have argued about this for years with Rex Smith, the editor of the Albany Times Union and fellow panelist on "The Media Project." He tells me that many newspapers are not endorsing any candidates. In my opinion, that would be a huge error, especially for those of us who have no idea who some of the candidates are and what they stand for. When you have a superb editorial page editor like The Eagle’s Bill Everhart, you can count on the fact that he usually does his homework.

Alan Chartock, a Great Barrington resident, is president and CEO of WAMC Northeast Public Radio and a professor emeritus of communications at SUNY-Albany.


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