Binders and Romnesia show desperate new low for Obama
Published: Sunday, October 21, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 17:11
President Barack Obama has not tried to make a case for his own re-election, and has instead chosen to make the case against Mitt Romney. As his case against Romney gets more desperate, it is clear Obama is worried about his own prospects for re-election.
Taking advantage of your opponents’ gaffes is central to any political strategy, but there is a point when it is taken too far.
It’s perfectly acceptable for Obama to talk about Romney declaring that corporations are people, just as it’s acceptable for Romney to talk about Obama telling small businesses that they “didn’t build that.”
But if this is all a candidate does, then their supporters should have cause for worry. There is a line that politicians shouldn’t cross I’m not sure where that line is, but I’m sure that Joe Biden can barely see it in the distance while he literally waves binders around while giving his stump speech.
The last several weeks of Obama’s campaigning have been particularly petty. Instead of talking about a plan for the future, he’s talked about Big Bird, binders full of women and “Romnesia.” By doing this he not only appears desperate, but he also appears as if he no longer thinks he can win the election.
If he thought he was leading comfortably, Obama would not be taking the low road in his speeches. It would normally be below the office of the president to act like this. The same thing could be seen in 2008, when John McCain started calling Obama a “celebrity” and comparing him to Paris Hilton. People who think they’re going to win don’t do this.
Why isn’t Obama talking about Romney’s policies and why they won’t fix the economy? Why is he focused on such trivialities when there are big issues at stake in this election?
Of all the things Romney said in the debates, there are plenty of things that Obama could be talking about besides these gaffes. Instead, he coins the new word “Romnesia.”
This type of discourse surely isn’t what the high-minded, post-partisan president was hoping for his campaign, and yet this is precisely what he’s been reduced to in recent weeks. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida summed up this recent strategy of Obama’s nicely on Sunday.
In discussing “Romnesia,” the word Obama coined to describe Romney’s penchant for flip-flopping, Rubio responded “Well thats very cute Mr. President, but what are you going to do for the future?”
It’s an awfully ironic strategy for a man whose campaign slogan is “Forward.” Seriously, if this is the kind of campaigning that represents going forward and represents progress, then we are in for a mighty bleak future.
The “Binders full of women” “gaffe” from Romney wasn’t much of a gaffe, and in fact in context it makes Romney look pretty good. He was talking about how he had binders full of women’s resumes as he was filling his cabinet as governor, and he had a higher percentage of women in his cabinet than any other governor in the country. So for Obama to seize on his unfortunate wording in an otherwise good point just reeks of desperation.
Protesters who chant “Equal rights, not binders!” completely miss the point. Romney had binders full of women precisely because he was trying to provide an equal opportunity for employment in his administration. “Binders full of women” is a silly phrase and oddly amusing when out of context, but it makes no sense as a partisan chant.
Many others who have written about this latest meme from the Obama campaign note that while it doesn’t help with independents or undecided voters, it is the kind of thing that helps rally the base and turn out the vote. I would argue that it actually does exactly the opposite. The base gets discouraged by antics like this from an incumbent President.
The president is supposed to have a sense of gravitas — a sense that he is above these kinds of things. The base gets a sense of despair when they realize their candidate tries to do this kind of thing to try to re-energize the campaign.
If Obama really wants to change the state of the race, then he needs to do something he hasn’t yet: articulate a clear agenda for a second term, make a positive case for re-election.
Voting for something is much easier and exciting for voters, particularly the base, than voting against something is. This is what Obama needs to do to get re-elected, but I don’t think I’ll be holding my breath.
Keene is a junior majoring in political science, economics and public policy.