The 2012 Election And “The Soul Of The Country”

Mitt Romney said the other day that the 2012 Election is about "the soul of the country." This is most assuredly not true.

Taegan Goddard highlights this quote from Mitt Romney that repeats a line I’ve heard from several Presidential candidates, and many, many conservatives, over the past several months:

Surveying the crowd in Sioux City, Romney launched into an almost soaring speech about the virtues of the nation he says he wants to restore, not remake.

“The next election isn’t about just picking the next president,” he said.  “It’s about the soul of the country.”

This isn’t something new, of course. The idea that whatever election happens to be taking place at a given time is “The Most Important Election In History” is something you hear from partisans on both sides of the aisle almost every four years. In reality, of course, there have been very few Presidential elections that have been of truly monumental importance. The Election of 1800 certainly qualifies for that, as do the contests in 1860, 1932, and, perhaps, 1980. That’s not to say that all the other elections have been unimportant, of course, but it’s simply not the case that every election has had the same impact on the direction of the nation as others have, and the odds are more likely than not that a given Presidential election will be far less trans-formative than people think. Change in American politics is typically marginal, not revolutionary.

The three years of the Obama Administration have not been nearly as radical a departure from the norm in American politics as many on the right would suggest. In foreign policy, for example, the President has largely maintained the policies of his predecessor, even when it comes to controversial subjects like Drone Warfare, the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, and the bypassing of traditional legal procedures when dealing with terrorist suspects. Similarly, and again contrary to the President’s critics, our policies toward Israel have not changed in any significant degree from what they were under the Bush Administration, and the United States under Barack Obama has treated the prospect of an Iranian nuclear weapon. Domestically, the President’s 2009 stimulus program followed in the footsteps of two stimulus packages passed under the Bush Administration, the fact that it arguably didn’t work says more about the failures of Keynesian stimulus in a deflationary recession than the radicalism of Barack Obama. Even the President’s signature domestic achievement, the Patient Protection And Affordable Care Act, was based on ideas that had been advocated by conservative organizations and politicians for a decade prior to Barack Obama’s election. The truly radical solution on health care reform would have been a Public Option, which the Administration made no effort to advance in Congress after it was clear there was no way it would pass both Chambers.

So, the idea that Barack Obama has been some kind of trans-formative radical simply doesn’t stand up to reality.

The other idea we hear from partisans around election time is the idea that the nation is doomed unless a certain person is elected President. This is is one we’ve heard before, and it’s almost always not true. There are only a few examples in history of what you might the “essential man,” the man without whom history would have turned out for the worse, or at least far differently from how it did. Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan. These are, arguably, names that belong on that list. Does anyone truly believe that any of the people running for President in 2012 would end up on that list? Of course not, and yet that is what we hear from the rabid supporters of candidates (Ron Paul) and non-candidates (Sarah Palin) alike.

A variation on the myth of the Essential Man, of course, is the idea that the re-election of  Barack Obama means that America is doomed. This is perhaps an even more dangerous idea, about any candidate, than its  companion myth. Except perhaps for Aaron Burr and John Breckinridge (the candidate who came in second in the Election of 1860), I can’t think of a single major party nominee in our history who it could be fairly said would have been a grave danger to the Republic had they won the election. The only purpose that engaging in such rhetoric serves is to rile up the partisan masses, and while that’s a grand old American tradition (just look at the politics of the 1820s or late 19th Century for proof of that) it seems as though we’ve entered an era where the partisan nature of campaigning has made governing itself impossible. If you believe your opponent is not just wrong, but evil and a threat to the nation, then compromise is impossible. The fact that it isn’t true doesn’t really matter.

Re-electing Barack Obama won’t mean the end of America. In fact, if recent history is any guide it’s quite likely that a second Obama Term will be even more of a let down for his supporters than the first one has been, as James Joyner noted in another context back in October:

A re-elected Obama would be, like most second term presidents, a placeholder. His Big Ideas are all either enacted or failed and he’s unlikely to have much support in Congress.

Like most two-term Presidents, Obama would likely look overseas to establish his legacy, either in a renewed push for Middle East peace or something even more quixotic. By 2014, his fellow Democrats will already have begun maneuvering to replace him and the next generation of Republican candidates will be well on their way toward attempting to make sure there isn’t a third Democratic term in 2016. In other words, America will muddle through and our destiny will largely be controlled by events far beyond the control the President regardless of who he, or she, might be.

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, Middle East, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Ernieyeball says:

    “A re-elected Obama would be, like most second term presidents, a placeholder.”

    Quack! Quack! Quack! Read lame duck. Not accountable to voters. Term limits.

    Maybe 2012 will be the year of the Ghost of Ronald Reagan.

  2. Hey Norm says:

    Well on the other hand…
    Romney has endorsed the Ryan plan…which is a radical departure from the status-quo.
    Romney has promised to repeal the PPACA which would take many people with pre-existing conditions and many youg people and many small businesses who have only recently been able to afford insurance, off the roles of the insured.
    Romney has promised a more supportive stand towards Isreal…which could mean a war with Iran.
    Romney’s only economic prescription is more supply-side policies generally and a permanent extension of the Bush Tax Cuts…which is a change from current law as well proven bad policy.
    Womens rights.
    Gay rights.
    The list goes on.
    Perhaps soul is hyperbole…maybe it’s a fight for direction…forward or back.

  3. @Hey Norm:

    Thanks for proving my point that this is not an exclusively Republican problem

  4. mannning says:

    Perhaps it is more like where the stimulus was applied than the fact of it. The other day, I read that Obama funded a Finnish company to the tune of $500 million for an auto push of some sort. That goes along with several other failed attempts to create companies with government dollars amounting to well over $1 billion. Most of these companies went belly up in 2011, which tends to illustrate my point. The efforts did increase the unemployment roles, didn’t they?

    What most commenters seem to miss is the rather vast increase in government regulations of businesses large and small since Obama and a Democratic majority took office; did I misread the fact that over 40,000 new laws went into effect today? What an incredible step in the wrong direction, as each law passed has the potential to rob us of a piece of our freedoms, and to make it extremely difficult for small businesses to survive and grow, which is exactly where the most jobs are created.

    It is well past time for leadership in the nation that understands how and where jobs are created that last and have sound economics behind them, instead of ideological green (wet) dreams and growth in government itself.

  5. Hey Norm says:

    Yes we’re all fully aware of your delusions of yourself as post-partisan.
    But that doesn’t change facts…much as you like to ignore them.
    Fundamentally changing Medicares structure and intentionally underfunding it is a major change to a 50 year old program. Medicare was necessary because private insurance companies did not wish to insure the elderly. The Ryan plan throws the elderly back into that system. Are we a nation that takes care of the sick and the elderly or not? The Republican House has voted no. Romney supports that position.
    These are facts. Not phony post-partisanship.

  6. @Hey Norm:

    You can pretend your partisanship is non-partisan if you like, I don’t mind.

  7. Tano says:

    typo in the title. Should be country not county.

  8. This is not a good way to start out the year :/

    Thanks. And, fixed.

  9. ponce says:

    The other day, I read that Obama funded a Finnish company to the tune of $500 million for an auto push of some sort.

    Fisker is a California company that is going to start manufacturing cars in Delaware this year.

  10. anjin-san says:

    @ Manning

    I notice you do not have a single shred of supporting evidence to support your claims. Big surprise that…

  11. Hey Norm says:

    @ Doug…
    I never claimed to be non-partisan.
    Are you drunk?

  12. @Hey Norm:

    Fine as long as you admit that your invocation of “radical” is partisan, we’re cool

  13. Hey Norm says:

    A quick check of Mannings 40,000 job killing regulations:
    Most are at the state level and include things like Utah outlawing Happy Hour, Illinois allowing motorcycles to proceed at a light if the signal doesn’t change, and another state regulating golf carts on public roads. My heavens it’s amazing we have any jobs left.
    Manning: “…It is well past time for leadership in the nation that understands how and where jobs are created that last and have sound economics behind them…”
    I thought tax cuts for the rich created jobs…that’s what we’ve been hearing for decades of weak job growth and historically low taxes.
    What a joke.

  14. Hey Norm says:

    @ Doug…
    No…the Ryan plan for Medicare is radical.
    Do you understand the meaning of that word?
    “… marked by a considerable departure from the usual or traditional…”
    Party on Garth…but I hope you aren’t driving.

  15. gVOR08 says:

    Doug says, “Re-electing Barack Obama won’t mean the end of America.” That’s true enough. But that doesn’t mean this isn’t an election about “The Soul of the Country”. Electing Romney will guarantee continuation of the class war of the .01% against everyone else.

  16. As opposed to Obama who has received millions of dollars from Wall Street donors and who selected as his Treasury Secretary the former head of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York?

    Yea, the Obama White House is truly the home of the 99%.

    gVORo8, your naivete is showing

  17. ponce says:

    the next generation of Republican candidates will be well on their way toward attempting to make sure there isn’t a third Democratic term in 2016.

    What “next generation of Republican candidates?”

    They all got in this year and covered themselves with feces.

  18. merl says:

    Yes, you misread that. 40,000 job killing regulations? How could you believe that?

  19. Hey Norm says:

    So Doug…if you are to be taken seriously as an advocate for the majority of the country you have to appoint a homeless guy to head up the Treasury?
    Amazing insights to start the New Year.

  20. OzarkHillbilly says:

    The only thing I fear is a President Romney with a Senate led by a Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and a House of Representatives led by Speaker Eric Cantor ….. Because a unified Republican Government did such wonders for our country the last time around.

    If it happens again, and it just might, the American experiment will quite probably prove to be a dismal failure.

  21. Ron Beasley says:

    @Hey Norm: In defense of Doug there were plenty of better people that Obama could have chosen to head up Treasury. In fact after the financial collapse caused by the banksters Geithner was probably among the worst choices. It didn’t help that he chose a Wall Street lawyer to be the AG.

  22. Pete says:

    @ponce: Grow up, Ponce!

  23. Pete says:

    Hey Norm, the problem is bigger than either party, wouldn’t you agree?

  24. Hey Norm says:

    It’s easy in hindsight to say so-and-so would have been better than Geitner. Who knows. The proof is in the pudding. No similar economy in a similar hole has recovered any better. The auto industry was saved…while the preemptive alternative says he would have let it collapse taking maybe 2M jobs with it. The banking industry was saved…and the world economy with it. Everything else…including Romney claiming he could have done better…is pure conjecture based on nothing really.

  25. ponce says:

    Grow up, Ponce!

    Sorry for pointing out that Republican princelings like Rick Perry have shattered any hopes of they and their supporters had for future presidential success.

    OT: Was that 7th round draft pick Matt Flynn who stepped in for “the great” Aaron Rogers and threw for 480 yards and 6 touchdowns against the playoff-bound Lions?

    NFL quarterbacks are interchangeable cogs.

  26. anjin-san says:

    Yea, the Obama White House is truly the home of the 99%.

    No, but at least Democrats throw crumbs to the masses. The GOP spits on them.

  27. mannning says:


    That many of the new laws are city, and state changes doesn’t change the thrust of the comment at all. Obviously some laws are rather trivial, but others are quite impacting on our daily lives. I did not claim that all 40,000 laws were against jobs, but that there were new laws in the lot that will cost small business a lot of extra time and effort. This is the hallmark of a liberal administration that wants to control every aspect of our lives in a fit of hyperconcern for everything that stands still, moves or can be eaten. I did shudder to think that we needed 40,000 new laws at all just to exist in this society, never mind how impacting.

    @Hey Norm:

    I thought tax cuts for the rich created jobs…that’s what we’ve been hearing for decades of weak job growth and historically low taxes

    I think you are quite confused, HN. You can’t write a sentence that makes sense. Decades???

  28. anjin-san says:

    That many of the new laws are city, and state changes doesn’t change the thrust of the comment at all.

    Nope. Its ignorant either way. City and state regulations and laws have nothing to do with Obama. At the national level, the GOP controls the house, which was pretty deeply involved in creating new law last time I checked in.

  29. Tano says:


    That many of the new laws are city, and state changes doesn’t change the thrust of the comment at all.

    It should. There are something on the order of 25000-30000 jurisdictions (states, counties, cities, towns, villages etc) in the United States. Your scary sounding number comes out to less than 1 1/2 new laws per jurisdiction.

    And that is before you come to grips with the fact that many laws and/or regulations actually increase our freedom because they are aimed at curbing the dishonest or exploitative practices of the bad guys.

  30. @mannning: I was also under the impression that the GOP controlled 29 out of the 50 governorships in this country the last I checked.

  31. MBunge says:

    There are three things that actually make the 2012 election a bit more important than usual.

    1. This country and the world still face huge economic and financial problems

    2. A Republican victory in November will validate everything conservatives have been doing and saying the last 3 years.

    3. A win by any GOP Presidential candidate except Paul and maybe Huntsman will re-empower the people who got us into Iraq and now want us to attack Iran.


  32. Mike says:


    Your point might be valid had Obama not passed far FEWER regulations than the last Republican President….

  33. Mike Alexander says:

    This election could easily be consequential. We are in a dangerous economic environment. Economies generally expand and when they stop then they go into recession. Although slowdowns happen, if they persist the economy will likely go into recession.

    So there are two possibilities: the economy improves over the next year, in which case it makes Obama more likely to win, or it gets worse, making a Republican victory more likely.

    This means the most likely scenario with a Republican victory is a worsening economy. This puts the new administration in a bind. They will face a declining economy with a playbook that no other administration since WW II has been stuck with. Avoiding a Depression will be tough for any Republican president, much less the crew that are available. Even Romney, who would know what he has to do, would probably be be unable to do it since it would require that he simply abandon everything that is in the current Republican economic wisdom.

    Of course, it is possible that a Republican could win in the face of an improving economy, in which case a Depression won’t be in the cards unless the new president tried to reduce the deficit, which won’t happen based on what all Republican administrations have done in the last 40 years.

    I think the possibility of a Depression counts as consequential, and it becomes a real possibility should the economy decline in 2012.

  34. mannning says:


    Fiskars is a Finnish company based in Helsinki that has subsidiaries in the US to assemble their products, which means that we get a little out of it, and some employment, but the profits are repatriated to Finnland. About the same as Toyota or Nissan. Much of the product is manufactured in the home country, and merely assembled here.

    Why should we be spending our tax dollars to allow a foreign company subsidiary to expand as opposed to growing our own companies?

  35. anjin-san says:

    Why should we be spending our tax dollars to allow a foreign company subsidiary to expand as opposed to growing our own companies?

    Well, when Obama saved the US auto industry, conservatives called him a communist. Guess you just can’t make some people happy.

  36. Ernieyeball says:

    THE 40,000 (give or take)

    First he said:
    “…as each law passed has the potential to rob us of a piece of our freedoms, and to make it extremely difficult for small businesses to survive and grow, which is exactly where the most jobs are created.”

    Then he said:
    “I did not claim that all 40,000 laws were against jobs…”

    Lets have some fun with his words:
    “…as each law passed has the potential to rob us of…exactly where the most jobs are created.”

    Copy and Paste is so much fun!
    But he did not mean that since he we know he really meant when he hedged and stated “I did not claim that all 40,000 laws were against jobs…”

    (“…extremely difficult for small businesses…where most jobs are created.”)

    Come on M. Pick a number between 39,999 and 40, 000 and take a stand.

  37. beejeez says:

    Really, the world would have been tilted off its axis had Jimmy Carter been re-elected, or Walter Mondale in ’84?

    Look, I get it that Republicans are happy they had a macho-acting, popular president for a while. But positing that you need the Lincoln-Churchill-FDR yardstick to measure Ronald Reagan ought to disqualify anyone as a sentient adult, let alone a serious political analyst. So Reagan cut taxes (for a short while) and talked tough to Russia. This makes him a profile in courage?

  38. Quetico says:


    Fiskars is a Finnish company that makes scissors, among other items.

    Fisker Automotive is an entirely different company that spells its name differently and is based in California.

    Fisker Automotive signed a deal to have Valmet Automotive of Finland be its contract manufacturer as there are no contract manufacturers for autos in the US. They signed this deal in the Summer of ’08, before Obama was president.

    Fisker Automotive hired 40 staff this past summer to start up production in its Delaware Plant, if you believe those Obama apologists at Fox News,

  39. Mick Romney is playing all of you hard check out my website Mick Romney is part of the Illuminati! One Eye Symbolism on the cover up TIME Magazine. He is a Zionist Crook probably is the Real Antichrist, He claims that he will shoot down his Socialized Healthcare Plan if the Majority of the People Rule. Bullshit. Don’t Believe anything that comes out this crooks mouth. As for perry he put an innocent man to death in his state. Vote Ron Paul he’s the only won would has stuck up for people’s rights, and well freedom. He has spoken out against bills like HR1540 NDAA and HR 645 and not to mention Omni Treasonist Obamacare/Healthcare Bill HR3200. People pay attention the Elites want to chip everyone on the planet by 2017. That is what is really up and they wanted to Abolish the 2nd Amendment in 2012 with Hillary’s and the UN Small Arms Treaty. They are Diliberately trying to put us at War with the World and the result will be WW3. The Next President will have a Decision that will Kill or Save Millions if not a Billion Lives. Ron Paul is the only one who has a Flawless Voting Record and has the Experience to deal with Radical Islamic Countries like Iran and he can build back the Alliance with us and China and Russia. Cause Obama has greatly severed our Foreign Relationship with Asia. I know what is going on. Don’t let the Media Brainwash you who you should vote for is your own decision but know this it will greatly effect the planet in a negative way if we keep electing Globalist Dictators. All the other Presidents want to put a Berlin Wall so to speak, electified and patrolled by Drone Planes. Not to mention a Gestapo of Foottroops to protect our US Border is that even really Necessary? This is the reason why we have the 2nd amendment, the Right to bare Arms. To Defend against Foriegn AND DOMESTIC Enemies. What our Leadership is doing is Killing Jobs, Destroying and Evicting Small Businesses to Build the Relience of Giant Corporate Monopolies. Google the Military Industrial Complex. One Subject only Ron Paul has knownledge of and has sworn to STOP. End the Fed, And Stop the Government from stealing from us. Or you can go back America to the same ol Bullshit Big Supersized Tyrannical Government that we always had. The Elite have already stated this includes the Break down of Riddles Mick Romney and others have stated. The Opportunity of a New World Order. Much like George Bush Sr. said in one of his Historical Speeches in the early 90s. Dr. Ron Paul is the only one qualified to do the Reconstruction Surgery of our Country. It’s not a matter of just Saving America it’s to save the Entire World from the 666 Antichrist! Wakeup!

  40. Sry for the little Grammar Mistakes in all I rarely have to double check anything I type. But well I just woke up so be it a few mistakes nothing you can’t read around won, should be one, Perry* State* etc.

  41. When Mick Romney someone with his Past Tarished Reputation speaks one Iota about Souls that should be a Red Flag to you all. Remember the Antichrist will Appear Christian but he will fool many a Wolf in Sheeps Clothing. You won’t realized you’ve all been had until your Setting in the REd Line at the FEMA Death/Concentration/Retention Camp. Bills like HR1540 NDAA allow the Government to Extend this Unconstitutional Power to Fema and other Government Agencies in the matters of National Security. If they poisoned the Water Supply, One Scenaro the EPA and CDC, FDA would have new power to Contain the Outbreak one result would be Mandatory Martial Law, Forced Vaccinations if it’s a Biovirus Outbreak. Look up the Executive Orders related to Martial Law. The Army could agarison your Homes, Churches, HR1540 would allow Football/Stadiums to be turned in 1 million person Prison Camps, That includes the Parking Lots. The Old America I knew while growning up is dead now all I see is the People adopting New Police State Interventions. We are becoming just like North Korea and China. We have forgotten our Morals, Traditions and Constitution. It used to be the People who decided what authority the States had. They used to Work for us in a time long ago when we still had Freedom. Now all we are is Government Lapdogs and the Lead is getting shorter by the minute. All America has is an Illusion of Freedom/Freewill. George Carlin once said that basically. He could never be more right. Though he Converted to Athiesm he was a Brilliant and Smart Man. I’m not telling you this to Fear Monger Speculation and Lies. I’ve done my research of this I’m sharing a piece of a Large Ginormous Conspiracy so I can help lead my people into the Right Path and Open their Eyes so that ehy may understand why America Blows so much and why does the World hate us look at what we have become? Invading Country after Country ruling out UN Laws like the Rules of Engagement, Violating Posse Comitatus. I tell you this so you can forward the Facts and information to others and share your New Found Knownledge to the Rest of the Enslaved World.

  42. What happens if the Election ends up being a Hitler “Mick Romney” vs another Hitler “Obama”
    You still end up with an Adolf Hitler. No doubt his Reincarnated Ideas for a Final Solution still live on. The Government and Media has discussed Depopulation/Population Control numerous times it’s not that much of a taboo subject. I can show you how they are achieving this, The Pharmceutical Companies, I’ve herd reports on Dangerous Arsenic Levels in Orange Juice and Apple Juice. They are Depopulating us everyday. They already got caught once with Poisoning the Water Supply and then they’re was the Radiation from Cell Phones causing a Variety of Brain problems and Cancers and such. I mean come on…How are they able to get away with this? They achieve this by Government Engineered Bio Weapons like H1N1, or H2N3, or H1Z1 H1N5, Swine Flu Influenza Type A Strain. I exposed all this stuff many years ago. But did any of you ever listen? No Cause I’m just a Speck on the Entire Universe that is the World Wide Web. Though my Prophecys no matter how outrageous they may sound WILL Indeed come to pass.You will see very soon. As America Falls and Desintegrates into a Holocaustal Hellhole. That is the vision of our Monarchy Megalomaniac Presidential Psychopaths and UN Founders.