Mean streets come up big for Obama

By Jim Merriam, Toronto Sun

The White House is seen from the South Lawn in Washington on May 15, 2012. (REUTERS/Larry Downing)

The White House is seen from the South Lawn in Washington on May 15, 2012. (REUTERS/Larry Downing)

There’s been an abundance of talk about Wall St. and Main St. in recent U.S. elections, but little about the mean streets.

A lot of the votes that helped President Barack Obama win a second term came from the mean streets.

Folks who have suffered what Shakespeare called the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” turned out to vote for the man they believe best understands their lives.

Much of what makes America what it is comes from the mean streets, including racism. While little-discussed, it was part of the 2012 presidential campaign. Some far right radicals who vowed never to work with Obama after he was elected in 2008, but instead devote their energies to beating, were motivated by racism.

It is important to note, however, that thousands of Americans without a racist bone in their bodies were against Obama for a variety of other reasons.

The mean streets also are home to many unemployed, those who have lost their homes or who have suffered a variety of illnesses or personal disasters.

Since the economy is a big part of these issues, the Republicans thought folks would turn against Obama, the president who has been presiding over a limp economic recovery.

They didn’t count on the fact that victims, real and otherwise, often blame “the man” for their problems and Mitt Romney was “the man” personified.

Even with Obama’s win, the U.S. has to be prepared for a meaner street running out of the White House going forward.

As troubling as it can be, there is no fix for the country’s giant financial mess without some pain.

The new mean street in Washington will be different from one constructed by the Republicans. How different depends on which Mitt Romney had shown up for work.

Mitt the uber-conservative from the Republican primaries would have paved a new mean street. However, Mitt the moderate who showed up at the final presidential debate and in the campaign’s closing days might have been satisfied with just a path.

The two Romneys created one of the biggest problems for the Republican campaign. Nobody knew for sure which Mitt was around at any given time.

The moderate former governor of Massachusetts might have viewed the so-called Obamacare plan fondly, since it was similar to the one he introduced when leading his state.

However, Mitt the uber-conservative was going to scrap Obamacare on his first day in office.

Republicans apparently were shocked by the strength of Obama’s victory in swing states. Had they been regular readers of this column, they might have seen it coming.

I have long argued that retail politics and the ground game are critically important elements in almost all elections. And Obama Democrats play the ground game better than anyone.

“I don’t think anyone on our side understood or comprehended how good their turnout was going to be,” Henry Barbour, a Republican from Mississippi, told the Huffington Post.

“The Democrats do voter registration like a factory, like a business, and Republicans tend to leave it to the blue hairs.”

Therein lies a lesson for Ontario Liberals when their new leader takes them to the polls sometime next spring.

Certainly it’s about policy and speeches and strategy and sometimes even dumb luck.

But if your campaign has a deficit in these areas, you can make it up with retail politics and a good ground game.

Don’t take my word for it. Just ask the Republicans.



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