Andrew Roberts: Republicans Must Avoid Civil War

Roundup: Historians' Take

Andrew Roberts is a British historian.

The Boston Convention and Exhibition Center was an uncomfortable place to be at midnight on Tuesday, November 6. The free beer and wine were flowing; the would-be ambassadors were wandering around the suites reserved for those who had given $7 million or more to the Republican party; the vast TV screens were tuned in to Fox News (CNN had been booed off). It should have been a party rather than a wake, yet from the moment I had walked in two hours beforehand, I could sense the rising stench of coming disappointment. That special thrill which throbs through election-night parties given by the victorious side was totally absent, even two hours before the Ohio result sent everyone for the doors. From the moment the exit polls recorded that white voters were only making up 72 per cent of the total it was clear: Mitt Romneywasn't going to make it.

"We're all in this together," President Obama tweeted after the race was called in his favour. "That's how we campaigned, and that's who we are." Of all the very many untruths told by the Democrats during the course of this 18-month campaign, that was perhaps the worst. For in fact the campaign he fought was a relentlessly divisive one, attempting to cordon off Hispanics, Asians, single women, blacks and the young from the Republican party, blackening the sterling business reputation of an admirable Republican candidate, and solidly refusing to run on either the Administration's record or its plans. Obama won by 60.66 million votes (i.e. 50 per cent of the popular vote) to 57.82 million (48 per cent), which National Public Radio considers "decisive", but which shows how harshly divided this country truly is.  

President Obama won re-election—the first president to do so with a lower percentage of the vote than the first election—because the cynicism of his electoral strategists was proved right: play to the envy and chippiness in human nature, the fear felt by unmarried women over abortion, collect enough "victimised" minorities together to create a majority, and accuse your opponent of being a "felon" (as Obama's spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter called Romney), a cultist whose business ethics caused one woman to contract cancer (according to a pro-Obama super-PAC ad), and any number of other lies and half-truths. American politics is dirty, but considering that the Romney campaign entirely eschewed even mentioning the president's connections to embarrassments such as Rev Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers, when it came to the pig-trough of politics, they weren't "all in this together".

Napoleon wanted his marshals to be lucky above all else, and there can hardly be a luckier man in politics than Barack Obama, whose most difficult election before 2012 was the one in which he defeated Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination in 2008…

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