Barack Obama's election in 2008 was an obviously enormous event -- the first election of a person of color as president in the nation's history. His message of Hope and Change after the 8-year nightmare of the worst president in U.S. history, Junior Bush -- whose damage to the country was starkly but only partly evident at the very end in the near-collapse of the financial system -- resonated with an exhausted public. With an over-the-hill and over-his-head opponent in John McCain -- shown to be even worse by his irresponsible selection of the ridiculous Sarah Palin as his VP and his knee-jerk reaction to the financial crisis -- the stars aligned, destiny called and Obama answered.
But, as historic as 2008 was, Obama's stunning landslide reelection on Tuesday was even more so. Never before has a sitting president -- or any candidate -- been subject to the kind of personal and political abuse channeled through more radical-right media outlets for four whole years. No candidate has been bombarded with literally unlimited spending by selfish billionaires and dirty industries, all intended to fool people into voting against their interests. Never has the mainstream media been more complicit in validating, excusing and distributing Republican lies. Not since Jim Crow laws in the South has there been such a systematic attack on the voting rights of American citizens by highly-organized Republican legislatures, designed only to suppress the votes of traditionally Democratic constituencies.
Bill Clinton managed to survive the first draft of the new-age Politics of Personal Destruction, supported every hour of every day by right-wing talk radio, then in its relative infancy. The journalistic fraud known as Fox News did not exist until after Clinton's reelection in 1996, just in time for Newt Gingrich's House to make a historical fool of themselves with the partisan impeachment fiasco. The new right-wing media found its footing playing defense during the dark Junior Bush years, with the added dynamic of pretend "independent" expenditures rearing their ugly heads, with phony front "groups" like the Swiftboaters carrying the Bush campaign's dirty water to save his ass from losing to American hero John Kerry in 2004.
But the radical right wing really had it all together and smooth, setting themselves up to (they thought) trounce Obama out on his offensively-drawn (by racist nut-right cartoonist Michael Ramirez -- a regular in the post-Doonesbury Journal Sentinel -- and others) big ears in 2012. There was no doubt about this one. Obama's supposed European socialist "regime" would be rejected in a landslide, and the entire structure of Fox News and talk radio was designed to affect just that result, with a script drafted by Karl Rove and the Republican National Committee. Especially after the Fox-hyped FreedomWorks-funded astroturf tea party took credit for swinging the House Republican in 2010, the biggest anti-Democrat machine in history was ready to roll right over Barack Obama.
Consider the elements of the unprecedented Republican advantage:
Fox News: Never before has an entire television network -- laughingly declaring itself a "news" network in the first place, and "fair and balanced" to boot -- been committed to the defeat of one man and the promotion of one political party. For five years (the smearing of Obama began the day he announced his candidacy in 2007), the president was mocked, dehumanized, marginalized and criticized -- on both opinion and "news" programs (believe it or not, Fox insists there's a difference). The pro-GOP/anti-Obama campaign really picked up steam after the hapless Mitt Romney made it through the hilarious Republican primary process. Fox propped up Romney and nitpicked Obama every day in every way. For all the rich pigs who tried to buy this election through supposedly "independent" SuperPACs, the swinish billionaire who had the biggest role trying to destroy Barack Obama was a foreigner: Australian Rupert Murdoch, owner of Fox News.
Talk Radio: The nation's free airwaves were filled for five years with all sorts of lies and smears of Obama, from the loudest national voices to the tinniest local pipsqueaks. In Milwaukee, former respectable corporate citizen Journal Communications Inc. turned over most of its non-sports daytime programming on WTMJ to heavily subsidized Republican mouthpieces like Charlie Sykes and Jeff Wagner, who gladly read GOP talking-points day after day after day. (The company also runs nut-right local radio talkers in at least seven other "markets" across the country). Across town, mega-station behemoth Clear Channel runs out no less than three local right-wing talkers everyday on WISN, including veteran sexist and racist Mark Belling, to promote anti-Obama GOP tripe. The balance of their day is devoted to three national Republican spokesmen, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Mark Levine. There has never been anything like the kind of poison spewed into the political environment by the 24/7 talk radio industry.
SuperPACs: Fox News and talk radio are essentially free messaging for the GOP. But, after the Citizens United decision by the right-wing of the US Supreme Court, the rich and their polluting corporations were also free to buy the commercials between the free programming. Over the past four years, the anonymous rich spent billions trying to defeat the president through all sorts of ads lying about the president's record and intentions. Again, no presidential candidate has ever had to endure this kind of onslaught, even if the Dems were able to at least get close to parity on the airwaves in the weeks leading up to the election.
Voter Suppression: Republican legislatures and governors in various states have been on a tear the last two years, enacting Photo ID and other voter suppression laws that have been designed only to prevent vast numbers of poor and minority voters from being able to cast a ballot. Some of the laws, such as in Wisconsin, are held up for now by courts that have bravely upheld the Constitution's right to vote, unencumbered by unnecessary red tape. But others are in place and are having just the effect for which they were intended -- although brave souls stood in long early-voting lines and went to court in Florida to stand up for their rights over the brutally anti-democratic machinations of Gov. Rick Scott.
Local Newspapers: The creeping demise of the local newspaper industry continues to facilitate the deterioration of the national discourse. Some papers have ceased physical publication altogether, while most that continue to publish dead-tree editions are shadows of their former selves. Locally, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel brags about Pulitzers won on mostly irrelevant topics while having its news, editorial board and opinion pages hijacked by a right-wing Republican think tank (The Wisconsin Policy Research Institute). The paper played Romney's selection of radical right-wing congressman Paul Ryan as some kind of home-boy-does-good story, ignoring the damage his ascension would cause to the country. In the last week of the campaign, the paper that endorsed the radical Scott Walker for governor -- twice -- announced that they would not make an endorsement in the presidential race. They most likely did so because, in a series of candidates-and-the-issues columns, they mostly favored Obama's policies; but, being the right-wing shills they now are, would have surely endorsed Romney; and they could not stomach even their own hypocrisy if that happened.
And so the fates and stars aligned against Barack Obama like no other presidential candidate before. Nobody had ever faced that kind of fierce, committed, coordinated, supposedly overwhelming opposition. His victory this week is all the more incredible for that -- a truly historic event.
But, although he ran a great, well-funded campaign, the credit does not all go to Obama and his excellent team. The credit really goes to the American people, who somehow saw through all the bullshit and did the right thing. As a liberal and a progressive, it was easy for me. But for many, it wasn't. And they made the difference. President Obama made history by winning reelection against unprecedented opposition. But it is those of us who voted for him who really made history, rejecting the campaign of Fear and Division, and voting again for Real Hope and Real Change. Again.