*This blog was previously published in the Vancouver Observer
Mitt Romney made a mockery of his claim to godliness. Obama took Wisconsin and Ohio Tuesday night to become 44th President of the United States and the fourth Democrat in the last 100 years to be elected to a second term, pushing back a well-financed, and powerfully religious challenger.
After weeks of blatant lies by Romney, six billion dollars of combined spending by the candidates, Obama prevailed, shunning what the New York Times has called "the politics of deceit." But it was an October surprise in the form of brutal hurricane Sandy that battered the East Coast and seemed to force the country to its senses that will be remembered in history as having decided the election.
This is not only a defeat of Mitt Romney, it is a defeat of the billionaire Koch brothers, Karl Rove, and of the notion that in American society the winner takes all. This is a victory for those who believe that government exists for the common good, for women and it is a victory for the very notion that integrity is an essential quality in the leader of the United States.
And what does it say about religion and the public discourse?
"I will never tell a lie"
I campaigned for Jimmy Carter in 1976. Carter's motto was "I will never tell a lie." As the Mittimeter registered more and more lies over the last months of the presidential campaign, it began to seem that the Republicans might be successful at ushering in a new age of American politics, pushing the boundaries of what had been acceptable in a candidate in the past, and worse, normalizing deceit, misogyny, and contempt for the not rich.
Mitt claimed to love his fellow man on the pulpit of the 2012 Republican Convention, and yet ridiculed their struggles in private meetings with the privileged. Mitt's prayerfulness and constant references to God during the campaign were deeply ironic in light of his dishonesty.
Carter, also a religious man, promised that he would clean up government corruption and speak honestly to the American people. He admitted to Playboy Magazine in an interview that he had "lusted in his heart" after women.
His Southern Baptist religious conviction came through in his belief in progressive ideals. Like Obama, he sought to include and believed that government had the power to help lift the struggling out of poverty and he believed that it should.
Mitt made a mockery of his own claim to godliness. Perhaps he will struggle with this in his disappointment these coming weeks, disappointment etched on his face as he gave his concession speech, revealing a man both vulnerable and real, a face he never showed during the campaign. Perhaps he will feel humiliated by not only the defeat, but by his lack of character leading up to it. On the other hand, he may simply take advantage of his enormous privilege to sail away on the yacht of self-deceit and use his position and wealth to shelter his ego from self-criticism.
If the former, he has the capacity to acknowledge how wrong this election went, and to use his enormous popularity with nearly half the American people to reform rather than ruin an already deeply damaged democratic system.
He truly owes an apology to his family, and to the American people for claiming to be a person of faith while blatantly lying and continuing to do so, even after called upon it, as in the last days of the campaign when he lied about Jeep outsourcing jobs to China, the climax to the opera of lies that made up his campaign.
When I took a year off from Northwestern University to campaign for Jimmy Carter, the South was still primarily Democratic. Carter defeated segregationist George Wallace in the primary elections. Wallace had been paralyzed by a gunshot wound and was in a wheelchair when he ran for office. I spent two months in Florida, coordinating Carter's campaign in Ft. Myers, Florida. Carter's victories were unexpected. Carter ran against Gerald Ford in the general election, Ford who had been appointed by Richard Nixon to take office after Nixon resigned.
Carter was the perfect Washington outsider, and his victory a surprise rich in hope. But once in Washington, Carter encountered a system that made making changes promised in the campaign difficult to impossible. My father was a sub cabinet member under Jimmy Carter, administrator of the General Services Administration, the landlord of the federal government so I had an insider's view of the frustrations newcomers to Washington encountered in trying to bring about new policies, and change.
Just as Obama's presidency disappointed his most passionate supporters, Carter's disappointed his. Yet as an ex-President, Jimmy Carter fulfilled the promise that inspired me and thousands of others to put our lives aside to work in his campaign. Carter lacked the personal and political resources to stand up to the power structure in Washington, D.C. Yet his enormous spiritual convictions illuminated his subsequent years.
Carter served for only four years before losing to Ronald Reagan.
In his acceptance speech, Obama thanked his supporters and volunteers, those who had been with him from the start.
Obama, with the next four years has an enormous opportunity to leave a legacy that will make those who went all out to get him where he is today proud.
It's a precious, hard-won gift, this chance, to leave those who donated their time, their money, their votes, with the knowledge that, "Yes, we could. And, yes we did."