Many friends are telling me that most of the European media are expecting President Obama to be reelected. If so, they are likely to be shocked on election day. In the U.S., there are 26 national polling firms. The one I count most trustworthy is Rasmussen (which came closest to hitting the exact result for 2008), and the oldest and best known is Gallup. As of October 23 (just after the third and final debate), both showed Governor Romney beating the president with over 51 percent, and by between four and six points.
Even the poll of all the polls (reported daily at RealClearPolitics.com) shows Romney climbing everywhere and day by day pulling ahead in state after state.
For myself, I expect Romney to win by just over 52 to 46 percent, with two minor candidates gathering about 2 percent between them.
The United States has never before had to make a choice like this — between two different ways of life. This is a choice about whether we want the United States to become more like the European welfare states. Or, rather, to stick to our own traditional ways: risk, creativity, growth, and opportunity. Obama acts consistently to make the United States like Europe. No wonder many Europeans cheer him on.
Of course, Obama could yet win. The week remaining before the November 6 election might still hold many surprises. The Democratic party is famous, when it is losing, for launching October Surprises — dramatic actions, or sudden damaging revelations about the opposing candidate. Besides, our media (except for Fox News) have become extremist in their support for Obama.
Yet this lack of balance is not necessarily a disadvantage for Governor Romney. The press is misleading the public (and itself) about what is really happening on the ground, among ordinary people.
To keep one’s feet on the ground in the United States, one must watch which candidate working males — steelworkers, miners, gas-station attendants, truck drivers, and so on — are favoring. And which way marriedwomen are trending. Ever since Reagan, most working males and married women trend markedly Republican. They are especially strong for Romney.
By contrast, the Democrats, the Party of Government, strongly attract single women, both unmarried and widows. President Obama also appeals to the new “counterculture” that celebrates abortion, gay marriage, and a morally relaxed culture. They are locked in a “culture war” against traditional American virtues ( biblical, Jewish and Christian). In Europe, many refer to these as “puritan” values.
But, then, the narrow, strict “puritan” culture of Massachusetts and Rhode Island did not extend its sway to the South and the West.
“Out there,” Christianity was barely present in the “churchy” forms familiar to Europeans. The South and the West favored the relaxed style of the “free churches” — more informal, associational, open and friendly, “Spirit-moved,” even a bit enthusiastic.
Persons formed in this environment are less inclined to accept statism and its bureaucracies, and labor unions and their enforced electoral solidarity. They take pride in self-reliance, self-government, and personal self-control. Their type of living requires certain solid habits in people, not the “loose” ways of urban secularism.
Look again at the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, designed by the French to capture the American character. Lady Liberty is a very serious, sober woman — a second-grade teacher. In one hand she holds aloft the torch of reason and light against ignorance and impulse, and in her other hand she carries the Book of the Law. The American hymnodist captures this note perfectly: “Confirm thy soul in self-control, thy liberty in law.” An inner law.
To be sure, urban secularism via television, the movies, and the popular-music industry has spread its magnetic allure all through the countryside by now. But the older ways still matter to churchgoers and married couples. Thus, “the culture war.”
More important just now is the havoc wrought on the American economy by President Obama’s statist actions. Middle-class families during the last four years have lost scores of thousands of dollars in the net worth of their homes (their largest investment by far). They have lost over $4,300 per family in real income. Prices of common, humble goods — coal, gas, electricity, food — have risen steadily. In daily life, everything costs more, from food for one’s family to fuel for one’s automobile. The pain is felt many times a day.
And still there is the huge weight of public debt — climbing every second of every day, and heading for an additional $5 trillion just in the last four years. This debt is an enormous tax laid on our children and grandchildren. Many count this as cross-generational theft, an immorality of the first order.
And opportunity! Opportunity is to Americans what security is to Europeans. Millions wonder, “Where has opportunity gone?” Few new jobs; 21 million people without jobs, including those millions who after four years have given up searching. Almost half of all university graduates last year could not find jobs, and have returned to live with their parents.
It would take us too far afield here to explain how President Obama’s abuse of religious liberty — especially but not only of the Catholic Church — has driven away many who voted for him in 2008. For instance, in 2008 a slim majority of churchgoing Catholics voted for Obama. This time, most of those Catholics who go to church “seldom or never” prefer Obama. But those who go to church “weekly or almost weekly” tell pollsters, by a margin of 59 percent to 34 percent, that they will vote for Romney this time.
Voters who swing from one party to another between elections count twice. They take one vote from Obama, say, and give that vote to Romney. At present, at least 1.5 million churchgoing Catholics say they will switch from Obama to Romney. That counts as a swing of 3 million votes.
Under Obama the poor have suffered more than anyone else. Millions have fallen into poverty — back to levels not seen since the late 1960s. The official poverty line is roughly $24,000 annually for a family of four.
It is always wise to think that your own side is behind, the other ahead. That way, your whole team works harder. By all accounts, this year the Republicans have more enthusiasm and eagerness. The Democrats seem less spirited. Recently every day shows more strength for Romney, especially in the most hotly contested states. But that, of course, can change. In an election campaign, a week can seem an eternity.
There is much nail-biting in the United States these days.
— Michael Novak is distinguished visiting professor at Ave Maria University and co-author, with Jana Novak, of Washington’s God. An earlier version of this article was published in Rome, Italy, last week by the center-right daily Liberal.