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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Column: Looking back at the 2012 presidential election

Ben Turner

Nov. 7, 2012

The opinions expressed by The Maneater columnists do not represent the opinions of The Maneater editorial board.

It began in March 2011, and it is finally coming to an end. The 2012 presidential election has been a crazy ride.

This election had children’s fare like Etch A Sketches, Battleship and Big Bird. It had secret videos, high-stakes gambling, joyful firings and two Olympics. Mr. Blue Eyes, Dirty Harry, Slick Willie and the Pillsbury Doughboy all played a part. Sexual harassment, serial adultery, rape, birth control and other sorted material were included.

Candidates included Rosanne Barr, Donald Trump, two Mormons, “Dr. No” of Texas and two disgraced politicians making comebacks in Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. Not to mention a man of three parties in Virgil Goode. Seven different men led polls for one nomination.

Points of debate included the war on women, class warfare, the war on drugs, the war on poverty, the war in Afghanistan, the war on terrorism, a potential war in Iran, aftermath of wars in Libya and Iraq, and a civil war in Syria.

The candidates spoke a lot of words on a lot of different issues. The issues themselves were weighty, but the amount of campaigning done undermined all the talk. An amazing amount of money and time was spent twisting those issues around in knots.

We saw new faces emerge. Who knew about Sandra Fluke, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum, Paul Ryan, Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock or Chris Stevens? How about the hugging pizza shop owner or the “Bronco Bamma” girl?

New words like Obamneycare, Romnesia and Obamaloney emerged. Old-world ideas like the sweater vest, the word "malarkey" and calling math "arithmetic" all made a comeback. New concepts such as trickle-down government, the 1 percent and a moon colony became standard topics.

Memes became standard in this election. Binders full of women, Clint Eastwood’s empty chair, Joe Biden’s laughter and Paul Ryan’s pump room all went viral. Every fundraiser became a trap where iPhone video could show you dumping on small business people or the poor and go straight online.

Polls went up and down and all around. From a poll that showed Donald Trump leading the Republican field to one that showed 0 percent black support for Mitt Romney, they were all over the place before settling right at a dead even race nationally and in every swing state.

Voter ID laws went up and down as they were passed and then struck down. Parodied everywhere from "The Daily Show" to "The Simpsons," your driver’s license became a hot political topic. From state legislators to pundits on cable, the statements were incredible and served to fuel the debate even more.

Policy might not have been big on the campaign trail, but in the debates in took center stage.

Questions from moderators and voters themselves sharpened the candidates’ talking points down to actual answers about what they would do in office. The debates were high drama that also served to inform.

There was foreign intrigue and tragedy. Attacks on embassies, questions about culture, border towns in Afghanistan and a debate moderator’s wedding all made a difference. Not to mention a props display at the United Nations and a return to military prominence for bayonets and horses.

Unemployment numbers took center stage. From one candidate joking that he was unemployed to another being accused of “cooking the books” the month before election day, a percentage once again stood out in an election all about numbers. The biggest issue of the campaign became a numerical estimate that was tangible to a lot of people.

Math in general was a hot button issue. Tax proposals, troop withdrawals, economic projections, military spending, healthcare plans and even marathon times came under scrutiny from fact-checkers working overtime in a storm of half-truths.

Paperwork also stole the spotlight. Birth certificates, college transcripts, passport papers, voter registration forms, speech transcripts, ballot signatures and memoirs were in the news. Donald Trump’s promises of money, Obama’s historic comedy and debate performances and a movie about Obama’s past made words on the page very entertaining.

To quote Al Gore, the man on the losing end of another divisive election, “Now the political struggle is over and we turn again to the unending struggle for the common good of all Americans and for those multitudes around the world who look to us for leadership in the cause of freedom.”

After this election, this work of governing and leading will go on regardless of who won. Forgive us if we take a moment to look back before we look forward. This will be an election marked down as one of the lengthiest, most entertaining, hotly contested elections in history. It’s been a great time.

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