Momentum has changed in favour of Mitt Romney following the first televised debate in the U.S. Presidential election campaign, but momentum in what and why?
The change is in emotional momentum. We got to compare what they said and, equally important, how they said it. Romney struck an emotional chord and Obama did not. This chord is still reverberating and it energizes the Romney campaign.
Hope is a spent force and Obama may well be spent too. The dominant emotion, certainly on the streets, is the rage of the indignant: outrage.
‘Los indignados’ (‘the indignants’) is the name of those who take to the streets to protest the imposition of ‘austerity’ in Spain. It is equally applicable to similar protests throughout Europe, North America and the Arab world. Different scenarios; similar emotions. ‘Los indignados’ are mad, and occasionally joyful, and justifiably so.
Romney, unwittingly I suspect, quivers with the same feeling, if for very different and less noble reasons.
Indignation was the source of his advantage in his debate with Obama. It was evident in his scorn of the President. He’s not accustomed to being talked down to like that.
Romney is indignant about Obama’s seeming inability to ‘solve’ America’s economic problems. He’s indignant about Obama’s foreign ‘policy’ and the liberties America’s enemies take with its interests. He’s indignant because he feels all of this is unworthy of America and its ‘honour’. This indignation may be without grounds, but the feeling he projects seems genuine and that’s all most of us care about.
This indignation resonates with the viewing public because they felt the same way, albeit, again, for different reasons. Had it not, Romney could easily have been perceived as churlish and mean-spirited. He said the same words as before but it was how he said them that made the difference in perceptions of him.
Never forget that the hatred between Republicans and Democrats is so large because the differences between them are so small. They are both parties of the corporate world, financed by Wall Street.
Romney’s is the indignation of privilege and the old order. But before this is figured out it may well be too late for the real indignants. Things are going to have to change, but this change will be fought for from below, not bestowed from above.