Jonathan Alter: If Romney Had Won, 'Things Would Be So Much Worse'

Appearing as a guest on Friday's PoliticsNation show, MSNBC political analyst Jonathan Alter -- formerly of Newsweek -- asserted that, if Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan had won the 2012 presidential election, "things would be so much worse," as he took relief in President Obama's ability to veto Republican-supported legislation.

He also echoed the liberal rhetoric of labeling Republican efforts to prevent voter fraud as "voter suppression."

After introducing Alter's book, The Center Holds: Obama and His Enemies, host Al Sharpton recounted President Obama's re-election victory, and wondered why Republicans will not cave in to the President: "He won. His vision won. Progressive policies are polling high. Why can't Republicans realize this, Jonathan?"

The former Newsweek senior editor responded:

Well, they don't want to abide by the election returns. The country sent a message that we're not going to become a right-wing nation. That's what this was about. That was why, just to give you one example that stunned observers, African-Americans that turned out in greater numbers in 2012 than in 2008. Remember all those stories about how they were going to stay home? Enthusiasm was up. Folks realized it was all on the line this time.

After Sharpton raised the issue of "voter suppression," Alter characterized Obama's re-election as a blessing that prevented Republican control of the government:

I have a chapter, Rev, called the "Voter Suppression Project." This was a concerted effort by Republicans to disenfranchise voters, to roll down the totals, not just of African-Americans and Latinos, but of young voters by making it harder to use a student ID, for instance, to vote, and a hundred other things. It was done in 19 states that wasn't defeated, and if there hadn't been a backlash against it, this President wouldn't have been re-elected.

And if that had happened, if Mitt Romney were in charge now, the sequester would look like patty cake. There were people in that party who were willing to make cuts that were three or four times as great as what we're seeing right now in the sequester. Not cutting programs, eliminating them entirely, shredding the American social contract.

After Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart complained about "far-right" influence in the Republican party, Alter took heart that President Obama can block Republicans:

So here's the good news, though. Before they get too depressed, look at the glass half full for a minute. If Romney and Ryan had  been elected, things would be so much worse. The President has the veto pen. I actually think he's going to get immigration reform and several other priorities in the next few months. But even if he doesn't, he's going to stop anything bad from happening.

So a lot of the things that you've talked about on your show for a long time, voter suppression, the Ryan plan, repealing ObamaCare, they aren't happening. That's not going to happen because the President is still in office and will be until 2017.

Below is a transcript of the relevant portion of the Friday, June 7, PoliticsNation on MSNBC:

AL SHARPTON: Your book really looks deep into the 2012 election. You call the election, quote, "A hinge of history. It struck me at its core as the titanic ideological struggle over the way Americans see themselves and their obligations to one another."

He won. His vision won. Progressive policies are polling high. Why can't Republicans realize this, Jonathan?

JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, they don't want to abide by the election returns. The country sent a message that we're not going to become a right-wing nation. That's what this was about. That was why, just to give you one example that stunned observers, African-Americans that turned out in greater numbers in 2012 than in 2008. Remember all those stories about how they were going to stay home? Enthusiasm was up. Folks realized it was all on the line this time.

SHARPTON: And they did that despite voter suppression?

ALTER: Yes. I have a chapter, Rev, called the "Voter Suppression Project." This was a concerted effort by Republicans to disenfranchise voters, to roll down the totals, not just of African-Americans and Latinos, but of young voters by making it harder to use a student ID, for instance, to vote, and a hundred other things. It was done in 19 states that wasn't defeated, and if there hadn't been a backlash against it, this President wouldn't have been re-elected. And if that had happened, if Mitt Romney were in charge now, the sequester would look like patty cake. There were people in that party who were willing to make cuts that were three or four times as great as what we're seeing right now in the sequester. Not cutting programs, eliminating them entirely, shredding the American social contract.

So my book is about, I've covered nine presidential elections, this was the most important in my lifetime. Pull back that curtain and explain what was going on behind the scenes. I even included some scenes with you and the President and other black leaders and what he was saying in those meetings and in meetings in a situation room where normal reporters, you know, won't find out what's going on. I wanted to tell readers the real story of voter suppression, of the 47 percent and how that whole thing went down, how Obama recovered from a bad first debate and the rest of what was really a very dramatic- (INAUDIBLE)

SHARPTON: Jonathan Capehart, I've read part of the book already. And he does get into a lot of what happened, the voter suppression a lot of us had to deal with, young people and a lot of things. I think this was epic race and we still see the Republicans fight with sequester and other things to try to undo what the voters did.

JONATHAN CAPEHART, WASHINGTON POST: Right. What you have here, Rev, is a Republican party that's enthralled to a shrinking and reactionary base, but it's a base that still holds sway electorally within the Republican party. That's why you see people bending themselves into a pretzel.

The Washington Post had a terrific story this week about just sort of the fresh hell that Speaker John Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy are going through with these Tea Party Republicans, these far-right Republicans in the party who have no respect for leadership, no respect for sort of the way things are done in the House, and that's sort of tied up the Republican leadership to the point that they can't do anything.

So that's what's happening here in Washington. You fan that out across the country, and what you have is a party that's willing to, you know, go up against the President no matter what he's trying to do, even on programs and policies that they actually support or at least they did in years past.

ALTER: So here's the good news, though. Before they get too depressed, look at the glass half full for a minute. If Romney and Ryan had been elected, things would be so much worse. The President has the veto pen. I actually think he's going to get immigration reform and several other priorities in the next few months. But even if he doesn't, he's going to stop anything bad from happening. So a lot of the things that you've talked about on your show for a long time, voter suppression, the Ryan plan, repealing ObamaCare, they aren't happening. That's not going to happen because the President is still in office and will be until 2017.