Barack Obama has been re-elected president. Like most on the right, I misread America.
The United States of America faces huge problems as a nation. Our economy is skidding, we have racked up massive debt to an unsustainable level, and we are no longer a culturally confident or united nation. We are a scattering of enclaves, barely on speaking terms, swaggering and vibrant Texas suspiciously eying bankrupt but arrogant California, rural and traditional Oklahoma having nothing in common with corrupt and secular Illinois, and so forth. Our entitlement spending threatens to engulf red state and blue state alike. We now owe more per capita than ridiculed Greece, and we may be heading down that sad country’s path.
In the face of these problems, the American people chose to throw almost none of the bums who got us here out. The US House remained in Republican hands, the US Senate remained in Democrat hands, and the White House remained in the hands of Barack Obama. Things did not change dramatically at the state level either. Neither party was soundly repudiated or given electoral wind in their sails. It’s as if the American people are so confused and troubled they decided not to decide anything. Or maybe apathy won out and name recognition trumped the real issues. Republicans nominated some foolish candidates here and there, but so did the Democrats. Theirs won, ours lost. The most foolish candidate of them all kept his job. Media assists surely played a major role.
The most immediate lesson that can be learned from this is that the Obama-Axelrod ground game is very very very good. It had four years to build out its infrastructure and it is much stronger than anyone, including most Democrats, anticipated. Despite the lousy economy and his flagging personal popularity, Obama’s team turned out his vote everywhere he needed it, and he won. Republicans will fight about whether a more vocally conservative candidate could have won or whether Romney could have provided a sharper contrast with Obama, but organizational superiority may have had more than anything else to do with this result. Republicans will have to study that ground game and find a way to beat it just as the football world had to study and defeat the flex defense. That’s not a job for ideologues, but for tacticians who understand ideology and communication.
The second finding from this result is that America as we know it is over, or soon may be. The government will get bigger and bigger, until it breaks. Whether it was Hurricane Sandy or Chris Christie’s hug or the power of incumbency or lingering Bush fatigue or the power of image or the mendacity of the media, an unqualified and fundamentally dishonest man has been returned to the highest office in the land. At the same time that he has brazenly lied about the deaths of four Americans at the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, Republican candidates for the US Senate have had their candidacies destroyed over their unfortunate comments. The tilt in favor of Democrats, and especially Obama, in how our media culture processes what comes out of politicians’ mouths may have finally become too much for Republicans to overcome. Every campaign going forward is a one-false-move minefield for Republicans, while a Democrat can get away with corruption (Claire McCaskill in Missouri) and allegations of relationships with prostitutes (Bob Menendez in New Jersey) and covering up a terrorist attack that killed four Americans (Obama himself). Massachusetts turned out a perfectly serviceable moderate Republican in favor of a dishonest ideologue with no experience outside academia. One likely result of all this is that Republicans are likely to become more programmed than they already are, and less confident about articulating stands on social issues. The media is emboldened to pounce on every Republican syllable, confident that every gotcha can keep another seat in Democrat clutches. Perhaps all Republicans should just switch parties at once, confuse the world and render the media toothless for a while.
Our future looks bleak. Our debt is a mortal threat. Unless we make radical positive changes to the structure of our government, now, Obama will rack up another four to six trillion dollars in debt over the next four years. Obama will not make the necessary changes and he will not allow them to be made as long as he is president. He has already said that he believes in raising taxes on job creators, and he will use re-election to push for that. Even though it makes no economic sense at all.
The amazing thing is, Obama told us that his economic policies weren’t based on economics before he was ever elected president. Then he kept doubling down on non-economics as “fairness.” And he kept winning. What does this say about a majority of Americans?