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?
Republicans find themselves in a demographic Catch-22. They will have to move aggressively to capture more of the growing Hispanic vote, and Hispanic cultural values align well with those of the GOP. But Republicans tend to downplay those issues in order to woo moderates. Any attempt to secure the border is cast as racist, driving some Hispanic voters away and making moderate voters wince. But the porous border threatens the rule of law and threatens to demographically render the GOP a minority party forever, or at least until the Democrat coalition splits, if that happens. In a contest between a serious issue (security) and a mostly rhetorical issue in modern America (racism), guess which one gets more media attention, and tends to move more voters?
Unless the looming sequestration defense cuts are prevented, our national defense will shrink to pre-World War One levels, while threats from Islamic terrorism, Iran, Russia, China, North Korea and elsewhere are likely to grow. Obama’s own defense secretary warned about these cuts, but Obama ignored him and then lied about it during one of the debates. Obama has proven that he will never level with the American people about the threats we face.
But the evidence says that enough Americans care little enough for our national defense to render it an irrelevant issue. It just doesn’t matter. Neither do economic and individual liberty.
Our economy will remain shackled by unpopular ObamaCare (since America rejected the candidate who promised to repeal it) and the regulatory overload that Obama intends to impose. Millions of American workers may be forced into unions via card check, which Obama reportedly intends to impose with or without Congress. Increased union power will lead to less agile and competitive American companies, and will price more American workers competing with overseas workers out of jobs. If you liked the last four years, you will love the next four.
Unless we curtail entitlement spending, we are headed for bankruptcy. Obama promised to reform entitlements four years ago, and spent four years demagoguing against every attempt to get to any reforms. Then, he was re-elected.
Here, I may read more into the re-election of Obama than is warranted, but here goes. The situation we find ourselves in has come about because we have become a soft and superficial people. We have spurned our traditional beliefs in favor of fads. We know more about the Kardashians than the Constitution. We have become more a nation of takers than makers, and ever more a nation of broken families that looks at government as daddy rather than as a necessary evil. The fact is, stable husbands and wives and churchgoers voted for Romney, while singles voted for Obama. But a narrow majority of America’s Catholics voted with Obama as well despite his direct and public attack on their church. A heavy majority of the Jewish vote went for Obama, again, despite his hostility toward Israel. Decadence is good for Democrats, and the evidence that Obama’s victories provide is that we are decadent. We have no god, yet Obama is somehow its prophet.
Because of the way he backed into his second term, Barack Obama has no coattails, and he has no mandate. He chose not to run on a serious agenda and he ran a small ball campaign that painted Romney as a felon and murderer when Romney is as clean as they come in politics. He painted the man who saved the Olympics as a villain. Is it the economy, stupid? No, it’s a ground game and Big Bird and lady parts.
Obama has every reason to move to the center to make his second term successful, but he will not. His lack of a mandate will not stop him from pushing hard for his agenda, either with Congress or more likely around it. The Senate in Democratic control will block any efforts to stop him, if it can. The courts haven’t proven to be much of an impediment, and Obama now gets to appoint more judges who agree with him. We will keep funding the government on continuing resolutions. The states may be compelled to go along with his agenda or they may be bribed with their own money. Obama’s second term could be a time for governors to reassert state authority in a big way (while getting trashed by the left, for protecting the people of their states). ObamaCare is permanent and a threat to our health care system, the war on coal will be pushed toward its conclusion, and this president’s drive to disarm the United States while vastly expanding the entitlement state will proceed apace. Obama’s re-election is a catastrophe for those who want a strong and liberty-based America rooted in traditional values and our Constitutional order.
The three-way split inside the Beltway is a opportunity for Obama to behave as a regulatory tyrant, and that is what he will probably do. The divided nation suits a divisive president.