The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life
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Friday, November 9, 2012
Politics ... Society ...

I remain cautiously optimistic — with the emphasis on ‘cautious’ — that President Obama will have a better second term than his first turned out. Despite being an idealistic orator, Obama showed himself not to be the ablest and most noble politician of all time. But he is a quick study, and I think he will do much better in getting things done next time, despite being lost in a town full of backstabbers; despite the huge bulls-eye target on his back.

The election results gave Obama a decisive win, but didn’t do a thing to reverse a disturbing trend in American politics. That is the growing tribalism between those who identify themselves as Republicans and Democrats. Tom Jacobs, a political scientist, just published a good article about that. He points out that most Americans have fairly centrist policy views. Their differences over what should be done to fix things doesn’t vary that much, despite political affiliation. And yet, they increasingly hate the other party and all involved with it; they take it more and more personally. This obviously promotes gridlock and makes compromise unattainable. Not a good sign.

I believe that my “go ugly early” analysis was vindicated, even if Obama’s win was somewhat more graceful than I had predicted. Sean Trende wrote an insightful analysis spelling out how Obama’s “early ugliness” (negative campaign tactics) influenced the results. If Mr. Trende correctly identified the relevant trends (sorry, had to to that), then between 6 and 8 million potential white voters got discouraged and stayed away from the polls on Tuesday. Those voters were obviously disillusioned with Mr. Obama and were potential Republican votes; but all the negative ads about Mitt convinced them that the whole thing is a joke, neither candidate is able to make the country any better.

Again, not a good sign for the future. Perhaps the enhanced turn-out by Hispanics, blacks and young people, which lifted Obama over the goal line, is a good sign, one that neutralizes the drag created by white pessimism. BUT, as Jonathan Chait pointed out, these “excitement” voters thus far have not shown similar enthusiasm in other contests. They came out for Barack Obama, but they weren’t there to stop the GOP during the mid-terms (despite all that Obama did to encourage them to turn out in 2010). Thus, the Democrats might NOT have a demographic lock on the future, as analysts like Ruy Teixeira claim. Politically, the nation will continue to wobble like a top.

Oh, yea, many young people today would not know what a spinning top looks like. I had some Duncan tops; they were a summer craze, back when I was about 10 years old. I got fairly good at threading and throwing them just the right way to make them hit the ground spinning. You’d watch the thing spin and dance around for maybe a minute. Then it would slow down, start to wobble, and fall over.

So, I have mixed feelings about this election. In the immediate term, I believe that we have a better commander-in-chief than we had four years ago. I feel that in his second term, Mr. Obama will have a better chance to fix some of the many problems plaguing America today (given a new-found humility on the part of the GOP, now that it realizes that the “Tea Party” revolution is over; and given that the economy will probably get better on its own in 2013, once the fiscal cliff issue is resolved).

But in the longer term . . . I sense a lot of cynicism and tribalism on the part of the electorate, along with a growing desperation. You can find various examples in history of rather bad geo-political outcomes when such conditions fester over years and decades. Republics have fallen, dictators have risen, wars are fought, dissenters are jailed, bad things have happened.

So, best of luck, Mr. Obama. And best of luck to America — my home, sweet home.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 2:29 pm      

  1. Jim, Can’t say I have much to add to this blog–agree or disagree. Obama did talk today very briefly, saying he was ready to sign the bill re *not* raising taxes come January 1 on those making under $250,000. (All I could think of was what will my check look like come Jan. 1.) But the look on his face said perhaps, “I’m not so sure that will happen.” (I’m still worried about my January check.)

    As you say Obama’s a quick study, and I think he’s got a very good picture of just what Washington is like and is about. (Almost makes one wish for Clinton back in office who knew how to smooze and get people to do what he wanted them to do, all the while making them feel wanted and needed; yet Clinton knowing all the while it was for his own sense of power. But I have to say Clinton has done some very, very good things since he’s been out of the presidency–together with George H.W. Bush. But I digress.)

    One thing that set me to thinking there may not be too much hope for the groups working together: I heard John Boehner (twice I heard this) say: “I’m the most reasonable and responsible man in Washington, D.C.” Good grief! If someone has to *say* that about himself, it most likely is *not* the case. Reasonableness and responsibility should be obvious from one’s actions. So, I tho’t well, there goes Boehner, a lost cause in what Obama is hoping for.

    Then again, the Republicans have gotten the shock of their lives, it seems. I read that Romney had posted (if only for a very short period of time) a website as the new president-elect; he was so confident of winning. I’ve read further that they were all “shell-shocked” by his loss. And I find myself thinking: Imagine, spending billions of dollars to *lose*! That would shell shock me too. Can’t blame them.

    I think it remains to be seen just how the Republicans end up after this whole election. One of these days the GOP will come to realize that like it or not, America is made up of a large, various group of people.

    I still say, let’s see what happens. Who knows what time may bring, even in politics. MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — November 9, 2012 @ 3:42 pm

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