What Does the 2012 Election Mean?

Don’t expect me to tell you in a post.  It is the kind of question that prompts books to be written and I’m sure many will be.  For starters, though, liberal columnist  E. J. Dione of the Washington Post touched upon most of the issues in his column yesterday, so I’m handing the ball off to him for those interested.

Here I want to focus on a couple of things the election does not mean and one or two which I hope it does.

English: President Barack Obama signs the Tax ...

See.  They can work together: President Barack Obama signs the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 at the White House. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

No Mandate:   When about 121 million people vote and one side ends up with about 3 million more (about 2 or 3%), that’s just a victory not a mandate.   The electoral landslide distorts the picture, revealing mostly that the Democratic organization was more effective than the Republican one in swing states.

This is not to say that the Obama win was not significant in various ways, just that “we the people” are too divided about too many things to really back any one thing, except perhaps higher taxes on the rich.  That is not reflected in the vote as much as in exit polls, and the pre-election polls as well which have consistently listed a 60% plus approval rating. (*1)

Adding to the difficulty of interpreting this election are two things:   Obama was strapped with the image of a do-too-little president given our still weak economy and high jobless rate, which would make the win seem even more significant except for this fact.   He beat a candidate that even Republicans had trouble embracing, but could agree on no one better who was willing to run.   This was the most curious election of my lifetime.

But Not A Split Decision:   Trying to bolster their position, the Republicans argue that their winning more seats in the House indicates a basic “split decision” by the voters.  What they neglect to point out is that this is more a matter of Gerrymandered districts they created when taking over a number of state legislatures in the 2010 elections.

Overall the Democrats received more votes for their congressional candidates this year.   For example, in Pennsylvania, “although citizens cast almost 100,000 more votes for Democratic than Republican candidates for the House, partisan gerrymandering enabled Republicans to 12  of the 18 seats in the House of Representatives.”   So, those increased House seats are not a true measure of support for Republicans.  Just as the Electoral College overstates the strength of the Obama win, the House elections provide a misleading picture of Republican voter support.   Read more here.

A Small Victory for Truth:   I have often bemoaned the  “post truth politics” of our time, but we haven’t seemed to reach “no-truth-matters” just yet.  The Romney camp went with one lie too many and held on to it until the bitter end in Ohio.  The Obama win there might have been clinched by the Romney team not only lying in a TV ad about Chrysler  shipping Jeep production jobs to China, but maintaining that lie in radio commercials even after several newspapers and the head of Chrysler called it a falsehood.

As I pointed out in an August post when the Romney campaign was criticized for a  total lack of truth in an ad, a Romney pollster responded:  “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.”  As I indicated then, this was a final blow for truth in politics.  Distortions and lies have always been part of the political game, but this was the first time I had ever seen a campaign say we don’t care if others call our “facts” lies.   In Ohio this position was taken to its end conclusion and seems to have backfired.     I like to think of it as poetic justice:  A campaign that lived by the lie, died by the lie.  (And yes, the Democrats spun, distorted and lied, too, but not as persistently and consistently and never did they insist that external fact checks don’t count.)

The Hope for a Better Republican Party.   I believe the Republican Party lost its identity during the G. W. Bush years because he ignored issues of overspending while fighting two wars, creating big tax breaks and creating a drug support program that, like the wars, was unfunded.   That, and the Republican refusal to work with the president, rather than Obama ineptitude, is why we continue to run trillion dollar budget deficits.

The Republicans have complained about “tax and spend liberals” for decades, but G. W. came up with something novel.  He was a no-tax and spend Republican, you might say the best of both worlds until one has to pay the piper, which is what we are doing now. (*2)

As many others have pointed out, this post-Bush party has developed its identity as the party of  “no”.    The Democrats are considered the big tent party, but the Republicans have developed a pretty big tent themselves.   Anyone who dislikes Obama, big government and more taxes is welcome, including all the Tea Party folks who are the biggest naysayers of all.  Some extreme examples earned primary victories over more moderate sorts who likely would have won Senate seats for the Republicans.    It is  generally believed that the Republican candidates defeated in the primary would likely have won enough seats to give Mitch McConnell the gavel in the Senate.

This is but one issue that has already begun to prompt soul searching in the Grand Old Party.  Immigration is another.    I do not know what that party will look like in upcoming months, but I think they will not be as easily labelled the party of “no.”   That hasn’t worked for them.

Perhaps they’ll become the party of “maybe” and then maybe they can work with Democrats and actually accomplish something significant vis-a-vis our economic problems.

This, of course, if the Democrats don’t get too full of themselves and think they have a bigger mandate than they actually have.

————————–

(*1)  President Obama insists he will not give ground on allowing the Bush tax cuts to end for the richest Americans, which I think is symbolically important more than anything else.   Allowing their Bush era tax breaks to expire will only raise a fraction of the money needed to deal with our deficit problems.   The key here is to break the hold of the pledge most Republican politicians have made to not raise taxes.   Raising the bar for measuring yearly income for “the rich” to $500,000 or even a million would provide something for both sides and perhaps open the door for various other negotiations dealing with our financial issues.

(*2)  Isn’t it curious how George Bush Jr. could not be found in the election  landscape?  He’s a political version of “Where’s Waldo”.  Both he and his fellow Republicans obviously wanted it that way, acting as if he never existed.  That being the case, it made it easier to blame Obama for everything and forget about Bush.

Advertisements

DEMOCRATS BY DEFAULT?

I must say it’s fun to watch the Republicans turn their knives on each other instead of President Obama, at least for the moment.   They didn’t win, despite a slouching economy and a stubbornly high unemployment rate, so obviously someone screwed up and there is a lot of finger pointing and I don’t see anyone pointing at himself. (*1)    One conservative source concluded:  “The Romney campaign was a consultant con job.”   Carl Rove’s defense is their candidates would have done much worse without the millions donated to Super PACs like his, though they couldn’t have done too much worse as very few of the Rove backed candidates won.

Others blame Romney himself for running a lackluster campaign and, well, being Mitt Romney.    A real conservative, not so easily mistaken for  a mannequin, could have carried the day, someone like Chris Christie.   Oops, he may be more to blame than anyone.  Did he really need to praise the president to the rafters for his response to the devastating storm?  And look like a bosom buddy of Obama in all those photos only two days before the election?

Maybe the storm itself was at fault.  Talk about bad timing.  Romney seemed to be picking up steam when God intervened….ah, no….. not God…..  God only intervenes with storms to punish us for our failure to sufficiently persecute homosexuals and other wanton sorts.  I forgot.  Well, that atheistic storm, then, just plain bad luck.  Certainly not related to global warming in any case.

The slicing and dicing will continue, and I look forward to returning to this topic, especially to the one broad problem that a number of Republicans can see:  The future is not bright for a “party of old white men” in a country whose skin color is tending towards darker hues over time.

Obama crushed Romney in the black and Latino vote.  Rush Limbaugh has described the Democrats as  “the people who just want stuff.”   Or as Ann Coulter might chime in, the “takers”, not the “makers”.    And, while there are certainly a good number of white takers, I believe they see those with natural tans to be even more so, bought off by Democratic largess.  While I’m sure Rush and Ann would find much to blame in the Romney campaign itself, in a sense they defend the failure by indicating the increase of  the want-more-stuff folks makes  winning all the harder for Republicans. (*2)

That’s why the following caught my attention.  On Upwithchrishayes last Saturday Chris made an illuminating point.   In addition to the other two racial/ethnic groups mentioned, Obama did very well with Asians, enticing 73% of their votes.   These surely are not the people Rush and Ann have in mind as the “takers”, accused of just wanting more stuff.   As a group they are more successful than whites, with a higher percentage of them making over $100,000 a year, according to Chris.

Shouldn’t the Republican ideal of rugged individualism and personal responsibility attract a much bigger chunk of these  hard working, finish-your-homework-first, Tiger-mom-driven people?    Who, by the way, according to Chris, make up only 3% of the voters now, but are predicted to expand to 9% in upcoming decades.   Apparently more bad news for Republicans.

This seems to suggest there is  something out of kilter with the right’s theory that it’s primarily the “gimme, gimme” people who are voting Democrat.  I think Chris might have nailed it when he said:  “The beating heart of modern conservatism is its visceral appeal to the anxieties and fears of white Christians.”

Asians don’t identify with those fears, even those who undoubtedly share the party’s conservative values which, by the way, many blacks and Latinos do as well.   Maybe the main issue for many Asians who voted Democratic is they don’t feel welcome in a party of old white men, either.

Perhaps many are Democrats by default.  It is not that they embrace the Democratic Party wholeheartedly and just want more stuff.  It is that they reject you, Rush and Ann, and others who fan the flames of anxiety and fear and, may I add, resentment.   Perhaps they are Democrats by default because the present Republican party has become a grotesque distortion of the “better angels of our nature” to borrow a few words from Abraham Lincoln whom, may I remind you, was a Republican.

Maybe a lot of people of color, Asian and otherwise, don’t want more stuff.  They just don’t want you.

Even some old white guys can identify with that sentiment.

—————————————-

(*1)  I began this piece two days ago.  Since then I’ve noticed some Republicans pointing fingers at themselves as a party.   For example, LA governor Bobby Jindal has said they must stop being the “stupid party.”  More about this soul searching in a future post.

(*2)  The categories of “makers” and “takers” may stem from a study about to be published by Nicholas Eberstadt, A Nation of Takers: America’s Entitlement Epidemic.  It is a view from the right, and does not seem fair in some ways, as pointed out in a review in the Fiscal Times.

FREE AT LAST! Post-Election First Reflections

Free from all those nasty commercials.  Free from all that political junk

Barack Obama presidential campaign, 2008

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

mail.  Free from all those phone calls pushing one candidate and trashing another, though I did appreciate President Clinton calling me.   I felt honored, but I still didn’t pick up.   I haven’t picked up in two months which have been jammed with so many unwanted calls that I almost cancelled my land line.  Unfortunately I often need it to locate my cell phone.

AND FREE FROM THE TASK OF DEFENDING BARACK OBAMA FROM THE ONGOING ONSLAUGHT OF THE REPUBLICAN SMEAR CAMPAIGN.

Yeah, and don’t tell me about how Romney was smeared as well.  Romney was portrayed as a very wealthy guy out of touch with the average American and our concerns, an image he cemented with his behind closed-doors speech to big donors in which he indicated at least “47%” of us think of ourselves as “victims” expecting government to solve our problems.   That is not smearing him. That’s who he is.

Carl Rove complains that Romney was portrayed as “a rich guy who only thinks about himself.”  O. K., that’s not complimentary, but I don’t think it prompts hatred.   Not compared with Obama being profiled as a secretly foreign-born, anti-American Muslim socialist who made-everything-worse as president.  That’s more than smearing; it’s sliming.

So, despite the fact that this has been a  “six billion dollar status quo election”…….   (Same president, same Democrat “managed” Senate and Republican “controlled” House ) …….   I feel so much better that I can begin to focus on what is happening in terms of addressing our nation’s problems, rather than defend Barack Obama’s last four years in office. (*1)

I have had criticisms of the president;  but I was so busy clearing away Republican distortions and lies I never got around to them.  In any event, I’m glad he has been given a second chance to do better on a number of fronts, and I think he will.   But more of that in upcoming weeks.

And more election reflections, too.   I have plenty to think about.

One more thought for today:

The #1 Issue was the Economy:    I find it ironic that, according to just about everyone, the economy was the key issue, but I found the economy almost never talked about in any real way during all of those months of babble.   Obama didn’t want us to dwell on the slow recovery and Romney didn’t want to detail how he would improve it.   Better to just be the Un-Obama, he seemed to think.   Perhaps he recalled how the rope-a-dope worked for Ali vs. Foreman so many years ago.

I often heard how the Obama campaign had sidetracked Romney from talking about the economy, but when Romney did talk about it, he never really said anything.   Maybe he liked being sidetracked.  He did indicate that he had created 100,000 jobs through Bain Capital, but never gave any proof and stopped saying that when pressed.  (If that were true, don’t you think each of us would have received in the mail a multi-colored booklet highlighting all those jobs?).

Otherwise Romney just made assertions like when he became president he would create 12,000,000 jobs, but never how he would do it.  As it turns out, that is what many economists predicted anyway.  No matter who would be elected.   Maybe even me.  (Thanks again for your vote, reader.)

So maybe Obama will “create” all those jobs, but if so, than Republicans will not give him credit but instead point to the natural cycling of the economy that Obama cashed in on.   And there would be some truth in that.

The booming economy during the Clinton years had already begun to turn around right before his first election, but not enough so the public really noticed.   So, George Bush was out (whom I think of as Bush the Better), and  Clinton was in and got to ride the rising tide.   In short, praising or blaming presidents for the shape of an economy imagines much greater powers than they have and ignores luck, lots of luck. (*2)

Given the shaky world economy, we can’t assume continued improvement in our own, but it would be ironic, and unfair, had Romney been elected and the improvement be called the “Romney Recovery.”  In that case, the Republicans would have forgotten economic cycles.  Fareed Zakaria points that out in a Washington Post piece that should cheer you up about our economic future, if you don’t think too much about it.

His is a lonely view compared to most you might read right now, especially with THE FISCAL CLIFF looming.  But save that other reading until later.  For now, take Daniel L. Reardon’s advice:  “In the long run the pessimist may be proved right, but the optimist has a better time on the trip.” (*3)

Have fun this weekend.

————————————-

(*1)   I do realize the election produced significant changes, but not in terms of the balance of power in our central government.   For example, in keeping Obama in office the composition and politics of the allegedly apolitical Supreme Court figure to change down the line.

(*2)  I know Democrats would argue Clinton did a number of things to prompt the growth of the economy and a budget surplus.   My point here is his policies didn’t turn the economy around; it was turning before he took office.

(*3)   I don’t know who he is or was, either.  If curious, you’ll have to do your own search.

Why I am Voting for Barack Obama

Although regular readers of this blog know that I have favored Obama for reelection as opposed to Romney, I have never painted a coherent picture as to why, but only given glimpses of my reasoning here and there.  Not that I think I will sway anyone at this point.  It is likely that all of you have decided what you will do, including not vote.  (One reader voted for me, which was heart warming, but I’m trying to see if I can shift the vote to Obama somehow, like they do in conventions).  I do want to put down some thoughts, for possible future reference if nothing elseAfter that I plan on shutting up until Nov 9, the Friday following the election.   I am about as sick of all this as you probably are.

The Short Version:

I began to describe my reasons for supporting Barack Obama and the piece began to look like a booklet, not a post.  So, though this is not short (you might want to grab a beverage before continuing), it is the shortened impressionistic version:

English: Cropped version of File:Official port...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Republicans have consistently painted Obama’s term with every ugly color they could find.   On the more absurd side has been coloring the president as un-American by birth or in spirit or both and dabbing on the reddish hue of a socialist.  No matter that Warren Buffet, who has made his huge fortune thanks to capitalism, is a staunch supporter.  The Republicans also blame him for the slow recovery we have had from a recession which the Bush team left at the White House door step when they left.

To evaluate the president’s performance one must understand this was not just another recession, but the worst since the Depression.  No other had to repair a collapsed housing market, with millions of mortgages going under water, a market which is only beginning to come back now.  The Republicans continue to blame the president for trillion dollar deficits each year but a 2011 study in the NY Times described the primary sources of  those deficits as  “the Bush-era tax cuts, war spending in Iraq and Afghanistan, and recessions.”

The same Republicans who now act holier-than-thou regarding fiscal responsibility went along with billions in unbudgeted spending by Bush and we are still paying for that while the recession has sharply reduced government income also prompting greater deficits.   Add to this the Republican congressional resistance to anything Obama has proposed, even if they had proposed similar things before.  Factor in their refusal to consider raising taxes along with budget cuts – a combination most economists and financial types think necessary if we are really going to confront our budget problems – and most of their criticisms are misleading at best, lies at worst.

Under an Obama administration an economic collapse was averted and, while there is plenty that might be criticized, we are still a float and the economy is slowly on the mend.   And, yes, despite the Republican talking point to the contrary, the 800 billion stimulus did work according to a large majority of studies.  Of course, the amount of national debt remains a huge problem dead ahead, but it is not as if Romney/Ryan have the answer, despite the pretense of having a detailed plan.   Again, their plan does not include tax hikes, so it lacks a basis in reality according to most serious opinion on the issue, including some figures on the right, though not on the far right of course.  At least Obama begins with a sense of reality, despite his vagaries.

I would sum up Obama’s domestic performance as decent amidst awful conditions, which makes decent relatively good.   His performance in foreign policy was even better I think, but that is debatable.  In any event, Mitt Romney’s foreign policy isn’t much different as he articulated in the third debate.  Those willing to give Obama a fair shake would have to admit that all in all, he’s done a fair job, which is why moderate Republican Collin Powell is endorsing him once again – not because he’s also black as Romney surrogate John Sununu has suggested.   Sununu being one of many Republicans whom I find disgusting.  Donald Trump would be another.

Whatever his short-comings as president, Obama is a student of history and I believe he can learn from his mistakes, such as remaining aloof from the nitty gritty of congressional politics.   Prior to the last election he was often criticized for his inexperience, both as an executive and in foreign policy.   Now he has four years of experience in both arenas, as president no less, something I think he will build upon.  In comparison, Mitt Romney is a rookie.

Which reminds me that I am not only voting for Barack Obama, but against Mitt Romney.  I have paid close attention to him over these past seven months as indicated in several of my 60 posts, and I still do not know who Mitt Romney is.  NO, REALLY!  The frequent chameleon-like portrayal is not a caricature but a crystal clear image of Mitt’s positions and stances which swirl around like an old lava lamp.  It all just keeps changing in front of our eyes.  I love that one comment of his to a reporter who questioned him about a previous statement.  Romney said:  “I’m not familiar precisely with exactly what I said, but I stand by what I said, whatever it was.”

I do think he has some impressive accomplishments and if president, he might add more, but I can not predict what they would be.  At their convention his wife Ann assured us in her speech that if Mitt was elected “he will not fail.”  And I thought, fail to do what?   He says if he is elected he will create 12 million new jobs, but many economists predict that is the amount of new jobs that will be created no matter who is president.

More often Romney simply asserts that in every area he will do better than Obama.  He is slipperier than a greased pig when it comes to what and how, but apparently he thinks the Obama brand has become so tainted (with tons of help from Mitt’s cronies of course) that it only takes a relentless effort to portray himself, Mitt, as the Un-Obama to win the day.

The following Romney comment said behind closed doors regarding those who do not pay federal income tax is enough for me not to vote for him.  “There are 47 percent who are with him (Obama), who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.”

But putting all that aside, even judging by the lowest denominator, I’d vote for Barack Obama preferring the devil I know to the etch-a-sketch one I don’t.  This is especially so as I believe the one thing we can depend upon in a Romney presidency is more conservative nominees to the supreme court which already tilts in that direction.  At least a couple of judges seem likely to retire over the next four years.

Do you really want our Supreme Court to become more conservative than it is now and to remain that way possibly for decades?

I don’t, a final reason why I will vote for Barack Obama.