In no particular order, here are my thoughts and reactions from tonight’s election.
First off though, I must admit that as closely as our current economy and national mood paralleled 1976 – 1980, I expected a Romney victory. Throw in the shellacking that Democrats took in 2010, and we should have seen a clear Republican domination. What went wrong? There’s no denying that Republicans sent a clear signal that if they took control of Congress and/or the White House, we would be in for a very long series of fights over Obamacare, the budget, Medicare/Social Security, energy policy, etc. As I look at the defeat of Alan West in Florida, I have to wonder if the American people are less interested in “fighters” and more interested in Congressmen who canactually agree on something, or at least pretend to be working together.
The Democrats showed that they are masters at finding seemingly outrageous comments by Republicans, creating faux controversies from those statements, and then playing them up in the press for all they are worth. It’s going to be hard for Republicans to avoid “macaca moments” when the press takes such delight in making them the central issue in campaigns, but they are going to have to do a better job of it.
State referendums seem to indicate that Americans want less Obamacare, and more marijuana. Interesting.
Barack Obama will probably win with a popular vote margin of around 0.5% to 1%. Hardly a mandate. Hardly vote of confidence. And nothing about the balance of power in DC has changed – Republicans control the House, Democrats control the Senate and the White House. Maybe this is what the American people as a whole want; essentially a stalemate where nothing too radical gets accomplished, yet massive destruction of the previous Congress’s work is also impossible. As I think about it, a massive dismantling of major bills signed into law during the last four years would likely have caused as many problems as it would have solved. To cite an obvious example, the Republicans never really gave us a clear picture of how they would dismantle or repeal Obamacare while leaving its more popular benefits (e.g. the elimination of pre-existing conditions as an underwriting criterion) in place. Alinsky himself taught that if you are going to take apart a system, the people have to be convinced that you will help them replace it with something better. He was probably right.
Obama now owns everything, especially the economy. It was, unsurprisingly, the top concern of voters as measured by exit polls. By the time 2014 rolls around, there will be no more tolerance for what he “inherited.” And there will be accountability for the effects of his legislation and the regulatory policies of agencies under the control of his Administration. Unfortunately the economy has suffered the most under this Administration. We have seen nothing from President Obama in the way of plans to reinvigorate the private sector and get companies moving away from profit-taking and survival mode planning, and toward real growth. What we have seen is a trillion dollars wasted on government subsidies and programs that have utterly failed to stimulate the economy. 2014 will be another very cruel mid-term year if the dire predictions surrounding Taxmageddon and the full implementation of Obamacare indeed come true.
Finally, ballot initiatives to grant marriage equality to same sex couples passed in Maine, Maryland, and Washington. The approval of marriage equality in three very blue states that are largely devoid of Evangelicals is not exactly an earth shattering event. But it does indicate that change may be on the horizon. However, I believe that such change will be largely dependent on how those ballot measures are implemented. If radical gay rights activists try to use those measures to punish churches and conservative groups via public smear campaigns and lawsuits, it will have been a Pyrrhic victory at best.
We need to remember that gay rights activists moved the goalposts for “tolerance” drastically during the last decade, by redefining the term solely in terms of marriage equality. Twenty years ago, it wasn’t even an issue. But today, regardless of what else you believe, if you do not support marriage equality, no questions asked, you are a hater, a bigot, a homophobe, etc. Maybe the country is slowly turning around. But if the intimidation, name-calling, and threats continue, it will be a long and nasty fight. Gay rights leaders should have learned as much from the Chick-Fil-A uproar. But I’m not holding my breath.
Oh, and there’s still Benghazi. Richard Nixon won a landslide victory in 1972 after the Watergate break-in because his campaign was able to successfully spin alleged White House involvement into a trivial detail unworthy of being a major election year issue. The deeper investigation that followed revealed an elaborate cover-up that went all the way to the Oval Office, and Nixon resigned in disgrace. Today, four Americans are dead as a result of poor decisions based on extremely bad political calculations. And not one Administration official has yet to tell us the whole truth. There will be an investigation. And Fast and Furious isn’t going away either.
As always I remain cautiously optimistic. We’ll finally get to see first-hand how America would have fared if Jimmy Carter had been re-elected in 1980. On a more serious note however, the anticipation and uncertainty over what lies ahead for the next four years is largely over. Much of the hesitation on the part of private sector businesses has been based on that uncertainly. It is my hope that businesses can finally get around to the task of planning for expansion and profitable growth. Granted, this will be much more difficult for small to medium-sized businesses. But I pray that they succeed, because if they don’t it will be a long and painful four years.