In American politics, what is supposed to happen tends to happen. As I said Oct. 24, 2011, “Only once since World War II has a first-term president holding the White House for his party’s first term lost reelection. That was Jimmy Carter in 1976.” And it appears that Barack Obama has been reelected, just as predicted. The polls were right. A lot of the pundits were wrong. Honestly, I’m relieved that Obama is winning the popular vote. Otherwise, I fear a fracture that would develop in America that could lead to unknown and unintended consequences.
The fact that Obama has apparently been reelected doesn’t mean the voters who turned out made the right decision. Every election result isn’t necessarily the best or the healthiest. Tonight, the dependents, new dependents and near-dependents voted for a generous safety net.
So Obama will now try to make good on his pledge to take more from the few to give to the many. This isn’t new or unprecedented — it continues to be the model in much of Europe. But someday, the problem will be not just that his economic isn’t undesirable, but that it is impossible.
Obama fought for his personal lifestyle and the perks of being president; he never articulated much in the way of a governing point of view. Other Democrats fought for control of the levers of power, but at the end of the day, America produced a status quo election. Republicans kept their majority in the House, the Senate stayed roughly the same and we reelected the incumbent at the top of the ticket. I will admit: After the 2010 midterm elections and their dramatic results, combined with the unsatisfactory state of the American economy, I did not think this was going to be a status quo election. And I was wrong.
Much more can and will be said about why it happened, what it means and what path America will be on. But tonight is about the raw politics of the American system. It remains to be see if the citizenry will greet this with a shrug or if the country will become more divided than in any other time since the 19th century.
So congratulations to the Obama team. (Note: Congratulations is different from “well done.”)
I fear that the political left doesn’t assume that authority comes with responsibility. It would be destructive to believe that reelection is all about reveling and power and the trappings of high office. I hope they think they’ve got work to do to make things better, not just to lower expectations and redefine the America Dream.
It’s time to get to work.