It’s all in how you look at it, we know, but still, some takes on last night’s result leave us puzzled. One comment on my Facebook page:
On TV, the talk was the close popular vote. That’s media scrambling to be in the conversation. Reality is factual: Men who hate women lost their jobs. Gay marriage in Md. The start of legal marijuana. Elizabeth Warren. And the big one: health care. The right word for this? Not triumph — ROUT.
For those who feel less than routed, or that a 2% edge in the popular vote does not represent much of a mandate, these sentiments may seem a bit daffy. To say “reality is factual” and claim that the election was a rout in the same paragraph requires a level of logical flexibility we can only admire.
A further comment from the same string, however, sheds some light on the thinking of many:
ALL the good guys are happily flailing today.
And that’s it in a nutshell. For many voters, particularly those in the so-called “elite” liberal bastions of the coastal blue states, this election was never about any of the issues so hotly debated. It had nothing to do with the economy, big government, individual liberties, income disparity, fair taxation, education or anything else. It was always about self-image. Who you vote for defines who you are. And what you want to be is one of the “good guys.”
Me, too. When I see people suffering I want to help them. When I hear about people who are sick, I want them to get help. When I hear about injustice, I want to see it righted. I want most of the same things the good guys want.
What I don’t want to do is draw a false equal sign between passing a law and solving a problem. If it were that easy, we’d already have utopia. Yet that’s what so many good guys think we need to do, despite the fact that we have appropriated and wasted trillions of dollars in futile, well-meaning but hilariously wrong-headed efforts to feel good about ourselves.
Ghettos today are worse than they ever have been in our history. The level of crime, the disparity between standards of living of the ghetto and middle class communities, the hopelessness, the rampant truancy and absurdly-impaired performance levels, are all obvious and extreme. Nothing better illustrates the gulf between good intentions and effective actions.
So we should give up? Of course not. What we should do is stop the senseless practice of assuming that, because we have passed legislation, funded initiatives and given press conferences, we have actually accomplished anything. We need to focus on implementation, not intent. And to do that, we need to be willing to look at problems honestly, recognize and accept our failures, and insist on accountability. That means no more free passes for lame excuses, rampant corruption, and all the rest of the bone-numbing, all-too-familiar standard rationalizations of the “good guys.”
Which brings us back to Obama.
We have a feeling that he will surprise people. Many are crowing that, with this election behind him, he is now free to pursue his agenda without political considerations. This is untrue, of course — midterms are coming up next, and the President’s party is still 42 seats shy of a majority in the House. But even more important, those prophesying payback may have misunderstood their man.
Obama is, if not obsessed with, certainly highly mindful of his “legacy.” Even those closest to him have remarked on his sense of destiny and his belief that he can be grouped by history with the heads on Rushmore. But to accomplish this, he knows he will have to move beyond faction and petty fantasies of revenge. He has already tried strongarming the opposition, and he knows that can’t work. To get what he wants, he’ll need to do a Clinton, and pivot.
This may mean throwing a lot of people under the bus, but he’s just the man to do it. He has the pragmatism, ruthlessness and demonstrated duplicity to charm people out of what he needs from them, and then leave them standing in the rain with their pockets empty and their hands out. He’s done it before, and if he needs to (he needs to), he’ll do it again.
The next four years may bring a very different Obama to us. A long time ago, Nixon’s much-reviled attorney general John Mitchell advised a group of reporters, after Nixon won re-election in 1972, “Don’t listen to what we say. Watch what we do.” Only Nixon could go to China. Perhaps only Obama can compel all the “good guys” to acknowledge that sprinkling dollars on our problems, dusting our hands and walking away from them won’t do any more.
Oh, he will still be the Obama of big government, because that’s what he believes in. And he may continue to reward party contributors with fat contracts, but what president doesn’t? And he may sic the EPA on his favorite Illinois utility’s competitors (well, he already did), but many others who currently stand between him and a meaningful legacy may well find that they have suddenly been frozen out. Randi Weingarten? The UAW?
Well, we can always hope for change.