This has happened to me before, in a way, where I go to sleep at night and awaken in a parallel universe. On Tuesday night, I went to sleep and woke up the next day to find it was Monday morning again. Somehow I had slipped backwards in time into a world identical to the one I had left in all respects except for the date. Nothing had changed.
After an election that consumed billions of dollars and decades (in man-hours spent) of airtime, tweets, blog posts and cocktail party chatter, Obama was still the president, the Democrats still controlled the Senate and the Republicans had a substantial majority in the House. Nothing had changed.
The nation was still facing serial crises, ranging from the Middle East mess, the economic mess, the education mess and all the rest of the bugbears that have plagued us for so long now. Nothing had changed.
Some disagree. The media and the web reverberate with clanging elocution insisting that all bets are off. Most of these claims are bizarre in nature.
Some proclaim that Obama now has a clear mandate to implement whatever agenda (we still have not been made privily to what it might actually be) he chooses to inflict on a now submissive nation and legislature. One pundit on Facebook, seeing in this election an overwhelming endorsement for Obama and the Democrats, asserted their newly-minted mandate thus:
My point was not just Obama v. Romney. It was the totality. Across the nation, in almost every major race, a paradigm shift. That’s not perspective, that’s fact.
Ummm…fact? Facts are provable, of a gemlike hardness, and beyond dispute. Of course it’s “perspective,” and badly-warped perspective at that. You would think that this culture maven, who claims to be a journalist, and who has written for the New York Times, the New Yorker and Harvard Magazine (!) would know the difference between fact and opinion. Well, you would hope they did. Wouldn’t you?
But we find this sentiment everywhere, especially in Paul Krugman’s latest column, where he urges Obama to call the Republican bluff and throw the nation off the fiscal cliff if the GOP won’t concede the entire field of play to him. No compromises, no “grand bargains,” just a repeat of the first term’s catastrophic “my way or the highway” approach that guaranteed gridlock:
So President Obama has to make a decision, almost immediately, about how to deal with continuing Republican obstruction. How far should he go in accommodating the G.O.P.’s demands?
My answer is, not far at all. Mr. Obama should hang tough, declaring himself willing, if necessary, to hold his ground even at the cost of letting his opponents inflict damage on a still-shaky economy. And this is definitely no time to negotiate a “grand bargain” on the budget that snatches defeat from the jaws of victory.
Yikes. Does he really think that Obama is in a better position now than he was last Monday?
Both the Bush-era tax cuts and the Obama administration’s payroll tax cut are set to expire, even as automatic spending cuts in defense and elsewhere kick in thanks to the deal struck after the 2011 confrontation over the debt ceiling. And the looming combination of tax increases and spending cuts looks easily large enough to push America back into recession.
Nobody wants to see that happen. Yet it may happen all the same, and Mr. Obama has to be willing to let it happen if necessary.
Yup. That’s what he’s saying — that Obama should “push us back into a recession” if he doesn’t get everything he wants. Republicans have no further voice. The “mandate” says so.
Krugman was demonstrably whacky before the election, but even his most loyal apologists have to concede that, face it, he’s gone completely round the bend now.
So where does that leave us? A president with the same divided legislature he had before the election. A country with the same deep disagreements. And a chorus of Krugmans spouting nonsense of the most remarkable inanity, insisting that they have a semi-divine mandate, and that we have no choice but to accept it.
Nothing has changed.