And the Winner Is...

You may think this was written on Thursday, August 30, 2012, but you'd be wrong.

Today is Wednesday, November 7th, 2012 - a day after the Presidential Election. It is a cold day, but the air is calm and still. It feels so removed from the enduring frenzy of August and September. It seems like so long ago that the Republican National Convention began. All arguments and media speculation seem so ridiculous now that we know who won. I'm not technically supposed to divulge future events to those in the past, but trust me when I say there is absolutely nothing you're going to be able to do to stop it.

In just a few months, Romney will be sworn in, along with his Vice President, Paul Ryan, the man I long ago predicted would win the White House (one way or another). 

Yes, Mitt Romney won. Of course he did. I know you're still stuck back in the dog days of August, back before voter ID debacles consumed most of October, but you already suspect the winner. Don't fight it. Romney did win. Most of you, back in humid, stormy August, know this to be true. There is an encroaching sense of inevitability to it. You can gnash your teeth all you want, but what can you really do except suck it up? Of course he was going to win. Of course big money won. Of course fear and gut won out. They always do, in the end. Fear and gut topple empires. What do facts do? Facts mean nothing in the face of money.

Just to be clear: these two men, Romney and Ryan, just as George W. Bush and Dick Cheney before them, were elected into their first term due to fallout from an unchallenged Supreme Court decision. 

It was more than that, though, and we all know it. Obama wanted so badly to be a inspiring figure, but he was ultimately a divisive President in spite of himself, largely over things he was born with. His faith in Government to catalyze positive change. His faith in bipartisanship. His faith that skin color does not and should not matter. We weren't ready for him. This country, the so-called beacon of liberty and opportunity, wasn't ready for his racial identity, and wasn't ready for how his Presidency (had it succeeded) might have changed the way the rest of the world sees us forever. We were too scared to be seen as anything other than how we've been seen in our lifetimes, and that fearful, mad shortsightedness ensured President Romney his victory.

Also, the economic recovery took too long. We got impatient, and we got tired of waiting for the policy of Government intervention in a National crisis to take hold. We lost faith in Government and we turned to the unfettered dreams of private enterprise. Private enterprise has found all sorts of ways to circumvent Government (all those pesky taxes and ethics punishing success). How can we do anything but admire the initiative of private enterprise? If Corporations, Job Creators, and Entrepreneurial spirit can spit in the face of Big Government, then these things become heroic. They are what we aspire to. They may be exploitative and amoral and selfish when unregulated, but they're clever and crafty and efficient, and in the face of a struggling economy, it is impossible to demonize those qualities, no matter how hard you try. Who cares if it steps on the backs of those too weak to defend themselves? Who cares if it's unethical. Success is success, and regardless of how its achieved, we Americans admire success. We are a goal-oriented society, not a process-oriented one. To paraphrase Sean Connery in The Rock: "Your best? Losers do their best. Winners go home and fuck the prom queen!" 

The triumphs we did have - the auto bailout, the AFC, an expressed support for LGBT civil rights, getting Bin Laden and more - meant little to a struggling populace. Half of those accomplishments have been either debunked or attributed to Bush. The bottom line is, too few jobs came up for too few people. Wages were down. Job anxiety went up, and so followed crime. High profile shootings rose (or the media seemed bent on framing it as such). No amount of competence on the part of the President could have solved this cultural malaise. With each negative Friday job numbers report, the President strayed further and further out and away from being able to live up to his campaign promises, and the people did not forget.

On top of this, the United States has changed irreparably. The Libertarian inspired, small-Government, Tea Party-fueled fervor that hit Congress (and most small towns) over the last decade is not just a flashy, reactionary zeitgeist. Some journalists are trying to label it as a temporary fad, but I'm here to tell you it's more than that. It came out of 9/11, an event that set us on this course. Obama's 2008 win was a deeply troubled and traumatized reaction to what Bush policies did with the power of the Executive office, but all it did was stave off the inevitable. The large percentage of the voting public that considers Obama a failure is evidence that the age of small Government is upon us, and cannot be stopped. So stop fighting it. It's what we are about now, and if you don't like it, protest all you want, but it will take us into the twenties.

We are a Libertarian nation now, whether we realize it or not, and not only that - we've lost confidence in our Government almost completely. Interestingly, this powerful mistrust of Government really gained steam during the Bush Administration. Bush's denial of due process in the age of terror, his suppression and manipulation of information in the run-up to the war, and unprecedented definitions of Executive Power all told the people of this country that Government is not to be trusted. Additionally, the Clinton Administration, despite Clinton's proclamations that 'the era of Big Government is over,' used Government to assist in the steady dismantling of trade regulations, energies and securities regulations, Bank deregulation, Corporate tax code revisions, and more. In short, our current unquenchable distrust of Government is not just over what Government did after 9/11, but what Government allowed to happen even before that. Yes, you're hearing it right - Government's attempts to drown itself in the bathtub only made people resent it more, and now it's being mistaken for the Corporate Behemoths it enabled. No amount of Obama speechifying can correct that problem. What's done is done. 

Obama swept into office on some pretty effective speechifying, though, didn't he? He arrived on the heels of post-9/11 abuse of Government authority, promising to wipe it clean and make it transparent again. He didn't. He continued to surround himself by people too close to the failures of the previous decades to ever admit their own mistakes. He kept policies installed rather than sweeping them away. He asked that we believe in the promise of good Governance, but his Administration was so caught up in the profound symbolism and significance of his election that he forgot to clean away the stink of oppression left by his predecessors. 

Obama did not just inherit a financial crisis caused by a severely deregulated economic environment; he inherited a crisis of confidence in Government, one his Administration failed to take seriously until just a few months ago, and by then, it was too late. His Administration's heady belief in the symbolism of the 2008 Election also caused them to underestimate the fervor, the righteousness, the idealism and the stubbornness in the face of trauma and indigence in a nation beset by war and terror both at home and abroad.

Before I leave you to the last months before your Election, I want to say that Romney is now in the hot seat. Campaigning is its own tricky monster, but campaigning and Governing are two very different animals. Now that he has won, Romney must govern on the strict intransigence of his own party platform. If you have been paying any attention during the last few years, you know that doing so is an impossible feat.

The Romney Administration will no doubt impact the makeup of the Supreme Court. The right to choose will be further threatened. Marriage equality will be further delayed. Voucher systems will consume public programs (education, social security, medicare). Austerity will overtake us. Tax codes will continue to benefit the most successful Americans, because punishing success will be deemed unfair. Social welfare will be deemed wasteful and ineffective. I can only pray that all these things bring this country together, as the Republicans insist that it will, now that they've won the White House.

I'm sorry if I've scared you with the truth. (If you're happy and excited, then let me extend my congratulations to you.) If you are scared by President Romney's impending inauguration, you need to accept that our country has to live out the fantasies of Ayn Rand and Grover Norquist for a little while longer. It's been a hard road for us as a country, and I'd love to tell you that the exit is up ahead, but it's not. We've still got a way to go. Consider it an extended separation while we work out our issues with reality.

As I bid adieu to you, my frenzied August friends, from the still and silence of my cold November day two months from now, I leave you with some final thoughts. Yesterday, the Election determined our next President. Ultimately, this is a drop in the pond in our evolution as a nation. At some point, we will finally wake to a day when the abject failure of insistence on ideological purity is at last exposed. There may come a time when we stop attributing our failures to any one Administration, or any one party or platform, and instead recognize it as a failure of attitude and of reason.

So long as legislators and leaders refuse to rebuild this country on a platform of compromise, we will always live in divisive times. Until the day we at last realize that respect for the rights and needs of those who struggle more than we do is our one, basic duty as citizens, we will always squabble. Our failure will have been, more than anything else, the failure to see the most obvious truth: a platform based on the denial of rights can never bring about a peaceful society.


Popular Posts