Election results mixed

Who won, who lost and why? That’s consumed news and commentaries since election returns came in more fully.

In the presidential election, here’s some analysis by Dr. Paul Kengor that says a lot in brief.

For four years, I angered conservatives by insisting Barack Obama would get reelected. I figured that an electorate willing to elect a man with ideas and a record that far to the left in 2008 would do so again. I began changing my view, however, after the first presidential debate. Over the last three or four weeks, I became confident that Mitt Romney would defeat Obama.

Fortunately for Obama, two forces intervened to rescue him. One was the mainstream media, which ensured that Benghazi, Hurricane Sandy, and the increase in the unemployment rate wouldn’t be used to undermine Obama. As for Hurricane Sandy, Obama flew in for a photo-op and then immediately returned to campaigning. If George W. Bush were president, a relentless media would have ensured that Bush didn’t return to the campaign trail.

The second force was David Axelrod and the campaign machine. I stand in awe at what they pulled off. They managed to push considerably more Democrats than Republicans to the polls (38-32 percent margin), closer to the 2008 turnout that favored Obama than the 2010 mid-term turnout that favored Republicans.

Really, this was an underestimated force, to be reckoned with. Which is why some of othe top, most highly respected political analysts got it wrong.

We were certain that pollsters were oversampling Democrats. The pro-Republican, pro-Romney, and anti-Obama enthusiasm we were seeing was extremely intense. It was inconceivable to us that it could be overcome by a higher Democrat turnout. Somehow, however, it was, obliterating Romney’s five-point victory among independents. It erased Romney’s 50-49 percent edge in the final polls by Gallup and Rasmussen.

I stand in stunned disbelief. David Axelrod, you are a miracle worker.

How much of a miracle worker? Consider:

The American people reelected a man who presided over one of the worst four-year economic records in American history. By every objective measurement, the economy is far worse than four years ago…

For historical perspective, consider this: No president since FDR in 1940 won reelection with an unemployment rate above 7.1 percent. And for FDR, that number was a huge improvement from four years earlier.

How did Obama and his team overcome this? The answer: they successfully blamed it on George W. Bush, with Bill Clinton aiding and abetting the process. There were no limits to how much they blamed Bush, and how much it worked. The Democratic base swallowed it hook, line, and sinker.

And that base was key to Obama’s re-election. He didn’t drift to center to win, the way Clinton had for his second term. Obama swung far left to his most extreme base. And as Dr. Kengor admits, it worked.

Sadly, other things worked as well, and none are good for this country. The framing of Republicans as conducting a “war on women” because they don’t favor forced taxpayer funding of abortion, Planned Parenthood, and contraception worked. The insistence that government-provided contraception is a new “entitlement” worked. The demonization of the Tea Party—a movement spontaneously created by Obama’s wild spending—worked.

For that matter, Obama got away with the extraordinarily wasteful $800 billon “stimulus” package that didn’t stimulate and buried us fiscally. He even got away with the HHS mandate that constitutes the greatest threat to religious liberty (particularly against the Catholic Church) in at least a century.

In terms of social policy, the electorate has given the green light to a president who is redefining marriage and promoting forced funding of abortion and contraception and embryo destruction—at the expense of religious liberty.

Moreover, the president’s unceasing class-warfare rhetoric was rewarded by the electorate, as were his attacks on profits, the private sector, the wealthy, banking and investment, and the oil and natural gas industry. The Obama energy policy is advanced. Mitt Romney would have unleashed a boom for America’s domestic energy industry. That is now gone. That is a tragedy, the levels of which we will not be able to appreciate.

And what about Romney? I had my reservations, but America rejected a genuinely decent man who had the best business background of anyone who would have ever assumed the Oval Office. He was the perfect person for the perfect time.

It was not to be. ‘What might have been’ is a waste of time now, and one more lesson from all this is to make the best use of time.

The organizations dedicated to the life and marriage issues on the ballot in this and other elections have applied all their time and resources to getting out the vote and making sure it’s well informed. That worked well in Massachusetts on the physician assisted suicide bill.

Not well in the states voting on marriage.

Voters in Maine and Maryland have approved initiatives legalizing same-sex marriage, and Minnesota voters have rejected a marriage amendment to the state constitution.

With 75% of the vote counted in Maine, voters approved same-sex marriage by a 53%-47% margin, just three years after the state’s voters, by the same margin, had repealed a law legalizing same-sex marriage.

With 98% of the vote counted in Maryland, voters approved same-sex marriage by a 52%-48% margin.

With 98% of the vote counted in Minnesota, voters, by a 52%-48% margin, rejected an amendment to the state constitution that would have defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

With 51% of the vote counted in the State of Washington, a ballot initiative that would legalize same-sex marriage was leading by a 52%-48% margin.

Tom Peters, relentless defender of marriage at National Organization for Marriage, gave my radio listeners some tough love in an interview the day after the elections. Besides being outspent on their campaign to uphold marriage law, Peters said the vigor in the movement to redefine marriage was highly-charged. “They wanted to do it more than we wanted to defend it,” he said, more as an indictment of Americans in general than his organization in particular. “Marriage undefended will lose,” he said. And that is now abundantly clear.

Until now, 32 out of 32 times the issue has been put to the ballot, voters have upheld the traditional definition of marriage as between one man and one woman. Some marriage defenders believe that’s still a bulwark against further assaults on the institution.

However, despite the setback for true marriage defenders, 30 states currently explicitly define marriage has between one man and one woman in their state constitutions, presenting a formidable barrier to the advancement of the homosexualist agenda.

True. But along with much else in America, that just may have begun to change. As Tom Peters said, marriage defenders have to want and work for their goal as much as those who want to redefine it.

Pope says ‘we’re all in this together’

Though paraphrased and abbreviated, that message isn’t as simple as it sounds.

Pope Benedict found a characteristically nice way of saying the destiny of each of us is inextricably linked to the destiny of all of us. His message is not exactly stating the obvious. So it calls for some attention.

“The challenges we are currently facing are numerous and complex, and can be overcome only if we reinforce our awareness that the destiny of each of us is linked to that of everyone else. For this reason … acceptance, solidarity and legality are fundamental values”.

He made these remarks to an annual meeting with Roman and provincial officials.

The Pope went on: “The present crisis can, then, be an opportunity for the entire community to verify whether the values upon which social life is founded have generated a society that is just, fair and united, or whether it is necessary to undertake a profound rethink in order to rediscover values which … not only favour economic recovery, but which are also attentive to promoting the integral good of human beings”.

That’s the Pope’s nice way of saying we need a profound rethink at this time.

Benedict XVI expressed the view that the roots of the current crisis lie in “individualism which clouds the interpersonal dimension of man and leads him to close himself into his own little world, concerned first and foremost with satisfying his own needs and desires with scant concern for others”. The consequences of such a mentality are “speculation in housing, increasing difficulty for young people to enter the world of work, the solitude suffered by so many elderly, the anonymity which often characterises urban life, and the sometimes superficial attention paid to situations of marginalisation and poverty”.

The first step towards creating a more human society is “to rediscover relationships as the constituent element of our lives”.

This little address is loaded.

Acceptance must be accompanied by solidarity, because “charity and justice require that, in times of need, those with the greatest resources should look after the disadvantaged”.

Over the past year of global financial crises, I’ve been looking for the human story at the center of it all. Most major media neglect that aspect. But I’ve found a kindred spirit in finance expert Lydia Fisher, Cinderella of Wall Street, who I’ve made a frequent guest on my radio show. Our conversations are as compelling as her insights, which appear in her business blog on Huffington Post. This latest one converges with the humanistic message Benedict emphasized.

Industrialized nations face a humanistic challenge — big debts, stalled or slow growth, maybe for years to come. Yet, promises and obligations remain.

A while back, I watched an interview with Mortimer Adler. One of many interviews and writings, covering topics such as justice, truth, beauty and much more.

Mortimer Adler was an American philosopher, best remembered for editing the Great Books of Western Civilization. I was particularly struck by what Adler said at the end of this interview which derived from a quote of his:

“Everyone is called to one common human vocation — that of being a good citizen and a thoughtful human being… — and that, to discharge the obligation common to all human beings, schooling should be essentially humanistic…”

These messages are converging, and I’m happy to say it’s about time we hear this side of the global crisis story.

Humanistic means keeping the interests and welfare of others in mind. If we’re taught the humanistic, it’s likely that we’d aspire to integrate this into our professional lives and lives at large. After all, we seek coaches and mentors for just about everything else.

Take the late Czech President Vaclav Havel as an example of a “good citizen.” He was a moral voice and beacon of hope for many.

He notes that:

“Even a purely moral act that has no hope of any immediate and visible political effect can gradually and indirectly, over time, gain in political significance….”

The thrust of his later writings and speeches was that Communism had made everyone morally ill, or “spiritually impoverished,” in another phrase of his, and it was humanity’s task to recover what had been forfeited.

When you’re on the track of human dignity and pursuit of a just and moral order, things converge in surprising ways. I was just given the opportunity to interview Vaclav Havel’s former General Secretary next week, on his new book that has at its core the message that crisis leads to change. How exquisitely timely.

Who are these non-Democrats?

First, the Republican Party had to show a healthy respect and appreciation for the Tea Party for not going off and forming an official third party in a two-party system, siphoning off voters en masse and messing up the whole election mainstream Americans have long-awaited. Then, the media had to figure out what hit them.

It took until the eve of the elections for elite media to give more than grudging respect to the force collectively known by that name ‘Tea Party’, though no one has a grip on it…which makes it an intriguing sort of renegade movement of commoners.

So I have to take my favorite ‘newspaper’ (or magazine, to non-Brits) to task for some of their recent coverage. But affectionatly, because The Economist does a great job of covering it all well, albeit with their own built-in preconceptions (one of which is the pervasive over-indulgence of praise or credit to President Obama for imagined achievements).

Last week, in anticipation of the invevitable Republican landslide, The Economist did a cover story on Angry America, a premise I disagree with, though it’s their meme and they’re sticking with it. The Leader in that issue is worth a commentary itself, but you know what they say about ‘day old newspapers’… I’ll let my notes on that one pass now that it’s a week on, except for this:

Mr Obama seems curiously unable to perceive, let alone respond to, the grievances of middle America, and has a dangerous habit of dismissing tea-partiers and others who disagree with him as deluded, evil or just bitter. The silver tongue that charmed America during the campaign has been replaced by a tin ear…

Whatever the reason, he does not seem to feel America’s pain, and looks unable either to capitalise on his administration’s achievements or to project an optimistic vision for the future.

True, except his achievements have been overstated by many foreign media and certainly, many fawning but fading American media.

So in that same issue, on the eve of the election, the wise columnist Lexinton ran this polite look at The good, the bad and the tea parties. Ever so right to make that plural.

The Washington Post spent months trying to contact every tea-party group in the nation. Having got through to 647 out of 1,400 it had identified, it found that some consisted of only a handful of members, if they existed at all.

So go back to how Lexington began this seemingly polite commentary.

IT IS not hard, if you really try, to find good things to say about America’s tea-partiers. They are not French, for a start. France’s new revolutionaries, those who have been raising Cain over Nicolas Sarkozy’s modest proposal to raise the age of retirement by two years, appear to believe that public money is printed in heaven and will rain down for ever like manna to pay for pensions, welfare, medical care and impenetrable avant-garde movies. America’s tea-partiers are the opposite: they exhale fiscal probity through every pore…

The tea-partiers do not just have less selfish motives than the pampered French. They also have better manners. Let the French block roads and set things on fire: among tea-partiers it is a point of pride that their large but orderly rallies leave barely a crumpled candy wrapper behind them.

And Lexington makes this apt point:

America’s pontificating class is not yet sure how to take the measure of this strange new movement.

True of all of them (the pontificating class). Here’s what Lexington came up with…

Not French, not fabricated and not as flaky as their detractors aver: these are the positives. Another one: in how many other countries would a powerful populist movement demand less of government, rather than endlessly and expensively more? Much of what is exceptional about America is its ideology of small government, free enterprise and self reliance. If that is what the tea-party movement is for, more power to its elbow.

And power it had last Tuesday, in the 2010 midterm elections. So I was eager to see how The Economist would handle that. Take a look at this cover story. When it arrived in my mailbox, I had to stop and appreciate the full amount of energy that went into creating just the art alone, putting the faces of Sarah Palin, John Boehner, Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee on the faces of a cowboy posse charging into Washington. Cute.

But here’s the rub. They acknowledge this:

The mid-term elections on November 2nd saw the biggest swing to the Republicans for 72 years.

However, editors seem to go into a snit about it all after that.

Yes, this was hardly an enthusiastic vote for his opponents, more a howl of rage against incumbents from citizens struggling after the worst slowdown since the 1930s. And he has a string of legislative achievements to his name.

It actually was an enthusiastic vote for his opponents, and it’s unfair to call it a “howl of rage”, which is beneath the level of respect those voters deserve. Furthermore, I’d like to hear a reasoned case of what those legislative achievements are. Mandates rammed through a Democratic Congress do not constitute legislative achievements, in some reasoned opinion.

Furthermore…

Whether [presumptive Speaker of the House] Mr. [John] Boehner decides to work with Mr Obama or against him, voters will accord him a share of the blame if things continue to be miserable.

Hold on. Flip it. What about Mr. Obama working with Mr. Boehner and the House? And his accountability and share of the blame if by not doing so, things continue to be miserable?

Okay, a couple more things…

No red-blooded conservative will touch defence expenditure at a time when America’s troops are in combat and the country faces toner-wielding terrorists and a rising China.

What about a red-blooded American liberal?

And then there’s this (and note that it’s a parenthetical statement, cueing the reader to give it less attention):

(Of course, Mr Obama has no credible plan to deal with the deficit either. But at least by backing a stimulus now he has a cogent answer to the immediate problem of the stuttering recovery.)

The Economist has thus declared the pork-laden economic stimulus spend-a-thon to be a cogent answer to economic crisis.

So in the end, realistic analysis:

Mr Obama could extend more help to small businesses, offer tax reforms that would make commerce simpler and generally do more to show that he understands how wealth is created. The Bush tax cuts, due to expire at the end of this year, could be extended and a short-term stimulus agreed upon…

Deadlock over the Bush tax cuts will see them expire, letting taxes rise sharply by default. Without further help from the federal government, cash-strapped states will sack employees and cut benefits next year. It is in everybody’s interest that Sheriff Obama and the Republican posse work together.

To grab once again at an overused and time-worn stereotype of American grit. But they have to start somewhere in trying to figure out the new reality that has just descended on Washington. They may have the posse right, but the sheriff has yet to earn his badge.