written November 6, 2012
Today the American people (perhaps 50% of them!) will speak. More on this later.
Not being called to sub at the high school, I am glad to have today for a little quiet reflection on this past national year, the time to take the political pulse of sites like Politico and CNN as Americans once again flex their democratic muscles. To commemorate I watched some of “The Contenders”today on C-SPAN, a series dedicate to exploring historically significant general election losers of yester-year. I feel like I am in a much better position to appreciate this cycle than my 2008 self, when I was just beginning my historical studies education.
It may be best to briefly return to those days, as a mirror for today. Often, goes the narrative, weary liberals, once giddy over the Illinoisan, are distraught over the limits of Barack Obama’s transformative powers, while Republicans remain in the balconies mocking the production is sarcastic hopey-changey voices. The uniqueness of Obama’s national rise must, I believe, be seen in context of the previous president. I do not mean this necessarily as a criticism of George W. Bush, his policies, or his presidential style. Rather, it is quite common for a somewhat finicky populace to want the opposite of the previous president. The majority of Americans saw Obama as a fresh face tired of the previous eight years, ready to label the then-senator with what they wanted to see.
Obama the incumbent has all the negatives and advantages of a record to investigate, not simply eloquent future plans. It would be silly to pass judgment of his Administration (I really think at least two generations need to pass before a figure can be assessed, making Truman only now ready for a grade. But what has my impression been? Obama is the kind of president I would want to create if I could, at least as far as his penchant for seriousness, multiple interpretations, and cool resolve. These qualities, and a far bit of luck, played a bit in his successes and failures. Of the first, the future will remember his ending of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, of being the first president to endorse gay marriage earlier this year. If allowed to preserve, the Affordable Care Act will continue to be ingrained in the society much like Social Security (another Republican evil into the 1950’s) to posterity’s thankfulness.
Yet in some way he moved slowly when too hopeful of other possible avenues. Could the Gulf spill have been closed sooner during the 2010? Many things were tried, at least. At what point was the Great Compromise possible in 2011 as the nation flirted with default? It would be interesting to see if new tactics would be used with the approaching “Financial Cliff” negotiations. I was surprised by the wall quickly built by the GOP, and the near-instantaneous creation of the Tea Party. This grass-roots(?) expression of old, white angst leaves me befuddled, but it will be an a fascinating topic of future researchers (as well as the embarrassing “birther” phenomenon. The opposition has been impressive as it has been depressing, whether from the House of the last few years or Fox News throughout. I would cringe just as much if Democrats lined up just as quickly against Romney.
If Obama’s term is to end in January, he will be remembered, beyond his racial contribution, for guiding a historically horrible economy to late, shaky gains, for a wide expansion healthcare and insurance reform, continuing many Bush war policies and an influx of drones, with his “Camp David” moment possibly being the mission that killed Osama bin Laden. Whoever wins will claim the economic gains on the horizon and thus the steward of the real recovery. Unfortunately, outside of Lincoln, a single term generally relegates a President to mediocre status. To solidify past gains, and to repeat the rewards still coming from them in the next four years, Obama should be given the opportunity to see what he can do with an America on firmer ground. Romney, however, would be fascinating, and a complete toss-up as to what version of him would find the Oval Office. For the record, I believe he is closer to the moderate he suddenly has become in the last few weeks, than the “severe conservative” he had to shakily play to win the party’s nomination.
To find out how the election of 2012 ended, here is “The Election of 2012 Part II: Four More Years.”