How could Barack Obama win reelection?
How could Barack Obama win reelection, with U.S. unemployment still at 8%, and real unemployment much higher? With 43 million Americans on food stamps? With a $16 trillion debt, credit ratings tumbling and economic growth sluggish?
How could Obama be reelected with foreign affairs in a shambles – with Al Qaida overrunning U.S. consulates and murdering U.S. ambassadors, with Iraq and Afghanistan slipping back to chaos, with terrorists dominating the misnamed Arab Spring, with Russia and China pressing their interests with no American resistance, and with Iran building nuclear weapons unhindered?
Does the blame go to the Republican standard-bearers, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan? There is something to that; Ryan didn’t carry his home state of Wisconsin, which would have brought the Republicans within striking distance of an electoral college victory. And Romney carried neither Massachusetts, the state he once governed, nor Michigan, the state his father governed.
But that cannot be the whole answer; Romney did very well in the debates – especially the first one – and campaigned vigorously. Obama wasn’t a particularly dazzling candidate, and Vice President Joe Biden was universally an embarrassment.
So, then what?
A massive, four-year get-out-the-vote campaign by the Democrats, painstakingly identifying millions of partisans and getting them to advance ballots, takes some credit. But surely Republicans know those dark arts as well as their rivals.
The unhappy answer – to a conservative, and to someone who loves America for its exceptional dedication to freedom – is that perhaps the United States has changed, and that the miraculous country envisioned by its Founding Fathers and described so beautifully by Alexis de Tocqueville has simply changed.
It is no longer a nation of rugged individualists, of fiercely independent men and women. It is now a nation that would not be out of place in Europe – a welfare state, a state with the firm hand of government directing its peoples lives. Not great anymore, but good, or good enough.
How could New Hampshire – motto: Live Free or Die – vote for a president who nationalized two car companies and brought in government-run health care? But it did – or at least that’s how it was looking at 10 p.m. ET.
Has America reached a tipping point, where there are simply more takers than there are makers – and the party that casts itself so clearly with those on welfare and food stamps and hand-outs can count on the support of its clients to continue to tax and regulate the industrious class?
Not since the Great Depression has an American election been so coloured with the rhetoric of class warfare and outright envy – Obama himself declaring to an audience that voting was the best “vengeance”. Vengeance against those who arrogantly choose work rather than welfare, perhaps – Obama never properly explained.
Economic malaise, even two terms of it, can be healed. Ronald Reagan proved that, as did Margaret Thatcher. Even foreign affairs debacles can be undone, again as proved by Reagan and Thatcher, though putting the Iranian nuclear genie back in the bottle is something that will be impossible.
A greater worry is that America’s identity will change irrevocably – that it will simply not want to come back from Obama’s big government mentality, that it will prefer the soft mediocrity of regulation and taxation to the bracing risks of freedom.
Live Free has been replaced by Free Stuff.
All empires come to an end. Which is a shame, because the American empire – an empire of freedom, not coercion – was the most noble and generous the world had seen. If the rest of the night continues on course, a re-elected President Obama will continue to preside over the decline of the American era. It’s a pity.
This column appeared in Sun News November 7 2012.