The elated and the dejected have now offered their initial reactions to the election. One wonders what everyone is getting all excited about. What election has ever really changed much in this country? Forget the rhetoric; study the implementation of policy, which is where the real answer to this question lies. Even FDR continued many of the policies of Herbert Hoover, who, contrary to popular belief, got the whole business of economic interventionism started.
I got home from work last night after changing a flat tire, turned on the television, and there was Wolf Blitzer interviewing Eric Cantor, a Republican congressman. Blitzer gave Cantor two opportunities to enumerate areas in which the Republicans would propose spending cuts. Cantor demurred both times, and offered the exceedingly timid suggestion that spending be returned to 2008 levels. The GOP has been campaigning on this promise of faint hope. Shame on the American people that it worked; after all, George W. Bush outspent Lyndon Johnson, so returning to 2008 spending levels isn’t exactly the dawning of a libertarian Utopia. I heard from one Democrat who hyperbolically called himself “suicidal” at the election results. Seriously? A group of candidates is elected that only wants to rollback spending to levels from two years ago, and this is considered a threat? Take out health care, and much of the other spending can be chalked up as continuations of monsters that the Republicans created, like stimulus packages and illegal wars of foreign aggression, which Obama has happily continued, although under a euphemism in the case of Iraq. At what level does this represent a fundamental rejection of the policies that have been going on? Most of this strikes me as being noise.
Based on his comments during his press conference, Barack Obama doesn’t seem to think that this election represents a rejection of his ideas, and he may be right. After all, the Republicans can’t really get serious about ways to make government smaller; they were, in the main, elected on broad platitudes, which I grant is nothing unusual. Oh, and by the way, they apparently mean it this time, just like they did in 1980 and 1994, and we all know what happened then. But this time they really mean it. Obama rightly remarked that most people are not ideological. I quite agree, though I would go further and say that most people haven’t the will to be literate in the exchange of fundamental ideas, and this would seem to me to lead to a more volatile electorate in general. He who cannot grasp ideas will cling to a personality, and if things don’t go well, he’ll dump that personality for another. Place not thy trust in princes. Stupidity creates instability. People may reject Obama’s policies in many instances, but I’m not sure they could say why they feel the Republicans have better ideas. I fear there’s just a feeling that it was time for someone else to win. It’s the American way of guarding the shallow mainstream, the much-hallowed middle. Or shall I call it the muddle?
There is nothing in polite conversation these days that can offend people more certainly than the articulation of a discernible idea. You’d be better off using the several forbidden early Anglo-Saxon words than expressing any worldview whatsoever. American politicians, being in the business of guarding their positions, know this, and so I don’t expect anything to change much soon. At the same time, while I have no love for any politician, I don’t allow my heart to be troubled at movement this way or that. Life will go on, and when it comes to the doomsday scenarios such as a possible dollar collapse, I am at peace with the fact that both parties have contributed and will continue to contribute to this eventuality. Fatalism isn’t as scary as it might seem from the outside; I sleep perfectly well at night. It seems to me that the really important things in life are not the grandstanding of politicians, but the unassuming work that most people do day in and day out so that they can support their families (and the people living on the dole). I’m thinking of people like the guys who just fixed my tire and got me new windshield wipers. They’re the real problem solvers of the world.