It’s Not the Country…

by Dave Schuler on November 7, 2012

…it’s the politicians who got small. The Wall Street Journal says much what I would say about the election:

Mr. Obama will now have to govern the America he so relentlessly sought to divide—and without a mandate beyond the powers of the Presidency. Democrats will hold the Senate, perhaps with an additional seat or two. But Republicans held the House comfortably, so their agenda was hardly repudiated. The two sides will have to reach some compromise on the tax cliff, the spending sequester and the debt limit, but Speaker John Boehner can negotiate knowing he has as much of a mandate as the President.

I genuinely wish the best for President Obama.

We need a man as big as the country. If he’s as small as he’s been since first being elected to the presidency, it’s going to be a long four years. Blaming everything on your predecessor may have been a working strategy for a while. We’ll see how long it continues to work.

The country now is very different from the one he saw when first elected. For each American who idolizes him there’s another who despises him and very few in between. 75% of Americans either strongly approve or strongly disapprove of the president with few in between.

We now have European levels of permanent unemployment without European-style social programs. The economy has no real growth—it’s been flat for years. We’ve been at war for ten years now. There are no booming developing economies to drive the global economy. All of the flagging economies of the world want us to pick up the slack. There is no other “us” we can depend on for economic growth.

As long as economic growth remains flat, interest rates will stay near zero and as long as that persists seniors will continue to see their savings erode. Baby Boomers have seen the values of their 401Ks decline, the value of their houses collapse, their savings eaten away, and there are enough of them to maintain political significance for the foreseeable future. Medicare and Social Security will probably begin their critical meltdowns within the next four years.

I wish the president luck. He’s going to need it. We all will.

{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

steve November 7, 2012 at 9:08 am

“But Republicans held the House comfortably, so their agenda was hardly repudiated. ”

Wonder if this would have been true absent the 2010 gerrymandering? They lost Senate seats, which cannot be gerrymandered to safety, suggesting their agenda is weaker than they think.

“We now have European levels of permanent unemployment without European-style social programs.”

With so many people not eligible for UI anymore, shouldnt we be seeing them go back to work, assuming that the Barro narrative is correct?

As to the general topic, we need both Congress and Obama to rise to the occasion. Our system is deliberately set up so that you need both to resolve domestic issues.

Steve

Icepick November 7, 2012 at 10:01 am

With so many people not eligible for UI anymore, shouldnt we be seeing them go back to work, assuming that the Barro narrative is correct?

The Barro narrative has been exposed as bullshit for years now. It’s just that so many well-heeled people want to assume that everyone that is unemployed has bad character defects.

Dave Schuler November 7, 2012 at 10:03 am

The idea that when bad things happen it’s a result of sin is a hard one to stamp out.

Icepick November 7, 2012 at 10:04 am

The American people have voted for exactly the kind of government we got in the summer of 2011. Why should any of the people in charge change their game now? American have made it clear that they love the country in exactly the shape its in now.

michael reynolds November 7, 2012 at 10:11 am

I’m afraid it may be the commentary that got smaller. Accusing Mr. Obama of working relentlessly to divide the country is utter tripe.

This country is divided by race – essentially all African-Americans and nearly all Hispanics on one side, a majority of whites on the other. It’s also divided by sex — women for Democrats, men for the GOP. And it’s divided by age — young people for my team, old people for the other team. I don’t really see how Mr. Obama caused any of those fissures.

In fact the country is now divided along a very traditional line: past and future. Hispanics are the growing minority, they’ll have a bigger piece of the future. The young will inevitably replace the old and bring with them their indifference to race, gender and orientation, and their expectation of a social safety net and a useful government. The GOP let itself become the party of old white people and rustics, the party of an increasingly ridiculous cowboy-pioneer mythology. We live in cities and large suburbs now, not on farms, and cities need active (and expensive) government.

The core beliefs of the GOP and especially its Tea Party wing are in ruins. They have nothing left. Not abortion, not gay-bashing, not race-baiting, not the scapegoating of immigrants, not the fantasy of small government, not the tougher-on-defense thing, not the tax-cuts-for-the-rich thing, not the more-religious-than-thou thing. The GOP’s best alternative is now a wrenching internal civil war, though I actually expect they’ll double down on stupid and limit their efforts to immigration reform.

The GOP just got taken apart, and we have a two-term Democrat who gave us Obamacare and GM. Which is rather amazing given that in your eyes, Dave, the president was such a small, inconsequential fellow.

Dave Schuler November 7, 2012 at 10:30 am

Michael, I did not vote for Romney. I thought he was a lousy candidate. And I don’t give a damn about the Republicans or the Tea Party. Republican control of the House is a reality that needs to be adapted to. As to Obamacare and GM, I just got off the phone with a client, a doc. His opinion of Obamacare: it’s a system designed to fail. He has an extremely low opinion of it. Most of the docs I know do.

GM did declare bankruptcy. What happened was a resolution that preserved the union leadership at the expense of practically everyone else. I do not believe that there’s a place for GM in the future or, at least, not a place that’s worth defending—a local assembler of Chinese-built cars.

Inconsequential? Absolutely not. And I’m sincere in saying I want the president to do well. That will mean compromise rather than finessing his opposition or relying on power politics.

Maxwell James November 7, 2012 at 10:51 am

What Michael said. There’s plenty of smallness all right, but it’s not in the direction you’re pointing. One party has a speck in its eye, but the other has a log.

I lived for several years in Georgia, which is seen as a deep red state. And yet Obama lost it by only eight points – despite turnout that was relatively low this year, possibly lower than 2004. Fulton County, probably the most D-leaning in the entire state, had turnout of only 350,000 – this with a population of about a million.

If the Republicans don’t get their act together they will lose even those areas perceived to be their strongholds. They are the ones who are allergic to any form of compromise. And that WSJ editorial suggests they will just stay the course.

PD Shaw November 7, 2012 at 10:53 am

Yes, the comments have gotten small and divisive.

Icepick November 7, 2012 at 10:59 am

Reynolds is overjoyed that the future of the country is Mexico, and also overjoyed at the decline of white people. Fuck WHITE PEOPLE! That was the trope on Twitter last night, and as predicted it’s Reynolds same all song.

PD Shaw November 7, 2012 at 11:09 am

steve, the best I’ve been able to gather, the redistricting is expected to net the Republicans 11 seats:

http://brennan.3cdn.net/be57b9c8f99264f737_d3m6i9v6s.pdf

I think incumbency power explains a lot of it. Every incumbent or incumbent-equivalent or anti-status quo measure on my ballot lost yesterday.

Icepick November 7, 2012 at 11:10 am

I just realized something. As of November 1st I have been out of work longer than I have ever worked at one job. My longest career stint is now officially as an unemployed person. This is the victory Reynolds celebrates today. It’s the grave of my middle class status that he’s dancing on. Nice country you’ve created.

Maxwell James November 7, 2012 at 11:28 am

Some good advice for Republicans, circa 2004. Just swap the names around.

PD Shaw November 7, 2012 at 11:39 am

@Maxwell, I don’t know. In 2004, the Republicans had control of both houses of Congress and the Presidency. In hindsight, the best advise for Democrats was “wait for the overreach.” This is a much more split electorate, with both sides having reason to believe in incremental changes.

Frankly, I think Republicans need primary reform, barring that the establishment elements need to do a better job coalescing around a candidate.

steve November 7, 2012 at 11:50 am

“I just got off the phone with a client, a doc. His opinion of Obamacare: it’s a system designed to fail. He has an extremely low opinion of it. Most of the docs I know do.”

Very few docs have a clue what is in the ACA. Most thought that Medicare meant that docs would go broke. Instead, we got rich. But I think it is almost irrelevant. If you look at projected medical spending, it has to slow down at some point, and probably soon. One way or another we will get paid less. If we get a private sector WalMart that takes over, they will dictate care and spending decisions. If we get nationalized health care ala the NHS, we get the same result. If we can get a European or Singapore style system, we will lose some autonomy and some salary. Meh.

Steve

Maxwell James November 7, 2012 at 11:56 am

PD – I wouldn’t describe it as much more split. The popular vote totals are likely to be pretty similar, as are the Senate numbers. And as you noted a fair chunk, though certainly not all, of the Republicans advantage in the House can be attributed to gerrymandering.

I will say that I hope, but do not expect, that Obama resists the urge to claim a “mandate.” Bush shouldn’t have done that in 2004, and it’s even less justified now.

I agree that primary reform – or as Dave called it, getting the crazies off the front porch – is a big part of the Republicans’ problem. So is hoping for bad news, which has basically been their overarching strategy over the past four years.

Mary November 7, 2012 at 2:17 pm

RIGHT ON Michael Reynolds!!!!!

Ben Wolf November 7, 2012 at 3:28 pm

Odd to argue Barrack Obama is small, or has been trying to divide the country. Within days of the 2008 election he was attempting to craft a Grand Bargain with Republicans, a reason I opposed his re-election. There is only on party with a leadership which declared its number one priority to be defeat of the other. There is only one party which has actively embraced descriptions of the President as a traitor, communist, manchurian candidate, muslim, and destroyer of “judeo-christian” values (as if there were such a thing).

It’s ludicrous to suggest the President is at fault for not making things work when confronted with an opposition party that has lost its mind and refuses to compromise in any way.

PD Shaw November 7, 2012 at 3:59 pm

@Maxwell, I might better describe my view as 2004 being a nadir for Democrats. It does seem like we are experiencing unprecedented swings over short periods of time. The 2000 to 2006 period was the first time the Republicans controlled both Congress and the Presidency since before the Great Depression. And then in 2008 to 2010, the Democrats controlled both. Its not an unreasonable expectation for Republicans to believe they have a good chance of returning to control of both in four years. The parties appear to have become very good tacticians at achieving 50% plus one types of victories. It doesn’t bode well for long-term compromises, because you might wait an election cycle and get a far better deal.

PD Shaw November 7, 2012 at 4:07 pm

@Ben, I don’t think Dave directed “small” only at Obama. Romney was no giant among men. The majority and minority leaders in Congress are history’s dwarfs. I think its fair to single out McConnell for excessive parliamentary manuevers, particularly in the first two years of Obam’s presidency, but Reid has been setting records this last two years on blocking any legislation from getting a vote that is controversial on the Democratic side. The only things he’s allowed out are minor inconsequentials. I understand a minority leader wants the power of a majority and the majority leader wants to protect his majority, but it is “small” in the vast scheme of things.

TastyBits November 7, 2012 at 4:34 pm

@Ben Wolf

… There is only one party which has actively embraced descriptions of the President as a traitor, communist, manchurian candidate, muslim, and destroyer of “judeo-christian” values (as if there were such a thing).

You must not remember George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, and Richard Nixon.

“Bush lied. People died.” Fake but true. BusHilter, Bush=Hitler, Chimpy Bush. Bush stole the election.

The Clintons were linked to Vince Foster’s death, and Bill Clinton was impeached over a blowjob.

I am a little fuzzy about the late 70′s and 80′s, but I do remember drinking & driving was making a lot of mothers mad.

Nixon was worse than the things people called him. He should have been …

LBJ, Ford, Carter, and H. W. Bush did not fare much better, and there was the Burr-Hamilton duel.

Steve Verdon November 7, 2012 at 5:35 pm

There is only on party with a leadership which declared its number one priority to be defeat of the other. There is only one party which has actively embraced descriptions of the President as a traitor, communist, manchurian candidate, muslim, and destroyer of “judeo-christian” values (as if there were such a thing).

I’d consider consulting a doctor about that short/selective memory problem.

Steve Verdon November 7, 2012 at 5:45 pm

The core beliefs of the GOP and especially its Tea Party wing are in ruins. They have nothing left. Not abortion, not gay-bashing, not race-baiting, not the scapegoating of immigrants, not the fantasy of small government, not the tougher-on-defense thing, not the tax-cuts-for-the-rich thing, not the more-religious-than-thou thing. The GOP’s best alternative is now a wrenching internal civil war, though I actually expect they’ll double down on stupid and limit their efforts to immigration reform.

You know, in 2004 I bet some were making the same claims…but from the GOP perspective. Next presidential election will be up for grabs….no incumbent.

As Megan McArdle has noted, “The devotees of the party in power are smug and arrogant. The devotees of the party out of power are insane.” Michael just gave us proof of the first part.

Steve Verdon November 7, 2012 at 6:03 pm

Let me see, which Bush policies did Obama change:

Afghanistan? Nope.
Stimulus spending? Nope.
Warrantless wiretapping? Nope.
Killing American citizens? Nope (he even has a list!).
GM/Chrysler bailout? Nope.
Drug policy? Nope.

Basically George W. Bush won re-election last night…plus some dubious health care reform thing.

Never stop poasting Michael!

Steve Verdon November 7, 2012 at 6:04 pm

Ooops, forgot the taxes….nope, the Bush tax cuts are still in place.

jan November 7, 2012 at 7:03 pm

I agree with Dave’s assessment of dividing the country. Other’s have described it similarly as a “balkanized” campaign, or, in the aftermath of Obama’s win, a “triumph of identity politics.” This country became bits and pieces of conflicting interests, be it, rich vs poor, white vs color, woman vs man, pro-choice vs pro-life, young vs old. Now, there’s a call to stitch all these politically torn-up components to come together for a hug?

Maybe it’s just the day after discouragement, but I don’t hold out much hope for any real reaching across the aisle compromise to happen. Perhaps if you changed the leadership, of both the R and D in the Senate, there might be a greater possibility of less rancor. But, Reid is a lost cause, and McConnell is past his prime, IMO, to provide a fresh POV.

As far as Obama, he will feel empowered to expand government and tax more. I read something about the carbon tax even being reconsidered. Be prepared for taxation to be coming out of our pores, before the end of his second term. Spending cuts, though, will receive less focus than creating more social programs which will then call for more borrowing. Basically, the policies and leadership seen these past 4 years will only continue, with impunity.

There was an ominous ad put out by a coalition for spending cuts, during this election cycle. It depicted a Chinese lecture hall with a professor-like person discussing the fall of various civilizations, Rome, Greece, and ending with an image of the WH on a big screen. In Chinese, with English sub-titles, he was saying that due to tax and spend polices, and a health care plan this country couldn’t afford, they were forced to borrow money from others. He then chuckled and said something like, “And, now they work for us.” The students all laughed knowingly.

That’s the way it is folks.

Dave Schuler November 7, 2012 at 7:06 pm

There was an ominous ad put out by a coalition for spending cuts, during this election cycle. It depicted a Chinese lecture hall with a professor-like person discussing the fall of various civilizations, Rome, Greece, and ending with an image of the WH on a big screen. In Chinese, with English sub-titles, he was saying that due to tax and spend polices, and a health care plan this country couldn’t afford, they were forced to borrow money from others. He then chuckled and said something like, “And, now they work for us.” The students all laughed knowingly.

That ad makes me physically ill. It is so hysterical, distorted, and untrue. All it needs is something about “Yellow Peril”.

Icepick November 7, 2012 at 8:04 pm

Afghanistan? Nope.
Stimulus spending? Nope.
Warrantless wiretapping? Nope.
Killing American citizens? Nope (he even has a list!).

Totally unfair. Obama put more troops in Afghanistan.
Obama spent more money on stimulus. (And that’s not counting the regular deficit spend.)
Obama has increased warrantless wire taps. (I’m sure Reynolds is in favor of that because no doubt the people getting tapped are the Koch brothers and other domestic enemies.)
And I’m pretty sure Obama has ordered more hits on Americans, but I’d have to look it up with Greenwald to be sure.

It’s Bush on human growth hormone.

jan November 7, 2012 at 8:35 pm

That ad makes me physically ill. It is so hysterical, distorted, and untrue. All it needs is something about “Yellow Peril”.

42% of foreign owned US debt held by China-Japan

Distorted and untrue? Why?

jan November 7, 2012 at 8:38 pm

Icepick

It’s Bush on human growth hormone.

….plus, the Congress in the last 2 years of the Bush regime was dominated by the dems. Somehow this gets lost in the rhetoric of the dems talking about going back to Bush days, when countering Romney’s recovery policies. However, these days, with only one arm of Congress being held by the awful republicans, they become the major source of obstructionism? BS!

Dave Schuler November 7, 2012 at 9:21 pm

42% of foreign owned US debt held by China-Japan

  1. That’s foreign-owned U. S. debt. Not total public debt. We owe most of our debt to ourselves in various forms. It’s blowing foreign debt out of proportion. Our foreign debt is about 28% of the whole. The Chinese component is therefore 42% of 28% or about 12% of the debt. We should be panicking about 12% of our debt?
  2. For some time 70% of all new public debt has been purchased by the Federal Reserve. China has substantially decreased its purchase of new U. S. debt.
  3. Previous to China and Japan, until about 30 years ago, most of our foreign debt had been owned by the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. I don’t know of similar complaints from that period.

There is a point at which being misleading rises to being untrue. To me, that ad is that misleading.

jan November 7, 2012 at 9:35 pm

Thanks for the broader details.

Steve Verdon November 8, 2012 at 12:29 pm

It’s Bush on human growth hormone.

Precisely my point to several people I know here at work and in RL. I pointed out that Obama has, if anything, doubled down on Bush policies and added on health care “reform” for some additional seasoning.

When you look at it like this, it makes Michael’s love letter above look simply ridiculous.

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