07 November 2012

Four more years ...

Americans perpetuated gridlock, narrowly rejecting Mitt Romney's bid to replace President Obama while keeping Romney's Republican party in control of the House of Representatives and in a position to obstruct such of Obama's second-term agenda that they might object to. Both major parties, then, can claim mandates to keep doing what they've been doing for the past four years. That doesn't sound like good news for the country. You might like the Republicans to feel that, by rejecting Romney, the nation as a whole has set a limit on how much they should obstruct the President, but each congressman can say that he must listen to his immediate constituents first. Moreover, Republicans can continue to delude themselves by scapegoating Romney, the man they chose as their standard bearer, the way they've scapegoated Sen. McCain since his 2008 defeat. Again we'll hear that the Republican presidential candidate was not a "real" conservative, and that a "real conservative" would have attracted many more voters who didn't come out this year, or four years ago, than he (or she) would have alienated. The success enjoyed by Tea Party incumbents in keeping their seats will only encourage such fantasies. It's up to Tea Partiers to test this premise some day, but it's far from clear that they'll get their chance in 2016. They could have performed the experiment this year, but there were too many politicians competing with each other while flighty constituents flirted with a number of eccentrics without settling on a single champion. That could happen again unless wire-pullers behind the scenes can agree on a favorite soon enough, and with enough promises of resources, to discourage rivals. Even if the TPs rally around one candidate, they may still face another long battle with one big "moderate," should Jeb Bush decide that his turn has come at last or if Condoleezza Rice can be persuaded to give Republicanism a human face.  A one-on-one for the 2016 nomination might be more significant than the general election if it results in a decisive verdict for or against Teapartyism. The general election itself could prove anticlimactic if politics follows the pattern of the last twenty years. Obama's survival may leave us asking whether G.H.W. Bush will be the country's last one-term President. It seems now that once you get in, you're assured of two terms no matter what the circumstances. Eight years of Clinton were followed by eight years of Dubya, now followed by eight years of Obama. If this makes a pattern, a Republican should win in 2016, perhaps regardless of whether a "moderate" or a TP gets the nomination, unless the moderate-vs-TP conflict cracks up the party.  Whom the Democrats nominate as Obama's successor might make a difference, but right now all I can imagine is Secretary Clinton, aged 69, going up against Gov. Cuomo the austerity liberal, with Vice President Biden unlikely to be a major factor. Someone may come to the fore before then, but obviously I have no clue who that might be. Democratic voters may be ready for a grass-roots insurgency by then, but I suspect it'll be up to the rank-and-file to produce its leaders, for all the good it would do in the primaries. In the meantime, many people no doubt assume that we've only accelerated our slide toward ruin, while others anticipate another four years of grimy muddling through. Either way, there seems to be little cause for celebration today -- and anyway, my candidate lost, too.

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