Tuesday, November 13, 2012

America: The People Have Spoken ... Right?

One week ago tonight, we learned the results of this year's general election, including that of President of the United States. As forty-eight percent of the population were stunned by the results the following morning, fifty percent of the population were jubilant at what they termed a "decisive" victory. Now, fifty percent is hardly decisive. Neither is fifty-one percent, which is what they had once Florida's votes were counted. As the inevitable appeared likely, Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly had this to say as to why the incumbent would be re-elected.

WHAT HAPPENED (IN A NUTSHELL)?

The white establishment is now the minority ... The voters, many of them, feel this economic system is stacked against them and they want stuff. You’re gonna see a tremendous Hispanic vote for President Obama. Overwhelming black vote for President Obama. And women will probably break President Obama’s way. People feel that they are entitled to things — and which candidate, between the two, is going to give them things?

If one can overlook the ethnic distinctions, which are in danger of having entirely too much significance attached to them, it makes a great deal of sense. The unemployment figures do not always count those who have given up looking for work, and if there are enough of them (and the numbers tend to be disproportionately higher among nonwhites), and if enough of them have given up, they will abandon opportunity for dependency. This is part of the cycle to which we alluded just four years ago at this time.

For most of this week, I have chosen to view the reactions of others to the recent election, and synthesize their opinions of what happened and why, what should have happened, and where to go from here. It was during that time that I discovered this quotation from an anonymous source:

"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over a loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been two hundred years. These nations have progressed through this sequence; from bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to great courage; from courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance; from abundance to selfishness; from selfishness to complacency; from complacency to apathy; from apathy to dependence; from dependency back again into bondage."

In contemplating that passage, I am struck by the process of ascendency and decline, measured as though it were the everlasting series of benchmarks of all empires in our history, as though moving in a circle ...

Meanwhile, there is already a grassroots petition to demand a recount, for all the good it will do, even though there are numerous instances of voter fraud reported in several states, including those by mainstream news sources, such as this one in Ohio by no less than the Columbus Dispatch:

In two counties, the number of registered voters actually exceeds the voting-age population: Northwestern Ohio’s Wood County shows 109 registered voters for every 100 eligible, while in Lawrence County along the Ohio River it’s a mere 104 registered per 100 eligible ...

... and that's just for openers. Personally, I don't imagine the President or his campaign to be responsible for this. They wouldn't have to be, with support at the local and state levels from the Service Employees International Union (you know, those goons in the purple tee-shirts who would beat up people outside of "town hall" meetings), and whatever demon spawn has arisen from the ashes of ACORN. It has also been observed that Obama lost every state that required photo identification in order to vote, which cannot help but say something about the integrity of our voting process. Is it so unrealistic to expect people to prove who they are to vote in an election?

While all that's going on, we thought we'd take this opportunity to look at the why and the wherefore of the results, both the big picture, and the devil in the details.

LOOKING AT THE STATES

The Washington Examiner provided an excellent guide to the ballot counting by state, and the electoral vote. We would be remiss not to acknowledge this resource in reporting our findings.

First, let's look at the nationwide map from more than one vantage point. The first map (in this case, from CNN) is how the results would have looked if only those who paid federal income taxes had voted. We can see that it would have been no contest for former Massachusetts Governor and Republican challenger Mitt Romney. This scenario might lend some credence to O'Reilly's observation, especially when you consider that nearly half the population pays no federal income tax. Or so they tell me.

The second map is which way the states actually ended up going. While the popular vote was 51 percent for Obama to 48 percent for Romney, the electoral vote, that which actually determines the election, was counted at 332 for Obama to 206 for Romney. In the United States, the people do not elect their President; the states do, in the form of electors, representatives of the will of their respective states, apportioned by population. But even this is misleading in terms of where the nation as a whole stood with this election.

(We note the exclusion of Alaska and Hawai'i in our subsequent examples. For what it's worth, the former was overwhelmingly Republican, and the latter was overwhelmingly Democratic, so there you go.)

It is here that we look to how the counties voted, which gives up a more accurate depiction of the mind of the popular electorate. In particular, we will look to three of the "battleground" states; Ohio, Virginia, and Pennsylvania.

First, we examine this writer's native Ohio. It is the Buckeye State, above all others, which is arguably the most representative of a cross-section of the nation (or as I used to call it, "the most average state in the Union"). Here we see a state that has long been culturally and economically divided. The northern part of the state is part of the Great Lakes region, with traditional blue-collar industries such as automobiles, coal, rubber tires, steel, and other forms of manufacturing. They would be dominated by the labor unions, whose members traditionally vote Democratic. The central and southern parts of the state are a combination of agrarian-dominated rural and small-town areas, and cities with a balance of white- and blue-collar industries. The southern part of Ohio, in particular, shares a common culture with the South, which in the last several decades has been more conservative, and tends to vote Republican. With the vote from Hamilton County in the southwest corner (which includes Cincinnati) having been swayed to vote Democratic in the 2008 and 2012 elections, it was enough to swing the state's 18 electoral votes (with 50.1 versus 48.2 percent of the popular vote) in favor of Obama.

We see similar dichotomies in Pennsylvania and Virginia. The former is divided between the larger urban centers of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and smaller ones such as Erie and Scranton, all with mostly blue-collar and/or minority populations. The latter is more or less split along the Rappahannock River. To the north is a region largely consisting of non-southerners and foreign-born, who rely on the federal government as a "company town" and want to keep it that way, and so will tend to vote liberal; that is, Democratic. The rest of the state is very southern, ergo conservative, ergo Republican, except for the urban centers such as Richmond and Newport News/Norfolk, which are, in concert with northern Virginia, enough to give its 13 electoral votes to Obama as well.

There is another perspective to our cultural divide that was brought to our attention just recently. “One can drive nearly the entire length of the continental United States in a straight line, over 3000 miles [from Curry County, Oregon, to Granville County, North Carolina], without going through a single county that voted for Barack Obama. North to south [from Divide County, North Dakota, to Terrell County, Texas] isn't even difficult.” Well, the west-to-east route could have been pulled off by angling it just a touch southward towards the end, but you get the idea. The bulk of the Democratic vote is concentrated in the northeast, along the Great Lakes, and the east and west coasts, not to mention the Indian reservations. Virtually everywhere else is distinctly Republican. This is how America is divided; urban against rural, urbane against provincial, liberal against conservative. We are supposed to be united as a country, even after a general election. But with the popular vote split so evenly in the last two elections, we live in what Michael Barone calls "two Americas."

One America tends to be traditionally religious, personally charitable, appreciative of entrepreneurs, and suspicious of government. The other tends to be secular or only mildly religious, less charitable, skeptical of business, and supportive of government as an instrument to advance liberal causes ... The election may be over, but the two Americas are still not on speaking terms.

How did it get this way?

PONTIFICATING PUNDITS

People like Ann Coulter blame everyone but Romney, namely those who were what she calls "purists,"while insisting that everyone should have quit the internecine bickering and go with the most palatable, least offensive candidate from the get-go. She does manage to explain, if badly, why the middle-of-the-road approach did not work in 2012. Yet she and so many others of her ilk neglect to explain why this approach also didn't work in 2008, in the form of the wannabe "maverick," Senator John McCain.

The advocates of a middle-of-the-road Republican candidate, which dominate the party establishment and show no signs of yielding, continue to deny that their approach continues to fail. As Jonathan Last points out:

Romney was an ideological Rohrschach test for voters onto which they could project whatever views they wanted. As such, you can’t really say that they were uniformly rejecting some particular brand of ideology.

Nor can you say that they were embracing one. That's why they call it "middle-of-the-road." It was the downfall of Bush the Younger's legacy, it didn't work in 2008, it didn't work in 2012, and the definition of insanity, where the same thing is tried repeatedly in the hope of different results, would once again prove fatal for Republicans.

Another columnist for the National Review, Kevin Williamson, boils Romney's loss in Ohio down to three things ...

1. Ohio likes crony capitalism. The automotive bailout is popular in Ohio, and not just among self-interested workers and investors in that industry ...

2. Class warfare works. It is juvenile and it is economically illiterate, but a fair number of Americans worked themselves up into a lather over Mitt Romney’s paying a relatively low tax rate ...

3. Repealing Obamacare was not a deal clincher in Ohio. A number of people I spoke to in the state suggested that the Romney-Ryan ticket paid too much attention to repealing Obamacare without spelling out an alternative ...

... the first amounting to borrowing from China to prop up a "too big to fail" industry, the second being a confirmation of how Camille Paglia became disillusioned with Obama, the third underscoring Romney's fundamental weakness: the inability to elaborate on a specific plan, relying too much on that of his running mate (who couldn't very well coach him during the debates, now, could he?).

Then there was the usual canard about playing to the conservative base, the so-called "Tea Party" -- by the way, there's no such thing, as it's more of an idea or a movement, than it is a single, coherent organization -- at the expense of the big tent, the broader conservative constituency; in other words, the country-club-joining, three-martini-lunch-sipping, East Coast banker-and-lawyer types, the aging white guys once known as "Rockefeller Republicans." This old party establishment went out of their way for at least a year to ensure that their man got the nod no matter what enthusiasm any other candidate for the nomination would generate. Don't worry, they'd tell themselves, they'll all say or do something stupid sooner or later.

The thing is, most of them did. On the other hand, none of them ever strapped a dog cage to the top of their car with the dog still in it. In other words, Romney was no more immune from the frailties of the human condition than the rest of them. Many have gone to considerable lengths to describe the Republicans stumbling all over each other, but the most amusing (if only as an acquired taste) came from none other than my son, wunderkind of game design and would-be political wonk Paul David Alexander, a couple of months ago.

At the beginning of the year, it was somebody, ANYBODY but Romney. Romney was a wishy washy twerp who couldn't possibly guide true conservatives to victory. His chief accomplishment in office was Romneycare for [pity's] sake! SuperPACs flooded the campaigns of Gingrich, Cain, Bachmann, Perry -- a different crazy kook every other week, all in the desperate hopes of avoiding what most pragmatic conservative pundits saw as the inevitable. When that didn't work, conservatives pitched a fit and insisted Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Sarah Palin, or the resurrected corpse of Ronald Reagan take a shot at it. When THAT didn't work, every single notable radio/talk show conservative pundit -- from O'Reilly to Coulter to Huckabee to Beck -- insisted that they were drawing a line in the sand. No way, no how were they gonna get behind this guy. They trashed him week in and week out. My, how things change.

And change they did, which actually proves one of two things. Either the GOP should have come to a conclusion sooner, saving a lot of money on the convention and the primary brouhaha, or the party establishment should have gotten the message that maybe the proverbial cat was not necessarily in the bag, that the "least offensive candidate" approach was going to fail -- again. Alas, they didn't get the hint, and they didn't get the White House. Not very "pragmatic," is it? My, how things don't change. (See "definition of insanity," above.)

AND NOW, THE SO-CALLED “CATHOLIC VOTE”

You were wondering when we'd get to this one, weren't you?

The very idea of discussing the Catholic vote, at first glance, is a joke, as ably demonstrated by those on the political left or right who attempt to claim it. The very fact that such a voting bloc can be determined solely along partisan political lines is a perfect illustration of the ideological tail wagging the Catholic dog. Well-intentioned organizations like CatholicVote.org come off looking like neo-conservative front groups, when they draw up litmus tests that read like a Republican scorecard, heedless of such factors as reservations of two popes concerning America's war in Iraq, all in relation to the "just war theory." One can disagree as to whether or not this criteria may apply, and it is not an absolute teaching like, say, abortion, but when a Pope speaks out on it one way or the other, it carries a certain weight -- unless, we can only surmise, it becomes politically inconvenient to do so. (Mind you, their list isn't wrong, merely short-sighted.)

Attempts to explain the Catholic vote are also pointless without certain distinctions being made.

The poll shows that 50% of voters who identified themselves as Catholics voted for Obama, and 48% for Republican nominee Mitt Romney. The CNN poll did not distinguish between active and lapsed Catholics [which, upon doing so in the exit polls] showed a clear preference for Romney (59-39%) among voters who attended church services weekly, and an even more pronounced tilt toward Obama (62-34%) among those who never attended services.

Getting past why an ostensibly "conservative" Catholic source would refer to assisting at Mass as "attending services" (which some of us are old enough to remember never being done), we can see that practicing Catholics vote one way, and non-practicing Catholics vote the other. Otherwise, the above only proves that the Catholic vote is just like the Catholic divorce rate; indistinguishable from its non-Catholic neighbor.

In other words, the Catholic vote is no big deal. It's just like how we don't have the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, but just "attend services." Geez!

WHO LOST?

Besides Romney, that is to say? At least his life will go on, and it's not as if he needs the job. He could retire comfortably for the rest of his life, although he probably won't. Other candidates in recent years have learned their own lessons from losing as well.

One big loser is conservatism in America, and the Republican party in particular. There are fiscal conservatives who are not keen on the social issues, and social conservatives who court the "religious right," but end up being "big government" conservatives when in office. George W Bush was an example of the latter, and to hear some say it, he has yet to live it down. But one segment of the conservative movement is consistently ignored, and has the capacity to both rouse the traditional party base, and win a good share of the young vote. The so-called "granola conservatives" (or as Rod Dreher so ineptly refers to them, "crunchy conservatives") endorse fiscal prudence, social conservatism with a locally-based activist streak, and a foreign policy of non-interventionism, which we may be forced to adapt sooner or later, as we may no longer be able to afford our Wilsonian vision as the world's babysitter. The most viable standard-bearer for this point of view in the 2012 race was Texas Congressman Ron Paul, who has been the laughingstock of his party's establishment, not to mention some of the candidates.

But the really, REALLY big loser in this election year, which may not be apparent for a while, is the mainstream media. Tucker Carlson and Neil Patel assess the bitter fruit of playing the lapdog for the Obama presidency, with so-called journalists resigning themselves to rare press conferences, evasive responses, and being confined to soft-balling questions, lest they appear "rude" to a thin-skinned chief executive.

The media are rooting for Barack Obama. They’re not hiding it.

Consider Benghazi. An American consulate is destroyed and a US ambassador murdered at a time when the president is boasting at every campaign stop that he has crushed al-Qaida. In an effort not to disrupt this narrative, the White House and the Obama campaign spend weeks claiming the incident was merely a protest over a video, rather than a real terror attack. Then intelligence surfaces showing just the opposite: The killers in Benghazi were no street mob, and Obama knew as much from the beginning.

Imagine if George W. Bush, or even Bill Clinton, had tried something like this during a re-election campaign ...

We'll leave the rest to you since, having witnessed Joe Biden's completely boorish conduct during the vice-presidential debate, we know you can very well imagine.

HOPE BREEDS ETERNAL (IF MOMENTARILY ELUSIVE)

Syndicated columnist and Pinay Jersey girl Michelle Malkin found reasons to rejoice over the election, if not at the national level, but at various congressional, gubernatorial, and other assorted victories across the nation, in her "20 things that went right on Election Day." One victory she neglected to mention, probably because the results were not immediately apparent, was that of Michelle Bachmann, once-defeated candidate for the Republican nomination, who went on to regain her seat in the House of Representatives, on behalf of Minnesota's 6th congressional district.

Of course, this also means that I won't be getting any more fundraising e-mails from Madame Congresswoman with the subject heading:

“Stop what you're doing.”
 

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1 Comments:

At 11/20/2012 01:28:00 PM, Blogger Fr Martin Fox said...

David:

Really good commentary, thank you!

 

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