With apologies to Ennio Morricone and Sergio Leone. I recall the musical pocket watch in For a Few Dollars More: “Sixty Seconds to What?”
Eleventh hour thoughts about the upcoming election.
If the economy is as bad is everyone is saying, why are the polls showing the election will be so close? Well, I could go to Ian Morris’s thesis that the direction of civilizations is shaped by scared, lazy, and greedy people. There are a lot of people that are scared of losing some of their goodies and they are too lazy to figure a way to acquire their own without the help of Big Daddy or Big Brother. Not everyone, of course. And I do not subscribe that 47% of the people in America fit into Morris’s thesis. But there appear to be enough, when coupled with other interests, to make it close. Maybe.
One poll shows that there is overwhelming support for Obama among blacks – a significant bloc. That is, regrettably, understandable. Identity politics has become the norm. To paraphrase Ferdinand Lundberg in his 1968 tome The Rich and the Super Rich, one cannot easily hide his ethnicity, therefore, if a politician is a Ruritanian (his generic ethnic), he should bray loudly and often about it, thus securing at least the votes of nitwit Ruritanians. Lundberg also observed that blacks are rooked by blacks, Catholics are rooked by Catholics, and Ruritanians are rooked by Ruritanians more often than they are by those not of the group. The key to progress for members of minority groups, however, is not to continue to identify themselves by race or ethnicity, but to become part of the greater society and succeed and contribute to where no one other than the most diehard racist could believe who their ancestors were or their complexion matters. Many people of all backgrounds voted for Obama in 2008 because they thought that it was then able to show that a black person, or at least a person of mixed race, could become President. That has been proven. It is also been proven that the person elected has shown to be marginally competent at best. To my view, re-electing him does not do anything for advancement of the interests of minority individuals, and in fact may be detrimental.
What about the issues that were only touched, or even tangentially so in the debates, and in recent campaign materials?
– Gay marriage is in the courts, and the candidates are wise not to bring it up. It would be a distraction and generate more heat than light.
– Global warming, or as the preferred term seems to be now, climate change is divisive, not because the Earth is getting warmer, which it probably is, but how changing human activity could slow or reverse the trend. I do not think it can. The candidates may not either, and in any event it does not seem to be in the forefront of anyone other than fringe interests.
– The so-called women’s rights are wedge issues that are really non-issues calculated to scare the ignorant. They are as visible as they are because one of two nitwit down-ballot candidates had a appetite for shoe leather. Both of the Roman Catholic Vice-Presidential candidates looked like they wanted to take a hasty restroom break when Martha Raddatz brought up the subject of abortion at the debates. Memo to both sides of this controversy: The courts are not going to overturn Roe v. Wade. It has been settled law for too long. The only way the principles ensconced in our jurisprudence by that case will be changed is by a Constitutional amendment. That is political heavy lifting. The Constitution has only been amended 27 times, and 10 of those were immediately after ratification. Most of the amendments have been uncontroversial and structural; that is, they addressed a procedure that had become unworkable. In any event, outside the bully pulpit, the President has absolutely nothing to do with the process. He cannot propose it in Congress, he cannot veto a resolution proposing a Constitutional amendment. And if the alternative method is used, he cannot call conventions in two-thirds of the states to propose an amendment. Presidential candidates are best served by staying out of that controversy, and they probably know it.
– Regarding gun control, the Second Amendment’s guarantee of an individual right to bear arms is also settled law, although quite recently. Furthermore the National Rifle Association, as well as other gun rights groups, have proven themselves to be the most effective lobby in the nation, and will undoubtedly continue to be so. Like that or not – and I do – it is a fact. The NRA’s relentless efforts have made all politicians into poodles, other than those in super-blue constituencies. Glad I’m on their side on that issue.
– In foreign affairs, the major issues we have are the continuing threat of Islamofascism, China’s economic impact on trade, and the potential nuclear threats of Iran and North Korea. Under the line of sight of most lurks Russia. The bear is stirring, and we must take heed of that. As election issue at the moment, they seem pretty blah. Although the botching of the Benghazi terrorist attack response seems to have spiced it up somewhat.
Anyway, I believe the closeness of the polls has to do with factors (1) the power of incumbency, (2) a woeful unemployment rate in a bad economy, (3) and a challenger that, while he appears competent, is not charismatic. Couple these factors to a candidate who does not seem to offer much to most narrow interest groups, with one who at least promises to look out for them, and you have a close call.
I will end by recalling an analytical framework proposed by Robert Reich, the U.C. Berkeley professor and former Clinton Secretary of Labor, in 2005. He called it the democratic narrative – stories with four themes that uniquely (he maintains) appeal to the American character. Those are: the Triumphant Individual, the Caring Community, the Mob at the Gates, and the Rot at the Top. The Democrats in 2008 had all four: Obama, the promise to do something about the faltering economy, two protracted wars, and one corrupt Congressman and Senator after another. I’ve been struggling with what we have in those narratives this election. Nothing seems to fit. Maybe that is another reason it will be so close.