America didn't commit national suicide in the presidential election. Rogue readers are well aware of my frustrations with President Obama. But there was no choice but to support him against a crazy Republican Party. Wealthy Republican financier Willard Milton "Mitt" Romney may have been the most dangerous candidate fielded by a major party in modern American history. Never before would we have had to wait until after the election to find out what he really stood for, besides his own ambition. He couldn't even be forthcoming about his faith, the most important thing in his life. The refusal to release tax returns was only the tip of a Titanic-sinking iceberg. What was clear: He had spent recent years wooing the Tea Party extremists, theocrats, Randians, racists and homophobes. And unlike with Reagan, they would bring their "revolution" to "take their country back," and with Paul Ryan and others had a very specific agenda. As I say, it would have been suicide.
Now we will see if the president can finally steel himself to the battles that face us. The "fiscal cliff" will be an early marker. He was elected by people who want to see tax rates on the rich revert to Clinton-era levels, if not higher. They do not want to see the safety net further shredded to fix the dreaded deficit — not when we've been spending about a trillion a year on all the facets of the national security state and big companies pay no taxes even as they ship jobs overseas. If Obama caves to a "compromise" framed by the right, this will be another four years of weakness and slow erosion of the commons, the middle class, and American competitiveness.
Watch also to see whom he names as Treasury Secretary to replace Tim Geithner. If he chooses the odious Erskine Bowles, he of the sell-out Bowles-Simpson Commission, we will see more power flow to the oligarchs. Bowles is a corporate shill and member in good standing of the Rubin wing of the Democratic Party, which has been panting to "reform entitlements." Translation: Betray Social Security and Medicare for the middle class. Also, watch out for Peter Orszag, former Obama budget director and now at, natch, Citigroup.
Another media meme concerns the marginalization of the Republicans because they are the "white male" party. This may be so in its broad outlines. Minorities are growing as part of the voting population and Hispanics, which reached 10 percent of the electorate, went overwhelmingly for Obama, including in Cuban south Florida. The GOP has spent the past several years demonizing Latinos, notably with SB 1070. And although the LDS and white-right cohorts ensured Anglo dominance in Arizona, Republicans have badly wounded their chances elsewhere. California is now solid blue. Some guy named Marco Rubio will not turn this trend around. But it's important to remember that two vital parts of the Obama coalition are urban, educated whites and educated women.
At the same time, Republicans gained governorships and retained the House of Representatives. The obliviousness of the Democrats in allowing themselves to be steamrolled by the Tea Party in 2010 is the gift that will keep on giving: Those Tea Party state legislatures drew districts as red as they could make them. Also, look at the Romney rallies: It's not all Sun City. There are plenty of indoctrinated young GOPers, especially in the New Confederacy (of which Arizona is solidly a part).
The election came after a campaign remarkable for its vacuousness. Very few serious issues were discussed. Not just climate change, but the crimes of the banksters and the way the oligarchs game the economy to their benefit. The foreign-policy debate contained many creepy moments of consensus between the candidates, and not one mention of the drone war or why we need to be spending so much on defense. Mr. Obama was never challenged on such issues as indefinite detention, which once would have been considered tyranny.
In any event, we had no choice but to keep Obama. Maureen Dowd doesn't often even get a base hit, but in this column she knocks out the stadium lights:
Now, on issues from loosening immigration laws to taxing the rich to gay rights to climate change to legalizing pot, the country has leapt ahead, pulling the sometimes listless and ruminating president by the hand, urging him to hurry up.
Will he do it? Watch for the early signs.