by David Jordan
(Swans - November 19, 2012) After a long period of seriously contemplating not voting because I was so disappointed in Obama and thought he would continue to behave in this fashion because it was in his DNA, so to speak, I did the deed. I then found myself delighted with the results. Not only was his win important and clear, but any number of very nasty people caught their lunch.
Among the nice things in the recent elections is that Karl Rove mostly failed. He spent many millions, was astutely nasty, and he targeted the places that mattered to the Republicans; and he got virtually nothing of value for his money. I hope the donors are contemplating the risks of capitalism and regretting their millions flushed down the toilet. I had thought, with so many others I hope, that Citizens United would thoroughly corrupt the election and probably give it to the Republicans. In a sense it did corrupt the process for I suspect all future elections will also involve vast sums of money and give the rich considerable direct influence. Indeed everything the Republicans did -- and no one is saying much about this -- was designed to undermine democracy. It is a mentality I don't much understand but it looks to me identical to what happens in Third-World countries where the few quite literally loot the country. Romney's financial profile, incidentally, with all that money stashed in the Cayman Islands and many millions in IRAs, is identical to that of any Asian or Latin American politician. I suspect that the money of his friends is similarly stashed and thought of as theirs, earned because of their unique genius, and that the government and society should have not a nickel.
The other aspect no one is talking about, because it would involve some serious criticism of Obama, is that he was exceptionally lucky to win the election. He was vulnerable in so many ways. I seriously considered not voting because of the profound mistakes he has made and probably will continue to make. And he has joined that select group of American presidents (with the exception of Bill Clinton, who is the one absurdly impeached) who have seriously violated the Constitution. Reagan and Bush are obvious, and now Obama with his drone murders and Gitmo joins the bad guys.
I don't think the looneys of the Tea Party -- despite being rebuffed -- will change and I don't think the Republicans will give up bullying and blackmailing Obama. And I don't think he will stand up to them. His reticence is deep and part of his personality. You don't get blackmailed in politics unless you allow yourself to be blackmailed. He became the pussy in the White House and they pushed him into any number of embarrassing positions where he abandoned what were, supposedly, his core beliefs, and caved in.
All this said, I was delighted with the election. It is a clear victory, and given his vulnerabilities it is more than a victory, it is a triumph. Of course Romney shot himself regularly in the foot. Part of the reason is his own personality, but more important is the fact that he could not possibly, given the nature of the current Republican Party, please everyone. He tried by coming down on every possible side of every important question. I find it delightful that he prostituted himself every day in order to be president, and he is left with nothing, with a handful of dust. Karl Rove at least believed in the crap he was doing, for that is the kind of man he is.
Romney is probably a decent guy at heart, albeit self-serving, greedy, and a typical selfish son of a rich man. But his ambition has eaten out whatever core of decency he ever had. One thing about our wretched process of choosing a president is that it reveals what the candidates are like. That long and grueling campaign, the microscope of the press -- themselves whores, who always make a presidential race into a horse race -- the incessant need to present oneself, takes its toll, but also unmasks those who are willing to go through with a campaign.
The overarching irony, methinks, is that Obama has fought tenaciously and successfully for a thankless and perhaps impossible task. I think the Republicans will continue to lay waste the land, as if they were the Russians retreating from Napoleon; the problems to be solved are intractable even if there was cooperation. America is in decline and this is part of the reason the right sees Obama, who is a middle-of-the-road liberal, as a socialist or a communist. They cling to an imagined past, which was in so many ways socially poisonous although economically burgeoning, and was -- I'm speaking of the period from the end of WWII probably to the Korean War -- the apogee of the American Empire. It was the period when my parents were able to buy a house and send me to college, and enlarge a family, and leave at their deaths a considerable (for me at least) amount of money for their children to inherit. I bought our cottage with part of my share. But those days are long gone and will not come again.
Of course it's far, far better to have Obama than Romney, but I don't know that he can do much. He'll get bad compromises if he gets any at all. He may be able to put some Federal judges in place who will be there for a good long time, but the ancients on the Supreme Court are mostly liberals. The scoundrels are young and, with the exception of John Roberts's epilepsy -- which has, unlike Dostoyevsky, not given him any insight -- healthy.
Maybe the half-term elections will vote the rascals out, but that remains to be seen.
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About the Author
David Jordan is a retired distinguished professor of French History at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Professor Jordan is the author of several books, most of them dealing with French history. He was a classmate and is an old friend of Isidor Saslav. (back)