What Just Happened?
Post the surprising (to some, including me) 2012 election results, one issue is abundantly clear. Reality is an abstract concept to just over half of the U.S. electorate. There is so much wealth in the U.S. that so called bread and butter issues do not move the populace here as would be the case in any other part of the world. Unlike the feckless Greeks in the linked article, people in the U.S. are more concerned with the real meaty issues of their existence, at least as reported by the media. Access to condoms, the support of a big yellow muppet and various and sundry straw bogeymen posted by the Democrats were the galvanizing issues for the liberal base. Issues such as crushing debt, burgeoning unemployment, collapsing industries and spiralling living costs, well, those are things only poor countries have to worry about. To Americans, those issues are minor annoyances like spots on glasses in the dishwasher. No wonder the world hates them.
Now, it appears that America is headed towards the path of collective Statism as practiced in the oh so avant-garde and successful European nations…such as France, Spain, Portugal and of course, Greece.
Some pretty smart people got this wrong and there is now the expected post mortem of how the intellectual case for a change in a demonstrably disasterous direction failed to resonate with just over half of the voters. Most of the hand-wringing on the part of the conservatives centers on the perceived need for the GOP to be more inclusive of a changing demographic since statistics showed that the ‘old white guy’ base was shrinking. While this may be statistically correct, it would be erroneous to believe that the worldview espoused by the conservative movement is exclusive to any demographic and favorable only to the shrinking whites.
The very success of the societal experiment which is the U.S., is based on the set of values and beliefs that were the foundation of its early proponents. In no other society on the planet at the time of America’s founding were people allowed to rise to whatever level in life that their individual efforts allowed them. That may sound trite today, but back in the 1700’s, if you were born a cobbler, well let’s just say you’d better enjoy smelling feet for the rest of your life. To this very day, the allure of America is so compelling that people from all over the world immigrate (legally or otherwise) to create their own destinies from their own efforts. The foundation of the nation was premised upon equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome. It was also based on the foundation of strong families and adherence to moral principles of social behaviour. Why would these values be challenged as obsolete now?
If anyone thinks that the election results were all about philosophical differences and not about partisan wagon circling, they are either working for the media or still a Lance Armstrong fan. Both are delusional. As but one example, Jesse Jackson Jr., the senatorial candidate from Illinois has spent the last 8 months or so of his term serving his constituents from a ‘rehab’ hospital, while coincidentally ducking an ongoing cloud of spending corruption accusations; a cloud that will manifest into a plea deal of some kind soon. Despite this minor handicap, our hero is re-elected in a landslide by his constituents. Let’s be clear here. The man was not serving his peeps in any capacity, yet his support base put him back in office as if he was the “slow” nephew in need of a job.
When you hear that various demographic constituents must be catered to, it’s essentially code-wording for “we have to buy this group off”. As we’ve made note of in previous pieces, this slice and dice tactic of politicians has created a landscape in which pitting one population segment against another is the preferred (and successful) path to political power. Instead of working for a strong collective good, this process begets a society which becomes Lord Of The Flies. It is glaringly Orwellian that the various demographic groups that bleat for ‘equality and fairness’ are actually pushing for policies which would make them special and unequal from everyone else. Whether you are Hispanic, Black, Asian, a woman, gay, young, old, poor, single, bipolar or a union worker, there should not be explicit policies in place that enable you to jump the queue to personal success. Acceding to one particular group will only escalate the demands by the other groups for ‘equal’ treatment. It may all come back to the notion that the U.S. is too wealthy, that instead of everyone fighting to create a larger collective pie, factions are fighting for their perceived entitled share of the existing one. It’s all fun until there’s no pie left.
While the results of the election have consequences well beyond the term of the administration which are genuinely alarming, it is also true that the population demographic is dynamic. The Hispanic contingent is growing as are the Asians. As the demographic bubble moves into maturity, that maturity will bring with it the creation of families. This will move the curve away from singles and when that happens, it is likely that genuine economic issues will once again be more important than the narcissistic faux issues that are played today. This is hinted at by statistics that showed that married women voted conservatively whereas single women voted for the Democrats. When that happens, the natural order of people is to consider policies and philosophies which support and nurture their children and families. These values are conservative ones and there will be a return to such sensibilities and to people who support them. Let’s not all jump on the irrational bandwagon just because of an unfortunate vote.