I don’t have a heck of a lot to say about this election. If you have enough historical confidence in polling and aggregation you know already that the popular vote will be close and the President will win re-election with something in the 294-332 electoral vote range (I’m taking 303, and I think he’ll actually win the popular vote narrowly, with something like 50.8%. We won’t know any of this until very late tonight, and he may not take the lead in the popular vote until later in the week).
Republicans will have squandered their easy opportunity to win the Senate, and Democrats will have squandered their opportunity to nationalize the House races and win back the Speaker’s gavel for Nancy Pelosi (though skillful Republican-managed redistricting certainly helped).
So in all likelihood, all three leaders that brought us the wise and functional government of the past two years – Harry Reid, John Boehner and Barack Obama – will return again to butt heads and manufacture crises and bungle through once more, in the case of the House at slightly reduced levels, in the case of the Senate at probably level or increased levels.
And because politics is more like a game show these days, there will be high turnout. Everyone wants to be part of the Twitter chatter, after all. This high turnout will be seen as evidence of political engagement among the electorate. It’s not. It’s evidence of politics in the 21st century being narrowed into the act of watching debates and voting. Nothing more is asked of Americans, nothing more is expected. And one thing about Americans, when called upon to do the bare minimum necessary, they deliver.
There was supposed to be another thing going on in this election. It was pitched as a “battle of ideas,” between the conservative and liberal visions for government, between a vision of care and support for the needy versus rugged individualism, between protection of cherished social programs and transformation of them. THAT did not materialize.
The main reason is that the Romney campaign, a month after picking the very avatar of ideological conflict in Paul Ryan, looked at the numbers and decided that they would boldly and gallantly lose in a landslide if they went that route, and opted instead for shape-shifting.
As a result they promised everything to everyone, and you can’t very well have a “great debate” about the future of the country when your promises and your opponent’s line up. So instead we had a great debate over whether the President said “terrorism” fast enough after the attack on the consulate in Benghazi, or a debate over whether state waivers for welfare “take the work requirement” out of the policy, or a debate over whether saying “vote for revenge” off-handedly is disrespectful, or any of several dozen other non-troversies that fit well into 140 characters or 30-second SuperPAC ads. That’s what democracy in America has become.
To those of us who follow policy on a daily basis rather than following POLITICS when peer pressure demands it of us, watching the spectacle of the last week before an election has become like the period where frat boys started coming to Nirvana concerts. It’s the same, but also completely corrupted and sad. And those of us with that awareness know that the major result of this election will be maneuvering on fiscal policy, the content of which was virtually non-existent in the campaign.
Official White House photo by Samantha Appleton