Friday 9 November 2012

Obama's Victory

Call To Arms: "America's never been about what can be done for us. It's about what can be done by us together through the hard and frustrating, but necessary work of self-government." - President Barack Obama

NO MATTER which way you read it Barack Obama’s victory is a progressive triumph. To have emerged the winner after four years of economic hardship, laced with the most toxic political poisons available to the modern communications industry, is nothing short of heroic. Remember all those MSM descriptions of the race as being “too close to call”? Wrong, wrong, wrong. As Nate Silver’s “Five-Thirty-Eight” blog always insisted, a Romney victory was never on the cards.
America moved decisively to the left in 2008 – and it stayed there. Everything we have seen since – especially the Tea-Party phenomenon – was the frenzied response of the Republican minority in denial. That frenzy wasn’t manufactured. It was real. But it was also amplified way beyond its actual significance by some of the most malign political forces America has had to contend with since the years immediately preceding the Civil War.
Why didn’t the MSM get it? Because it didn’t want to. Taking the leftward shift of the US population seriously would have meant trouble. Trouble with advertisers. Trouble with owners. Trouble with regulators. Rather than face these forces down, mainstream American journalism simply defaulted to the uncritical reporting of a “he said/she said” partisanship and called it “balance”. There were exceptions, of course, Fox News and MSNBC, but these openly partisan outlets only succeeded in pumping-up the volume in the political echo chambers.
Which left the Democratic Party, almost alone, as the only force in US politics which truly understood the extent of the shift that had occurred in 2008, and how to keep it. In the key “swing states” Obama’s people kept their offices open. In the backrooms their boffins refined and extended their capacity to mine the nation’s databases for political information the Democrats could use. The channels were kept open to the key components of Obama’s victory: Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, single women, professional men, university students, trade unionists, the LGBT community.
And the Pundits missed it. They believed the Tea Party spin. They interpreted the 2010 mid-term elections as a decisive swing to the Right. And they missed the real story – the strategic decision of the Democratic Party not to issue a mobilisation order against the far-Right’s reckless bid for power.
Was it simple caution that stayed their hand? Were they not yet confident that 2008 was anything more than an unrepeatable surge of hope after years of war and in the face of the most serious financial crisis since the Great Depression? Was there insufficient money in the war-chest? Or, did they simply underestimate the sheer mendacity of the far-Right Republicans: unable to envisage the extent to which they would gerrymander congressional district boundaries and crank-up the machinery of voter intimidation?
Or maybe, just maybe, it was intentional. Maybe Obama and his Machiavellian Chicago Boys played out just enough rope for the Right to hang itself? Maybe they deliberately gave the emerging Democratic majority a chance to witness and absorb just how bonkers the Tea Party crazies really were? Because, in fairness, if they had simply told their followers that Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum were completely and utterly nuts – rather than letting them prove it by their own words and deeds – who would have believed them?
And if the Republicans really were lured into a political version of Muhammad Ali’s infamous “rope-a-dope” strategy, what will Obama do now? Safely returned to the White House, with evidence of the nation’s rejection of the Reagan Era’s social conservatism there for all to read in progressive referendum results from Maine and Maryland, Colorado and Washington, and (most radical of all) California – what’s his next move?
The answer was there in the speech he gave to 10,000 cheering supporters at Chicago’s McCormick Centre. Just about everyone who witnessed it remarked on how like the “old” Obama he sounded. On how his passion was back – along with his vision and outreach.
It was this passage that pointed the way forward:
Tonight you voted for action, not politics as usual.
You elected us to focus on your jobs, not ours. And in the coming weeks and months, I am looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together. Reducing our deficit. Reforming our tax code. Fixing our immigration system. Freeing ourselves from foreign oil. We've got more work to do.
But that doesn't mean your work is done. The role of citizens in our Democracy does not end with your vote. America's never been about what can be done for us. It's about what can be done by us together through the hard and frustrating, but necessary work of self-government. That's the principle we were founded on.
Some have interpreted these words as a step back by the President, I read them as a call to arms. Not overt – not yet. But I believe he is telling his followers to rest, yes, but not to disarm. Because the time is coming when the full weight of the majority he has attached to himself and his party will need to be brought to bear against those who would recklessly and with malice aforethought obstruct their will.
The new, progressive America has, as their leader warned them, “got more work to do”.
This call for his people to take up “the hard and frustrating, but necessary work of self-government” will either be celebrated as the most audacious hope of his presidency, or vilified as Obama’s cruelest deception.
I cannot believe the USA’s first black president has led the Democratic Party to such a magnificent triumph on the field, only to pass the spoils of victory to his Republican opponents.
As President Obama told his supporters; the American people; and the world:
“The best is yet to come.”
This posting is exclusive to the Bowalley Road blogsite.


Jigsaw said...

'The best is yet to come!'
They had better hope that it comes true. There hasn't been a single day of Obama's presidency in the last four years that the unemployment rate has been as low as it was on the last day of George W.Bush's term. Barack Obama simply hasn't a clue-all the oratory and bluster aside. Watch the next four years!

Brendan McNeill said...

I don't normally read the huffington post (why would I), but I think this article, echo's my own thoughts.

"NEW YORK -- President Barack Obama did not just win reelection tonight. His victory signaled the irreversible triumph of a new, 21st-century America: multiracial, multi-ethnic, global in outlook and moving beyond centuries of racial, sexual, marital and religious tradition."

Quite so.

Like NZ and Britain the USA appears now to have finally thrown off its historical Judeo / Christian cultural construct, and is branching out into the exciting waters of secular liberalism. Waters that we have been exploring for the last thirty years or more.

A brave new world where faith, marriage and family are all constructs that belong to former generations, where these forms are at best optional, and for the most part un-necessary to the pursuit and enjoyment of life and liberty. Enter the new world where choice, and personal preference reign supreme, and everything else can be consigned to history.

What could possibly go wrong?

Guerrilla surgeon said...

"NO MATTER which way you read it Barack Obama’s victory is a progressive triumph. "

Only in the bizarro world it is the US. Obama is socially progressive in some senses, for instance he has come out in favour of gay marriage. But whether anything will actually come of this federally we don't know. Economically IMO, is about as progressive as Tony Blair. Third way, right wing way with a few tweaks round the edges.

Anonymous said...

Is halting a thirty year shift to the right the same as moving to the left?

Because that is the most optimitic reading of what has happened under Obama to date

And its a funny kind of leftward shift that boasts about killing Pakistani babies with drones.

Tim G. said...

I am heartily surprised to see you, of all people, hailing this as a victory for the Left.

As guerilla surgeon says, he may be pretty socially progressive for a POTUS, but it's business as usual on Planet USA.

4 more years of meddling in the Middle East, quantitive easing and trying to pretend that it's all going to be OK.

Tim G. said...

And nothing to say about the little libertarian dog whistle at the end of his speech? Still, suppose we are unlikely to see anything like the Clinton-era welfare reforms... it would be a pretty big betrayal of his supporters.

Anonymous said...

Chris, Chris, Chris.... ;)

Don't you see? This is all part of our right-wing "master plan"!

The juggernaut that is the American economy will go over the cliff in the next couple of years, and history will record that it was Comrade Obama and the Democrats at the wheel.

It will be the *Republicans* who rise from the ashes, and the Democrats will be electoral poison for the next 50 years.

Operation "Poisoned Chalice" is working exactly as planned.... ;)

Victor said...

On the whole, Chris, I agree with you.

Obama is an intelligent and well-intentioned man circumscribed by (inter alia) the malign inheritance of the Bush years, a global economic meltdown, vicious rumour mongering on the part of his opponents and his own conciliatory nature.

He now has the urgent and immediate task of dragging the US back from its self-imposed 'Fiscal Cliff'. Obviously, this will involve negotiating with Congressional Republicans, who may or may not be willing to play ball.

But Obama will also need to keep Congressional Democrats on side, and their composition has shifted somewhat to the Left, both as a result of generational change (keep your eye on Elizabeth Warren) and as a result of many of the more conservative ("Blue Dog") Democrats losing their seats in the 2010 mid-terms.

So, even if Obama chose to tack more to the Clintonesque center, he might find this more difficult to sustain than before the election.

And that's surely the point. Generational and demographic change is altering the United States, with the same (if not greater) speed than it is changing every other nation on earth.

Like Roosevelt in the 1930s, Obama has put together a new majoritarian coalition of ethnicities and interest groups. In doing so, he's reversed the rightwards shift that has dominated US politic since Nixon first deployed his "Southern Strategy" in 1968.

You get a glimpse of this new reality simply by looking at the electoral map. It's not just the North East, the Rust Belt and the Pacific Coast which are now coloured blue, but Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada as well. Other states with large Hispanic populations may yet follow.

Meanwhile, the suburbanisation of Virginia also seems to be part of a long term demographic trend that favours the Democrats, who have, by the way, now won a majority of the popular vote in five out of the last six presidential elections.

America's political dynamics changed forever in 1933 and again in 1968. I think that this strange, protean and recurrently hopeful nation is now at a similar point of change.

I'm not sure, though, that Brendan is justified in fearing that the "Judeo/Christian cultural construct" is being thrown out of the window.

Much of Black America and most of Hispanic America is strongly Christian and, culturally, relatively conservative. Moreover, Black churches remain an integral part of the machine that got Obama into politics in the first place.

Part of Obama's task will now be to keep these communities within his new progressive coalition. If he fails to do so, a non-white Republican could easily make a successful challenge in 2016.

In other words, it's still "the economy, stupid" (though not necessarily in ways Bill Clinton would subscribe to)!

Kat said...

The next president of America could be a women. Hillary Clinton could do it. That would be on a par, if not greater, than Obama being the first black man in the white-house. It would also mean a third term Democrat.

WOW!....Imagine.......'all the people.....'

Brendan McNeill said...


I guess it depends how much those black church Christians and catholic conservative latino's allow their faith to inform their politics. Obama's health care and mandatory contraception funding by employers contradicted catholic teaching, as does his same sex marriage and pro abortion policies.

I understand he received up to 98% of the black vote and 70% of the Latino vote.

Romney on the other hand fully supported the churches position and was shunned by this demographic.

While there are other also other legitimate issues to consider when casting a vote, from these results you would have to assume that these folks did not allow their faith to inform their choice of president.

While voting is always something of a compromise, ultimately we are guided by our core values and beliefs. For these folks protecting the innocent unborn child and upholding a traditional view of marriage was not of primary importance, despite their church allegiance.

I think it is safe therefore to suggest that the Judeo / Christian construct is being thrown out of the window, by the voting majority in the USA, at least as we have understood it.

Robert Miles said...

Brendon, everything can go wrong, and almost certainly will. The government of Susan Rice, Hillary Clinton ( now probably Kerry) and Obama is a childrens tea party crusade, naive and unaware the Chinese, Russian and Islamists are just biding their time as US military capability gradually erodes and the will to use the supposed nuclear deterrent disappears visibly and completly.
There is no possibility of a two state solution in the Middle East or stable small Palestinian states. The settlement policy is irreversible and the elements of intelligent and stable Palestine leadership have been deliberately destroyed since 1948. Militarily while the US still has significant air and sea and carrier assets their real power and screen is illusorty.
THe US airpower resources have eroded massively with only 100 B-52s and an handful of B-1s, left. Systematic heavy bombing by the RAF and USAF was what enabled the Allies to breakout from the Normanby beachead. Essentially Montogommery and Paton had to incinerate the key SS units from the air to breakthu in all the key actions and the real winning of the war was in the systematic destruction of the yards building new U boats and the synthetic petrol plants that fueled the Nazi war machine. Victory in Japan and Korea was achieved by systematic city leveliing of cities and plants by Le May on targeting statistics compiled by McNamara to make each nightly city incineration more nuclear level.
Precision drone and lightweight F-18s strikes are not a military, army or containment strategy in the medium term and Obama simply dosen't have a clue.
I guess General Pretorious has resigned to forstall any possibility of Bill Clinton as Sec of State.

Victor said...

Hi Brendan

Our differences (as well as our points of agreement) on the Judeo-Christian tradition are matters we have often ventilated heretofore.

I would obviously agree that Obama's reelection signifies a defeat for a certain strand of Christian fundamentalism.

There's also a marked emphasis on personal/gender identity amongst many Democratic voters, that I personally find trivial, self-obsessive and irrelevant to the weighty economic and foreign policy decisions the administration must now make.

The "Radical Soap Opera" that David Zane Mairowitz long ago identified as a constant of the American Left has certainly not lost its appeal.

But my point was that demographic change is creating a new coalition of ethnicities and interests in the US, just as it did in the 1930s.

And, just as in the 1930s, the minority ethnicities within the coalition tend to be strongholds of traditional 'family values'. That's particularly so of Hispanic Americans, whose demographic rise is a crucial factor in the new coalition's genesis and success to date.

I would therefore tentatively suggest that the further secularisation of the nation's laws will not necessarily lead to the secularisation of American society.

As a conservative of libertarian cast, you might take some comfort from this.

Victor said...

In all honesty, Kat, I don’t think the election of a female US President would have anything like the significance of Obama’s election.

Quite a few major democracies either have or have had female leaders in recent decades. It’s only a matter of time till the US gets one.

Moreover, whilst women in America, as everywhere, have faced discrimination and exclusion, they’ve nevertheless tended, since at least the mid-nineteenth century, to enjoy a broader degree of gender equality than women in almost any other country.

For example, most New Zealanders take pride in this country having been the first self-governing territory to grant women the vote. But we were actually beaten to the finishing line by some of America’s newly incorporated prairie states.

Moreover, women were well represented in the professions and in academic life in the US, long before this became the norm in most other places. The beneficiaries of these trends were, however, overwhelmingly white and middle class.

By contrast, black people, both male and female, arrived in America in chains following the obscene and horrific Middle Passage, in which millions perished.

Those that survived were branded, whipped, raped, tortured and forced to toil day after day in the blazing sun. Families were constantly broken up when a father or a mother was literally "sold down the river". Normally, only death provided release from their suffering.

Even after slavery ended, Afro-Americans, both male and female, were discriminated against, deprived of voting rights, forced to sit at the back of the bus, denied access to education or decent housing and recurrently subjected to extreme and murderous violence. And the discrimination, hatred and violence followed them when they moved north into the dismal, deprived ghettos of America's great cities.

When they and their white allies finally resorted to peaceful, civil disobedience, they were dealt to with cattle-prodders, snarling dogs, beatings and yet more murder.

All of that happened just the day before yesterday (when I was already an adult) and was one of the reasons why Obama’s election in 2008 was so historic and , quite frankly, so awe-inspiring.

How America's residual racists would have loved it, had Obama turned out to be a one term president, his name forever tarnished with the reputation for failure, such as has dogged that other well-intentioned and intelligent man, Jimmy Carter, these last three and a half decades.

You could then have made a safe bet on there not being another Black president, male or female, in my or your lifetime!

As to Hillary, I suspect she’ll consider herself too old to run in 2016. But all bets are off at present. Bill certainly campaigned hard and effectively for Obama this time around,even though there’s little love lost between them. Why did he do so? Perhaps so he can call in favours on his wife’s behalf in four years’ time.

I’m not saying Hillary would make a bad job of the top slot. Nor would I be sad to see her elected. But would you really regard it as transformative if the first female President of USA was a former First Lady, helped into office by her husband’s politicking?

Guerrilla surgeon said...

God help us, another one who needs a licence to have an opinion. The US still spends more money on defence than anyone else, even with the difficulty of discovering exactly how much the Chinese spend. It accounts are about 40% of the world's military spending. The only reason that their military capacity might have eroded a little is that their stuff is so sophisticated it costs a lot more, but I noticed that to keep up, the Chinese and Russians have fallen into that trap too. Sophisticated planes are useful when you have no opposition in the air, but as Stalin said mass has a quality all its own, and research is shown that the more planes there are in an area the less sophistication has an effect.
The effect of systematic heavy bombing in World War II, controversial though it is if you do a bit of research, bears no relevance in today's world. In fact we don't do systematic heavy bombing any more. Apart from a few runs by B-52s – again only in areas where there is no opposition.

Believe me, precision strikes are far more effective than strategic carpet bombing ever was. Obama realises this and has increased the number of armed drones. Lastly, before I despair completely, their heavy bombing of the Normandy area in World War II actually hampered the advance into France is much as it aided it. Far more effective were the limitations on movement imposed on German formations by fighter-bombers. And it is Gen Petraeus – Pretorius was a South African.

Robert M said...

Guerilla Surgeon, if you are doctor you show the general uneducated ignorance of the medical profession and social scientists on any matter to do with warfare, human nature or the present state of the world. Given that in the 1960s Britain and the US were probably spending 10-12% of GNP on defence and 6-10% to the end of the cold war , there have inevitably mean massive defence cuts.
Today I heard James Brendan Bolger being interviewed by Dianne Shanahan and proclaiming the US should cut its defence forces furthur. American force numbers at sea and in the army and marines have declined to a third of cold war levels and no longer are capable of real global capability. Drone assassination and precision bombing by lightweight fighter bombers like the F-18s or F-16s would be useless against to stop a good mass army, with many capable commanders.
You know nothing of the ferocity that it needed for Bradley and Montgomery to break out from the Normanby beacheads, smash the SS at Caen and destroy the Fasline pocket. Exterminartory area bombing of many key areas held by SS troops were the only way to get past them. Given the superiority of training, intellect and body type of the better troops and the fact only even a third of the British and US troops had the courage to even fire their guns, genocidal bombing is needed to destroy that capability of force.
Islam and Al Qaeda and the PLO and assoc Palestinian organisations like Hamas are attempting to impose a dictatorship of ordinary men to preserve there right to reproduce . They will only be stopped by a large army and massive heavy air power to incinerate areas

Madison said...

Doesn't anyone follow enough politics to know that the US President can influence things but doesn't have the power to push things through like John Key has? There's a good reason he wasn't able to do much in the first term, there isn't much for the president to do other than act as a lightning rod and meet foreign dignitaries.

Due to there being no List MPs and unfortunately on the left no fully coherent party agenda it is very hard to push change through the US government. When the democrats control the senate and the republicans control the house the only way to get any serious legislation through is to get numbers from both parties to vote for it. It's not fully within Obama's scope to pull this off unless he can start wooing republicans his way. The logjam joys of a two-house system.

He's still got to push for some real basic changes or it's all garbage anyway.

Kat said...

Victor, no slight on the significance of the election of Obama to the white-house, either in 2008 or 2012. Perhaps I should have not mentioned Hillary Clinton, maybe Elizabeth Warren is a better bet.

guerilla surgeon said...

Robert, I'm sorry but you are wrong on many points. And you shouldn't be criticising my level of education when you cannot spell Petraeus, or Falaise – in which pocket I might say there was no carpet bombing. And without getting bogged down in figures, you have to say that if the Americans and Brits were spending that percentage of their GDP on defence in the 60s, the Russians were spending far more. Not to mention the Chinese. It still 40% of the world's defence spending for god's sake. And the average fighter bomber today can carry as much if not more than the load of a Lancaster or Liberator.
If you actually did some reading, and I would recommend at the beginning at least Anthony Bevor's book on D-Day, you would know that the carpet bombing of German troops was often as much a hindrance as a help. Yes, under it many troops surrendered without a shot, but it was inaccurate, and the craters left made the terrain impassable. It wasn't until later on that the Americans used much smaller bombs that it became even a viable support method. Ask those who fought at Monte Cassino about carpet bombing, it made the place more defensible. I repeat, it was the fighter-bombers restricting movement that hampered the German defensive efforts far more than carpet bombing ever did. So please, please do some reading on this subject before you speak again, because basically you know nothing. Like I said licence required.

Guerrilla surgeon said...

Dammit, that's meant to be Beevor – I knew something would happen when I criticised somebody else's spelling :-).

Robert Miles said...

Gurrella Surgeon, I do not take Anthony Beevor very seriously. Of the modern British military historians I only respect Hastings and Keegan. The other leading modern British military and naval historians tend like Beevor to be hopelessly left wing socialists who believe.
(1) The poor and uneducated are that way because they have not had equal opportunity and education.
(2) Nuclear power and weapons have changed everything and made major interstate warfare impoosible.
(3) Politicians and the UN now decide everything and have the moral legitimacy to do so. In other ways the pre Korean war days where Admirals and Generals edged the politicians into wars they desired but didn't dare have passed.
(4) The SS were a criminal, fanatical force led by cretins.
(5) The communists were really right.
In terms of the many typographical mistakes in my blogs I would make a number of points.
(a) They are written in 5 or 6 minutes on bank, cafe or pay internet connections were there is no time to check let alone proofread.
(b) Grammar and spelling are feminine arts which do not necessarily determine the highest levels of differentation. I would usually score in the top 1 or 2% in multiple choice questions , but more modestly on essays. The real test is how accurately someone can differentiate on the system used by their own mind and communicate or use it, not whether grammar is strictly correct.
My mothers was one of the nations best reading teachers, but in the 1960s and 1970s but neither her or the 1970s NZ secondary syllabus rated spelling very important. Today the increasing political power of shop keepers and the ashbergers designed Internet, means spelling is overrated.
In terms of comparative military expenditure. I don't put much score on it- because the military expenditure of low wage economies like China, Russia or Iran isn't coparable and massively expensive equipment is usually useless if enough ships or planes don't exist or you can't handle the problem is a specific area say the SEa of Japan or Gulf. Also the IQ and competence of the operators is not necessarily revealed by expenditure.
In terms of area bombing-there was a point in smashing North Korea and it cities that goes beyond tactical military advantage. Some societies should be destroyed.
The 56 Suez crisis indicates the collapse of British and French will when they bulked at opening up with the Jamaica's and Jean Bart's guns and levelling the city of Alexandria.
The fall of Romney and Pretraius probably indicates the begining of the end of civilisation.
The real driver of Obama is guilt over gaza, faluja and kenya in the 50's.

Victor said...

Robert Miles

Thanks for two staggering insights.

The first is that ex-hussar officer (and the Earl of Norwich's son-in-law) Anthony Beevor, is some sort of pinko.

The second is that my atrocious spelling is a sign of machismo.

I will walk tall in thees knowledz.