Bits and pieces (still) worth reading…
The Washington Post‘s E.J. Dionne, just before the election, on “The Gilded Age vs. the 21st Century“:
The 2012 campaign began on Aug. 2, 2011, when President Obama signed the deal ending the debt-ceiling fiasco. At that moment, the president relinquished his last illusions that the current, radical version of the Republican Party could be dealt with as a governing partner. From then on, Obama was determined to fight — and to win.
It was the right choice, the only alternative to capitulation. A Republican majority both inspired and intimidated by the tea party was demanding that Obama renounce every principle dear to him about the role of government in 21st-century America. And so he set out to defeat those who threatened to bring back the economic policies of the 1890s…
An especially fine Charles P. Pierce essay, in Esquire, on the newly re-elected President:
Part of what drives people crazy about him — and if you wanted to see crazy, you should have seen the fugue state that overcame the Fox election all-stars last night, because I’ve seen jollier police lineups — is that he so clearly understands his own genuine historical stature, and that he wears it so easily, and that he uses it so deftly. It is not obvious. He does not use it brutally or obviously. It is just… there with him, a long and deep reservoir of violence and sorrow and tragedy and triumph out of which comes almost everything he does. He came into this office a figure of history, unlike anyone who’s become president since George Washington. The simple event of him remains a great gravitational force in our politics. It changes the other parts of our politics in their customary orbits. It happens so easily and so in the manner of an immutable physical law that you hardly notice that it has happened until you realize that what you thought you knew about the country and its people had been shifted by degrees until it is in a completely different place….
The long creative project of America has been to engage all its citizens in that work. That is the history that he wears so well, and that he wields so subtly. That is the truth that he represents. That is the great silent thing that has been there through all the debates, and the ads, and all of that preposterous money. We are working on ourselves. We are incomplete. We are never finished. Elections come and go. The political commonwealth is a work in progress. We work with the tools that time and circumstance provide. As he enters his final term, with the elegiac music playing out there in the distance, Barack Obama will use the history that he has come to embody and, perhaps, even to fulfill, as part of a larger project that never will be completed but only finished, over and over again.
Also on Election night, Greg Sargent, weighing “A Big Night for Democrats and Liberals“:
To appreciate the magnitude of the victory Barack Obama and Democrats won tonight, think back to what the political landscape looked like in the spring. The Supreme Court appeared ready to strike down Obamacare, the President’s signature domestic achievement. The recovery was stalling; Republicans were preparing to unleash $1 billion in super PAC ads; Obama’s reelection seemed perilous; and Dem control of the Senate was in doubt. It looked perfectly possible that the congressional GOP’s strategy of obstruction at every turn could be rewarded by voters, possibly with a return of one party rule to the GOP. The Obama experiment appeared headed for failure, and the prospects for the future of progressive reform were teetering on the brink.
Instead, Obamacare survived. Obama has been reelected with a resounding victory in the electoral college (the popular vote is outstanding). Democrats have routed Republicans in the Senate races. A progressive champion has been sent to the Upper Chamber in the person of Elizabeth Warren. The first openly gay Senator — Tammy Baldwin, another solid liberal — joins her. The Dem majority will be more progressive and energetic. In Maryland, gay marriage has been ratified by popular vote for the first time…
The GOP held the House, and the road ahead remains very difficult. A lot will turn on how Republicans handle this defeat and how they interpret it. GOP operative Steve Schmidt said on MSNBC today that this will require “soul searching” by the party. But there will be tremendous pressure on GOP leaders from the GOP base and conservative opinionmakers — angry about tonight’s results — to continue to obstruct Obama at every turn. However, the President will have leverage. He will be able to point to the fact that Republicans lost resoundingly after adopting a four-year strategy of scorched earth obstructionism to argue that it’s time the GOP sees the writing on the wall and cooperates with Democrats to move the country forward.
John Cassidy, in the New Yorker, on “A Victory for Obama and Obama’s America“:
… For the fifth time in the past six Presidential elections, the Democrats have won the popular vote. For the second time in succession, Americans have elected a black man as President. Throughout the country, Republican extremists like Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock have been repudiated. Residents of Maryland and Maine (and probably Washington state, too) have voted in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage. The United States of 2012 hasn’t turned into Scandinavia, but it isn’t the United States of 2010 and the Tea Party either. To the extent that the election was about anything more than negative advertising and relentless micro-targeting, it was a triumph of moderation over extremism, tolerance over intolerance, and the polyglot future over the monochrome past…
Though the day-to-day exchanges were often trivial, the underlying dynamics of the election were deadly serious, and everybody knew what they were. As both candidates repeatedly said, it was about what sort of country we want to be. Now the American public has rendered a judgement. By a small but significant majority, it has rejected the insular, backward-looking, feed-the-rich, extremism of today’s G.O.P., even when that extremism has a standard bearer who is relatively moderate—or, at least, flexible. It has reëlected to office a President who, for all his failings, tried during his first term to address some of the biggest problems facing the country, and did so in a spirit of pragmatism and civility that the Mitt Romney who governed Massachusetts would have appreciated.
More rancor and gridlock may well lie ahead. But yesterday the right side won.
WaPo‘s Matt Miller, “Obamacare Gets Its Vindication“:
… Obama didn’t “have” to do health reform. It wasn’t in his in box. A historic economic collapse was. He could have devoted himself exclusively to economic crisis management. (Though even if he’d done that, it’s not clear the recovery would be further along. After all, the Republicans blocked the sensible infrastructure investments in his Jobs Act a year ago that would have left 1 million more Americans working today — and unemployment at 7.2 percent, not 7.9 percent).
But Obama took the longer view. He knew U.S. health care was a scandal, with outsize costs and 50 million people uninsured. Now, thanks to the president’s reelection and the certainty that the law will be phased in by 2014, everything will change…
There are surely 100 reasons why reelection must be satisfying to the president. But one of the biggest has to be the vindication of his choice to go big on health care. Long after the damage of the burst financial and real estate bubbles is healed, Obamacare will be his legacy. It will have improved our society and laid the groundwork for greater economic security in an era in which Americans will increasingly be buffeted by global economic forces beyond their control.
Even before the final tallies, Brian Beutler at TPM made an important point about “Why the GOP Agenda Is Probably Dead…“:
… Without a Senate majority, Republicans can’t control the budget process. Which means they can’t cram their entire agenda into a reconciliation bill that’s immune from the filibuster. It means that even if they force votes on repealing the Affordable Care Act, they’ll need 60 votes — or about a dozen Democratic defectors. Not likely. President Romney would have to stymie implementation of the law from within the executive branch — a difficult task — and his tax agenda would be a non-starter. So would his plans for Medicare and Medicaid. He’d still be able to appoint Supreme Court justices and lower court judges, but Democrats would be able to block conservatives they deemed too objectionable…
And Paul Constant at Seattle’s Stranger calls out the third-party voters:
…To everyone who voted for a third-party candidate, or who refused to vote because of an issue of conscience, I’m speaking directly to you: This is your time. Barack Hussein Obama is your president for four more years. Convince him. If you give up on your issue and your outrage now that the race is done, you’re guilty of the worst kind of hypocrisy, someone who waves his outrage and his principles around like a braggart when the spotlight is on, but who slumps back into apathy when the drama has passed. Voting is not the most important thing you can do as an American—it’s the least you can do. Now the onus is on you to become a political animal, to take part in your government. We know that President Obama’s mind can be changed; he can change course and reach out for the greater good. You just have to convince him, the way he convinced us four years ago to take a chance on him. That conversation needs to begin as soon as possible.