Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The end is nigh - or maybe not

With Obama winning the elections (Ohio just went for Obama), a fraction of us are asking ourselves how low will the US go? It's not so much Obama that you should be worried about. He's reasonably smart and has taken steps toward the center after winning the primaries. But the real worry is that the Democrats could get sixty Senators elected. This would strip the Republicans of their ability to use filibuster. The US federal budget could get out of hands. (In all fairness, it already is out of hands.) Keynesian economic policies with emphasis on short-term results (Keynes himself stated that "In the long run we're all dead.") could once again dominate. Obama is known for not going against his party so I don't think we will be seeing many vetoes. (Again, in all fairness, not that we have seen many vetoes during the Bush years.) Also, Obama has already surrounded himself with questionable individuals who may end up in powerful positions. However, despite Obama's will to tax & spend it may be reality, according to a Nobel laureate economist, that will prescribe Obama with a dose of moderation. Taxing capital gains and dividens won't help the "Main Street", particularly not now when incentives to invest and produce have suffered so much. Worth noting is that Obama's advisors don't even seem to agree on one of Obama's central campaign issues, moving health insurance toward universal coverage.

Funny how those left-wingies who complained about money and media coverage during the last presidential elections are now silent because it's their candidate who's loaded and portrayed in a positive light by the media, unlike John McCain. Compared to MSNCB, FoxNews is fair & balanced. But dominating television and the print media is not enough. Left-wingies in American Congress want to bring the traditionally conservative talk radio closer to the political center via legislation. With Obama in the White House and the Democrats heavily present in Congress the so called Fairness Doctrine may very well pass. (Obama has stated that he opposes it, but since when has Obama had the guts to go against his party?) And if Americans have it bad then Europeans are in a much worse situation. No one endorses McCain. Hell, even The Economist went for Obama after initially supporting McCain. (Not that this was a surprise: you could clearly see The Economist turning toward Obama as a result of McCain's moves toward the religious right.)

Some will wrongfully praise Obama for bringing the troops home, but they're already coming home. It was Bush and McCain who went against public opinion (and that of the Iraq Study Group) and increased the amount of troops in Iraq. This move has brought violence down by more than 90%. Obama says he wants to send more troops after bin Laden, which is not a bad idea (Al Qaeda has seen its repuation fade and killing bin Laden would only increase their peril) but even this has been made possible by the success of the troop surge in Iraq. I have no idea how Obama is going to respond to a nuclear-ambitious Iran.

McCain could have won. He was trailing his fellow Republicans in the primaries and was running out of money. But he managed to attract moderates and independents by being a maverick and a tough SOB in general. Some years back he blasted the religious right by calling them "Agents of Intolerance" and has fought against his own party on many issues such as torture, immigration and climate change. He has staunchly advocated free trade, even slashing farm subsidies in front of a crowd consisting of farmers (though he has also advocated silly ideas such as gas tax holidays). But then he picked Sarah Palin, an inexperienced religious nut, as his vice presidential candidate to attract the Evangelical vote. This naturally contributed to alienating many independents and moderates by turning culture wars into an issue, although not a highly visible issue. Also, McCain didn't fare too well in the debates. Obama sounded smart, like he had a plan to every problem, but he was wrong on the issues. McCain had every opportunity to prove Obama wrong, but it wasn't until the second debate that McCain managed to link Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac to the Democratic establishment and the current credit crisis. McCain's best hope has been his experience on foreign policy issues, a strenght clearly visible in the debates. But that never was enough.

Had Obama lost, the defeat certainly would have been blamed on rednecks and racists, but by now it should be obvious that Obama's race has been a major advantage. At least Europeans are enthusiastic to have a black man in the White House, but this may reflect their own sense of failure concerning Europe's failed immigration policies. It's been a running joke everywhere for years that Republican voters are stupid, but just hear why people support Obama and it's all about some vague change. Many will be voting for Obama strictly because of his skin color, not even knowing what he stands for, as Howard Stern here so vividly demonstrates.

Hopefully the Republicans are able to stage a comeback but only after distancing themselves from the big-government compassionate conservatism of the past eight years. The credit crisis will pose a problem but also an opportunity, so hopefully the Republicans are back in the next midterm elections with plenty of small-government candidates. A new Clintonite era is possible.

Edit: McCain's concession speech made my eyes tear up. I'd like to see a Finnish politican hold a speech like that.

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