Oxy Mora: David Brooks at the Budget Motel
Richard Day: Shelter From the Storm
Mr. Smith: Duchamp, the Big Glass and Chronic Illness
The pundits are pondering. They mention mandates and movements, margins and maneuvers and meetings in the middle. They wax wisely on who won and why they won and which way the wind will waft on Wednesday.
We love to mock them, these prattling experts and prognosticators. And yet we listen, we read, we react. We can't help ourselves. We want to know what it all means and what will happen next. We are determined to squeeze great meaning from great events. We are all pundits.
But the truth is that the great election of November 7, 2012, was all but meaningless. It represents neither a pivot point nor a portent. A poor candidate lost to a strong candidate, as as he was expected to do. A diverse majority of Democrats in the Senate will continue to play a weak hand weakly. A militant majority of Republicans in the House will continue to obstruct, ignoring calls for moderation as they have done for two decades. The federal government will hobble feebly along.
The election of 2012 mattered only in the might-have-beens--the havoc that a President Romney and a Republican Senate might have sown. In 2008, we felt hope. In 2012, we felt relief. That is not nothing. The might-have-been laws and might-have-been judges and might-have-been catastrophes matter a great deal.
But it is not change. It is continuation. When historians look back at the Obama Era, they will speak of the first two tumultuous years, then the jarring midterm election of 2010, and then a long dim stretch of political drift. November 7, 2012 will ripple past without a sound.
Continuation is not necessarily bad. "Stay the course" is the incumbent's watchword. If we have been pleased with our government's performance over the past two years, we can look forward to four more years of the same (for it is the rare president who uses his lame duck years productively, regardless of what happens in 2014).
But I doubt that many of us have found the past two years very pleasing. Our government has been gridlocked, our president powerless to press legislation, our economy stumbling ever so slowly back to health. In this context, "stay the course" is a warning against something worse, not a promise for something better.
In his closing speech to Iowa voters, Obama pleaded for patience. We are on a path to change, he insisted, though "the protectors of the status quo" remain strong. But we have just reelected the same President and nearly the same Congress that we have had for the last two years. It would seem that we, the people, are the protectors of the status quo.
So let the pundits have their say and tell us what the future holds. Maybe the mandates and margins will matter this time. Maybe we will have meetings in the middle. But this is one pundit who sees little hope for change in the next four years.