Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Friday, December 28, 2012

US Democracy: Voting is the best revenge

This has been a terrible December. Still, it’s been a good year for American democracy. Indeed, it’s been one of the best. The American Dream and two of its pillars—decent jobs for the middle-class and excellent mass education—are harshly questioned. But, it still works in Presidential elections, and that success should again inspire small d-democrats everywhere.

The Dream’s messy companion—the Melting Pot—is not universally admired. It connotes personal compromise and too easy acceptance of upstarts and crude politics. This conservative condescension, of course, is discretely held within conservative circles in America as well. Their pragmatism toward other adult Americans whispers discreetly: “We must do business with them. We need their energy and the kids love their music. It’s not a bad thing, however, that they’re less likely to vote than we are.”

Well, by November 2012, American minorities got the message.

For four years those on the margin—Blacks, Hispanics, Gays, Lesbians, single city women, and individuals who aren’t American Christians—listened while Republicans raged that their “Real America” was being taken away from them by a marginal American.

They took note; and they decided that they wouldn’t give it back.

American minorities don’t get the kind of respect that minorities do in officially multi-cultural societies. They’re not noted for being especially group-conscious either. In mid-term elections, for instance, Republicans can be sure that the minorities will turn out in relatively harmless numbers. In this year’s election, the same Republican strategists hoped they’d stay home and treat Obama just like the other Americans who were struggling with home payments and the job market.

However, American minorities do rise up when their guy, their champion, is in trouble.  The long visceral campaign against Barack Obama generated a visceral response. It’s puzzling how the aroused tribal nature of this election is ducked in most discussions of why Romney lost.

Michael Kranish wrote a widely praised piece called “The story behind Mitt Romney’s loss in the Presidential campaign to President Obama.”

“Romney’s confidence remained strong as Election Day approached. While public polls showed Obama in control, some of Romney’s internal polls showed him winning.

“But Obama’s field organization was too strong. In Florida, 266,000 more Hispanics voted than four years earlier. ‘They altered the face of the election by driving up the Latino turnout,’ Romney political director Rich Beeson said. ‘They told us they would do it. I didn’t think they would do it, and they did.’

“Ohio was the greatest surprise of all. Romney pollster Neil Newhouse calculated that 209,000 more African-Americans voted this year than in 2008 in Ohio, while 329,000 fewer whites had voted.

‘“I don’t know how that’s possible,’ Newhouse said. ‘If that is what the Obama campaign achieved, hats off to them.’’’

Democrat technocrats outsmarted Republican technocrats. Obama had a better sales force. Really, it’s that simple?  Is that what nearly killed General Motors too?

This thesis is a handy cover for those who observed that Obama supporters weren’t getting as worked up emotionally about their man as they were in 2008—and then decided that without that passion they wouldn’t vote.

As if Republicans rely only on passion to win.

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