Second chances for the second-rate

The Critic Who Counts

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Here’s to second chances, I guess.

Congressional approval ratings reached record lows this year, according to a September Gallup poll. Widespread ambivalence toward President Barack Obama’s first term in office dominated American political discussion from 2009 until the 2012 elections, affirmed by job approval ratings that hung around 48 to 50 percent for much of this year. On top of all that dissatisfaction, a firm majority of Americans held and continue to hold the opinion that the country is headed in the wrong direction.

It might seem a vote-the-bums-out attitude should have prevailed as Americans participated in their democratic right to referendum last night. With all the hubbub and overblown drama of this election cycle, it might have also seemed logical for the face of American government to change at least a little. When democratic leaders are unpopular or their policies and politics fail, they’re supposed to lose office.

But that didn’t happen Tuesday night.

Despite the sluggish economy and his controversial health care legislation, Obama won re-election fairly easily. Congress, despite approval ratings that dipped down nearly into single digits, looks remarkably the same as it did before. Not only did Democrats retain a majority in the Senate and Republicans maintain a majority in the House, but just 23 incumbents of the total 535 members of Congress were ousted in this year’s elections, as called by the Associated Press Tuesday night.

Essentially, Americans voted for the status quo.

Maybe we bought the president’s it’s-all-Congress’-fault spiel, or maybe Mitt Romney was just too phony for the middle class. Maybe Republicans focused too much on anti-Obamaism to win the Senate and Democrats didn’t think creatively enough to make gains in the House. Maybe “Hope and Change” won again yesterday, or maybe the pandering cluelessness of Democrats looked like a better option than the demagogic political manipulation of the GOP.

Obama didn’t change the political landscape of the United States, but he stood out in contrast to a GOP that couldn’t see past the fact that Obama wasn’t one of them. Compared to John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, the “Young Guns” — and Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, too — President Obama stood for maturity and cool-headed leadership in a sea of floundering, partisan, out-gunned and overwhelmed legislators.

Election season is over now. The government has been established, and it’s time to move on. The curtain must fall on the election-style drama that never seemed to fade after 2008. It’s time to get down to the day-to-day work of democratic leadership — the riveting drama must be forgotten, and the mind-numbingly boring life of the policy wonk must be embraced. Leaders in both the current congressional session and the next simply need to start governing.

Here’s to hoping the next four years are more productive, more focused and more deliberate than the last. Here’s to hoping Barack Obama gets his mojo back and that the House and Senate finally start talking to each other again. Here’s to hoping Americans have their faith restored by a government that honors, shapes and leads public opinion with courage and resolve in all 50 states.

Here’s to second chances and the redemption that follows.

Image Source: Barack Obama via Creative Commons

Contact Connor Grubaugh at [email protected]

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  • Calipenguin

    Connor didn’t pick up on the demographic changes in America that allowed Obama to win. A large number of white voters who helped elect him in 2008 voted against him this time, which means those swing voters did not want the status quo of joblessness and national debt. However, the growing Latino and Asian population voted overwhelmingly for Obama.

  • Bill J

    Gotta say this much, you liberals are consistent in your commitment to affirmative action. Even an incompetent black guy is preferable to a Republican as far as you are concerned.

    • peepsqueek

      If you are on the far left or the far right, you have gone to far.

      As an independent, I voted for Obama. He had supported homeland security over 128 democrats against. He is taking out terrorists who have harmed us by violating the sovereign air space of other Countries against his own party, he supports Israel, he supports the Dream Act, he supports equal civil and social “rights” for gay people, provided affordable healthcare to millions of children would have had to use emergency rooms at a higher cost to the tax payers and insurance payers (good for the children, good for the taxpayer), he supported the woman’s right to choose, he supports cutting a bloated and unsustainable Defense Department……..

  • I_h8_disqus

    Romney is no Reagan. This was an easy election for the Republicans to win just like the one at the end of Carter’s first term, but the Republicans couldn’t convince an exciting candidate to run for the best job in the world. Chris Christie must be kicking himself this morning, because he could have won last night.

    • peepsqueek

      Some of the reasons Romney lost

      1. Romney alienated all those who supported the “Dream Act”, referring to their kids as illegal aliens

      2. He alienated those who supported the woman’s right to choose

      3. He alienated the 47% of Americans that collect some kind of Government check by saying “they see themselves a victim and that “these 47% will vote for Obama no matter what”. He certainly sealed that deal with those voters

      4. Romney: “No one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place we were born and raised”

      5. Romney: “If my father had been born of Mexican parents I’d have a better shot at winning this”

      6. Romney: “(Obama) says we need more firemen, more policemen, more teachers. Did he not get the message of Wisconsin? The American people did. It’s time for us to cut back on government and help the American people.”

      -That is not the best strategy to win middle-class votes by attacking firefighters and policemen.

      7. Romney: “I’m in this race because I care about Americans. I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there.” -Poor people vote also!

      8. Then, Romney is a Mormon, and a deacon of the Church. Mormonism puts off a lot of voters

      9. Romney does not support equal social and civil rights for gays. -Millions of gay people vote.

      10. Romney was against Obama Care, which will provide affordable healthcare to millions of poor children. -Their mothers vote?

      11. Romney chose to criticize President Obama for seeking to cut a bloated and unsustainable Defense Department

      • I_h8_disqus

        I understand that in Berkeley there are people who think there are lots of very liberal voters out there who vote the issues you listed, but the truth is that most of issues you listed probably didn’t come into the minds of most of the voters who voted for the President. The truth is that we have watched personality and the economy become the only deciding factors in our presidential elections. That is why we have had presidents who have been very conservative and presidents that have been somewhat liberal. We could have easily had a Republican who felt just like Romney this election if the candidate had the personality to attract more voters. I believe a candidate like Chris Christie could have won the election if he ran, and I bet Christie is kicking himself this last week for not running after seeing the election results.

        • peepsqueek

          12. Obama’s auto bailouts won him two States just because he kept all the auto workers working and now there are more auto workers than ever because of all the new gas efficient cars they had to agree to build. Ohio, a swing State, now has a lower than average unemployment because of these bailouts and Obama won big.

          13. All of Obama’s bailouts worked much better than Europe’s austerity measures, for those who are keeping track.

          The vast majority of the poor in our Country are those who have children without being married, did not finish high school, or started families before they were adults. Most of them had trouble to get work when things were going well. No President, to include Romney, can force you to have good relationships, stay in school, stop drinking, smoking, and using drugs, or even to stop eating to the point of brain damage, as we have so many obese citizens that cannot find work where fitness is required. Those of you with a good education have statistics on your side and will eventually use your brains to figure out something.

          When I got out of the military in 1970, we had over 9% unemployment in Los Angeles. I started a delivery business with an old van and 12 dollars worth of business cards. I provided a good service, worked hard, and made a good living without a formal education, without a license, and without any kind of degree. The free enterprise system still works. Had I a better education I could have expanded my business into something much bigger.

          The point is, if you provide any kind of service or commodity that your community needs or uses, and do a good job, you have a business. If you add creativity and education into the mix, then you are ahead of the game.

          The other point is that all the people I have known over the years that did well, they did well regardless of which administration was in Office and regardless of the statistical unemployment numbers. I realize that there are other variables, but statistics are always on your side if you are willing to roll-up your sleeves.