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Bubbles and the Candidates Who Live in Them

Woman welder attaching pipe angles.

It looks like we dodged a bullet in this election. The Republicans in their fact-free bubble lost all contact with reality; they were actually convinced that they were going to win. They really are crazy. Even Ms. Market was stunned, dropping on the news of the re-election of the President, which CNBC insisted was a vote of no confidence. And here I thought that Mr. Market knew all and took all into account in pricing. Apparently Nate Silver doesn’t compute for the Wall Street Journal crowd.

There is no doubt that had the Republicans won they would have aimed the country in a new and crazy direction, so it’s great that they got their collective face stomped in the dirt by the American people. They lost despite a struggling economy and a disheartened activist base. They lost ground in both houses of the legislature and in the culture wars. It was a thorough drubbing, administered with technocratic skill and ruthless single-mindedness by the Obama team.

2008 was a year for activism. Liberals were horrified by the Bush administration, and were active in the election, aggressively carrying a message to their friends and families, working the phones and knocking on doors, united behind the desperate need to replace the vile Bush administration with a government that paid attention to the needs of average citizens and the Bill of Rights.

After the election, we found out that that the Democrats were not going to do anything about our issues and that Obama would not even try to make them. Obama meliorated but did not fundamentally change Bush policies on civil liberties, wars, or the treatment of banks and the individual thugs who work for banks. He did exactly nothing for unions. The enthusiasm drained out of the left. Desultory arguments about the Supreme Court and the terrible Republicans and “we suck less” replaced Yes We Can and the deep desire for Change and Hope.

This election wasn’t won by the activist base, but by good political strategy and get out the vote tactics. Obama won because a clear majority of voting Americans reject the policies and values of the Republican Party.

In his acceptance speech, Obama said:

And whether I earned your vote or not, I have listened to you, I have learned from you, and you’ve made me a better president. And with your stories and your struggles, I return to the White House more determined and more inspired than ever about the work there is to do and the future that lies ahead.

I don’t know who “you” is in that first sentence, but I’m sure that none of the people who voted for him told Obama that they wanted cuts to Social Security. The only people who want that are revanchist Republicans and oligarchs like Peter G. Peterson. But cutting Social Security is a major goal for Obama.

It’s a betrayal of the people who turned out in massive numbers and in the face of heavy-handed voter suppression to elect him. I’m not talking about the economically well-off liberals, or the Wall Streeters and corporate types who supported him in 2008. These are people for whom a contribution of $10 was a big deal, and there were millions of them.

These are people who have lost their pensions, watched their savings fall under a zero-interest rate regime designed solely to help the financial sector recover from its hideous failure, see their personal hopes and dreams of a middle-class life sinking in a morass of stagnant wages and extended periods of joblessness, and see parents aging with the prospect of dwindling resources.

The first time Obama got elected, he let the bastards up and back onto the playing field, and he’s going to do it again. Nothing about the election, or the contempt that the Republicans have for him, will change his determination to treat those losers as equal partners.

This time it’s the great bulk of Democratic voters who will get to watch Obama and the spineless Democrats rush to join the humiliated but shameless Republicans in cutting their retirement income, an income for which they paid for decades.

Romney lived in a fact-free bubble right up to November 6. Obama also lives in a bubble. The people who voted for Obama and all those new senators and representatives rejected the candidates of trickle-down, small government, and tax cuts for the wealthy. They aren’t interested in austerity or cuts to Social Security and Medicare. They want to use the government to help them solve real financial problems. But they aren’t in the bubble with Obama. He doesn’t hear them.

The only thing this election changes is which historical principles of the Democratic Party and which parts of his election coalition that President Obama and the conservatives of both parties will attack.

Photo by Arthur S. Siegel, Library of Congress.

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