Whew! That was close… But why?

President Obama celebrates re-election

Jubilation as we Americans just about manage to make the sane choice for the second time in the last twelve years (Photo from ABC News)

And the rest of the world breathes a sigh of relief. Because this is a president with whom the world likes to talk. This is a president that has built bridges and restored our image. This is a president who realizes the value of international cooperation and of pragmatically building constructive relationships, even with former ‘enemies.’

That argument won’t sway many moderates or independents, who are, after all, the gold dust that campaigns painstakingly panhandle for before elections. It does matter, but it won’t sway most Americans. After all,  it was the economy, stupid, with a few issues to do with equal rights thrown in, moron. Which doesn’t square, I know, since more voters tended to say they trusted Romney with the economy than Obama, until you look at the demographics of the voters. In times of economic difficulty, conservatives have trouble convincing those less well off, who voted en masse for Obama, that they can provide jobs and economic security. It’s summed up well in the plutocratic image that Romney projected in the 47% video. Those living on significantly meaner incomes don’t generally think the conservative, especially the rich conservative, will give a damn about their situations.

And yet…

It does baffle me, not so much that the race was close, but that so many issues that still feature so prominently now seem so foreign to me, morally. I do understand there is a socially puritanical vein that runs deep in us, but not so deep that we willfully stand knee deep in the mire of the social stone age of the world while everyone else moves on. I offer below three such examples of issues that, really, we could do without in our politics.

  • Healthcare — This is that great fantastical, fire-breathing boogeyman of American politics. Mention it and watch Rush Limbaugh foam at the mouth and Karl Rove manipulatively asking hard-working Americans if they really want to pay for some freeloader’s healthcare? Of course you don’t, you’re a God-fearing American. I don’t not get the healthcare thing because I’m an expatriate. I don’t get the healthcare thing because we call it moral to take money from sick people and refuse to take sick people with no money. Paying more in taxes for universal healthcare is not giving a handout. It’s investing in your fellow human being. It’s time to welcome ourselves as a country, my compatriots, to the rest of the developed world as well as the human race. That way everyone has one thing guaranteed and one less obstacle to individual independence and initiative.
  • God — I have to admit, I was a bit surprised that Martha Raddatz asked about both Biden’s and Ryan’s Catholicism. It’s not her fault. She’s just the moderator, but we have to get over the idea that a person’s very personal religious beliefs should in any way be outwardly manifested in the way we govern ourselves. The more I hear the left talk about it, the more I think that the separation of church and state is the worst thing that ever happened to America. Do you know who the head of state is in the United Kingdom? The Queen. Do you know who is the head of The Church of England? The Queen. Do you know, in 2012, how high profile a role religion plays in British politics? It makes not a visible difference to a single issue. John Prescott, Tony Blair’s Deputy Prime Minister used to talk about how he likes to avoid all that “mumbo jumbo” and the current Labour leader has professed himself an atheist. Political suicide in America, but a passing novelty here. As it should be. We need to leave the personal beliefs of an individual firmly in the personal world of the individual.
  • Gay rights — I’m not saying homophobia no long exists in England. It does. Nor is the legal status of gay marriage necessarily any better here. But it is indeed courageous for a British Prime Minister to come out (tee hee) in support of gay marriage and promise to the electorate to  introduce legislation by the end of the year on it. But that is also suggestive of how socially liberal conservatives have to be in order to survive politically over here. We’ve had gay cabinet members including Peter Mandelson, and high-ranking conservatives turned journalists such as Mathew Parris. According to a Yougov poll, 71% of British voters support the introduction of gay marriage throughout the country.  And yet, for nearly half of Americans, it still seems to be an acceptable prejudice for no apparent reason. Legal recognition in three states in one election gives me great hope, but it also explains why the GOP are screaming unintelligible oaths about their country being overrun.

Four years ago, Obama ran on the idea of ‘Change.’ The next four years are supposed to be allowing him to ‘finish what was started.’ I hope for the sake of the country that he continues the great work in changing Americans’ attitudes towards issues like these.

As a reminder, I am still doing Movember and have raised £135 for research and awareness of men’s health issues. We are coming into the giving season and it is a worthwhile cause. Please follow the link to give:

Pete Lawler’s Movember Page

In honour of POTUS winning a second term, here is a special list of presidential mustaches:

The Best Presidential Mustaches

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13 responses

  1. Taft gets my vote for best Presidential mustache.

    1. Ha! Too right. He’s got definite points for tache stylization. I reckon another week and I can start waxing.

      http://theamericanlondoner.com/progress-of-the-tache-through-movember/

  2. I was elated to wake up to the election news on Wednesday morning. I think a lot of the results from Tuesday night show that as a country we are moving in the direction of universal healthcare and equal rights for all Americans. I may just be seeing things through rose colored glasses at the moment (out of pure relief that we won’t see a Romney presidency), but I feel more optimistic about our political situation now than I did in 2008. I guess only time will tell. I’m less hopeful about the religious influence in American politics, but at least for now we have president who doesn’t seem to let his religious beliefs get in the way of rational thought.

    1. You were wise. I made the mistake of staying up to try to see the results and I would have got away with a half-night’s sleep if it hadn’t been for that stubborn Romney refusing to concede.

  3. Snoring Dog Studio | Reply

    I’m with Marina. I feel hopeful, in spite of the hysteria I’m still hearing from the conservatives and the religious right. I have yet to understand the complaints about universal healthcare, because at the root of them I see hatred for the disadvantaged and less fortunate. The conservatives did a good job at creating demons out of the ACA. The liberals did a lousy job explaining how it ultimately benefits the nation. As far as the religious influence: I desperately hope that the saner, more balanced among us now start to speak out against the poisoning of the political process when religion plays too big a role in it. A lot of religious folks need to spend far more time in church to learn some charity.

    1. I too am with you, Marina. In the least condescending way possible, I finally feel like we as Americans are growing up as a society and leaving behind things that just don’t matter and I feel as though there are more Americans who want universal healthcare than those that don’t. And the arguments seems so tired and petty. “I don’t think I should have to be forced to pay for anyone else’s healthcare. That’s charity and should be choice… I’m going to look out for myself and no one else.” Okay, I made that last one up, but it’s not hard to read that as the logical conclusion.

      Everyone makes the mistake of thinking that the pilgrims sought religious freedom. They didn’t. They sought the freedom to create a low church theocracy while their Southern neighbors looked to make money. It’s a tough past to shake free of but if anyone can do it, we Americans can.

      1. It also depends on where you live. Here in Maine the religious right is present, but weak. We have a tea party governor, but that’s only because of a freak split of the vote between an independent and a Democrat in 2010. I honestly think I’d have trouble living in many parts of the country, it would drive me crazy!

    2. You should try growing up in the bible belt of Pennsylvania, where the religious right on the school board in my town tried to take Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War off the curriculum.

      The Tea Party only caught on well after I left the states, and no matter how much my libertarian friend who supports them tries to explain them to me, I just don’t get them. And my libertarian friend is socially liberal. But they seem to jive with a lot of the economic policies that the right and just right-of-center would support, but when it comes to social policy, they just manage to tip it too far over the deep end every time, don’t they?

      I even get Romney more than I get The Tea Party. I went back and read the 47% transcript. I know this is blasphemy — and I do find all the implications thoroughly loathsome — but in context, it didn’t strike me as either that bad or inconsistent with a conservative well thought out intellectual position, whereas the Tea Partiers just seem bent steering the whole thing into the sun.

      1. Snoring Dog Studio

        I don’t get the Tea Party, either. They seem to be an amalgam of malcontents with few solutions but lots of gripes. I admire you for “getting” Romney. You were quite generous. I still believe the man is a high-functioning sociopath. And he just doesn’t want to go away with dignity.

    3. I should draw a clear and important distinction between “getting” and “agreeing with”. I feel I “get” the “47%” thing because he probably either believes it or says it because he thinks it’s true but a state of affairs that’s worth changing and knows he has support in that. I feel I “get” it not because I agree with it but because I’ve read Ayn Rand and that’s really all you have to do to know where the Republicans’ intellectual grounding comes from — “My selfishness may serve me but it also serves the rest of society and anyway there is no such thing as real altruism.” Abhorrent yes, but there is a thought pattern behind it no matter how few brain cells it takes to believe in and follow it.

  4. Given that the economy is still weak, I think a close victory was a good sign. I honestly think the country is shifting away from the conservative turn the US took with Reagan in the 80s, and which persisted even with Clinton. Part of it is demographic, but the Republicans have pushed their anti-tax message to an extreme. Obama’s tax plan is “socialism” even though his proposals have lower taxes than what Reagan defended? If the economy weren’t still weak Obama would have won big.

    1. I hope you’re right, Scott. Funny enough, the BBC coverage kept saying that, by rights, this was an election that shouldn’t have been anywhere near winnable for Obama with the economy still seeming moribund to most Americans, but it does seem that, like the Conservatives over here, Romney had too much trouble convincing those at a disadvantage socially and economically that he actually cared about enabling them to lift themselves out of debt. So many Tea Partiers seem to have lost. Will it finally force the Republicans to realize that holding the government to ransom is counterproductive?

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