The Good and the Bad of this Election


In an effort to purge myself of this horrible election, I will try to state some ideas that seem obvious (to me). Like other obvious ideas, they may not be true, but here they are. Some of them are sadder than others. One of them doesn’t seem sad at all. I’ll start with that one.

Hillary Clinton is now much less likely to become president. Four years from now, the Democratic nominee will have four more years of abject failures to defend, and Clinton has managed to stick herself so firmly to those failures that I don’t think she can ever get herself unstuck.

But isn’t it likely that the economy will improve by then? Not if Obama can prevent it. It’s true, of course, that money wants to be invested, and that some of it may escape being forcibly invested in government and be willing to rear its head in Obamaland and actually buy (and pay for) a house, or start a business. So the economy may “tick up” slightly. But Obama and his friends will keep doing their best to keep the rich rich and everyone else on permanent “assistance.” There will be more welfare, more food stamps, more bailouts, more government employees with more government pensions, more “green” industries that somehow go bankrupt, only to be replaced by others, funded in the same way. Obama’s goal is to make all this permanent, and he is succeeding very well. That’s not good for the economy.

Even in this election, most voters appeared to realize that. Many voted for Obama anyway, because he is black, because their parents were Democrats, because they are Irish Catholics, because they were educated to hate all Republicans, and so forth. But a few more voters on the margin would have turned him out of office.

The Republican Party will be back. This was not a good year for Republican candidates — by which I mean that many of them just weren’t very good. Romney was no one’s first choice, and the first choices of various Republican constituencies (including Newt Gingrich’s constituency of one) were much worse. Twice (2010 and now 2012) the GOP has thrown away an open invitation to take the Senate. It managed to miss some of the easiest targets imaginable — Nevada, Missouri, Indiana. I doubt that even the Republicans will make the same kind of mistakes a third time. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the two major parties are not organizations of principle or even of geography. They may seem so at any given moment, but actually they are enormous vacuum cleaners, roving the landscape in quest of any available vote. Despite their errors, the Republicans of 2012 operated a vacuum cleaner with impressive power. They’ll do better after four more years of the most incompetent president since John Tyler.

The Libertarian Party will also be back, and in exactly the same way it always comes back. At the moment, national totals are unavailable, but the vote here in California demonstrates the chronic weakness of the LP. California is a state with a ton of libertarians, the party had an attractive presidential nominee, and Obama was bound to carry the state, thus eliminating the “why waste your vote on the Libertarians?” argument. Nevertheless, the LP got only 1% of the vote.

The strength of the Democrats is also their weakness, and it is tremendous, in both ways. You can see this in my own state and city. The state, in which all branches of government are firmly controlled by Democrats, who are in turn firmly controlled by labor unions, is (not surprisingly) broke. It is broke because of the money it pays its employees and “invests” in their projects. It is also one of the highest-tax states in the nation. In this election, the major issue on the ballot was a giant “temporary” increase in taxes “for the schools” — actually for the teachers’ pension fund. Even the proponents of this measure expected it to fail. It passed, fairly easily, because of its support by the teachers’ union. In my city, one of the most conservative large cities in the country, a Democratic former congressman who is detested by everyone who ever met him edged out an attractive fiscal conservative and social liberal in a bitter campaign for the mayoralty. Unions again. Very easily passed, even in these times of serious depression in the state and city, was a ridiculous proposal for the local school district to borrow $2.8 billion to perform the kind of repairs that any sane person would have included in the normal budget. Unions a third time.In the immediate vicinity of my town, two veteran Republican congressmen appear to have been defeated by Democratic competitors. Unions a fourth time. Public employee unions. Statewide, a referendum to curtail unions’ ability to spend workers’ money on politics was easily defeated. But the drunker you are — and these people are, indeed, drunk with power — the sooner you’re going to end up in the ditch. Or, to vary the metaphor, the larger the parasite, the sooner it will devour its host. In this case, one has reason to hope, it will devour only the host’s wallet, leaving the host free to shake the parasite off.

Now look at the national scene. How was Obama “dragged across the finish line,” as Charles Krauthammer put it? Part of it was successful appeals to African American voters to support one of their own — nothing surprising. Part of it was the use of amnesty for illegal immigrants to appeal to Mexican American voters — again, nothing surprising. A much larger part was demagoguery based on issues of race and class and even religion, a campaign of lies against Romney and all Republicans that was almost too vile to contemplate but that apparently had some effect. A still larger part was simple bribes: Ohio and Michigan bribed by the bailout of the auto industry, old people bribed by pension promises, working people bribed by virtually-no-interest housing loans, and virtually everyone bribed by national borrowing without paying back. Because these are bribes and not investments, they gather everyone except members of government labor unions and certain politically connected rich people into the same economic spiral — and the spiral points relentlessly to the drain. Money is finite. Even the ability to borrow money is finite. Support for the Democratic Party’s current program will also prove to be finite.

Where exactly the program and the coalition of the bribed will break down, when exactly Peter will angrily decline to keep paying for Paul, and Paul will angrily demand that he keep doing so — that can’t be predicted. But I believe the breakdown is coming soon. I also believe that under these conditions,

It is easier than ever before to argue for reason and liberty. I suggest we now continue with that engaging and delightful task.

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Obama was paradoxically the lesser of two evils this time around

Jon Harrison

An election can't be all bad when it witnesses the discomfiture of Karl Rove, John Sununu, Donald Trump and Dick Morris.

I remain dumbfounded by the assertions that Romney's Mormonism was a big target in the election, or that it moved any voters except some right-wing evangelicals who don't believe Mormons are Christians. This constant refrain about a nonexistant phenomenon is even more bizarre given the silence about the subtle and not so subtle playing of the race card by Obama's opponents. It really does seem that many older white males are caught in a time warp; they appear to wander mentally through a landscape they cannot recognize.


And yet, the Obama camp appears to have been much more successful in playing the race card, capturing 93% of the so-called “black” vote;
whereas the Romney camp could garner only 59% of the so-called “white” vote.
I suppose if one seeks racial clichés, one can always find them.

Jon Harrison

Given the history of blacks in America, it's obvious that the vast majority of them would support a black (or rather, biracial) president. Maybe in another 50 years things will be different.

I believe it was in 2008 that Colin Powell called America a racist society. I didn't think that was a fair comment by any means. A society with racists, sure. But we stopped being a racist society some time before 2008.


Well spoken, Mr. Cox. Keep up the good work. We must continue to explain to our fellow citizens that capitalism increases the wealth of both the rich and the poor, because if you want everyone to have a bigger slice of the pie, you've got to bake a bigger pie. That process requires real, private investment outside of government.

Charles Barr

The Republican Party won't be back unless it repairs its rift with Ron Paul's supporters, who likely withheld their votes from Romney in great enough numbers to cost him the election.

Today's GOP is largely dominated by hard-line social conservatives, hawkish neocons and well-connected crony "capitalists". How's that for a winning coalition going forward?


Well said. I think they could successfully/steadily wean off the neocons and social nannies, but the crony connection? I don't see either major party breaking that without major upheaval in the constitution and the rescoping of governmental powers -- sanity around the commerce clause. Therefore, heh, I see no chance at all. I suggest bottom-up cultural change is the only avenue forward, but who knows...


Great essay, Stephen. I had been feeling a bit gloomy at the prospects for liberty, but your essay was a great pick me up. Keep up the great work.


"Breakdown" schmakedown. Why will it come at all? Of course, we don't really define "breakdown" so everyone has a chance to be prescient and correct, but why is gloom impending?
Is EU breaking down? Folks there get up each morning and go to work, and pay taxes, or get on welfare and don't pay taxes. Where's the breakdown? Yikes, that horrifying debt crisis; I bet Mad Max is already gunning down thugs outside The Hague!
Nutty, right wing, talk show hosts whine and opine about us going down the tubes with egad(!) EU-style socialism, yet most Europeans are quite content in their relatively statist environment, pejorative notwithstanding.
Now that the US has taken the final healthcare plunge and begrudgingly acquiesced to the Huxley-esque allegedly dystopian, state-subject mentality (which hasn't seemed to provoke rioting on Main Street USA), where exactly is this doom and gloom? Where precisely is this "breakdown"? And if it's not a where, then when? Do we get advance warning because EU or Australia will have their breakdown first? What is the picture of this altered state that means such dire existence?
Big debt, big safety net, big deal. Nothing that can't be solved with Churchill's stiff upper lip as we give a "C'est la vie" shrug, clink glasses in a Greek caffeneio, belch out a German "prost" and all meet down at St. Marks Square for an early quittin' time.
If they be content, then why can't we? Yes we can! Whoa, I think the Big O was onto something all along.

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