The overwhelming reaction to Obama’s election victory is relief. Relief that the election was decisive enough to avoid a repeat of 2000’s shenanigans, but relief primarily that the US has not voted for a UK-style double dip recession: that is they have not voted to cut the public sector too far too fast and so remove demand from the economy at its weakest. Although, obstructive Republicans could still push the country over the edge.
Obama did well to win against the backdrop of an economy that is too slowly recovering from recession, but it is now clear that Americans are not so short of memory that they forget he inherited a situation where they did not know if their banks would remain in business a day longer. When I was in Miami earlier this year, I saw Obama’s stimulus bill in action: thousands of workers employed on much needed infrastructure. Romney likes to be able fire people. Sometimes a business does need to fire people. A business can forget those it fires, but a country can’t. Excess workers don’t go into cold storage, they become benefit dependent, stop spending money, default on their mortgages and generally drag down the economy.
Britain’s coalition government fired more public sector workers than the private sector could accommodate and Romney planned to repeat that trick.
On a wider philosophical note, this election must also mark the high watermark for Tea Party and not just because their candidates have faired badly in congressional elections. The rise of this radical, reactionary and extreme right force was an inevitable in the face of the the election of a black president. Struggling to hide their underlying racism, they created a ‘birther movement’ to deny Obama was American and promoted the idea he is a Muslim or the anti-Christ. Anti-reason, their populist cod philosophy is based on a strand of Christianity that includes creationism (which justifies their climate change denial) and particularly conservative positions on women (a rape victim’s pregnancy is proof she wasn’t raped) that did real damage at election time. Tea Party allies, the religious right have also lost traction as social liberalism came through.
Essentially, all the crackpots and conspiracy theorists banded together and for a brief moment looked like that might take over the asylum. A second, apocalypse-free term for Obama and the radical right’s obvious electoral failure should give moderate Republicans an opportunity to reclaim their party.