Prediction is a dangerous game...

especially about the future, as the late great Yogi Berra is rumoured to have said. Barack Obama's presidency is a case in point. I thought between around 2007 and 2010 that he would win the Democrat nomination, beat McCain--and be a one term president, and said that to friends as well as writing it in various places before events unfolded. The problems of the American economy, which people are pretending is out of the woods, and the fissiparous and demented nature of American politics have all suggested that the best Mr Obama could hope for in 2012 is a split in the electoral college and a replay of Bush v Gore in his favour, and I think that if an election were held today, a tie would result.

With the retirement of the Republican A-team at the start of the race--Petraeus, Rice, Daniels, Ryan, and Bush--I also thought that the only two people who could win the nomination on that side were Perry and Romney, and Perry imploded oddly, and early. My own sympathies veer towards Ron Paul, but let's face it, his monetarism is nuts and goes against the reality of what money in an electronic age is, his supporters are often quite bad people, he's a devotee of Ayn Rand's Satanism and he won't take responsibility for the newsletters sent out in his own name.

Mitt Romney, however, is a much stronger candidate than many people seem to be allowing themselves to believe. Of all the Republican candidates, he is the least religious (a bizarre thing to write about a former Mormon Bishop) and though he is very weak in evangelical states, I'm not convinced he needs the votes of the Godly to win. He's well financed, he has now proven himself time and again, and, though badly damaged in the primaries, a general election in a year as strange as 2012 is a proposition which has a way of changing things. What was said in the primaries may just stay in the primaries, especially since both Romney and Obama will be hunting the partisan-averse independents. Romney's combination of Wilkie-but-moral outsiderness (I can't see him giving Madame Chang Kai-Shek one for the cause as Wilkie did) and the aura of business success that Americans fall for occasionally ought to do him some good.

Finally--and, again, for the purposes of credibility, I delivered a paper on this point some eighteen months ago--Barack Obama's signal domestic achievement, healthcare reform, is almost certainly unconstitutional. If it is based around the general power of Congress to tax, the tax is unfair and against the tenth amendment, and not genuinely dedicated to revenue raising as detailed in Article 1 section 8 of the constitution; if it is a regulation of commerce, it is coercive of an intrastate matter best dealt with under the police and hygiene powers of states; if it is coercive of doctors and employers and compels the sharing of medical information and the provision of specific treatment it is against the fourth, fifth and ninth amendments; and since it compels individuals to do something which is otherwise voluntary and which does not benefit anyone else, it is an expansion of federal power too far and should properly bring down a modern ruling on the basis of the ninth and tenth amendments. The rottenness of America's vast, greedy and basically duplicitous insurance industries can't be used to justify a constitutional abomination like this, and the Supreme Court shouldn't feel worried about saying the obvious.

In other matters, Mr Obama has done relatively well, but foreign affairs are things that Europeans and eggheads care about and modern Americans are generally unsettled by the absence of war. He was right to save the car industry, given the human suffering that would have taken place had he failed to do so, and the banks were saved with federal money and commitments before he took office. He's avoided the mis-steps of the Clinton administration, and has taken serious decisions, like the one which resulted in the termination of Osama Bin Laden. He has also, however, continued the horrifying expansion of the executive to the point of drone wars, assassinations, and specious national security assaults on liberty, and I don't notice him reining in torture, abortion, or racist executions, which are stains on the modern American character.

So, Obama should be a one term president. And yet, and yet...I can't quite bring myself to see the circumstances in which that would come about. Catholics don't generally vote as a bloc, and many aren't in lockstep with their Bishops, and indeed many are still present in the working class currently being assailed in states like Wisconsin, meaning that any Republican is going to have a hard time. Mr Romney can't seem to help giving offence, and is the product of what John Medaille calls the 'fire' economy (Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate) which many suspect have got America into trouble. The administration has taken action to appear to be dealing with the student debts under which many Americans are drowning, and Mr Obama has raised more money, won more support amongst women, had a smoother route to nomination, and avoided more mistakes than his opponent. He also plays by Chicago rules, so I imagine a ground operation to radically limit the attempts of Republican legislatures to disenfranchise people accompanied by the acceptable sorts of voter fraud and sharp practice in the general election.

Obama is also helped by the sheer badness of the GOP Congress, which is about as popular as a Stephen King clown at a meeting of the feminist AA. Paul Ryan seems to be auditioning to be some form of combination of LBJ and a stomach enzyme, and the rest of them are actually worse. The bubble president is being boosted by a bubble GOP which appears literally demented, and which now doesn't talk to ordinary Americans, and the president's favourite pose as a sort of Liberal Republican of the old school, before the military-industrial empire, seems to me to be paying off with independents in direct proportion to the energy and activity of Congress. Someone really ought to take them aside and tell them to do nothing.

Most of all, the Democrat coalition of the working class, the left, the old, and the brainwashed young, allied to lawyers, media oligopolies, professional women, identity groups and environmentalists is a broader and thicker one than most people imagine, and clearly at less risk of a split than that on the other side. Given that it is difficult now to imagine a third party run in 2012--organisations, ballot permissions and state campaigns generally don't arise from the clay in the Sprinng--a sort of 51-43 repeat of 2008 is more than viable in November, as a 50-50 in April hypothetically would be.

Yet we move in a fog. No one quite understands how electronic banking works, or how toxic the combination of derivative debt and misplaced stimulus may have been (I don't pretend to), events in the gulf are underway which could yet result in a Persian war, and a general or regional economic collapse is not impossible. Events, dear boy, events, as Harold Macmillan used to mutter, could yet intervene in American politics against Mr Obama. Republicans should not hope for such, though, since the tenor of history suggests that serious problems enhance and dramatise the presidency for the period that people think Presidents can do anything at all about them. Even Jimmy Carter had an Iran bounce. Barack Obama is not, on the evidence of his present term, going to offer himself up on a plate since he is, at least, competent.

Since 2010, I haven't been able to help thinking, that the president of the United States may have avoided the one-term, David Dinkins style footnote that many had lined up for him. If that is true, then, as Yogi Berra would have said--its all because he came to a fork in the road, and took it. That's a disquisition for a whole 'nother blog.


Anonymous said…
If he manages to retain Florida, Michigan, and Wisconsin Obama should be in fine shape electorally speaking. I have my doubts about his ability to retain Virginia (whose 'purple' status was a one off). But keep the big four and maybe pennsylvania and there's that second term. I don't understand how Republicans fail to remember the chief electoral lesson of Nixon and Reagan, you want a landslide you have to put California in play, but good luck finding a national level Californian republican. Romney brings nothing to the table in this regard. - Dick

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