It’s that time of year when America doesn’t know what to do with itself – Halloween is over and Thanksgiving is yet to come. It’s a cultural pause. Stores are beginning to fill with Christmas stuff, but no one wants to think about that yet, and certainly no one is watching the back to back to back Christmas movies airing on the Hallmark channel – the fourth-rate ones starring people you’ve never seen before in your life. It’s far too early for that and sports fans are in a similar empty space. Baseball has been over for weeks, pro football won’t get interesting until January, when we’ll see who is any good or at least has enough uninjured players to field a team, as is also the case with college football, and college and NBA basketball are really just starting. Fans will be watching the games that don’t really matter. There will be no hockey this year either – the players and owners are arguing about money – so that leaves golf and tennis, where not much is happening either. So it’s old movies on television, or the usual Dancing with the Stars and American Idol and their variants – or reading a good book.
Things are even worse in an election year. Obama won and Romney didn’t, the Republicans didn’t retake the Senate as they were so sure they would, and they held onto the House – losing a lot of seats but not enough to change much of anything there. There’s no more to say about that – save that the Romney-Ryan ticket got clobbered with Latino voters, and all minority voters, and lost the women’s vote and the votes of anyone under thirty by large margins, and lost the Catholic vote too – the Bishops loved them but the laity decided they were jerks. They never had the Jewish vote – they never do – even if this time that Netanyahu fellow practically campaigned for Romney. Netanyahu will have an awkward time with Obama now – and it now seems we won’t nuke Iran back into the Stone Age to make him happy. Netanyahu made a bad bet – but that and all the rest have been said, over and over. This was a transitional election, or a transformative one. Republicans thought they could win by mobilizing angry old white men and the Jesus people, along with a scattering of corporate officers, but the country has changed out from under them. They just didn’t realize it, or they didn’t realize it soon enough.
That’s a done deal. No one can now talk about who will win and why. It’s over, and at the moment, in this cultural dead zone, ABC Family has decided to run all the Harry Potter movies back to back – they’re sure to get an audience of millions who are willing to sit with the kids and consider the dilemmas of that boy wizard and his friends. That’s not politics. That’ll do – but then there’s that one movie with the nasty dragons and the scary maze that ends with a curious scene. After all the trials and tribulations that force our young heroes to actually grow up a bit, young Hermione turns to Harry, troubled and frightened, and asks that question – “Everything is going to change now, isn’t it?” He puts his hand on her shoulder and says yes, and smiles. She nods and kind of smiles too. She gets it. Change is good, or if not entirely good, inevitable. One can make the best of change. Actually that’s the only sensible alternative – fade to black.
If only it were that easy in real life, or in politics. Salon’s Joan Walsh provides an example of this in her discussion of Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly:
I thought maybe Bill O’Reilly’s historic rant about Obama winning because “the white establishment” is disappearing might just be a case of election night crazy, from which he would recover. But no, it’s his new shtick.
In case you missed it, on his Monday night show O’Reilly followed up his election-night meltdown by blaming President Obama’s reelection on “secular progressives” and the “far left,” which he described as a “dangerous outfit, bent on destroying traditional America and replacing it with a social free-fire zone that drives dependency and poverty.” O’Reilly called Obama “the poster boy for progressive secularism,” and he went on:
“Secular progressives don’t want limitations on so-called private behavior. Want to smoke drugs? Fine! Want to abort a fetus? We’ll drive you to the clinic! Want to have a kid when you’re 16? No problem at all, we’ll support you.”
Uh-oh, Grandpa just found out that the kids “smoke drugs.” Get him a hot toddy and put him to bed.
Everything is going to change now, isn’t it? Yes it is, and she goes on to show how O’Reilly is quickly turning into Glenn Beck, which might be a bad career move:
It’s worth remembering what Fox boss Roger Ailes said after he and Beck parted ways in 2011. “We felt Glenn brought additional information, a unique perspective, a certain amount of passion and insight to the channel and he did,” Ailes said. “But that story of what’s going on and why America is in trouble today, I think he told that story as well as could be told. Whether you can just keep telling that story or not … we’re not so sure.”
Walsh argues that O’Reilly is essentially telling the same story, and may meet the same fate. We’ve heard it all before. Old Harry Potter movies are more fun, and probably more true to life – except for the dragons.
Mitt Romney had one of those cultural-dead-zone moments too, a week and a day after the election with this:
Saying that he and his team still felt “troubled” by his loss to President Obama, Mitt Romney on Wednesday attributed his defeat in part to what he called big policy “gifts” that the president had bestowed on loyal Democratic constituencies, including young voters, African-Americans and Hispanics.
In a conference call with fund-raisers and donors to his campaign, Mr. Romney said Wednesday afternoon that the president had followed the “old playbook” of using targeted initiatives to woo specific interest groups – “especially the African-American community, the Hispanic community and young people.”
“In each case, they were very generous in what they gave to those groups,” Mr. Romney said, contrasting Mr. Obama’s strategy to his own of “talking about big issues for the whole country: military strategy, foreign policy, a strong economy, creating jobs and so forth.”
Put aside that no one knew what his military strategy ever was – save that in that last debate where he said it was the same as Obama, only said louder or something. As for his foreign policy, there too he agreed with Obama – but he said he would say nasty things to China, which scared the hell out of Wall Street, but then no one believed him anyway. As for creating jobs and so forth – as he blithely put it – his Bain Model for doing that was always vague. He was an expert at what he called harvesting companies for cash – buy ‘em and load them up with debt to pay off him and his investors, and then walk away and select the next one to buy. Some of those companies survived, and some even thrived, and a whole lot of them went under. No one in their right mind believed that this had anything to do with creating jobs – it just sounded business-y in some sort of way – and he was rich after all. It also didn’t get him vary far.
The other part was the real trouble, and that was in his conception of gifts:
“With regards to the young people, for instance, a forgiveness of college loan interest was a big gift,” Mr. Romney said. “Free contraceptives were very big with young, college-aged women. And then, finally, Obamacare also made a difference for them, because, as you know, anybody now 26 years of age and younger was now going to be part of their parents’ plan, and that was a big gift to young people. They turned out in large numbers, a larger share in this election even than in 2008.”
The president’s health care plan, he said, was also a useful tool in mobilizing black and Hispanic voters.
Actually some might see that as the government doing its job, to make life easier for everyone, so they can go on and be as successful as possible, without worrying about every little thing. That’s why we pay taxes, but he basically told the big-money crowd, once again, about that damned forty-seven percent of Americans who simply mooch off government and “believe they are victims.” Nothing changed, although he managed to be sad:
“I’m very sorry that we didn’t win,” Mr. Romney said on the call. “I know that you expected to win, we expected to win, we were disappointed with the result, we hadn’t anticipated it, and it was very close, but close doesn’t count in this business.”
He continued: “And so now we’re looking and saying, ‘O.K., what can we do going forward?’ But frankly, we’re still so troubled by the past that it’s hard to put together our plans for the future.”
He added that he was hoping to find a way for the close-knit group, which excelled in fund-raising but was ultimately unable to propel him into the Oval Office, “to stay connected so that we can stay informed and have influence on the direction of the party, and perhaps the selection of a future nominee, which, by the way, will not be me.” (He suggested an annual meeting, as well as a monthly newsletter.)
Like baseball and Halloween, he’s over, although his running mate had a different idea:
Mr. Romney’s comments in the 20-minute conference call came after his running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, told WISC-TV in Madison on Monday that their loss was a result of Mr. Obama’s strength in “urban areas,” an analysis that did not account for Mr. Obama’s victories in more rural states like Iowa and New Hampshire or the decrease in the number of votes for the president relative to 2008 in critical urban counties in Ohio.
Ryan may have been using code words – blacks and Hispanics live in urban areas, don’t you know. It was an echo of Sarah Palin’s comments about Real Americans when she ran – she said you only find those in small towns and on farms and maybe at NASCAR races perhaps, or in the Deep South. It was more of the same. Real Americans voted for the ticket, fake ones didn’t, because they got their freebies.
The New York Times’ Andrew Rosenthal is not impressed:
Mr. Romney is so irrelevant now that’s it tempting to let his comments gather dust on the remainder table of history. But I thought a few points were worth making. First, none of these examples qualify as actual gifts. Some, like keeping interest rates low on student debt, are smart investments to help young people succeed and become – yes, taxpayers. Others, like health care reform, require Americans to spend money (on insurance, or pay a penalty).
I guess Mr. Romney would not consider oil subsidies a gift. Or a tax system that allows him to pay a 14 percent tax rate – or his proposal to build warships and warplanes and other fancy hardware that the military doesn’t want or need.
The sad fact is that Mr. Romney is not out of touch with the Republicans’ post-election ramblings. It seems like no one in his party has figured out that it wasn’t “gifts” or bad luck that caused him to lose. It was his ideas.
It was his ideas, and once again sneering at every voting bloc he couldn’t convince that his ideas are even halfway reasonable. Mitt Romney is actually stuck in a dead zone, as he simply doesn’t understand that he is a child of privilege:
Contending that he is a self-made millionaire who earned his own fortune, Romney insisted, “I have inherited nothing.” He remarked, “There is a perception, ‘Oh, we were born with a silver spoon, he never had to earn anything and so forth.’ Frankly, I was born with a silver spoon, which is the greatest gift you can have: which is to get born in America.”
That was from those forty-seven percent comments, and Alex Pareene blows that nonsense out of the water in great biographical detail – not that it matters now. Everything is going to change now, isn’t it? Yes, it will change:
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal forcefully rejected Mitt Romney’s claim that he lost because of President Barack Obama’s “gifts” to minorities and young voters.
Asked about the failed GOP nominee’s reported comments on a conference call with donors earlier Wednesday, the incoming chairman of the Republican Governors Association became visibly agitated.
Jindal was brutal:
Two points on that: One, we have got to stop dividing the American voters. We need to go after 100 percent of the votes, not 53 percent. We need to go after every single vote.
And, secondly, we need to continue to show how our policies help every voter out there achieve the American Dream, which is to be in the middle class, which is to be able to give their children an opportunity to be able to get a great education. … So, I absolutely reject that notion, that description. I think that’s absolutely wrong.
Jindal seems to think you win elections by getting more votes than the other guy, not by throwing votes away, and this was just a mismatch this time:
“Gov. Romney’s an honorable person that needs to be thanked for his many years of public service, but his campaign was largely about his biography and his experience,” he said. “And it’s a very impressive biography and very impressive set of experiences. But time and time again, biography and experience is not enough to win an election. You have to have a vision. You have to connect your policies to the aspirations of the American people. I don’t think the campaign did that, and as a result this became a contest between personalities. And you know what? Chicago won that.”
Listen to Harry Potter – he did say everything is going to change – and the same day Romney was stuck in his dead zone, the other guy wasn’t:
President Barack Obama laid out his second-term agenda on Wednesday, expressing a willingness to work with Republicans in Congress and a resolve to defy them if necessary.
In his first full-scale news conference since March, Obama said he was willing to compromise with Republicans to forge a deal on the nation’s debt and taxes to avoid the “fiscal cliff,” a combination of budget cuts and tax increases that will kick in next year if such an agreement is not reached.
But he said he would not abandon his campaign pledge to allow Bush-era tax cuts on the top 2 percent of U.S. earners to expire.
He also launched a feisty defense of his United Nations ambassador, Susan Rice, pushing back against two Republican senators who said they would not support her nomination for a Cabinet post because she made misleading statements about the September attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya that killed four Americans.
“If Senator (John) McCain and Senator (Lindsey) Graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me,” Obama said.
Obama was relaxed and feisty – he won the election and has nothing to lose now – just work to do and good people to defend. John McCain may still be bitter at losing to Obama in 2008, or now even far more bitter that ever before, and he may want a scalp – but it won’t be Susan Rice’s scalp. She had nothing to do with the Benghazi business – she only reported the assessments at the time. Obama told McCain that if he wanted to pick on someone pick on him – bring it on. Hell, be a man John. You got a problem? Talk to me – pick on someone your own size.
Everything is going to change now, isn’t it? McCain never saw that coming. Obama, like all Democrats, was supposed to whimper and fold.
As for the matter of taxes, Obama repeatedly reminded everyone of just who has the mandate here – he kind of rubbed it in. But then the majority did vote for him and his ideas – like having the rich return to their normal tax rates, which even those who didn’t vote for him favor. Fade to black, in all sorts of senses.
Obama’s tax plan is not all that complicated, and the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein sums it up nicely:
If Republicans want to raise revenue while holding down rates by reforming the tax code, they have to show how they’re going to do it, prove that they’re willing to take the heat, and let it get scored by the Joint Tax Committee. If not, then tax rates are going up, either because Congress agrees to decouple the tax cuts for income under $250,000 from the tax cuts for income over $250,000, or because we’ve hit the deadline without an agreement and all the tax cuts have expired, raising taxes on everybody.
Obama did talk about the Republicans trying to hold continuing tax cuts for most everyone hostage to approving the continuing massive tax cuts for the top two percent, the millionaires and billionaires. He used the word several times – hostage. He wasn’t shy about that anymore, and in the American Conservative, Scott Galupo’s sees a game of chicken:
If my political antenna is working correctly, it sounds to me that, in calling for an immediate extension of current tax rates on the non-wealthy, Obama is signaling to Congress that we can partially go over the fiscal cliff – that is, we can mitigate the most extreme effects of an austerity shock and buy enough time to work out something comprehensive over the course of the next several months. Obama seemed to me to be suggesting that the likelihood of agreeing broadly on reforms to the tax code and the entitlement system between now and January 1 is roughly nil.
Obama will take what he can get, for the good of the most people, and Jonathan Chait sees Obama doing just fine with that:
A big part of the game is for each side to blame the other for the fiscal cliff. Obama’s play is to rule out extending the Bush tax cuts on the rich, and demand an extension of the Bush tax cuts on income under $250,000. Will Republicans agree to do that? Almost certainly not. But a new poll shows Americans are predisposed, by a 53 percent to 29 percent margin, to blame Republicans over Obama for any failure to avert the fiscal cliff. And so, if Obama can’t make Republicans extend the middle-class tax cuts before January, he can at least use his platform to communicate that they and not he are responsible for the standoff.
Everything is new here. Ryan was talking to that Wisconsin television station about all those damned urban voters who ruined everything, and Romney had his conference call with the multimillionaires who had financed his campaign, telling them that the damned moochers ruined everything again – and Obama was down in Washington making McCain look like a bitter and somewhat deranged old man, while sticking it to the Republicans. The fiscal cliff thing can be fixed, so either get out of the way or get run over by the people, who you can’t even see these days. America may be in a dull and dreary time of year, but things have changed.
Actually it really is like that minor scene in the movie. Hermione got it. One can make the best of change. Actually that’s the only sensible alternative – fade to black.