While I am waiting for radical Republican conservatism to fold up like a sneeze and expunge itself of so much Tea Party clap-trap (faux and non-faux), I fear the Obama pragmatism of the past four years may be its own undoing. There may be several valid reasons why Mitt Romney will be the next president of the United States and they need exploring: first, already mentioned, pragmatic Presidents have a tougher time winning reelection than ideologues; second, Republicans cheat, it’s this win-at-all-costs mantra that may steal yet another election; and third, conservative money and think tanks remain remarkably aligned in promoting a fantastically well-coordinated message to the American people.
My disappointment with Obama came on his inauguration day. His thanks to the country was just that, a thank you: no grand unifying vision, no great American project (think Kennedy and the man on the moon by the end of the decade), just a nod to his family, his supporters, and Oprah Winfrey and that was that. Since his first day in office the President dedicated himself to solving problems, which included the fixing of America’s broken health care system. But Obama’s let’s-fix-it attitude remains eerily similar to two recent examples of presidents who took such an approach and failed to win a second term: say hello to Jimmy Carter and George Herbert Walker Bush. Fortunately for Barack Obama, Mitt Romney is no Ronald Reagan. Romney is about as charismatic as rust growing on chrome. Obama also underestimated the recalcitrant play-book of radicalized Republicans. To Obama’s “let’s-fix-this,” came a startling and largely underreported, “why?” “We’ll-bide-our-time,” appears to be the Republican plan of governance. The nation in dire need of recouping, instead, found a major political wing refusing to solve any of the county’s ills in hopes of a failed presidency and a swift retaking of the executive branch. Obama clung to his pragmatism and this may be his undoing. Truman was a pragmatist, his holding up of the famed “Dewey defeats Truman” headline must attest to how difficult it is to win a second term while holding to pragmatic principles. Contrast with George “Dubya” Bush’s ideology of shoot first and don’t ask any questions, ever; the reelection of Bush shows that ideology trumps pragmatism any day.
Bush’s election and re-election also demonstrates the lengths unto which the radical right will go to ensure continued success – in elections, anyway. In 2000, irregularities in Florida – promised by the way (not hidden at all), continue in 2012. Pennsylvania Republicans assured they will “hand the state” to Romney. Numerous states have passed laws to purge their dockets of fraudulent voters, though statistically none exist and in direct violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It’s all a replay of what Republicans performed in Ohio in 2004, awarding that state to Bush, though Kerry probably scored better at the polls and certainly would have if more than one hundred thousand were not turned away. Already reports have shown that lines at polling places in Ohio and Florida are excruciatingly long deterring voters who may have better things to do than wait half a day to vote early (not to mention on their day off).
Last, there’s been a resurgent trend in conservatism since Reagan, and certainly a resurgent trend in the term “Survival of the Fittest.” Refer to the NGram produced chart. The parameters here are simple; take the Herbert Spencer term “Survival of the fittest,” first introduced in 1864, and grind it through the more that 5.5 million books digitally scanned by Google, then graphically display the popularity of the phrase from 1864 to 2008.
After an initial meteoric rise, “survival of the fittest” trended downward beginning around 1898. Unmistakable though, is the resurgent tick upward of a dead and thoroughly trounced ideology that spawned hatred and two world wars.
But why? Why is this 150 year old conservative ideology making a sustained comeback, since 1988, anyway?
The minions at the Heritage Foundation have tapped into the mid to late-nineteenth-century conservative arguments of Social Darwinism to make a push for twenty-first-century political power; only they ditched the pale brew of White Anglo Saxon Protestantism, and focused on the faux capitalistic bent of so-called “free enterprise.” Yes, it’s true, British born Herbert Spencer and his Yale counterpart Charles Sumner argued proudly that the WASP proved to be the most fit of all the world. Obviously, this would not go over well, today.
Or would it? I need not remind you of the recent polls instigated by the folks at the Associated Press, that 52% of white Americans (compared to 48% four years ago), now hold “unfavorable” or racist views of African Americans.
Which returns us to our pragmatic President’s attempt to secure a second term, in the face of a balladry of “no, we won’t govern,” ideological radicalized right-wingers who then hide their racist attitudes in “birther” conspiracies.
Prediction: All hail President Romney.
May I please, be mistaken in reading the tea leaves of History.