If there is any story of the 2010 election cycle, it is said to be that many 2008 Obama enthusiasts are, if not disillusioned, then disappointed. If there is one sure outcome of next week’s vote, it’s that a large number of those who so enthusiastically will have flocked to the polls in protest — tea party folks and others — are destined to be equally disappointed in a year’s time, if not sooner. Within both groups, perhaps the margin of victory in each ballot, there seems to be a common, almost romantic notion, that their wishes will be fulfilled with a snap of the right fingers. Rest assured, events and outcomes will disappoint.
Thoughtful people across the political spectrum understand that our problems and challenges are far too great for instant fixes. Even those with diametrically opposite views recognize that the seemingly self-evident solutions they glibly put forward — more spending or less, across the board or limited tax cuts — are no magic bullets. They also know that what has been characterized as dysfunctional in the specific (i.e. the Congress), evidences a much more fundamental and systemic problem, one that ultimately puts into question whether the democracy we have in place can effectively address the 21st Century. Don’t expect anyone to answer, much less ask, this question any time soon. Band-Aids will remain central to our problem solving tool kit. It wasn’t only Richard Nixon who perpetrated the great cover-up.
I continue to believe this election is about only one thing. Yes, James Carville remains the ultimate wise man. It’s the economy, not the jobs alone but our national sense of economic insecurity. Everything else is noise and distraction. Whether Obama did too much or too little on healthcare and financial reform, whether he communicated well or responded inadequately to Republicans is worth considering, but ultimately irrelevant. If unemployment were at 5% and real estate values were ticking up, all of that would not even come into serious play.
The problems we face as a country are complex and where we’ll be a decade from now remains uncertain. But what will be going on next week, regardless of the numbers, is no mystery. Whatever gains or losses will occur, no one will be satisfied. The real issue at hand is whether, as a country, we’re prepared for the change that Obama spoke about in 2008 and probably much more of a change than we allowed him to address or suggest.