With billions of dollars spent and millions of charges and countercharges lodged in an almost interminably acrimonious campaign, the result is a political landscape virtually unchanged. What can the American people expect, more of the same gridlock, partisanship, despair and irresponsibility — the apocalyptic Four Horsemen of recent modern politics?
The dire consequences of that are easy to predict — and will be by Cassandras whose stock-and-trade in punditry is to wallow in the worst-case scenario. The first test will come quickly. The current Congress has a little less than two months to prevent the nation from tumbling over a fiscal cliff into chaos, when an automatic $600 billion in budget reductions are set and the Bush-era tax cuts are scheduled to expire. Fortunately, in a show of immediate post-election conciliation, both sides seem willing to talk about it.
Even if that catastrophe is averted, though, the chances are slim for better things from a new government that mirrors the current power structure. The re-elected president will face the same monumental problems he has been unsuccessful at resolving in the last four years. That isn’t to say his Republican challenger would have had a better chance under similar divided authority.
With Barack Obama’s re-election, one can probably throw out all the historic models mandating that any incumbent president would not get a second chance with an unacceptable unemployment rate, the worst growth recovery outside of the Great Depression, and a half dozen other negatives on his record. He won in beleaguered places like Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa, where voters apparently decided the devil they know is better than the devil they don’t.
Mitt Romney’s choice of Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin as his running mate didn’t help him much. He lost Ryan’s home state, and the congressman’s controversial Medicare proposal hurt Romney in places like Florida, with its large, older population. And Ryan’s religious rigidity on right to life didn’t help with women voters. The voting demographic has changed dramatically. It is less white and more conscious of its individual rights.