TribLIVE

| Opinion/The Review


 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Status quo preserved

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

Letters home ...

Traveling abroad for personal, educational or professional reasons?

Why not share your impressions — and those of residents of foreign countries about the United States — with Trib readers in 150 words?

The world's a big place. Bring it home with Letters Home.

Contact Colin McNickle (412-320-7836 or cmcnickle@tribweb.com).

Daily Photo Galleries

Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012, 8:54 p.m.
 

WASHINGTON

America's 57th presidential election revealed that a second important national institution is on an unsustainable trajectory. The first, the entitlement state, is endangered by improvident promises to an aging population. It is now joined by the political party whose crucial current function is to stress the need to reform this state. And now the Republican Party, like today's transfer-payment state, is endangered by tardiness in recognizing that demography is destiny.

Perhaps Mitt Romney lost the 2012 election on Sept. 22, 2011, when, alarmed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry's entry into the Republican nomination race, he rushed to Perry's right regarding immigration, attacking the DREAM Act. He would go on to talk about forcing illegal immigrants into “self-deportation.” It is surprising that only about 70 percent of Hispanics opposed Romney.

As it has every four years since 1992, the white portion of the turnout declined in 2012. In 2008, Barack Obama became the first person elected president while losing the white vote by double digits. In 2012 — the year after the first year in which a majority of babies born in America were minorities — Hispanics were for the first time a double-digit portion of the turnout. Republicans have four years to figure out how to leaven their contracting base with millions more members of America's largest and fastest-growing minority.

Romney's melancholy but useful role has been to refute those determinists who insist that economic conditions are almost always decisive. Americans are earning less and worth less than they were four years ago; average household income is down $3,800; unemployment has been over 8 percent for 43 months under Obama. Yet voters preferred the president who presided over this to a Republican who made his economic expertise his presidential credential.

Voters littered the political landscape with contradictions between their loudly articulated discontents and their observable behavior. Self-identified conservatives outnumber self-identified liberals 2-1 in a nation that has re-elected the most liberal president since Lyndon Johnson and his mentor Franklin Roosevelt.

A nation vocally disgusted with the status quo has reinforced it by ratifying existing control of the executive branch and both halves of the legislative branch. After three consecutive “wave” elections in which a party gained at least 20 House seats, voters ratified Republican control of the House, keeping in place those excoriated as obstructionists by the president the voters retained. Come January, Washington will be much as it has been, only more so.

The electoral vote system, so incessantly and simple-mindedly criticized, has again performed the invaluable service of enabling federalism — presidents elected by the decisions of the states' electorates — to deliver a constitutional decisiveness that the popular vote often disguises.

Republicans can take some solace from the popular vote. But unless they respond to accelerating demographic changes — and Obama, by pressing immigration reform, can give Republicans a reef on which they can wreck themselves — the 58th presidential election may be like the 57th, only more so.

This election was fought over two issues as old as the Republic, the proper scope and actual competence of government. The president persuaded almost exactly half the voters. The argument continues. As Benjamin Disraeli said, “Finality is not the language of politics.”

George F. Will is a columnist for The Washington Post and Newsweek.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Stories

  1. Trailer fire puts Rayburn family out of home
  2. Ford City delays decision on accountant’s job
  3. Pirates hope 1st baseman Alvarez starts to regain power stroke
  4. Starkey: Cervelli’s inspiration
  5. Rain washes out concert, not comeback for Kittanning bar band
  6. More witness intimidation charges are filed against Plum teacher
  7. Supreme Court justices ream EPA for ignoring costs to meet air standards
  8. Gameday: Pirates at Tigers, June 30, 2015
  9. 80 percent of drivers found exceeding speed limit in Mt. Lebanon, Bethel Park
  10. Downie, Ehrhoff lead list of likely Penguins leaving in free agency
  11. Murrysville native Bullock vying for health magazine’s ‘Next Fitness Star’