Junge Freiheit, Germany
Four More Years
By Jürgen Liminski
It remains to be seen whether Obama can rekindle America's regenerative powers and mobilize the immense flexibility of the people. Presumably, the country will continue stumbling around in the fog.
Translated By Ron Argentati
10 November 2012
Edited by Gillian Palmer
Germany - Junge Freiheit - Original Article (German)
Four more years. Four more years of uncertainty in both foreign and domestic policy. That's a fact before Obama is even sworn in. On January 2, 2013, automatic budget cuts of around $100 billion take effect — all because the two major political parties can't agree on anything. At the same time, George W. Bush's tax cuts expire, as do lower payroll taxes and extended unemployment benefits.
That will stifle the recovery. The new president has to act quickly — provided the two parties allow him to. But these parties engage in mutual blockades, the Republicans with their majority in the House of Representatives and the Democrats with theirs in the Senate. That will continue for now. As Winston Churchill observed, "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."
The Economy Recovers Only Haltingly
Meanwhile, America can't afford this standoff. This recovery is taking longer than any previous recovery since the end of World War II. The numbers are deceptive. Investment growth in the production of goods and equipment is limited mainly to the airlines and defense industries; without these two government-dependent exceptions, investment is still in the doldrums. Industry hesitates to order anything because they don't trust Obama. That will continue.
The vaunted improvement in the labor force is, upon closer inspection, also just a bubble. That came about because of an increase in the part-time jobs many find necessary in order to survive. Real estate prices also lag some 43 percent below pre-2008 crisis levels. Obama announced success in all three areas just prior to the election. Then Hurricane Sandy struck and diverted everyone's attention. Obama stood in the eye of the storm and benefited politically from the catastrophe.
America Has Become Poorer in the Past Four Years
But the economic future is right now. Since unemployment increased dramatically while income sank appreciably during Obama's first term, one could rightly say Americans have become poorer in the past four years and now work mainly just to reduce their indebtedness. That's not especially noteworthy following a recession, but compared with previous crisis periods, the nation is just now entering the phase of paying down its debt.
The country has never clung exhausted to the ropes for this long before. It remains to be seen whether Obama can rekindle America's regenerative powers and mobilize the immense flexibility of the people. Presumably, the country will continue stumbling around in the fog. Economic policy is far different from crisis management in the eye of the camera.
Where Are America's Moral Qualities Hiding?
Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of Allied Armed Forces during World War II, served as president from 1953 to 1961 and defined a nation's strength as the sum of three factors: economic power, military strength and moral quality. Despite its current weakness, the United States is still on an economic par with Europe and even with China. Militarily, the United States remains the lone superpower. That power may not be enough to pacify individual conflicts such as the one in Syria, but it is still unthinkable that world peace can be maintained without America. The only remaining question is the nation's moral fiber; the financial crisis reveals pitfalls here.
The question of moral character isn't restricted just to social policy. The French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville determined after his travels and observations in America that the moral and spiritual quality of a people determines the quality of its democracy. This keenly observant philosopher — still largely unappreciated here in Europe — realized that this quality was also dependent on the religiosity of the people.
The Growing Role of Religion in the Campaign
Tocqueville went so far as to designate religion as the basis for American democracy: “The Americans combine the notions of religion and liberty so intimately in their minds that it is impossible to make them conceive of one without the other.” That dictum remains true even today; religion as a guarantor of freedom. It's not looked on as a restriction; for Americans, religion is the foundation and the basic order permitting freedom in daily life.
Many Europeans don't understand this nexus between democracy and religion. But religion hasn't always played such a basic role in America's politics. It wasn't evident in the ‘60s and ‘70s, but since Jimmy Carter (1976-1980), every campaign strategy has had to consider religious sensibilities in the gospel soul of the South, the Midwest's Bible belt and even in the curious beliefs of minor religious sects.
Mitt Romney's Mormonism Was a Handicap
The moral majority that helped Ronald Reagan win the White House has spread to and taken root in every political party. Every candidate today openly discusses what he believes and how he prays, even without being asked. Mitt Romney, a Mormon, got the support of many evangelical Protestants, as well as notably significant Catholic backing. But it wasn't enough. His Mormonism turned out to be a handicap. According to opinion surveys, 90 percent of Americans say they would vote for an African-American or a Jew, but one-third of those asked expressed skepticism concerning Mormons. Many of them preferred to stay at home rather than go to the polls.
But Obama's party was rejected in the concurrent congressional elections. And in two years, fully one-third of the Congress will stand for reelection. Obama will then finally be a lame duck, but a great country can get pretty close to rack and ruin in two years.
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