The United States Is Not Spain, Where Everyone Wins the Elections They Lose

In Spain, everyone wins after an election, even more so the ones who lose. They call it image strategy. That is not how it is in the United States. There, only the defeated Christine O’Donnell, one of the leaders of the ultraconservative tea party movement, exuded enthusiasm and pride during her concession speech. The majority, including President Barack Obama, preferred reflection, analysis, identifying mistakes and finding solutions, instead of putting on a show to conceal disappointments, like the outgoing speaker of the house, Democrat Nancy Pelosi, tried to do at the beginning of the night.

That is the most intelligent response, although it also does not guarantee miracles, only a better understanding of reality. The reality is that Americans have voted from their (empty) pockets. The economic crisis has been the cause of the electoral reversal of the Democratic candidates and therefore of President Barack Obama. The columnist Paul Begara gave his post-election day article the meaningful title “It’s Employment, Stupid,” in reference to the well-known phrase (“It’s the economy, stupid”) uttered by James Carville, adviser to Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign.

Only 7 percent of people thought about Afghanistan before casting their vote. The amount who remembered Iraq, a war that the United States views as won despite the fact that car bombs are still exploding, must have been much less. These are conflicts that began during the presidency of George W. Bush. They have cost the lives of 5,789 American soldiers (plus the tens of thousands of civilians for whom there are no precise statistics) and more than a billion dollars. They must have some effect on the economy.

The Democrats did not have much bite during a campaign dominated by the eruption of the tea party and its cofounders from Fox News. They are the ones who determined the agenda and maintained the air of tension. The unexpected consequence of this extremist movement has been to help the Democrats keep the Senate. They were always on the defensive, as if the financial collapse of 2008 was their fault. The next electoral battle is in 2012.

Obama was affected, personally and politically. It was noticeable at the press conference the following day; he was out of form and lacking his [usual] fluid and convincing speech. Despite the reversal, he is in a better position than was the idolized (by the tea party) Ronald Reagan to run for a second term. In the White House they are betting on a change in politics, maybe a turn to the center — which, in American political terms, means a voyage to the right.

The first battle will again be health care reform, which Republicans want to take apart. The war has just begun and it will be long and consequential. What happens in the United States is so important for the rest of the planet that, as a previous European leader said, we should all be able to vote in their elections, at least to be able to protest.

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