Since the rest of the blogosphere is offering analysis of the recent election, I figured I may as well join in - particularly since I have not seen anyone else note these keen insights.
Here then are my three takeaways from Election Night 2012:
1. Candidates matter. Partisans get all worked up about policies, but the candidate is the single biggest component of an election. The GOP has an odd habit of running duds. I think we are now up to six Senate seats the GOP should have won but for an idiot being on the ballot.
It's not just the Senate, of course. Michigan's former princess governor, Jennifer Granholm, had terrible approval numbers in 2006. She was ripe for defeat. Yet the GOP managed to find the most inept candidate they could in the person of Dick DeVos, a billionaire plutocrat who made his money in Amway and exported jobs to China. Great choice, guys.
(Granholm's previous opponent was Dick Posthumus, leading to the joke that Granholm might have been beaten but the GOP kept nominating Dicks to run against her.)
2. People are human. That is to say, they make very human mistakes. Abstractions like national debt, fiscal cliffs and pension liabilities simply do not have much hold in their imagination - and never have.
Throughout history, people have preferred to hear how they will get goodies today rather than putting them off for some unknown future date. This isn't a "maker/taker" thing, it's a human thing. Any candidate wanting to solve a non-immediate crisis has to be able to explain why it is in fact immediate. It is very difficult to do. Only a candidate with tons of other gifts can pull it off.
I highly recommend Winston Churchill's Second World War, particularly the first volume. That war never needed to happen, and when it did, could have been over much sooner than it was, but for timidity and a desire to do as little as possible.
3. The pendulum swings. There are a lot of liberals who are convinced that they can lock in their gains and create the permanent majority that they crave, leading to perpetual one-party rule in a socialist utopia. I have one word for them: Canada.
Canada was totally owned by the Liberal party to a degree we in the U.S. cannot fathom. And yet, a resurgent Conservative moment has taken control and is (slowly) reshaping the state.
Of course, Canada's Liberals also had the luxury of a properous southern neighbor and the post-war boom to support its policies. We have neither. Within a few months the bottom will drop out - sequester and fiscal cliff. Obama has promised too much to too many and we are out of money. Something will have to give.
In 2006, Granholm was reelected governor, promising that we would be "blown away" by her long-term plan for renewal.
In 2010, the Michigan Republicans swept to total power, winning massive majorities in both chambers and controlling all other state elective offices. The Dems hoped to retake the state House this week, but fell short.
Their last-ditch union power grabs also collapsed.
The point is that this too shall pass.
FOR THE RECORD: I think the hurricane and Chris Christie's de facto endorsement swung the election away from my prediction. This was a very, very close thing and Romney's post-debate momentum got stalled by a low-pressure system off the Jersey coast. Christie had been looked at as a rising star, but he's dead to me. Typical Jersey pol, looking out for number one.
At the precise moment when Obama's leadership and competence are in question, Christie runs out and holds his hand, telling the world he's doing great in a crisis.
Makes me want to send him a dead fish wrapped in a Springsteen album.