And so Obama has lost.
As expected, though less than predicted and, especially, much less than the Tea Party whack jobs had hoped, the electorate delivered a vote of sanction.
Moreover, he himself immediately recognized the fact — with a simplicity, an elegance, and an attitude of fair play that inspire admiration.
That said, the campaign is over.
And there is a type of argument that, while the battle was raging, was perhaps part of the game (and even so… ) but that, now that it is over and it is time to get down to serious issues, one would like to stop hearing.
People must stop saying, for example, that Obama’s economic policies “created unemployment,” when all serious studies (beginning with that of the pro-Republicans Mark Zandi and Alan Blinder in late August) concluded that his policies created nearly three million new jobs and that, without them, the unemployment rate would now have reached between 11 and 16 percent.
They must stop saying that the global economy under Obama bordered on collapse and that it was his fault, when in all probability (as FranÃ§ois David, French CEO of COFACE, wrote in Le Figaro on November 1st) it began to turn around, most certainly, when spurred on by the “emerging countries,” but with the support as well — why not admit it? — of a US monetary policy that was the only possible one in a country whose consumers represent, by themselves alone, 18 percent of the world GDP.
At any rate, one cannot hold a president elected two years ago responsible for this dilapidation of America, for the this slow destruction of its infrastructure, this decline of its education system or in its productivity that Arianna Huffington brilliantly denounces in her book (Third World America, Crown), but that began, as she points out, when he, Obama, hadn’t even entered politics yet.
One cannot blame him for going at once too fast and not fast enough.
For paying too much attention to consensus, compromising too much with his adversaries — and having a taste for steamrolling.
One cannot lament his 49 percent of favorable public opinion in the polls when others, like Sarkozy, are at 29 percent.
Nor the “disenchantment” of his partisans when two great TV showmen, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, managed to attract 150,000 demonstrators, furiously favorable, to the Mall in the last hours of the campaign.
One cannot keep repeating in a loop that an earthquake is threatening Washington when what has happened to this president at mid-term has happened to so many before him: Without going all the way back to Eisenhower, Nixon, or Johnson, Obama is, today, in more or less the same situation as Reagan in 1982, Clinton in 1994, and Bush in 2006 — and it’s not the end of the world.
People must stop droning away, again, that Obama “hasn’t kept his promises.”
What promises, after all?
As for the health system that, before him, condemned 46 million indigents to an absence of care and, thus, a premature death, he began the greatest revolution the country has seen since the civil rights movement. It remains, of course, to follow it through, that is to say, to vote the requisite budget. But on this point, the ball is in the Republican camp and it is up to them to say if they will behave like saboteurs or responsible individuals.
In Iraq, Obama kept his word, for the retreat has already begun, and by the end of 2011 there will be no more US soldiers in Baghdad and Basra.
In the Middle East, he did the opposite of what his predecessors did, which consisted of waiting until the final months of the last year of their last mandate to become aware of the existence of the problem and to rush into a race with the clock whose goal was to snatch, like a trophy, a vague, slapdash accord they would never, of course, obtain. Barack Obama became aware of the urgency and the complexity of the affair on the first day of the first year of his first mandate — and that, already, is not bad.
On the vaster front of what Samuel Huntington imprudently termed the “war of civilizations,” he calmed things down, held out a hand to moderate Islam and, sometimes through a great speech (as in Cairo), sometimes through subtle signs (the affair of the mosque in New York), limited the risk of confrontation, bloc against bloc, from which democracies, and Democracy itself, would emerge the loser.
He has changed the face of America.
He has invented a tone, and a thrill, that are new.
Arm-wrestling with Wall Street, he avoided the trap of a populism that would, unfortunately, no more have spared the Democrats than it would have their adversaries.
He reacted calmly, without giving in to the temptation to overplay the role of Commander in Chief on the front lines of the “war on terror” when al Qaeda invited itself into the campaign in its last days by addressing two explosive packages to Jews in Chicago — and that, too, is evidence of a manner of conducting politics of an entirely different style than that of his predecessor!
In a word, Barack Obama has sometimes “disappointed” (Guantanamo, Iran), but he has not “failed.”
And only those who confuse politics and magic, regretting that he did not transform his country and the world in the wink of an eye, can speak of “failure.”
For my part, I believe more than ever that his appearance, then his election, and his actions, were one of the best things to have happened in these times of darkness that are, everywhere and more and more often, our own.
And as regards this president, one who is weakened but who has retained both his majority in the Senate and his control over the country’s foreign policy, I am willing to bet he is not done surprising us, including by getting brilliantly even, in two years, with those who, basically, have never been able to swallow seeing a black man living in the White House.