Remembering the Power of Cool
Sometimes the best explanation to a complex question is the simplest explanation. In the face of conservative hand-wringing, investigating what went wrong, and worrying whether another conservative ever again will be elected president in our lifetimes, it may very well be that the anomaly of Obama being re-elected, despite all his shortcomings and the colossal failure of his policies through four years, comes down to a simple outlier fact that pundits universally have ignored:
Obama is cool.
So many of us solid conservatives despise so many aspects of Obama's first-term agenda -- having aimed singularly to get re-elected, he does not appear to have a second-term agenda -- that we cannot see him as "cool," but as despicable. His use of profanities. The arrogance. The in-your-face style of confronting political adversaries. The brazen covering up of scandal. The tunnel-visioned focus on being seen mingling with Hollywood celebrities and music personalities, the kitschy appearances on late-night or women's morning talk shows rather than meeting with world leaders. There is so much to despise.
But Obama is cool.
Look carefully. He does not hold the banister when he walks down steps, no matter how slippery the footing. He appears on Jay Leno and David Letterman, raps with Jimmy Fallon, jokes with Jon Stewart on Comedy Central. He has an athlete's way of swaggering up stairs. He rolls up his sleeves, cool-style. Yes, he is a person of color, and that is very cool for someone holding the ultimate Caucasian Christian Male position of authority. He wants to tax and bleed the millionaires -- with millionaires including people earning $250,000 -- notwithstanding that his cool millionaire friends employ high-priced legal and accounting experts to evade and avoid paying taxes, even as they transfer Hollywood filmmaking out of California to skip taxes. He is for gay marriage. When Congress refuses to pass laws he requests, he just does what any cool person who ever has had a showdown with a parent would do -- he looks at Congress and says, "I will do it anyway," and he then issues agency regulations in their faces.
The man truly is cool.
If conservatives can look beyond their own despising the man, they will see something at once startling, arresting, and ultimately comforting: Obama truly is cool, in a way that no other contender for the presidency on the horizon can approach. You see him not just golfing with the millionaires, but also shooting hoops. He smokes. He actually smokes. He hangs with Jay-Z, and with other rappers who curse and demean women, and with Beyoncé. Children in kindergarten are taught to sing songs about him and his legend. There was an Obama Girl. He boldly saw his emergence as the day when the earth began to heal and the waters started to subside. Except in Louisiana and Mississippi and Alabama. And also except for New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. And, my G-d, the way that he carries himself, nose angled in the air, the disdainful arrogance, the imperiousness of his hubris, the devil-may-care coolness of it.
There is no other presidential contender that cool. Not a GOPer. And not another Democrat. Obama is uniquely cool.
In negotiations, he looks at his opponents, and he sprays rhetorical acid in their faces: "I won the election, and elections have consequences." "John, I won, and you lost." "We are the ones we have been waiting for." He invites a pre-VP-nominated Paul Ryan to a front-row seat for a speech, implying in advance that he will open doors for financial compromise, and then he belittles Ryan in front of everyone. He steps up to the podium for the president's State of the Union address, and he mocks the conservative justices of the United States Supreme Court in front of all the country. Alternatively, he coarsely calls them vicious names behind their backs: Romney is a bulls****er. As for others, he will kick their a**es.
That is so cool.
And the way he surrounds himself with quasi-explicit sexual innuendoes that are as close to softcore porn as one can conceive in American politics. Sandra Fluke becomes part of his team. He calls her personally to comfort her when a talk-show host jabs. He approves her on his party's National Convention program in primetime. And what exactly is her message? Think about what she is saying, digging into her spoken words. She is saying: "While others may consider the act of physical intimacy a matter of modest privacy, I want America to know that I copulate with one or another male frequently -- so frequently that I will get pregnant if I do not have a regular ongoing supply of birth control. The man or men with whom I copulate do not use condoms and refuse to pay for my prophylactic pills or diaphragm or spermicidal spray or jelly, so I need you, the American People, to cough up the money to pay for those things so that I can continue copulating frequently. I am not talking about a one-time expense. I need you to institutionalize this cost because I need your ongoing monthly premiums to finance my ongoing copulation needs." Meanwhile, Obama has Lena Dunham, another passing wind from the Proto-Hipster Age, cutting ads for him, coarsely urging people to vote for Obama as though they were copulating for the first time. That is so unprecedentedly coarse.
But, omigosh -- it is so presidentially cool.
We need to remind ourselves that Obama did not run on an agenda. He did not defend ObamaCare, because his opponent could not attack him meaningfully on it, having created its prototype when that opponent was governor of Massachusetts. He did not defend his Grade-D attorney general or deal with "Fast and Furious" or Black Panther thuggery at voting booths or selective failure to enforce laws, because Mitt Romney did not make Holder or Fast and Furious an issue. He did not defend his failed foreign policy maneuvers -- failures in outreach to Iran and Venezuela, messing up the Israel-Arab equation, failing to speak for Iranian protestors while encouraging the revolution that ousted our Egyptian ally from power and replaced him with the rabid Muslim Brotherhood, selling out our allies in Eastern Europe. He barely addressed or defended his failures in squandering trillions on crony donors and friends in Solyndra-like "Green Energy" collapses, while litigating against the modern miracle of hydraulically fracking shale formations to release new bounties of American natural gas and oil. He avoided explaining why he squandered another trillion or so of "Stimulus" funds on his friends in the arts communities and on more cronies, instead of directing the funds to such vital infrastructure needs as upgrading decades-old Northeastern electric lines by laying them underground alongside modern broadband cable and fiberoptic networks.
Obama was elected on a campaign bereft of most deeply consequential issues. He ran on petty name-calling: "Romnesia." (As if an opponent could not similarly have punned about the "Abomination" of an "Obama Nation.") Obama did not run on a record or on a program other than a promise to raise taxes on everyone other than those voting for him. And on protecting Big Bird.
So it is not true that Americans somehow voted in droves for Obama's ideas. First, he proffered no ideas -- just more of the same. Second, although he came home with a comfortable electoral college count, he just squeaked by, swing state by swing state. One percent here, two percent there. Florida still counting the last chads from 2000. By contrast, Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter by 51 to 40 percent. Reagan beat Mondale 59-41.
Despite his failure to contest Obama frontally in the public forum in a truly vigorous battle of clearly contrasted ideas and values, except on one delicious debate night of October 3, Romney would have been a great president for this moment in time. America would have benefited so greatly from having a man of quality, of personal humility and deep character in the White House. A man who knows business, knows how to cut through red tape and make capitalism work for the common man -- a steeled visionary who knew how to salvage the sinking Olympics, knows how to oversee a budget and balance sheet and pare off waste. He would have done a fabulous job in the Oval Office, freeing up coal and oil, along with renewables, to set America on a rapid path to energy independence from Arab oil tyrannies. He would have given new sense and direction, real open leadership in foreign affairs as leader of a free world endorsed by America's deepest and most reliable allies abroad. Winston Churchill's bust would have been back in the White House. Lech Walesa would have been welcome, and Bibi Netanyahu would have been welcomed through the front door, even for a kosher dinner. Romney would have made the right judicial selections, curtailed ObamaCare, and so much more.
It will not happen -- not yet. But do not believe pundits who tell you that the Latino vote is lost to Republicans forever. Or women. Or even, specifically, single women. Or that a new permanent 47% now is in place that guarantees the uselessness of winning even 72% of the Caucasian male vote. So many of those groups are double-counted. If you accept that Obama carried 93% of the black vote, and then you do not count single black women twice, and suddenly it emerges that Romney did fine with women, even winning Caucasian single women.
Although Dick Morris became the hapless symbol of the clueless pundit, Morris's underlying premise that 2012 voter turnout would not mirror that of 2008 may yet be vindicated next time. What he missed, like all other pundits, is that Obama is just so cool. Thus, at Obama's clever instigation, college kids will change their voting residences from New York and California to Ohio or Virginia or Wisconsin. (Imagine if we all could.) College kids will miss class to get on a chartered bus, collecting them right on campus, ; take out their guitars; and sing Obama Carols en route to the voting booth to vote for Cool. This one last time, they could vote for the cool guy again, because -- even if it means their having to lie aimlessly on their backs in their childhood bedrooms, looking at faded Obama posters on their ceilings through their late 20s, wondering whether life already has passed them by -- they just needed their one last chance to enjoy cool. To vote cool.
Blacks came out in amazing numbers, and voted 93% for Obama, because this man continued to be their once-in-a-lifetime hope, the breathing metaphor of their own dreams that America is open to them. Blacks will not come out in these numbers for a tired 69-year-old Hillary, a dopey smiley Joe, or an Andrew Cuomo, even if he gets a clue on weathering the storms he now faces. College kids will not come out in these droves for them either. Nor will Latinos.
When you look at the issues -- the real cutting-edge issues over which the election was contested, at least in local races -- Republicans and conservatives won on the issues. Four more years of Obama's inexorable failures will reinforce the Republican ascendancy on the issues, because four more years will leave Obama ultimately without excuses. People have stopped blaming Millard Fillmore for the Civil War, and George W. Bush no longer is the preceding term's president into whose Oval Office Obama now has been elected to enter. Indeed -- and this, too, has been mostly overlooked -- the very Republican success story of the 2010 Shellacking that happened virtually yesterday, throwing Nancy Pelosi out of the speaker's chair; transferring Midwest swing states like Ohio (John Kasich), Michigan (Rick Snyder), Pennsylvania (Tom Corbett), Wisconsin (Scott Walker), Florida (Rick Scott) and Virginia (Bob McDonnell) from incompetent Democrat control to gifted and skillful Republican gubernatorial hands; and also giving those new Republican governors supportive state legislatures -- worked for Obama and against Romney in this election because those critical states all had two much better years at their backs. The most crucial of electoral-college swing states, whose electorates were hurting so badly in 2010 that they all threw out all their Democrat governors, have been doing so much better since bringing in Republicans to control their state finances that they have become among those least concerned with the direction of the American economy and the jobless numbers.
All these considerations point to really sober, solid reasons to hope and anticipate that all is not lost, that this election was a quirk. People, even idiots, are not that stupid. On the state level, the Republicans increased their governorships to 30. That constitutes sixty percent of all state houses. The huge Republican 2010 takeover of the House was authenticated and cemented as not comprising merely an aberrational "wave election." When people voted for their deepest, most direct concerns at home, they chose Republicans to control the House. Three new "Tea Party"-quality U.S. senators were elected: Deb Fischer in Nebraska, Jeff Flake in Arizona, Ted Cruz in Texas. Even in the U.S. Senate, Republicans would have held our numbers if not for two fools -- one in Missouri and one in Indiana -- who did to us this year what Christine O'Donnell and Sharron Angle did two years ago, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
But even there, in the Senate, hidden beneath and embedded within the numbers, there has been a tidal change toward bedrock conservatism. The most liberal and the most compromised of Republican senators are disappearing, having been replaced in only these past two years by the likes of Jim DeMint (the only one predating 2010), Kelly Ayotte, Ted Cruz, Deb Fischer, Jeff Flake, Ron Johnson, Mike Lee, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Pat Toomey, and several others who will not vote for a repeat of George W. Bush budgets with trillion-dollar deficits, for bridges to nowhere, for restricting oil leases and for expanding the federal budget. If not for the four flops -- the Akin, Angle, Mourdock, and O'Donnell stumbles of a newly emerging powerful grassroots force for authentic yet reasonable and skillful conservatives -- Republicans now would be only two takeovers away from controlling both Houses, and controlling them with authentically conservative agendas. That is just around the corner.
All this movement to dynamic bedrock conservatism has surged forward in only two years, notwithstanding the "changing face of the electorate." And what do you call Susana Martinez, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz? Or Condoleezza Rice, Bobby Jindal, Nikki Haley, and Brian Sandoval? We built that. The midterm elections in 2014 almost surely will result in another Republican-conservative wave advance. And when 2016 comes, Republicans will get to choose from one heck of a fabulous bumper crop of youthful yet legislatively experienced superstars, bona-fide presidential contenders, bona-fide presidential contenders with proven experience in being reasonable and reaching across the aisle without sacrificing principle, while the Democrats will be selecting from the likes of septuagenarians Biden and Hillary, and liberal Northeasterners like Cuomo.
And that is cool.