Romney lost, but I’m bullish about our future
On the day after Barack Obama was re-elected I went into the backcountry of Baker County, looking for elk.
As is typical there was considerably more looking than seeing.
On my part, anyway; I haven’t a clue what the elk were up to.
The elk that live in the Lookout Mountain Unit and I, we have what you might call an understanding.
I can hike as many miles as my legs and lungs will tolerate, and I can peer into every brush-choked draw between Huntington and Richland (which would require a lot of both peering and hiking, let me tell you), and the elk will spare me the trouble of trying to drag a 500-pound carcass up a slope that’s only slightly less steep than the north face of the Eiger.
The elk, clever and selfish beasts that they are, have secured for themselves the easy part of this deal.
They simply avoid me, as you might an annoying neighbor.
And though I don’t mean to impugn the elusive abilities of elk, which are immense, avoiding me in the woods requires neither skill nor effort.
Except when I’m asleep, I’m about as stealthy as an elephant in a nitroglycerine factory.
A meth-addicted elephant.
The timing of my hunting trip relative to the election was purely coincidental, and moreover it was wholly apolitical.
I didn’t take to the wilds because I feared, as some people seem to now that President Obama has won a second term, that it might be my last chance to sling a rifle over my shoulder without governmental interference.
(Anyway, our hunting party wields bolt-action rifles and 12-gauge shotguns, neither of which weapon has attracted much attention from the anti-gun lobby and its obsession with “assault rifles,” which are not Uzis or AK-47s but basically common semi-automatics gussied up with folding stocks and the like.)
I voted for Romney, but my disappointment in his defeat is a minor thing.
Despite the implication, prevalent during the hysteria of the campaign, that our choice on Nov. 6 was of monumental significance, I’m skeptical it was all of that.
I don’t believe the course of our country would be drastically different if Romney were living in the White House for the next four years.
The philosophical differences between the two men, and their political parties, never seem so vast, of course, as they do during an election year.
Political ads in particular strive to convince voters that the opposing candidate is not merely an extremist, but quite possibly a member of a different species altogether.
Yet in the comparatively sober aftermath, when legislation supplants rhetoric, the controls which were so wisely engineered into our three-branch federal system tend to squeeze the extremes toward sensible compromises that better reflect the inherent ambivalence of the electorate.
It’s not happenstance that voters, even as they decided to stick with Obama, also left the Republicans in charge of the House of Representatives.
Although Obama has much to accomplish if he is to avoid leaving a Carteresque legacy of economic malaise, I doubt that his goals differ much from Romney’s.
Yet there seems to be a portion of the population which genuinely believes that Obama chortles every time the number of food stamp recipients grows, that the man’s ultimate objective is to render the U.S. just another Third World country, only with bigger TVs and more air-conditioners.
This is no more plausible than the notion, espoused by a similarly addled cohort on the opposite side of the spectrum, that Romney thinks half of his compatriots are freeloaders who deserve nothing so much as an IRS audit that would turn over their meager nest eggs to his patrician pals.
(As if they’d notice the change in the bank balances.)
The actual differences between a Romney and an Obama administration would almost certainly be small ones, statistically speaking — two percentage points in the top marginal income tax rate, or a negligible tweak in some leviathan federal department’s budget.
Yet if you succumb to the hyperbole you might conclude that this race between two banal mainstream candidates — the only kind, after all, that gets anywhere near the White House — was akin to pitting Ayn Rand against Karl Marx.
I expect that by 2016, when the political circus comes again to all our towns, the U.S. economy will be humming along rather than getting ready to throw a rod.
I’m optimistic not because I believe that Obama merely needed more time to fix Bush’s mess.
What I trust in is the inherent capacity of capitalism to make it possible for the greater percentage of people to prosper.
I trust in Main Street and in Wall Street, in the nurse and the teacher and the guy who gets your lawnmower running when the grass comes in heavy in spring.
Business cycles, in a free society such as ours, can be the temporary prisoner of politics, but in the end the vigor of Americans busts out no matter which party seems to be holding the cell door key.
Often as not, this race to a bountiful freedom coincides with a refreshing bout of consensus inside the Capitol.
To cite a relatively recent example, Bill Clinton raised taxes in much the same way that Obama wants to do.
Yet Clinton, with a concerted shove from Republicans in Congress on such matters as welfare reform, also gilded his political legacy by presiding during a booming economy marked by federal surpluses instead of the now-familiar trillion-dollar deficits.
The latter might be beyond our reach, at least in the next four years.
But I’m hopeful that even though my guy didn’t win last week, our political system, which some pundits with a flair for metaphor have likened to a sausage grinder, will spit out results more tasty, and nutritious, than the ersatz crud we’ve been subjected to during the campaign.
I’m even more confident that, four autumns hence, I’ll be back out there in the hard country to our east, shouldering a rifle, blundering around and amusing the elk.