Obama became the first re-elected President in more than a century whose share of the vote was smaller his second time around. With a sluggish economy tugging at him like an anchor and a single-minded opposition dedicated to drowning him, the President set his sights on mere survival and welcomed it as his vindication. After all, in these harrowing times of stalled economies and cultural upheaval, survival is the new winning. Today’s answer to “How are you doing?” is “Compared with what?” One dog, in other words, is enough.
Once billed as a decisive moment in American history, the long and sour election wound up settling very little. Leadership in Washington remained unchanged: Obama in the White House, Democrat Harry Reid in the Senate, Republican John Boehner in the House. Some $6 billion of campaign spending delivered another near tie to what has become a 50-50 America. In fact, the election results undercut one of the few points of political agreement among Americans in recent years. Most people believe that Washington is broken, or so they tell pollsters. Some blame the President and his fellow Democrats, with their vigorous agenda of deficit spending, health care for all and a green industrial policy. Some blame the nay-saying Republicans, who have resisted Obama each step of the way and were rewarded with a midterm surge in 2010. But nearly every survey found a deep desire among the public for something different from the federal government.