Published online 8 November 2012.
If this election demonstrated anything, it’s that a President no longer has to keep the employment-population ratio up in order to win an election, and that there really is nothing to the left of Barack Obama in government anymore.
In 2008 Barack Obama won the Presidential race, by a sizable margin, over John McCain. To arrange such a victory, Obama made a number of once-significant promises. No insurance mandate, a public option, and so on. Obama no longer needs to make such promises in order to win elections. Perhaps the Democrats will generally no longer have to make such promises in order to win elections. We shall see.
To be truthful, a number of people expressed disappointment with the Obama administration during his first term in office. What this re-election proved is that these people are no longer important to the political process. The great mass of Obama supporters, then, did not qualify their votes for him, did not set conditions upon their willingness to vote for him, and did not withdraw their votes even if they had objections to the way the Obama administration acted. The most popular third-party “left” candidate in the Presidential race this year, Jill Stein, earned less than half a percent of the vote, which reveals more than anything how very few “liberals” took seriously the threats to vote for someone else. And Obama showed Tuesday that he now has a core of unqualified supporters, and no longer has to pander to those whose support for him is qualified — at least not from those who self-identify as “liberals” or “progressives.”
Here we must note that clearly the Obama campaign had re-election help from the Republicans, who ran a campaign of unprecedented obtuseness. But the closeness of the popular vote in this election helped the Democrats to close ranks while Obama’s lead in the electoral system provided a significant margin of victory.
The situation is now such that “left” objections to the President’s policies are completely futile. The people at Firedoglake talk about “putting pressure upon the President,” but this is nonsense. The President is immune from any pressure mere voters might have upon him. He can do what he wants. To be sure, there might be a Republican Congress standing in the way. But this shouldn’t be a problem for Obama, who is smart enough to maneuver around those people. The Republican agenda has become completely pointless — as Matt Stoller has pointed out, the Republican Party no longer wants to win very seriously; its main role today is to provide the requirement of an “opposition” so that America can continue to have a “two party system.” So what is left standing, in this political moment, is Obama’s agenda.
Thus the real beneficiaries of this election are the unqualifying supporters of Obama, the people who will support what he does regardless of what it is. Congratulations, again. You won.