A Pyrrhic Victory?
He is the first sitting president to be returned to office with a smaller margin of victory than in his first go round.
When it was pointed out to John Kennedy that he barely limped into office in 1960 against Richard Nixon, he reportedly said something to the effect "Well, he's there and we're here."
Or as the president might say, "I won."
Obama won by cobbling together a coalition of union workers, liberals, single women, young people and minorities. He also won by effectively demonizing his opponent as an out of touch oligarch, especially in the places it mattered most: the battleground states of Ohio, Virginia, Florida.
In Florida, it was Hispanics who put the president over the top. In Ohio, union workers. In Virginia, government union workers. And in all three places; single women, who Democrats managed to convince that the GOP had declared "war" on them. It was both cynical and very effective.
The president also eked out a 51-48 win in the popular vote. The only thing he didn't win was a mandate. The voters returned control of the House to Republicans; and control of the Senate and the Oval Office to Democrats. What we have is the status quo ante. Apparently, the nation's voters like divided government.
So now what? Again, there is a looming budget crisis, one that the president and Republican leaders failed to deal with last year and kicked down the road. Either the president recognizes the extremely divided nature of the country and invites Republicans leaders in to work on a legitimate compromise that angers both the left and right wings of their parties. Or he stands firm on the need to raise taxes only on the wealthy, refuses to cut government spending in any significant way and kicks the entitlements' can down the road for another two years.
That America remains on a completely unsustainable fiscal path is undeniable. The "blue state" model of governing simply can't pay for itself. The bluest of the blue states, Illinois, California and New York are basket cases. Either reform is coming or bankruptcy. They will not be bailed out by a Republican-controlled House, no matter how badly the president and his fellow Democrats would like to.
In his victory speech last night, the president said "The best is yet to come." The question is, the best compared to what? It won't be hard for the U.S. economy to do better than it did these last four years. The economic recovery was the worst in American history. GDP growth remains sluggish and the jobless rate, downright depressing.
In cities like Chester, the first African-American president was unable to do anything to actually spur job creation or economic development. Unemployment among America's blacks now stands at a whopping 14.4 percent. Candidate Romney vowed to shrink government and lower tax rates to allow the private economy to grow. The old idea being a rising tide lifts all boats.
Instead, we will have a president who vows to make education a national priority. Given the deplorable state public education in America's cities, where drop-out rates are almost as depressing as student test scores, the likelihood of seeing any significant improvement in our nations public schools brought about by federal intervention is virtually zero.
Candidate Romney ran a gallant but flawed campaign. President Obama and his men ran a very smart and effective campaign. Now the question is can he preside over a smarter and more effective government?