We saw flashes of reality in the year that’s ending, particularly in the race for president, where claims of skewed polling and hopeful wishes that Barack Obama would be a one-term president landed with a thud on Nov. 6. Despite a bad economy and an inconsistent first term, Obama captured a clear majority of the popular vote and an Electoral College landslide.
Americans can love Obama, loathe him or land somewhere in the middle, but there’s no denying his 2012 victory, right? Not so fast there. By early this month, a Public Policy Polling survey of Republicans found than 49 percent believed Obama cheated to win re-election. What’s more, those suspecting funny business believed ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) did the stealing on the president’s behalf. That’s an iffy proposition at best. The claim’s credibility is further damaged by the fact that ACORN shut down more than two years ago.
Unreality rides again.
Now we come to the so-called fiscal cliff negotiations, which were going on as this column was written Friday. The outcome — if there is one before the Dec. 31 deadline — is less relevant than the unreality that got us to this point and the unreality that continues as we move along.
Senators were none too happy about cutting their Christmas holiday short. The New York Times detailed the grousing among senators who shuffled into Washington Thursday.
“This is no way to run things,” Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said.
Obama cut his Hawaii vacation short to meet with congressional leaders ahead of the cliff’s deadline.
The U.S. House of Representatives was expected to return to session over the weekend.
Let’s hope everyone convening received an extra portion of reality in their Christmas stockings. Sounds like Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., did. Speaking on television Friday morning, Corker said of that day’s negotiations, “This afternoon’s meeting feels much to me like optics to make it look like we’re doing something.”
The senator may be on to something.
Thus far, all sides appear to have avoided looking at what Elvis Costello called “the deep, dark truthful mirror.” Not that there hasn’t been an effort to keep up appearances. In 2011, Democrats and Republicans wrestled over ways to trim the nation’s deficit. When a so-called congressional supercommittee failed to make progress, the seeds of the fiscal cliff were planted. The basics were that unless Congress and the president could come to terms before the end of 2012, a series of automatic spending cuts and tax increases totaling about $600 billion would commence.
Surely, the conventional wisdom of 2011 went, no politician in his right mind would allow the nation to go over the fiscal cliff. In the final weeks before the deadline, the 2012 elections would be over and politicians would have a better picture of the lay of the land.
When Obama was asked about the automatic cuts during his third presidential debate with Mitt Romney, the president boldly declared, “It will not happen.”
Why would it? Except that both sides apparently can’t take their eyes off the politics of this looming mess. That’s when unreality whispers in their ears.
Democrats undoubtedly expect that blame for falling off the cliff will land in Republican laps.
Having done a masterful job of thwarting much of Obama’s first-term agenda, Republicans can play for more time. After all, the next federal elections are just a little more than 22 months away.
Very few —15 out of 234 — U.S. House districts voted for a Republican congressman and Obama, according to research by the Cook Political Report. On the other side, Romney beat Obama in only nine House districts won by Democrats. That’s nine out of 201. That, too, is a reality, one that gives the political parties incentive to work against each other and not together.
Bob Davis is associate publisher/editor of The Anniston Star. Contact him at 256-235-3540 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @EditorBobDavis.