Thursday, November 15, 2012

Luck?

Center-right political commentary, even from the most reputable journalistic sources, has to constantly reaffirm its center-rightness lest it be accused of being ludicrously ultra-conservative or, worse, liberal.  This compulsion frequently leads to absurd admonitions of Democrats.  Consider, for instance, the reaction of The Economist to Obama's reelection:
This newspaper endorsed Mr Obama and is glad he won, but he was lucky: lucky for the second time to have faced a less fluent opponent weighed down by his party’s trunkful of baggage; lucky that the American economy perked up, a little, just when he needed it to; maybe lucky even that Hurricane Sandy appeared when it did. Mr Obama fought an appallingly negative campaign and scraped a victory in both the swing states and the popular vote (which he won by only 2.4%, the lowest ever for a successfully re-elected president).
Luck can play a role in elections, to be sure.  In 1980, when a helicopter crashed during Operation Eagle Claw, I think it's fair to say that was a stroke of luck for Reagan and terrible bad luck for Carter.  In 1960, when Richard Nixon injured himself while campaigning and did not recover fully from his hospital stay before the first debate with Kennedy, that's luck too.

But Obama's reelection in 2012 was not about luck.  That the Republicans nominated Mitt Romney was not good luck for Obama... Republicans decided to do that.  That Romney was the best electoral choice of the clowns on parade in the primary was also not a matter of luck, but of choice.  The Republican Party chose to move to the far right and better candidates (Jeb Bush, Mitch Daniels) did not run for a reason.  The "trunkful of baggage" that the Republican Party piled on Romney's back is part and parcel of their legislative strategy of complete obstruction.  They chose an extreme strategy because they subscribe to extreme politics.  That isn't luck.  Had they been a normal opposition party, Obama might have had a more successful first term.  Nor is it lucky the economy perked up.  Obama was voted into office to salvage the economy.  He didn't do an amazing job even by liberal measures.  But he owns the meager recovery.  If editorialists and voters are going to hold Presidents responsible for the economy (a dubious attribution), then they shouldn't dismiss the good news as luck.

Hurricane Sandy?  Okay, forces of nature probably fall in the luck category.  But post-disaster presidential photo-ops aren't luck at all.

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