Europeans have to understand that America is different, and that means it is also different from how they would like it to be. And secondly any autopsy of the Democrats' massive defeat on Tuesday shows that the right did not prevail simply due to their own strength. This was a collapse of the Obama coalition -- because the president has lost the support of America's middle class.
In Western Europe Obama still enjoys almost messianic approval ratings of 80 percent. Nowhere else on earth regards Obama's program as more self-evident. Reforms such as health insurance for all, an active state and more environmental and climate protection are seen as catch-up Europeanization, a simple normalization. Millions of Americans, on the other hand, see this as an audacious if not revolutionary agenda to serve the interests of the state.
The fact that Obama's new state is too slow and has produced too few successes has also been politically disastrous. More than $800 billion (€ 562 billion) was supposed to stimulate the economy -- but the unemployment rate has stagnated at almost 10 percent. And while state money has saved Wall Street and the auto industry from bankruptcy, this year alone sees one million families facing the prospect of losing their homes.
Two years ago his vision inspired voters. Today the same man often sounds strangely bloodless. Back then his cool, self-assured composure impressed many, now the same character comes across as cold, arrogant, even elitist. The right may well put on a shrill rough performance, and stand in the media spotlight. However, this president was never going to win votes on the right anyway. Obama's historic victory in 2008 was created by the middle of American society -- the independent voters and the suburbanites. It is this center that has abandoned him.
Really, it does sound like they've nailed it. I hadn't thought of Obama's policies as "catch-up Europeanization" (and frankly the term offends me; it implies that one is behind if one is not already Europeanized), but I think it's a very fitting description. Massive social programs like socialized healthcare are a huge step in that direction. While he hasn't stepped in that direction yet, he made lots of rumblings about everyone "should be able to get an education." That smells of education subsidies (whether this happens through taxes, through state schools, or some as-yet-undevised mechanism, I don't know – but it all smells of state).
What I'm getting at is there is a big push by the people that elected Obama and indeed Obama's administration to establish a (squirm) Europeanish state. The reason, it seems, that people bucked so hard in 2010, is that America paid for all that stuff and didn't get any of the benefits (yet). To be fair, if implemented, we could have the benefits of your average European state, where education was paid for, healthcare was paid for, unemployment benefits were available, and so on. But all this just can't be implemented in half a presidential term. So, really, it isn't quite Obama's fault. He tried.
But right now, what we've got is a sort of half way point where Americans are looking at a system that's half way implemented, with a hazy view of where it's going. At the present, Americans are looking at ten percent unemployment and healthcare that still doesn't work. Yet, at the same time, we've been hearing these promises about this shiny statist system, this caught-up-Europeanized system, and it's just not here, and it's just not doing anything. It's unreasonable to ask for it to be working for it right now, sure, but you can't blame people who are bleeding what little remains of their savings (or losing their homes) for asking for it.
And so the reaction is "hey, this is a terrible idea. Let's just turn this train around and stop. this. now." The Europeans, rightly, will look at us like we're completely missing the point, and that we've wasted trillions of dollars on failed exercises with this administration. But Americans are pain-averse, and somehow, we seem to be much more irascible than Europeans. I don't recall the last time we had any ethnic cleansing or "velvet revolutions," but we sure as hell change the face of politics when things don't seem to be working the way we want them to.
I'm not really sure where I sit on this, other than I am really sick of the government trying to buy up failed businesses. I am quite ready to let them fail and watch the fireworks. I know it's very dangerous to say, "how bad can it be?", but, really, how bad can it be? I don't own a home – I couldn't afford one, and thus didn't buy one during the bonanza. I'm reasonably sure my bank is solvent, but in any event, I don't have so much money that I am terrified about it collapsing. I could quite literally pull all my money out tomorrow and bury it in a hypothetical back yard. I don't keep credit cards because I don't trust credit card companies. So, really, let them all burn. A huge financial crisis? I, seriously, want to see it all burn. Maybe from the ashes of these companies we could see rock-solid mechanisms and institutions arise which can withstand the sort of deceit and predatory lending tactics that got (all of you) into this.
(Note: This does not mean I am in favor of the collapse of the nation. I am in favor of letting businesses that are already collapsing to simply collapse. In their wake they will leave a trail of what-not-to-do that will teach subsequent businesses how to operate in the future so that we might actually learn. Instead, we are perpetuating deceit, greed, and inanity. Let's let it burn.)
Just remember, we've still got the blue water navy, the fifth generation fighters, the high ground, and the ever-lovin' teller-ulam device. So you gotta love us.