Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
I voted for Mitt Romney because I thought he did a solid job as governor of Massachusetts and because his skills as a manager of complex things struck me as being sterling (to borrow a word used by Bill Clinton earlier this year when asked to describe Romney’s resume).
To me it wasn’t much more complicated than that. I try to factor out the fear-mongering both sides practice. I don’t believe Mitt Romney was about to hoist women onto sacrificial altars, nor do I believe Barrack Obama wants to eat our young in the form of future debt service.
My takeaway from this election? Several things, one or more of them disturbing.
The outcome in no way constitutes a mandate for more of the same from President Obama. Think of the entire electorate as one big supermarket. Of the 15 shoppers on line in front of you, eight voted for President Obama — but seven others voted for Mitt Romney. That fact gets troubling when you contemplate the very real possibility that the Democratic Party may have finally devised a permanent voting plurality for future presidential elections. Hard to imagine conditions more favorable to electing a worthy Republican candidate than this year’s economic circumstances, and yet several sizeable population islands in the U.S. (measurable by county clusters) now seem to have a stranglehold on which party wins the presidency.
If we are in fact on a pathway to one-party rule at the presidential level, all of our lives will be the worse for that over time. Lacking a genuine contest of ideas in presidential races, critical issues can be minimized in our public discourse. I thought, for example, that it was to our common benefit that the Republican candidates for president and vice president in this election made that little time-bomb problem of our $16 trillion national debt a campaign issue. President Obama and Vice President Biden acted throughout the campaign as if our runaway debt hardly mattered.
What, too, becomes of that close-to-half of the population that holds views that will matter not in future presidential elections? Over time I fear we will see a real sundering of the country across current fault lines.
The one I can’t stop thinking about is bad states versus good states, by which I mean, states that manage their financial affairs ruinously versus states that manage their affairs prudently. California and Texas might be the best examples of each. California appears to be lurching toward insolvency. A federal government bailout will almost certainly follow any bankruptcy because California will be “too big to fail.” What happens in our democracy when the citizens of Texas begin to be taxed more to pay for California’s out of control governance?
Other states hold insane levels of unfunded liabilities. I can already hear the clarion call: “we’re all in this together!” Really? You and I are responsible for how Californians have mismanaged their state during the past two decades? I would ask my fellow Massachusetts residents — how much more of your hard-earned money are you happy to pay in taxes to cover bad choices made elsewhere? Is there any tax dollar amount at which you begin to think, hey, this ain’t right?
Should your future vote for president on questions of this sort become irrelevant, where else will you seek relief? In states like Texas, the taxpayers’ only redress will be their state government contesting the will of the federal government. I think that separation-of-power brawls of this magnitude are what’s coming, and such conflicts haven’t worked out too well in the past (see “Lincoln”).
Conventional wisdom now says that if only Republicans acted more like Democrats, more Republicans would be elected. I think that’s a scary idea — that we all just need to think pretty much the same thing. Nor does such orthodoxy even guarantee electoral success. After Ronald Reagan signed the most wide-ranging immigration reform law in history — which granted permanent amnesty to three million illegal aliens — he actually won less of the Hispanic vote in his next election than he had in his first contest for the presidency.
We should all hope that President Obama will have the wisdom and spine to fend off the extreme inclinations of both parties, that he will find common ground on issues that threaten our future and that we, as a nation, can agree to disagree in ways that heal our wounds and move us forward.
Which is to say, I hope I was wrong.
Charles Furlong, Chilmark