Wednesday, August 15, 2012


The electoral dominoes in the United States are in place. The pieces are known, the set is complete after Governor Romney chose Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate. His choice was a bold one and might prove to be a formidable adversary for Vice President Biden, who represents a more traditional, less technocratic profile. He looks and acts "old," compared to the youth and aggressive posture of his Republican opponent.

True, the election is about the President and less about the teammate. Nevertheless, precedents have given ample proof that the choice of the vice-president (a hallucinatory hangover dixit Senator Joe Liberman) can be toxic (Sarah Palin), smart (Lyndon Johnson) or misguided (Eagleton) and can end up becoming a burden rather than a bonus.  Romney, who still has a problem as coming over as "ordinary," filled this gap by going for the conservative "first of the class."  In doing so he risks  alienating the Independent voters who might find Ryan's brew too conservative.

Obama wanted to be a philosopher king, feeling home in a soliloquy, acting too often like a solipsism. I have a hard time imagining how he connects or is able to create loyalties which can reach further than the photo-op.  He inherited a global mess from the Bush years and was able to contain a feared overspill.  Some of his economical ideas were correct. Aspects of his surprisingly cynical foreign policy are right. Obamacare has become a distraction rather than an added value, capable of reassembling the Americans around an ambitious project. Congress felt sidelined and gave him not an inch. Sometimes it looked unfair if not rude, but the President also chose for hauteur rather than for consensus. Personally I still like him but in these current times of deficits and a grounded economy, Romney can easily look like the right man for those difficult situations which have affected Americans, both in their purse and in their pride.

This country does not take a vacation when things go bad, it does not kick the can down the road, as Europeans too often do. There is still the idea of exceptionalism which remains alive in the American psyche and which is hurting today.  Obama's lofty words can be extraordinary but after these long years they have failed to convince people that they were right to see in him the man of change.  Romney is more of a pragmatist, convincing in the realm of "hardware," but utterly unconvincing in the world of foreign affairs (which finds little interest with the American bread and butter voter).  His turn rightwards might help Obama, who nevertheless risks having to work with a Republican Congress in case he wins. The stalemate would be total.

America has a hard time getting over the wasteland of the Bush years and Obama looked and sounded like the almost providential guide, who would lead the way out of the pathological "no-man's land," the country felt itself to be in.  His global outreach, his neo-geo-political strategy, his containment of the economic tsunami after the Bear Sterns debacle and the Detroit meltdown were successful.  Likewise, the stimulus was the right thing to do, even when it has to be admitted that there were too many loopholes which could have been avoided. The policies of Romney come too often over as textbook solutions.  He represents the "rational expectations" theories, monetarism versus Keynesianism, Milton Friedman versus Paul Krugman. Obama is more the man in the middle, often seen as leaning towards the more centre-left school of ideas. In this he has often been misunderstood and criticized as an interventionist and over-regulator.

The campaigns have, dangerously so, veered off course and risk becoming overshadowed by class-warfare and social, often religious subtitles. They are more and more polarized, so that the choices get obscured by ulterior agendas. What is said is less about the real than about the hidden, and this goes both ways.  It is too early to foresee the outcome and it is equally naive to advance that sobriety will rule in the end. Whoever wins will be bruised and the American democracy might be a patient in need of a cure for an indefinite time.  This is all the more dangerous since we live in an era of multiple disparities.  A lack of American leadership risks setting the clock backwards to the rotten times of social unrest, populist rise and religious anachronism worldwide.

, Milton Friedman versus Paul Krugman.

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