weather icon Windy
RJ App
Vegas News, Alerts, ePaper

Finding meaning in the madness of Election Day

American elections serve two critical functions. Like a Honeywell thermostat, they enable us to reset the nation’s temperature – and to accurately record it. The significance of the most recent election is not what it changed, but what it chronicled; not what it prescribed, but what it described.

Quite intentionally, the winning candidate prescribed nothing. He merely urged Americans not to tinker with the settings. Under the banner of “Forward,” he warned us all, “We have come too far. We can’t turn back now.”

Given the current state of affairs, a sizeable minority were stunned that the majority voted for the status quo and that after the six billion dollar blitz we were left with Obama, Reid, Boehner – and gridlock. Nothing changed. The banal, media-driven, money hued burlesque that mercifully ended Nov. 6 did not yield a roadmap for the future. Yet, like a cellphone clicked in a riot, the election that changed nothing produced a startling snapshot of the present, and that snapshot matters. It will, as much as anything, shape our politics and policy going forward. The present is also prologue.

At this very moment – as if hunting hanging chads – commentators with calculators are holding every ballot up to the light. Over the next several days, the same “journalists” whose selective perception helped to shape this election will torture the numbers and airbrush the picture in an attempt to shape the next. With their methods determined by their motives, they will find whatever they need to create the new narrative.

In journalism, as in politics, there abide these three; lies, damn lies and statistics, and the greatest of these is statistics. With an analysis of gay and lesbian couples who split their ticket or a statistical abstract of voting patterns among NASCAR fans or “breaking news” of a single mother in South Philly who was turned away from the polls for lack of a photo ID, the cozy concierges of the Amtrak Intelligentsia will begin to invent the future.

We should all step back. Like a fine impressionist painting, the picture this election has painted is best viewed from across the room. When we get up too close, all we see is the pigment. In fact, the granular scrutiny of disaggregated data – so essential for the micro-marketing of pandering politicians-is of no value to those who hope to understand our country, or ead it. The entire industry of identity politics is antithetical to the forging of “a more perfect union.”

So then, laying aside the pseudo-scientific alchemies of the spinners, what does the picture actually portray?

First: The “Era of Big Government” is back. Those 18th-century ideas of limited constitutional government, federalism, and laissez-faire capitalism are, to say the least, out of fashion. Politicians will continue to pay lip service to Washington, Jefferson and Adam Smith, but there is no evidence to suggest that we will ever go there again.

Long ago H.L. Mencken noted that “Every election is a sort of advance auction of stolen goods.” That being the case, a tipping point has come. The infamous “47 percent” represents the core of a new and solid political majority.

The national government will continue to grow because the new majority wants it to grow. Exit polls indicate that most Americans are “not that concerned” about the growing mountain of debt! The nationalization of education and health care are already well under way. Energy and banking are not that far behind. From the posh offices of the powerful to the heart-rending haunts of the poor, there are rewards for those who apply and comply. And with each expansion of public beneficence there is a corresponding growth in public-sector unions.

Second: The Conservative Protestant Hegemony is dead. The old Biblical view of God, man, history, and social responsibility that defined our nation from the Pilgrim Migration to the Lunar Landing may not have made us perfect, but it did make us exceptional. Hard as it is for many to accept, that worldview is now officially the minority report.

In this one election, heterosexual monogamy was stripped of its normative place in society. The recreational use of drugs was elevated to the status of lifestyle choice. A prosperous young woman won the inalienable right to free contraceptives – provided by a Catholic university. As America’s latest civil rights icon, she addressed the majority party political convention at which the very use of God’s name was roundly booed.

The nation Lincoln called “God’s almost chosen people” has turned a page. We are still rich, but demonstratively unable to live within our means. We are still free, but ever ready to barter liberties for “entitlements.” A dwindling number are still nominally religious, but any faithful witness to scripture is dismissed as “hate speech” and disbarred from the public square.

In prophetic words thundered by the president’s old pastor, “America’s chickens have come home to roost.”

T. Robinson Ahlstrom is the chairman of the New York-based George Washington Scholars Endowment. Contact him at tr@gwendowment.org.

Vin Suprynowicz’s column will return.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
LETTER: Nevada lawmakers trying to suppress voters

I’ve read and watched many news sources that report there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud here. Why are these bills necessary?