"It matters not who won or lost, but how you played the game," wrote a poet called William Ernest Henley (1849-1903), a quotation much employed by schoolmasters of a certain era to console a losing team. All very true of sporty games no doubt, but not of the great game of the United States presidential election in which who won matters enormously to the whole world.
As to how he played the game, the challenger Romney gave the challenged Obama a great run for his money and, one suspects, not a few moments of panic as well. For his part, Obama played the game in the manner that served him so well in 2008, relying heavily on the vacuous rhetoric strategy ("Together we can" etc) albeit with an air of flagging conviction, as though even he were wondering if anyone was still taken in by it. He needn't have worried. Enough voters lapped it up to keep the challenger out of the White House. Or they voted for the President because they had not got over their love affair with his colour, either racialistically as in the case of black voters sticking en bloc with the candidate who is supposedly one of themselves, or romantically, as with white liberals expiating their vicarious guilt by voting for an alleged descendant of the victims of past oppression. Nor would the shamelessly partisan media coverage, which stopped just short of presenting Romney as a Mormon kook, have helped voters form a balanced judgment. One imagines President Obama can hardly believe his luck. Obviously, too few Americans are troubled or personally affected by what his inept and spendthrift first term has done to the United States economy - an ineffable level of debt, China virtually with a mortgage on the nation - to hold him to account for it. Still blowing hard with the rhetoric, he exhorted the nation in his last speech before the poll to give his administration "the chance to finish what we have started". The heart quails to think of the straits the US will be in once he has done.
If Obama has won the election the Left has won America. Not the old no-nonsense Left that used to stand up for the poor and weak against big business and the banks, but the soft new Left, selectively conscience-stricken about everything in the American historical record, aggressively secular, sybaritic, that thinks the state owes it a living. The kind of Left represented by one Sandra Fluke, a 31-year-old perpetual student, whose speech decrying the horrors of a state in which there was no Obamacare to pay for her contraception, and presumably for disposing of the consequences of any malfunction in whatever contrivances she employs, was a great success in Washington and on the campaign trail.
This was an election between two Americas: the new one of Barack and Sandra and the old one of work and enterprise and moral responsibility that became - on the whole benevolently - the most powerful nation in history and guarantor of the free world. That's a role the new America doesn't have the stamina or inclination to continue; after four more years of Obama it won't have the means either.
Scarcely reassuring for us here in Australia.
Another blast of Greenhouse gas from a triumphant Obama.
"I will return to the White House more determined and inspired than ever."
9 November 2012