A groan or two rose from Alabama on Tuesday when it became clear President Barack Obama had won a second term.
We will not here argue Obama was the best candidate, although we believe that to be the case. Our more limited goal is to suggest his re-election is not a cataclysmic event.
The fact Obama won suggests he is not a bizarrely bad choice. Alabama is so fiercely Republican that opposing views struggle to penetrate its border. After watching Obama lead the nation for four years, more Americans felt he deserved another term than felt the next-best candidate should replace him. Supporters included voters who were white and black, rich and poor, intelligent and clueless.
Democracy works pretty well. Americans have a history of selecting good presidents, and it always comes as a surprise to those who voted for the other candidate.
One of the most persistent complaints about Obama is that he is increasing a precariously high deficit. While it is true the deficit initially increased under Obama, it likewise is true that deficits always increase in recessions.
Most economists see deficit spending as an essential role of the federal government if it is to prevent the chaos and misery of a depression.
Former President George W. Bush recognized the role of deficit spending and acted on it. So did former President Ronald Reagan.
Economists do not view such deficit spending as inconsistent with concerns about the size of the deficit. Because deficits inherently grow in recessions — both because of a drop in revenue and an increase in welfare payments — many believe the first step in lowering the deficit must be restoring economic growth.
Obama’s use of deficit spending may be a mistake, but it is not a radical mistake. The worst that can be said is that he is following conventional wisdom in his economic approach.
Alabamians also lambaste Obama for being too soft in his foreign policy.
Again, the complaint may be legitimate.
Many foreign policy experts, however, believe America alienates allies and creates enemies when the rhetoric of its leaders is hostile or condescending.
Obama has been brutal — some would say reckless — in his pursuit of al-Qaida. He has done so without starting any wars, a testament to rhetoric that soothes other nations even as it angers U.S. voters.
And no, Obama is not a Muslim and was not born in Kenya.
At worst, America just re-elected a fairly conventional president. Now is a time to have faith in the collective wisdom of democracy.
The sky is not falling.
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