I’ve read a lot of pre and post-election analysis, and I agree most closely with John Judis on what comes next for America:
Like the depressions of the 1890s and 1930s, this slowdown was also precipitated by the exhaustion of opportunities for economic growth. America’s challenge over the next decade will be to develop new industries that can produce goods and services that can be sold on the world market. The United States has a head start in biotechnology and computer technology, but as the Obama administration recognized, much of the new demand will focus on the development of renewable energy and green technology. As the Chinese, Japanese, and Europeans understand, these kinds of industries require government coordination and subsidies. But the new generation of Republicans rejects this kind of industrial policy. They even oppose Obama’s obviously successful auto bailout.
Instead, when the U.S. finally recovers, it is likely to re-create the older economic structure that got the country in trouble in the first place: dependence on foreign oil to run cars; a bloated and unstable financial sector that primarily feeds upon itself and upon a credit-hungry public; boarded up factories; and huge and growing trade deficits with Asia. These continuing trade deficits, combined with budget deficits, will finally reduce confidence in the dollar to the point where it ceases to be a viable international currency.
The election results will also put an end to the Obama administration’s attempt to reach an international climate accord. It will cripple its ability to adopt domestic limits on carbon emissions. The election could also doom Obama’s one substantial foreign policy achievement—the arms treaty it signed with Russia that still awaits Senate confirmation. In other areas, the Obama administration will be able to act without having to seek Congressional approval. But there is little reason to believe that the class of Republicans will be helpful in formulating a tough policy toward an increasingly arrogant China, extricating America from Afghanistan, and using American leverage to seek a peaceful settlement of Israel-Palestinian conflict.
Why is this going to be happen? Because America is a country that cannot be effectively led. I’m not just referring to the Tea Party here, either. I look at this country and see a majority who are unwilling to grapple with the scope of our problems, much less realistically evaluate potential solutions. I see one political party that is perfectly happy to indulge fantasies about the need for lower taxes and talk vaguely about cutting spending without proposing any spending cuts, and another that worried more over the past two years about positioning itself to minimize its losses rather than going all out to solve our problems when they were in a position to do so.
I’m out of patience for blaming politicians, though. We live in a country with deep problems that portend very bad things for the next generation, and yet voters under 30 didn’t even bother to show up. Old people showed up to vote for cuts to all government spending except the defense budget and the entitlements that benefit them personally, even though that’s the very spending that makes up the bulk of the budget.
We live in times that demand that we rise to the occasion, and yet as a country we are mired in apathy, delusion, and impotent anger. I really wish I could just stand at a distance and laugh.