(TELEGRAPH) — So Europe got the American president it wanted – the one who would present no threat to its own delusions. The United States is now officially one of us: an Old World country complete with class hatred, ethnic Balkanisation, bourgeois guilt and a paternalist ruling elite. And it is locked into the same death spiral of high public spending and self-defeating wealth redistribution as we are. Welcome to the future, and the beginning of what may turn out to be the terminal decline of the West.
It has become clear why it was so easy to misjudge the significance of the apparently lacklustre Obama campaign – the drastically reduced crowds at his events; his underwhelming, peevish performances in the debates, and his failure to produce any substantive plan for a second term – as signs of how the election would go. Mitt Romney may have pulled far larger and more enthusiastic audiences for his stump speeches but this contest was not, in the end, going to be about speeches or arguments. The reason that so many of those who would vote for the incumbent president did not bother to turn out to see him as he toured the country was that they were largely untouched by the campaign: their voting allegiance was always a certainty. It was not about political ideas at all. It was about identity: about who and what you were in the most visceral and personal sense – about race, about class, about being the kind of person you believed it was necessary to be.
The saddest development is the one that is most counter-intuitive. Mr Obama – who famously ran in 2008 as the post-racial candidate – has polarised the nation racially in a way that it has not been for half a century, reversing what had been the progressive trend toward real social integration and colour blindness in American political life. Ninety-three per cent of black voters – 93 per cent – voted for Obama in this election, as did 71 per cent of Latino voters and 73 per cent of Asian ones. But if non-white ethnic groups are choosing to segregate themselves electorally – quite often with little regard for their actual economic or social interests – white voters are not. Only 59 per cent of them supported Romney: a majority but not an overwhelming one. Some of this was down to the class war issue: blue collar voters were encouraged to see Romney as a rapacious capitalist who would destroy people’s livelihoods if the balance sheet dictated it.
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