The Edge of the Abyss


America as Wile E. Coyote


Mark Steyn’s superb column on the economic implications of Tuesday’s election gives voice to the image of the American electorate’s recent behavior shown above.  (The only inaccuracy in the image of Wile E. Coyote going off the cliff holding a pro-Obama placard is that it fails to show me, my family, and our posterity tied, very much against our wills, to the Coyote’s back.)


Mitt Romney’s defeat on Tuesday wasn’t just the defeat of a particular candidate.  It was the rejection of the values he represented — values that, I believe, were once widely shared, even typically American.  And that’s what really bothers me.  A majority of Americans in 2012 chose compulsory redistribution of wealth by the State over freedom and responsibility.  They plainly weren’t bothered by sixteen trillion dollars in federal debt, by record unemployment, by incompetent government meddling in the economy, by the looming menace of Obamacare.  Large majorities of Hispanics and blacks chose Barack Obama and Joe Biden despite enormous levels of unemployment in the black and Hispanic communities.  And women went for Laughin’ Joe and Mr. Obama despite record unemployment among women — apparently because (these themes were prominent in ads carefully targeted to strategic swing counties and carefully withheld from the nation as a whole) they feared that Mr. Romney, though he wasn’t even talking about the subject, might impose some sort of limitation on their right to kill their babies and because of Mr. Obama’s promise to compel devout practicing Catholics to finance their sex lives.


2012 presidential voting preferences by county (red for Mr. Romney, blue for Mr. Obama)


And yet the results of Tuesday’s presidential election, when broken down by county, are fascinating.  Essentially, those in the red counties — dismissed by some of the celebrating Obamaphiliacs I’ve been reading over the past few days as “flyover country,” a cultural wasteland of rubes and semiliterates, and as “bubbleworld,” because people living in them are supposedly unaware of the larger (!) world around them –will be paying for the voracious appetites of those in the blue counties.  (And there are specific catastrophes plainly visible on the horizon:  A good friend of mine, for instance, a Utah state senator, is morosely certain that, when California’s continuing orgy of overspending and business-destroying overregulation inevitably leads it to third-world-style bankruptcy, citizens of more frugal and responsible states — such as my own adopted Utah — will be expected to cover the Once-Golden State’s irresponsible debts.)


I’ve been feeling quite nostalgic of late.  Last night, for example, I spent a couple of hours listening to my old flame, Joan Baez.  “El Preso Número Nueve” is still a great song, and it’s just one of many.  But, today, I’ve been thinking about Ayn Rand.  (Baez and Rand?  “I contain multitudes,” said Walt Whitman.)


When I was a teenager, I read a lot of Ayn Rand.  I was particularly smitten with her libertarian treatises and with her novel The Fountainhead.  But I haven’t read her much since.  I never did buy her moral theory, I found her militant atheism deeply off-putting, and, over the years, as I learned more about her as a person, I came very much to dislike her.  However, I’m thinking, with the election and the map above in mind, of re-reading Atlas Shrugged.  It seems uncannily relevant right now.



"ISIS opens new front in Egypt"
"The science of sleeping in, and why you probably shouldn't"
"5 Reasons Why Mormons Are Happier"
His most famous line from the 1964 Republican convention in San Francisco
  • Jesse Thomas

    I think this map is more of an indication that the Republican party cannot afford to neglect issues that concern citizens in urban areas. Finding better way to connect with the middle class, addressing immigration in a smarter way, and not threatening to cut mass transit money so much come to mind.

    And what good does addressing what the “Obamaphiliacs” say do? They aren’t changing views any more than you are. And they aren’t so relatable to the average moderate American that might read your blog.

    • danpeterson

      I quite agree that the Republican Party cannot afford to neglect issues that concern citizens in urban areas. I’m not altogether sure, though, that that necessarily means “finding a better way to connect with the middle class,” since there are, surely, lots and lots of middle class people in those vast red areas with whom they apparently connected quite well. (After all, Romney wasn’t devastated in a popular vote landslide.)

      I do think, and already thought, that they needed to address immigration more effectively.

      As for cutting mass transit money, I’m not so persuaded. I have ethical issues with taxing rural Kansans and residents of small town Wyoming to subsidize mass transit for New Yorkers. And, more than that, I’m not sure that mass transit really works. Glamorous as mass transit systems may be, there’s little evidence to suggest that they will consistently pay for themselves — if, indeed, they ever do — and some evidence indicating that other, less glamorous, ways of addressing urban transportation needs might work at least as well and probably better.

      Finally, addressing what the “Obamaphiliacs” say does no good at all, of course. I simply find them outlandish and amusing.

      Thanks for your note.

  • Eric

    Dan, here are more cartographic perspectives on the election that you might appreciate: . The last couple are especially informative, in my opinion. –Eric

    • danpeterson

      Thanks, Eric. By the way, I wasn’t for a moment minimizing the fact that Mr. Obama did indeed win the popular vote. It was scarcely a landslide, but he won it. No question there.

  • joe etheridge

    would be interesting to see a map with other county data such as average per capita income and government assistance provided.

    because there is a block of counties some distance west of our area that is always solid Dem., and this area has lil to no urban sprawl, thus if you look at the county tax rates per$100 of those Blue counties versus neighboring Red counties? the contrast in rates is rather striking. land owners & small business pickup most all the tab in those counties whom i assume would love some of that “fair share” philosophy touted about so much these days? leads me to believe this area is not an outlier when considering other blocks of Blue areas across the map???

  • the narrator


    I’m sincerely interested in what you really believe Romney would be doing differently from Obama? I say this because I think it is pretty clear that much of the Romney we saw during the elections was a man lying through his teeth to get the votes of the far-right base of the GOP and. while moderating that lying, continuing to struggle pretending that he was a far right as he was claiming to be in the general elections.

    I know you love to claim that Obama was a socialist, but you’re a smart man (and I mean that), and I’m sure you are aware that virtually all self-identified socialists in this country would scoff at the notion that Obama was one. (Afterall, using taxes from the working class to fund privately owned banks is hardly a list on any socialist’s manifesto. And the list goes on–trust me. I have plenty of socialist friends who post the lists on facebook daily). The truth of the matter is that Obama has largely been closer to a moderate conservative of the middle to just-before-Reagan 20th century, and some of his proposals–such as the Affordable Care Act, the bailouts, and Obama’s foreign policy–are essentially Republican plans from the 90′s and Bush era.

    Romney wouldn’t have repealed Obamacare on day one. Obviously, because he would have been a bit too busy that day anyways, but even moreso because Romney knows, just as every other industrialized nation, that a mandate is the ONLY way to sufficiently manage increasing healthcare costs. Had the tea-party not taken such momentary power when Obamacare was passed (and the tea-party is fizzling away as we speak), Romney would not have been pretending that he was going to get rid of it in the elections. If you believe he really planned to repeal it, then you’re just lying to yourself like Romney was lying to his GOP base.

    I’m done with my diatribe. Sorry. I’m seriously interested though in what you believe Romney would be doing differently in the next 4 years? (Or even in the last 4 years). And don’t just give me hollow talking points. I want concrete differences you believe you’d be seeing. And particularly, I want to know what he’d be doing differently that would save you, your family, and your posterity from some supposed ravine.

    • danpeterson


      First off, I don’t believe that I’ve ever called Obama a “socialist.” I think he has inclinations in that direction, even more so than most contemporary ideological liberalism does. But it’s a fairly crude descriptor for his observed behavior thus far. I don’t know that it fits. I doubt that it does. And, for that reason, I don’t use it. (I sometimes wonder how much of the disgust that you and certain of your ideological allies feel for my views and my behavior derives from my actual views and behavior and how much comes from views and behavior that have been incorrectly attributed to me or that, because somebody more or less in the same camp as I am manifests them, I’m quite incorrectly imagined to share.)

      Second, there’s no question that, as heads of vast and unstable coalitions, presidential candidates have to adjust their rhetoric and sometimes their positions in order to survive and to prosper. (This isn’t actually an altogether bad thing; it mitigates extremism and factionalism, and is far preferable to having lots of little wack-job parliamentary parties.) Governor Romney probably did it, and so did President Obama. Mr. Obama is, I think, quite a bit further to the Left than his campaign rhetoric typically reflected. But I think it’s crude and uncivil to label such behavior “lying,” and especially to do so in so nakedly partisan and one-sided a fashion as you do above. And then, when you assert that I must either agree with you that Mr. Romney is a liar or else I am, myself, essentially a liar (if only to myself) . . . well, that just doesn’t seem productive discourse.

      As to what Mr. Romney would have done differently? Ten areas, off the top of my head and in no particular order:

      1) He absolutely would have revisited Obamacare and attempted to craft a more market-based solution to the problems of our health-care system.

      2) He would have made a much more serious effort to rein in government spending than Mr. Obama has or is likely to.

      3) He would not impose higher taxes on the so-called “wealthy.”

      4) He would not attempt to pick winners and losers in competitive industries and to steer government money toward them.

      5) He would not have been driven by concerns about redistribution of wealth in formulating tax policy so much as by questions of needed revenue.

      6) He would have appointed far more conservative federal judges at all levels.

      7) He would have made a serious effort to cut back on the regulatory burden imposed by the federal government.

      8) He would not have sought to compel Catholic charitable institutions to pay for contraceptives.

      9) He would respect the laws that govern securities in publicly-owned corporations (e.g., paying out to holders of preferred stocks first, rather than to owners of common stocks).

      10) He would not be beholden to labor unions, and specifically not to public-employee labor unions, on matters such as secret ballots, compulsory unionization, protection of poor teachers against competition and evaluation, illegal disposition of stock dividends, and perhaps even the job-destroying-but-union-protecting federal minimum wage.

      And here are two bonus answers, on foreign policy:

      11) He would certainly have had a better relationship with Israel than Mr. Obama has had.

      12) His proposed market-oriented approach to foreign aid would have greatly helped the poor in many Third World countries whose economies are, right now, profoundly dysfunctional — and subsidized in that dysfunctionality by American taxpayers.

      • the narrator

        “First off, I don’t believe that I’ve ever called Obama a “socialist.” I think he has inclinations in that direction, even more so than most contemporary ideological liberalism does. But it’s a fairly crude descriptor for his observed behavior thus far. I don’t know that it fits. I doubt that it does. And, for that reason, I don’t use it.”

        Maybe it was posts like this that made me think you did.

        “Mr. Obama is, I think, quite a bit further to the Left than his campaign rhetoric typically reflected.” Which is precisely why his policies have been drastically to the right of his 2008 campaign messages. (Trust me, I have a lot of Jill Stein supporters reminding me on facebook this very moment).

        1) I agree. He would have revisited–not repealed–it, and made some minor changes. Since it already is a market-based plan (all private insurers, no public option), I’m interested in what you actually think he would change? I want something more than hollow rhetoric.

        2) Some specifics? Or is this like cutting PBS while increasing the military budget 2000 times more than the savings from PBS?


        4) That’s about as hollow as rhetoric gets. What do you think happens every time the government contracts services, infrastructure, and equipment (think military with Halliburton, Boeing, etc), and funding for research, education, foreign relief, blah, blah, blah, so on, and so forth. Romney and Ryan’s “picking winners and losers” talk was pure political talk pointing at the very thing the US government has been doing since day one. I’m surprised you bought into it so early.

        5) That is precisely what his tax plans are doing. If you want the most bang for your buck, higher taxes on the wealthy are the way to go. It has a much much much less affect on GDP than taxes on the middle class because taxes on the wealthy do little to affect their spending and investment habits en total. It shouldn’t be a big surprise that neo-con’s like Kristol are suddenly in favor of it now that it isn’t a campaigning issue anymore

        6) This you may be right about. Though, I’m not entirely convinced that the moderate Mitt would have picked as conservative as judges as you think. If the moderate Mitt really were the real Mitt, then he very well could have picked judges left of Scalia, Roberts, and Thomas.

        7) Right. Since, the market was doing such a great job by themselves before the regulations were put it. They were just implemented because the government loves redundant waste.

        8) Just like Obama is not doing?

        9) To be honest, I don’t know much about this. So I’ll concede.

        10) You’ll of course disagree, but those are all very hollow talking points and mirages of the far-right.

        11) This is actually something I’ve wanted to ask you about. But first, from everything I have seen, Obama has had just a wonderful relationship with Israel. Of course, it could always be better at the detriment of the Palestinians. Do you agree with Romney then that the economic disparity between Israel and Palestine (and the painful poverty of the Palestinians) is simply because the Palestinians lack culture (or at least lack higher culture)? I’ve understood you (and I could be wrong) to be a defender of the Palestinians, like Bonner Ritchie. Do you agree with Romney’s disparaging of the Palestinian people?

        12) I haven’t seen his plan on this. Can you point me to some details?

        Thanks for your kind response.

  • Tracy Hall Jr

    I think you’d get a kick out of the Google ad that appeared on your blog a few minutes ago: it for “The True Church” and was placed by” The Restored Church of God” leader, David C. Pack, claimed successor to Herbert W. Armstrong. No mention of Mormonism, from whom some of the concepts of Armstrong & Pack seem to be derived.

  • John Ziebarth

    What would Romney have done differently? I’m reminded of Obama’s own words in one of his two books. He said he respected [this from my feeble memory] Reagan but the one thing Reagan did that Obama did not like was invading Grenada. Talked to a Grendian on my British cruise last summer who said they love Reagan and th Marines: We built monuments to those Marines. Ever wonder why Obama would want a Cuban expeditionary force in Grenada?

  • Jesse Thomas

    Dr Peterson, I’d be interested in your responses to the Narrator’s reply (although Id say it should end there, these things can go on forever).

    Also, today I found a short article that expands on my previous comment on this post that I think has good insight on the Republican’s failures with geography that Id thought Id share.

    (I realize the blog and these comments have moved past the original post by quite a ways, this blog just moves so fast)

    • danpeterson

      I intend to get back to him, but I’ve wanted to take adequate time to do it, and I haven’t found it yet. Spent today, for example, in airports and on an airplane — and dealing with an unexpected family situation.

      • the narrator

        Dan, after Mitt’s “gifts” comments, I perhaps must concede that the moderate Mitt have have just been an illusion and that the “real” Mitt may be as despicable as I hoped he really wasn’t. At this point, I could really care less about any defenses of Romney.

        I, however, would love to see a post with your thoughts on the current Israel/Gaza conflict and whether you agree or disagree with Mitt’s claim that the poverty and economic struggles of the Palestinians is due to their lack of culture.

        • danpeterson

          Since you’re expressly closed to any defense of Governor Romney and seem to want to believe him “despicable,” I won’t bother.

          As for his remarks about the Palestinians, I think the first thing to do is to get what he said right: He definitely didn’t claim that they “have no culture.”