George F. Will: Taking America's pulse as Election Day nears

Published: November 4, 2012
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PRESIDENT: The leading figure in a small group of men of whom -- and of whom only -- it is positively known that immense numbers of their countrymen did not want any of them for president.

— Ambrose Bierce, “The Devil's Dictionary” (1906)

What another lexicographer, Samuel Johnson, said of Milton's “Paradise Lost,” can be said of this campaign: No one ever wished it longer. Voters, having heard enough, might agree that it is splendid that in “Hamlet” Polonius gets stabbed. He deserved this because his speech to Laertes taught politicians how to speak bromides.

Tuesday night, as returns reveal whether Barack Obama or Mitt Romney has the smaller gigantic number of Americans not wanting him to be president, notice other indexes of political change:

Wisconsin has voted Democratic in six consecutive presidential elections. Although George W. Bush lost there by just 0.2 and 0.4 percentages in 2000 and 2004, respectively, Obama won it by 13.9 points. If Romney wins Wisconsin, one reason will be native son Paul Ryan, but another will be the unsuccessful attempt by government employees' unions to recall Republican Gov. Scott Walker. His counterattack created a durable political infrastructure.

Pennsylvania, which has supported five consecutive Democratic candidates, has the fourth-highest percentage of its population over 65 (behind Florida, West Virginia and Maine). If Romney wins Pennsylvania, or even comes close (in 2008, Obama won by 10.3 points), this will indicate seniors' skepticism about Democrats' contention that Republicans offer the elderly only wheelchairs, and only for the purpose of rolling grandmothers off cliffs.

Without spending a dime, Democratic presidential candidates win 104 electoral votes from the first (California), third (New York) and fifth (Illinois) most populous states. Tuesday's Texas voting might suggest that, perhaps eight years hence, Hispanic voters could turn the second-most populous state purple, en route to blue.

Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to combat California's fiscal implosion caused by public employees' unions is — surprise! — to raise taxes. Proposition 30 would increase sales and income taxes. If voters reject this, and pass Proposition 32 to limit unions' powers to fund political activities by siphoning money from workers' paychecks, Californians will have a glimmer of hope for regime change. Meanwhile, if Michiganders pass Proposal 2, they will put their state on California's downward trajectory. This union-backed measure would buttress unions' strength by making collective bargaining by public employees a constitutional right, and by making right-to-work laws unconstitutional.



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