Post Election Stress Disorder: What to do Until 2024

by DR. YALE KRAMER December 27, 2012

All loss is traumatic to human beings. The consequences of severe loss--the loss of a loved one--may be life-long and inconsolable. A lesser loss--loss of a job perhaps, or a fortune--may take months or years to overcome. A World Series wager? A couple of bourbons and a good night's sleep.

But isn't it time you closed the book on the 2012 election? Good grief, it's been more than seven weeks now. Isn't it time you stopped replaying that first debate? Gave up re-analyzing the DVR of Karl Rove's 3-2-1 strategy of the Romney victory; and seeing Dick Morris declare again for the hundredth time that Romney was going to win with 300 electoral votes.

Isn't it time we gave up revisiting those horrible three hours on election night after the polls closed in Connecticut. Watching Brett Baier, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, as he proudly introduced the statisticians who would make the winning calls, and the guru strategists who would tell us what counties to follow as Romney's vote total mounted and it became clear that he had beaten Obama.

And when did the collars begin to wilt and spirits begin to sag? Ten? Ten-thirty? The swing states began to slide away. New Hampshire? What? What's going on? Virginia? We'll make it up with Iowa, and probably Wisconsin, right? Ohio looks bad...Florida slipping away further and further. Then it was suddenly clear--all of our hopes, our strategies, our future fantasies--all illusions...childish wishes.

Night-night Brett, Karl still sputtering, night-night Fox News.

Boo hoo. Sulk, sulk. Let's all go out and eat worms. Seven weeks feeling sorry for ourselves? Enough already. BASTA!

We lost, period! Obama may not have won a mandate, but we lost--definitively. Let's get past this, dust ourselves off, get back on the horse, cease this unending self-pity and start taking stock of our situation.

And the first thing we have to admit and face full on is that the executive branch of our government is locked up by the Democratic Party until 2024. Until 2016 by Obama and his leftist minions, and by the Clintons until 2024. The conservative bench has talent, youth, energy, and lots of smarts, but nobody who can stand up to the team of Bill and Hilary and the wealth and power that they could command in 2016--24. All of their past sins have been and will be forgiven and minimized by the media and their golden after-glow will carry them into the White House for eight solid years. To be sure, they are not leftist ideologues like Obama. They are more centrist and pragmatic but they will still govern left of center.

So barring a miracle of naughtiness or ill health or political error on the part of either Bill or Hillary, there is nothing that will stop Hillary from striving for and becoming America's first woman president. It is written.

Oh yes, there is one thing. Money. Lots of money.The Clintons like money and the things that only lots of money can buy--private jets, limousines always at the ready, dozens in staff, that cozy 7 bedroom beach cottage in the Hamptons with the pool and 75 foot dock, and of course their friends--rich and powerful celebrities. That kind of life takes a lot of jack. And maybe we've done enough public service, Bill, maybe it's time to settle down and build a little nest egg for our old age. A few best-sellers, lectures (at a couple of hundred thou per lecture), consultations, seats on various corporate and institutional boards (at fifty thousand a year)--it mounts up.

But no, Hillary Clinton is not likely to let this cup pass. Not on your life.

So what do we conservative losers do in the face of a Democratic monopoly of the Executive branch for the next twelve years? Several important components make up what might be a winning strategy.

First, we have twelve years to recruit a worthy candidate for the 2024 election, educate him or her, polish them up and construct a campaign strategy as good as or better than what the Obama team was able to do, which nobody can say wasn't brilliant--wicked but brilliant.

The second element in the strategy is containment. Containment was George Kennan's effective idea that helped defeat the Soviets in the Cold War. The West opposed every small attempt at expansion that the Soviets made. It was costly but in the long run it worked.

The Executive branch does not have a monopoly of power in the country and there are very powerful political assets that conservatives already possess and can easily increase. The White House can be surrounded and blocked to a considerable degree. First of all, the House--the branch with the power of the purse, is already in the hands of the Republicans. Then, so is the Supreme Court safely in conservative hands and its oldest members--Scalia and Thomas--are only 76 and in pretty good health. No reason to expect them to give up office before Obama does. And hopefully by the time Hillary becomes President the Senate will be in the hands of the Republicans too. In fact it is more than likely that the Republicans will take control in 2014.

Finally, a majority of governorships and state legislatures are already in Republican hands with the power to provide local solutions to local problems in ways that don't depend on centralized bureaucracy.

That is a pretty formidable array of power--the House, the Senate, the Supreme Court, the majority of governors and state legislatures--to contain the left-leaning inclinations of the Chief Executive.

But the single most important part of a new winning strategy is the creation of a new vision for the Republican Party. Not a leftist vision but a vision derived from our most profoundly held conservative values--the validity of our belief in private property and freedom as regulators of social intercourse.

It is as though the Republicans have been singing the right melody but have gotten the lyrics all screwed up. The Republican party is famous for being 1)the party of lower taxes, 2) the party of smaller government, 3) the party of deficit reduction, 4)the party of lower spending, and 5) the party of restricting women's reproductive freedom. Can you imagine that--the party that sets freedom above all other political values is famous for restricting a woman's freedom of choice.

It's no wonder we lost the election significantly. "Deficit reduction," "smaller government," "lower spending": these are very uninspiring slogans, the words of a dead and dying party--rich old geezers protecting their turf and their fortunes. This is not to say that that characterization of it was true but that it was successfully communicated to the naive electorate by the Democratic Party. The wrong words set to the right music. We need a new vision and a new song.

There is no doubt that the Republican Party must seize the new day. The usual Republican green eye-shade words--taxes, deficits, budgets--that make the public's eyes glaze over must be replaced by an inspiring  ideology. And there is one ready to hand. One that emerges naturally out of the changes in social structure and technology. One that is based primarily on the fundamental conservative principle of political freedom. In  twenty-first-century first-world America the Republican Party must become the party of free choice in all of the major aspects of our social, political, and economic lives. It is true that the founding fathers gave us freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the other basic freedoms, but times and social structures have changed and the center does not seem to be holding.

The public school system, which was so successful in Americanizing millions of immigrants in the first half of the twentieth century, is corrupt, ineffective, and bankrupt. Not only are lower grades dumbed down but so-called higher education is almost meaningless in all but the sciences, and even in the sciences we have students who can't spell, can't write a paper, and have never read a single play of Shakespeare. The institutions are at war with one another--the public school teacher's unions fight the idea of charter schools, or school vouchers, or home schooling. And the Democratic Party's constituency remains the teacher's unions and the children of the underclass who fall further and further behind in their climb out of poverty and alienation

The only free choice the Democratic Party is willing to embrace is women's reproductive choice--they are  against other important choices, such as freedom of school choice, freedom of medical choice, freedom of workplace choice (at least as it pertains to union membership), and freedom of choice for all phases of a worker's career including retirement.

It is the Republican Party that can and should inspire hope and the fulfillment of the American dream by advancing a program for freedom of choice in the life of every working American from kindergarten to retirement.

There is little question that the school system from top to bottom is disoriented, failing, largely overrated and outrageously expensive for all but the undeserving rich. There is also little question that the epoch of great arrays of expensive, beautiful campuses covered with ivy are things of the past, like libraries filled with real books, professorial tenure, and well-mannered, clean-shaven students. It is also well known that America's wealthiest and most creative individuals, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs--icons of the zeitgeist--were school dropouts, like Herman Melville, Mark Twain and others before them.

Do we really need "schools" any more? Large, expensive buildings with auditoria and classrooms? We live in a sea, an ocean, a hurricane, a tsunami of information, knowledge, opinion, description. There is no end of it. You can buy lectures, whole courses by the best teachers on DVDs; you can get them for free as podcasts from the best institutions. There is no document of any value or any text in the public domain that is not available on the internet. I can download an obscure Trollope novel onto my Kindle in less than 10 seconds free of charge.

There is now no reason why people need degrees or diplomas. In some technical professions like medicine people do need testing and licensing procedures to create and sustain minimal standards of practice, but experience suggests that most of what passes for higher education does not require a stamp of attendance or approval from an authority. The great variation between one student and another, and between one professor and another, is such that grades are almost meaningless.

Already there are for-profit universities in competition for the student's tuition dollar. The courses are not politically correct or culturally high-toned as in Ivy League schools, but many of them are pragmatic, informative, useful in getting jobs.

And it won't be long before popular professors catch on to the idea that they can sell their talents on the internet as tutors or in teleconferencing to any who want brilliant and entertaining scholarship for a price.

It is not difficult to see that we are in a new educational age  in which freedom of choice can predominate. Once the basic readin', writin', and ‘rithmatic are mastered after the sixth grade there is no reason to choose a lifetime course of education as decisive in one's future life employment. There are an uncountable number of educational programs, schools, courses, tutors, coaches in every subject available now, depending only on  an individual's motivation and available capital.

The Republican Party should provide such a vision of freedom of choice in our educational lives by supporting incentives for educational advancement at any age. It might be considered a capital investment like investing in a home. We should inspire and encourage educational advancement and expansion. There is no reason to be stuck on one career path one's whole life because of inflexible school structures.

This brings us to the second component in the new Republican vision, after lifelong freedom of choice in education--freedom of choice in vocation.  One's first career choice is often a mistake, based more on family influence and ignorance than experience and personal motivation. And often a second or third career can be the source of gratification and innovation. Career change can be encouraged by a freer and more flexible educational system.

In addition, we need a more forward-leaning system of incentives for the creation of entrepreneurs and small businesses. Today and for the last century, the first-world country of America has been dominated by big business and big businessmen. The men in their gray flannel suits and their corporate perks caught the imaginations of our business school students and bigger was always better. With Generation X and even more with the unemployed Generation Y things have begun to change.

There was a time in America when all of its workers were small businessmen: shopkeepers, farmers, cattle growers, gold miners, printers, tool makers. Even the mill owners of New England were small businessmen who employed no more than twenty or thirty folks at a time. And perhaps the time has come to recapture that spirit of individualism and innovative productivity--not for the rich and well connected, but for the middle classes.

Besides freedom to choose our educational fate, the young generations need freedom to choose their occupational destiny as well. And this should become one of the key planks in the Republican Party platform. The party should be a party of innovation--not a party of jobs but of creators of jobs.

The Republicans should focus not on the children at the lower end of the system; the nation has already spent hundreds of billions of dollars in the last forty years on schemes to bring them forward. Our colleagues on the left may be better at that social objective than we are. We should focus instead on making America the leader of the world in science and technology either by growing our own crop or importing them from other countries. We want our work force not to be wage-earners who pay union dues and worry about their retirement, but technicians, artisans, skilled craftsmen who are proud of their creativity--entrepreneurs. 

With the fulfillment of this goal the nation and the Party can bring meaningful ambitions into the destinies of our young people, transforming what was formerly a ticket to decrepitude into an innovative and interesting mature life. Work need not be  a Dickensian oppressive vision but a life-enhancing creative generative experience.

So if you are over your self pity and chagrin, here's how the Republican Party can win the country back in 2024 and in the meantime keep it from getting much worse:

1.        Recruit the right person to run in 2024 and keep grooming him or her until then. Meanwhile, organize ways of winning an election the way Obama did or better.

2.        Minimize the eye-glazing economic abstractions as major campaign issues.

3.        Containment. Keep the Democrats from expanding. Concentrate on winning and keeping both Houses.

4.        Above all, articulate a new political vision that will capture the imagination of the young and ambitious of every background.

Let's start now.

Dr. Yale Kramer, a former faculty memberand graduate of the New York Psychoanalytic Institute, psychoanalyst and former Clinical Professor at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, is the author of Talking Back to Liberal Power. His articles have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, American Spectator and The Public Interest.


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