Somethin' Comin' On

Ok. We just had our first official presidential nominating event of 2016, in Iowa. And what did those partisan, mid-westerners do? They voted like New Jerseyans!

The Republican Hawkeyes gave more than 60 percent of their votes to either a Cuban-American (Cruz/Rubio) or an African-American (Carson). The Democrats gave 50 percent of their votes to a woman (Clinton) and 50 percent to a Jewish guy who identifies himself as a Socialist (Sanders). If you don't think this reflects a nation in transformation, I urge you to think again.

Granted, many of us who were early Obama supporters, believed that Obama would not only change the way the world saw America, but the way Americans saw themselves.

Here we were, the world's greatest democracy, with a history of enslaving kidnapped Africans, lynching them, and denying them protected voting rights until 1964. We had just elected a brilliant young mixed-race African-American male who never really knew his Black, Muslim-African father and who was raised by a White, Christian-American, single mother.

Obama has clearly made changes in America, in the wrong direction, according to most Republicans and all Tea Partiers; and not sufficiently transformative for perfectionist Progressives.

But consider his successes: taking us out of the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, cutting our national deficit to less than President Ronald Reagan's, bringing our unemployment rate to 5 percent (again, below Reagan's best), presiding over the longest streak of private sector job creation in American history, enacting a flawed but better-than-before national healthcare plan, de-nuking Iran, ordering the successful killing of 9/11's Osama bin Laden, ending "don't ask, don't tell", saving the U.S. car industry, redirecting our energy policy to greater miles per gallon and renewables, passing the Consumer Protection Financial Bureau, etc.

We certainly fare much better than our chief market competitors and potential military opponents when it comes to our economy and national defense.

(See my January 28, 2016 op-ed in New Jersey's The Record, entitled "Don't Believe The Critics; U.S. Dominance Is Unwavering")

But all those seeking their party's nomination to run for President rightfully point out that things are not perfect in America.

Republican candidates say that the U.S. today is "a disaster." The Democrats go so far as to recognize that too many of our people are still struggling, feeling job insecurity and trying to live the life they've dreamed of, with stagnant and insufficient wages.

They all fail to remind us that America still has the most diverse and open society in the world. And that we enjoy and strive mightily to protect our freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of association, LGBTQ rights and women's rights; to achieve a perfect criminal justice system and to preserve our ability to earn the American Dream.

But we all know that our country can do better.

But when was the last time the Republican Establishment attacked the claims and character of its frontrunners?

If you haven't done so already, I urge you to read Pulitzer-Prize winning conservative, Wall Street Journal columnist, Bret Stephens February 1, 2016 piece entitled, "Defining Presidential Down".

In it, of course, he attacks Hillary (as "a compulsive liar with a persecution complex...") and Bernie (simply "a sixties radical preaching warmed-over Socialism...")

Here's the kicker: he also attacks Cruz and Trump as, respectively, "...a glib moralizer, who is personally detested by every single senator in his own party, never mind the other one"; and "a bigoted braggart with a laughable grasp of public policy and leering manners of the kind you would expect from a barroom drunk."

Then Stephens goes on to say that, despite what Trump, Cruz and Rubio say, that in Obama's America, we do not live in an era of "collapse and tragedy," just "mediocrity and anxiety". No "disaster" here in America, Stephens suggests.

Could it be that even ardent Republicans now understand that the wild, reckless and profane accusations being made by the Republican frontrunners against Obama and his policies are simply nonsense, uttered by unqualified people?

I sure hope that John Kasich, with whom I served in Congress and whose record of government experience and relative humanism outshines the three Republican so-and-sos now polling in the lead in New Hampshire, does well.

But either way, somethin's comin' on here in America.

To further quote that Joe Cocker song, "don't know what it is, but it's getting stronger."

Stay tuned.

Steven R. Rothman is the former eight-term U.S. congressman from New Jersey's 9th Congressional District. He served on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense and the Foreign Affairs and Judiciary committees. Before Congress, Steve was the Bergen County Surrogate Court Judge, as well as the two-term Mayor of the City of Englewood, NJ, and a practicing attorney. Mr. Rothman lives in Englewood, NJ.