Breaking with tradition, this election cycle bypassed the "October Surprise," unless you count finding out that Donald Trump is a complete idiot. (His "shocking news" on President Obama was his announcement that he was offering $5 million for the release of all drawings the Kenyan native did in kindergarten.)
In the end, there wasn't even a "November Surprise." Americans, happy with their free stuff from the federal government and fully content to go $1 trillion in debt to get it, stuck with the status quo. The first post-partisan president divided America by class, sex, race, religion and America said, "Eh, whatever. Just send me my check."
But just two weeks after the election, boy, a lot of surprises. Not really, though, if you were paying attention. Election 2012 was about big things: the direction of the country, federal spending, entitlements, health care, and, above all, jobs and the economy.
The media, of course, made America's future a joke, mocked the challenger's views from the outset (just as they mocked the incumbent's views when George W. Bush was president). For the press, the biggest story of the year was Mitt Romney's "binders full of women." (They'd soon pale in comparison to the president's general, CIA Director David H. Petraeus, and his bevy of beauties.)
Yes, postelection, out they streamed, one bad news bear after another — all that horrible stuff America's press corps ignored as they pressed to re-elect their savior. Sure, you can be forgiven if you just tuned out after the election, got a jump on your Christmas shopping, cooking up that Thanksgiving dinner. But now that the tryptophan has worn off, time to wake up and smell the cat food.
• Jobless claims soared. Sure, the president got his minions to drop the unemployment rate to 7.8 percent a couple months before the election (“See? It IS getting better!”). But bam, just like you can be sure that the one relative who drives you nuts will absolutely make it to your house for the holidays, new jobless claims skyrocketed right after Nov. 6, jumping to 439,000 — up 78,000 from the week before the election. Shocker to those “swing” voters: The two states with the biggest leaps — Ohio and Pennsylvania, due, according to reports, to layoffs in the auto industry Mr. Obama “saved.” Perfect.
• Poverty also rose, according to a new Census Bureau report conveniently released after the election. Of course, the rate dropped by nearly 100,000 Americans the month before Election Day, but the month after, whoops, turns out in 2011, nearly three-quarters of a million Americans joined the ranks of the impoverished. But, hey, at least they get a new Obamaphone.
• Food-stamp enrollment hit a new record. (Can anyone keep up with all the records Mr. Obama keeps achieving?). In a mid-November Non-Surprise, nearly 500,000 Americans signed on for food stamps in the months just before the election. In fact (and boy, are you going to be shocked at this), 47 million Americans now depend on the federal government just to eat (and — wait for it — that’s a 47 percent increase under Mr. Obama).
• Wages fell — again. The Labor Department said average hourly earnings plunged in October, and since Mr. Obama took office are now down 2.3 percent. You read that right: Since January 2009, what Americans make is 2.3 percent less than what they made in December 2008. And bonus: The annual inflation rate climbed to 2.2 percent in October, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the third month in a row it jumped. So, you make less, but things cost more. Try making ends meet now.
• And just in time: Yay, Obamacare! The president in his wisdom made the whole mess start in 2013 (maybe he thought he’d be in Hawaii playing golf by then), and right after the election, his administration finally released the new regulations. (It turns out House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was right: We really did have to pass it to see what’s in it.) Guess what? “Certain health plans, for instance, would be able to charge customers higher deductibles than originally allowed under the legislation,” The Washington Post reported on Nov. 20.
Still, so far, the health-care rules are brilliant. Insurers are required to spend most of their income on health care, can't take massive profits. If they don't, they have to refund their customers the difference. Another huge bonus: Me, I got a check back from my scum-of-the-earth insurance company — $8.13. The next month, my premiums went up more than $100 — per month. Thanks, Mr. President.
Look, the American people almost always get elections right. They gave Mr. Bush another term, despite two unpopular wars and the fact that he didn't want a "nukular Korean penishula." They then passed on Sen. John Kerry, just as they passed on Vice President Al Gore in 2000. Even 1976 made sense: Move on from Watergate, end the national nightmare. So perhaps they got 2012 right: Hey, he's halfway through solving this mess. Let's give him a shot.
Or else, America just said, "Gimme my free stuff — me me me. Let's make everyone else pay for what we want." If that's so, this is going to be a long recovery. Or a very short demise.
• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.