Despite my moratorium on political postings, it is a bit of a tradition for me to wrap up the general election. So here are some observations, thoughts, musings, and what-have-yous.
In 2004 I watched the results in our basement, scribbling down thoughts in a notebook and occasionally running upstairs to check things on the computer or send IMs to friend of the blog Dale S. as we tried to figure out how the hell the numbers weren’t breaking our way. Over the next several days I wrote thousands of words that both put my political science degree to use and served as catharsis after that crushing loss. If memory serves, I published two of my three epic pieces but was too exhausted to post the final entry.
In 2008 I watched from our living room, sending emails from my laptop while constantly wiping my nose as I fought a vicious cold. I recall the joy of the west coast states coming in and, shortly after, Ohio getting called and what had seemed likely for several weeks finally coming true. I also remember getting out of bed at 4:00 AM to give then month-old L. a bottle, checking my phone, and being amazed at Indiana dropping into the blue column for the first time in over a generation. For the first time in my life, my presidential vote counted.
This year I returned to the basement, which I realized was tempting fate as the fundamentals of the race seemed awfully similar to 2004. But that’s where the good TV is now, plus it’s warmer there and closer to the beer and scotch. No running list of thoughts in a notebook or on the iPad this time. I mostly watched MSNBC, occasionally switching over to NBC and Fox. I texted constantly with John N. And I had Safari tabs open to Daily Kos and Andrew Sullivan to see numbers not being reported on air. And I toughed it out until 2:30 to catch the two big speeches of the night.
Things That Pleased Me:
- Obviously Obama being reelected. His first term was far from perfect. But when you look at the economic/fiscal mess he inherited, I think he deserves a second term just for the chance to sink or swim on his own. I think that was what really turned the election. Not the auto bailout or Mitt’s difficulty connecting with the masses or Sandy. While I don’t think the core of people who decided the election necessarily blame the Great Recession on George Bush, I do think they realize that it wasn’t Obama’s creation and he warrants a chance to govern without the weight of it on his back.
- Richard Mourdock going down in defeat. I think Joe Donnelly was a fine candidate, and will be a fine senator for the great state of Indiana. In fact, he is much more likely to carve out a role similar to Richard Lugar than Mourdock ever was. And he seemed to be slightly ahead in most polls before Mourdock offered his views on rape/misspeak horribly on rape.1 But Mourdock was a jackass before those comments and needed to lose. I’m not confident there’s going to be much cooperation between parties in the Senate, but having one fewer person who stated his goal was to obstruct continuously gives me a glimmer of hope. Mourdock was no Dick Lugar but he certainly was a dick.
- The end of the culture wars as wedge issues. There will always be wedge issues; ways of frightening the base to get out and vote in large numbers. But over the last eight years, the tide has turned on many of the core issues the GOP has been pushing since 1980. Various gay rights issues in swing states were credited with helping George W. Bush win in 2004, as the evangelical Christian vote turned out in droves to make sure those measures were defeated, and pushed him past John Kerry in the process. Each year since then, gay rights have advanced. The pro-gay rights side won all four ballot initiatives Tuesday. Abortion rights are now an area for defense rather than offense for Republicans. I think these issues are going to fade away and the parties will have to find new ways to scare their bases.
- The many jokes relating to Colorado passing personal possession and use of marijuana. Lots of people tweeted either their belief that CU will soon have great teams in every sport or their understanding of why Peyton Manning signed up to give away two million pizzas. Humor unites us!
- Steve Schmidt, former McCain strategist who served as the lone Republican on the MSNBC set, a tough seat to fill. He’s definitely an MSNBC Republican, meaning he’s far from an ideologue and socially moderate. But he served as a good counter to the rest of the panel and offered a good look at what was going on inside each campaign on Election Night.
- Rachel Maddow. She’s just the best.
Things That Annoyed Me:
- Fucking Florida. Are you kidding me? Twelve years to fix your voting system and it’s still a total disaster. Forget about the whole voter suppression angle, I wonder if politicians don’t want to fix these messes because it will always give them an out to claim the election was somehow stolen from them if they lose. I probably offer a list like this every four years, but there are a few easy fixes for our electoral woes:
1 – Federal elections should be run by the Federal government. A common ballot and voting system across all 50 states. If the states want to fuck up their own races, let them. But if you’re going to vote for president, a US Senator, or US Representative, it should be a level playing field for every voter.
2 – As a sub-point to that, either make Election Day a Federal holiday where everyone gets off work, move it to a Saturday, or expand and standardize early voting options. It should not be hard to vote. Waiting an hour or two to vote is reasonable, especially if you don’t have to worry about getting back to your job. But it should not take eight hours to cast your ballot in the most technologically advanced time in human history.
3 – Give people options on where to vote. Here in Indiana you can check the BMV’s website and see how long the wait is at various branches and can pick the site where you want to renew your plates or whatever. Do the same with voting. Allow people to check wait times and then pick from one of several places to vote.
4 – And stop screwing people in poor and minority neighborhoods. Give them equal access to voting places and voting booths within those places. As the President said last night, we have to fix this.
– The Republican war on facts. I don’t live in a bubble. I have lots of Republican friends. And the overwhelming majority of them are completely reasonable folks who are reminiscent of what the Republican Party was 20 or 30 years ago: social moderates, or even liberals, who favor laissez-faire economic policies. We might disagree on how to do things, but these are generally people I can talk to. And I hope they feel like they can talk to me.
But increasingly some of the loudest voices in the party, and thus more and more of the rank and file, have decided to treat everything that displeases them as false, fabricated, and dismiss it out of hand. I don’t think any of my friends fall into this category, thankfully.
Overwhelming evidence of climate change? It’s not real, it’s made up, it’s all part of some grand conspiracy to hold America back. The polls don’t reflect how you think the race should go? Again, they’re made up, they’re biased, and we’ll massage them until they say what we want and treat those as fact. A non-partisan congressional office that has been trusted by both parties for generations releases a set of statistics that don’t fit your narrative for the election? Denounce it, force it to be recalled, and then act like it never happened.
Rachel Maddow had a terrific rant about this late in the night in which she suggested this attitude isn’t just bad for the party going forward, it’s dangerous to our democracy. It’s one thing to battle in Florida in 2000 to make sure the votes are counted correctly. It’s another to say numbers that are scientifically proven and based on reviewable evidence are certainly wrong and likely created out of thin air. Sticking your head in the sand is not a winning political strategy. And it holds us back as a nation when one of our two political parties continues to do it. This is 2012. It’s an odd time to be denouncing science.
– The rush to lay out the next X years in politics based on one campaign. This always bugs me. Sure, you can infer some things from an election by looking at demographics, etc. But the fact is we have no idea what will be important in two years, in four years, or beyond that. Islamic terrorism certainly wasn’t on the tips of our tongues in 2000. In 1964 it looked like the Republicans were toast for the foreseeable future. All it takes is one catastrophic, or heroic, event. A once-in-a-lifetime candidate who trumps every issue we expected to be important.2 Or a confluence of seemingly innocent events that change the political tide.
While there are some important signals that would lead a rational person to infer the Democrats appear to have the advantage going forward, Obama is now on the hook for the economy. If he fucks it up, all those demographic trends won’t mean a thing.
– Too many cooks in the kitchen. MSNBC really didn’t need six people at the main desk, especially when they were constantly throwing it to others in the studio or at the campaigns’ headquarters. Al Sharpton had a couple good cracks, but he lost his fastball a few years ago. Ed Shultz was a waste of space. I like Lawrence O’Donnell, but he didn’t have much space to offer his thoughts.
So, anyway, finally, it’s over. No more ads, at least until your next local elections. As someone on Twitter wrote, we can get back to Cialis and Viagra commercials. But for awhile, I won’t cringe at each commercial break expecting to hear some group from outside Indiana tell me how horrible candidate X or Y would be for Indiana. Although I’m sure we’ll start hearing about 2016 hopefuls spending time in Iowa and New Hampshire soon enough. Jeb Bush v. Hillary just to make everyone want to shoot themselves?
And now, instead of checking my batch of political websites 100 times a day, I can go back to worrying about important things like whether I should get an iPad mini or not and who is going to score for KU this season. Forward!
- I’m willing to give him a little benefit of the doubt. He’s not a great public speaker and maybe he just got tongue tied. But holy crap, why can’t people just say, “Listen, I’m against abortion no matter what. Rape is an awful thing, but I’m against abortion,”instead of going down these disgusting semantic sidebars where they try to decide what rape really is? ↩
- Trumps, small t. Not Trump, capital T. ↩