Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A (Qualified) Sigh of Relief

The most "retweeeted" Tweet in history
America did the right thing last night. For now. It was touch-and-go there for a while, to listen to the pundits, but when it came right down to it everything broke pretty much as expected and Barack Obama was re-elected. Or Mitt Romney was put in his place. It's actually kind of hard to figure out which was the bigger part of the results last night. But I'll take it, no matter what the reasoning was. However, there were many things about the whole process that really don't sit all that well with me. It feels a little more like the States dodged another bullet than there was any tremendous progress made. Still, from my vantage point of having to live with the twin regimes of Rob Ford and Stephen Harper—each terrible and destructive in his own way—dodging a bullet seems pretty good to me right now. I'm a little bit jealous, to tell the truth.

USA's first openly-gay senator
Other than the results at the very top there were other encouraging signs to come out of last night's voting. Wisconsin elected Tammy Baldwin, who becomes the first openly gay Senator in the history of the USA. Hawai'i sent Mazie Hirono to the Senate, a Buddhist woman who was born in Japan. Illinois elected disabled war veteran Tammy Duckworth, who defeated Joe Walsh (not the musician) after his ill-advised comments about rape. More on that running theme later. In total, a record twenty women will join the Senate in 2013 and at least eighty-one are heading for the House of Representatives. In New Hampshire they outdid all the other states, electing women to fill the Governor and both Senator positions, the first time that has ever happened.

Crazy as a loon
There were lots of ups and a few downs in some of the initiatives as well. Marijuana was legalized in Colorado and Washington. Gay marriage was also legalized in Maryland, Maine and—again—Washington. Disappointingly, California failed to overturn the death penalty in their state, a definite "down" moment. Minnesota was very difficult to figure out: they supported Obama and voted down two restrictive Propositions (on the definition of marriage and voter IDs) and yet still somehow managed to send the absolutely lunatic Michelle Bachmann back to the House of Representatives. I just cannot figure that one out. Maybe they didn't all have the same ballot to fill out? Mind-boggling, I think. There were also the ridiculous lineups at the polling stations (which Obama alluded to in his speech, saying "we had to do something about that") and other trials and tribulations facing the average voter. A former classmate of mine (he was also our School Captain and a former speechwriter for Bush Jr.), David Frum, wrote an eloquent piece about it on CNN's website just before the election. There are some serious issues and barriers to voting in the USA and these may well have led to the approximately thirteen million fewer voters this year than in 2008. They definitely open up far too many opportunities for the "less moral" to rig the system in some way. I really do hope an overhaul is begun before the next election. And don't even get me started on Florida. Good grief.

FOX's nearly-nuclear meltdown (featuring Bill O'Reilly seemingly declaring he is a White Supremacist on the air) went a long way toward making the evening enjoyable, even for those who were stuck in a long line, I would imagine. Ditto for Diane Sawyer's chardonnay-infused (perhaps) hilarity on the ABC set. But the absolute best news of the night was the complete and utter demolition of "Team Rape", all of whom (save for Paul Ryan, who went 1-for-2 on the night) were defeated in their races for various offices. All the men in the picture to the left paid dearly for their blatant misogyny and it was a thing of beauty to watch. Lest we forget and in case you can't read the words in the tiny picture, here are their idiotic and reprehensible comments for the record:
"If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." - Todd Akin, MO
"In that horrible situation of rape, [pregnancy] is something God intended." - Richard Mourdock, IN
"Consensual sex can turn into rape in an awful hurry—some girls, they rape so easy." - Roger Rivard, WI
"In cases of rape and incest....I am still 'Pro-Life'" - Joe Walsh, IL
"Having a baby out of similar to rape." - Tom Smith, PA
"...on the rape does more violence onto a woman's body [such as an abortion] make it better?" - John Koster, WA
"The method of conception [even if it's rape] doesn't change the definition of life." - Paul Ryan, WI
Toss in the intention of Romney to appoint new Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v Wade and you had the potential for the USA to be brought back many decades in social acuity and enlightenment. It was a scary proposition and I am very glad that so many people recognized the threat and nipped it in the bud. For now.

So why did I say it was a "qualified" sigh of relief? Because the margin of victory, while decent, was nowhere near what it should have been given what was at stake.

Florida-free results
With Florida still to report (it looks like they won't declare anything until Saturday afternoon, as surreal as that may be), Obama has a 100-point lead in the electoral college and approximately a two million vote edge in the Popular Vote race. This is nice and certainly enough of a mandate to try to get things done in the next four years (although keeping control of the House away from him won't be much help), but how in the hell was the race even that close? Rape apologists, Tea Party lunatics, the hidden video of Romney discrediting 47% of the country, the admission that they won't check their facts, the statement Romney made concerning airplanes whose windows won't open, the incredibly ill-advised and flat-out wrong comments about Chrysler which likely gave Obama Ohio, everything Donald Trump said at any point in the past few months, Hurricane Sandy and Obama's stellar reaction to it—all of these played directly into the hands of the Obama campaign. I realize I live in a city where this cumulatively still wouldn't be enough to rid us of our idiot mayor (to my eternal chagrin) so I should probably be used to this sort of thing being ignored by now, but try to imagine this race without all of those things happening. Would Romney have won? Look at how he fared in the first debate and the surge in popularity he enjoyed as a result. Now take away the hurricane, the Donald and the last couple of idiotic rape comments. How close is the election then? Scary to think about and certainly enough to (hopefully) keep the Democrats on their toes for the next four years and beyond. Because if all of those things and more went wrong (and so incredibly wrong) for Romney and the Republicans then every single one of the "undecideds" should have swung over to Obama's camp and that did not happen.

I take small comfort in the corollary also being true: the Republicans were almost guaranteeing a victory on Tuesday because they were just that confident in the "horrible" job they said Obama was doing. I guess they were reading their own lies, though, because if the Democrats had been even 50% as terrible as the Republicans were making them out to be, then this should have been a cake-walk. The fact that they lost should make them take a step back and try to figure out why. If they realize that their hate-filled diatribes alienated too many of those in the "mushy middle", then they might be a force in the next election. But if early commentary is any sign, the GOP might yet not be ready to unhitch their fortunes from the disastrous Tea Party platform.

And that might be the best news the Democrats, the States and North America could hear over the next four years.


  1. I think two huge issues for the United States are voter turnout and voting process. I believe the turnout is still in the low 50-something percent. And hearing stories about voters standing in line for 6 hours horrifies me. No wonder the populace doesn't want to be subjected to that. Even Barack Obama alluded to this problem in his victory speech.

    1. Yes he did—I mentioned that in this piece. Just a passing comment, though, so let's see what gets done.

  2. Like most people, I am just glad the whole thing is over - and bloody relieved that Obama is back in. I wish this election would be seen as a strong sign to the extreme right wing that their views are not the views of the majority, but unfortunately they are too stupid and stubborn to see it that way. So back to the hard work of hoping for some rationality in politics.

    1. Well, I agree completely, although I would like to add that the best thing about what happened on Tuesday is that the neo-Cons were delivered a message that is now up to them to decide what to do about—and good things happen whether they "come around" or ignore it. If they decide to put on their big boy pants and come back to the table to talk about actual, real-life problems, then everybody wins. If they don't and slide farther to the right, then the Democrats will stay in the White House for many years, which also isn't a terrible thing, albeit not as productive as a functioning government.

      I just wish we had the same good fortune in Canada.


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