Wednesday, November 07, 2012

About Last Night

Seeing the reactions of various right-leaning friends and acquaintances on my Facebook and Twitter feeds last night as the election returns slowly came in and the disposition of the race began to crystallize, I totally got it. I realized that they felt exactly the same way John Kerry voters (I hesitate to say "supporters") did in 2004: trying desperately, even as the potential victory gets pushed further and further out of reach, to envisage a scenario that sees their guy pulling a last minute upset. Again, I got it. And honestly, the lessons of Kerry and '04 are just as applicable here.

Like Kerry, Romney too is a Massachusetts pol who got saddled early on (rightly or wrongly) with a "flip-flopper" tag that pretty much stuck. He wrested the nomination based on an illusory standard branding him as more "electable" than the other contenders also vying for the spot (and in a very narrow sense that was true here -- I mean, did you get a look at the GingrichBachmannPerryCainSantorum he was running against?). So he rose to the top as the "Okay, I guess..." option. But as far as what he stood for? What he was about? Didn't matter. He wasn't the other guy, and that's all you needed.

Except it wasn't. It's not. As we've seen repeatedly throughout our electoral history, and as last night demonstrated again, the "anyone but..." vote just isn't enough. That's why Kerry was a poor candidate eight years ago, and why Romney was a poor candidate this time. Despite game attempts to run completely on a platform of practiced vagary, you can't construct a viable candidacy entirely out of negative space. Thus we saw Republicans on election night 2012 dancing the same jig Democrats did in 2004, with the top of the ticket decided fairly early and fairly decisively (despite the red-faced say-it-ain't-sos of Karl Rove and some of his Fox News ilk).

There's no doubt that, thanks to the economic travails of the last few years, the winds were against Obama at the outset of this thing. To pull it out, he had to do a lot of things right, and Romney had to do a lot of things wrong -- which is exactly how things shook out. Barring a somnambulant first debate performance, the president ran a near flawless re-election effort, highlighting a populist message on the stump while painting a "Thurston Howell III" caricature of Romney (cemented thanks to the now-infamous 47% tape). That, plus a stunning demographic shift in the electorate, were enough to propel Obama to a second term with a clear victory both electorally and in popular vote.

In fact, it was a good night for progressives in general. In addition to Obama coasting handily, consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren was elected to fill the late liberal lion Ted Kennedy's former seat, and Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown was decisively re-elected in the face of the one of most expensive opposition campaigns in the country. Nicer still, nutbar Islamophobes Joe Walsh and Allen West were ejected from the House, and losses by rape-redefining Tea Partiers Richard Mourdoch and Todd Akin helped the Dems not only retain the Senate, but actually extend their majority by two. Well played, Tea Party.

Now that Mitch McConnell's stated mission to make Obama a one-termer, and the millions of dollars spent toward that end, are all for naught, I'm optimistic enough to think that maybe the 24/7 gridlock in Washington will ease up. I know, crazy, right? Clearly Donald Trump clearly doesn't think so, with his post-election Twitter breakdown destined to find a revered place in the annals of right wing mouth-frothery. Big picture though: last night was a pretty big freakin' deal. In addition to thoroughly repudiating the GOP's agenda of unfettered obstructionism, it also means Obamacare will fully become the law of the land. The Bush tax cuts will expire. The people have spoken. What's next?

1 comment:

Todd said...

Next? Next we end the filibuster. 51 votes on Jan 1. For the love of god, please dems, grow some balls and stop keeping that thing around "just in case".