Thursday, November 08, 2012

Finally, some non-satirical thoughts

As you can probably imagine, I’m really pleased by how the presidential election turned out. I called it for Obama early last year, and the entire election season unfolded pretty much as I expected.

I never thought the race was anything but assured for Obama, though I often kept that feeling to myself. Most people I talked with about the election were deep into the media narrative that it was close, and there’s no dissuading that past a certain point. I suppose even among those who thought it was no contest, no one wanted to be the cocky one who jinxed the whole thing.

I’m just glad there weren’t any surprises. Because, to me, this race was between who I consider the best president of my lifetime and the least-qualified, least-deserving candidate of my lifetime not named George W. Bush.

What would the U.S. have gotten with a President Mitt Romney? I’m honestly not sure. I can’t decide if he’d be a Tea Party tool or merely be the moderate, opportunistic, ruthless corporate raider he was before. Either was too sad to contemplate, and we’re all lucky we never have to find out.

One thing’s for sure: I don’t think I could have made it through an Obama concession speech. It would have been poignant, fair and no doubt an assurance that everything was going to be OK. I would have just broken down — for the country, but also for him. Because there’d definitely be a feeling of, “He deserved better from us. We don’t deserve him.”

On the flip side, I thought Romney gave pretty much a perfect concession speech. I don’t fault him for taking a while to concede, like some people did, because I understand the urge to keep on fighting. Mitt seemed relieved at the podium, and gave a short and graceful address. Just like John McCain did in 2008, I think Romney regained some of the principles and sense of reconciliation he’d lost along the way.

His supporters, on the other hand, well, I don’t know. 

See, I remember vividly how I felt the night Bush won re-election in 2004. Like half of America, I cried for hours. It all seemed so surreal — I, for one, thought for sure John Kerry was going to win in a landslide. In those pre-Nate Silver days, I relied largely on punditry and conversations with fellow graduate students and professors. The night before on The Daily Show, pollster John Zogby (not exactly a raving lefty) predicted a cakewalk for Kerry. I similarly figured with the Iraq War failing, the economy crumbling and the Christian right overplaying its hand — not to mention how close it had been in 2000 — that Bush didn’t stand a chance. I got home that night with projections well under way, and couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I wrote some emotional, statistically incorrect blogs that weren’t my best work and tried my best to dodge smug conservatives for weeks afterward — a daunting task, considering I was UL’s liberal columnist at the time and everyone from assistant football coaches on down gave me grief. It hurt and I didn’t make it better with my attitude and hyperbole. So I’m trying to contain my joy so I don’t come off the same way.

On the other hand...I admit I did at least smile a little bit over the Romney parties Tuesday night. Because let’s face it — even many conservatives knew Romney didn’t have a chance. The sadness I understood, but the shocked faces, well, I felt like there was no excuse for that. You really had to be in the bubble to think Romney was going to win decisively. And these days, you pretty much have to willfully force yourself into that bubble; you’re blind to reality because you prefer a different one. So in that respect, I don’t mind saying that I liked seeing that.

Also, because so many of those same people were calling Obama the antichrist and his supporters lazy welfare bums, and arguing with a straight face that any and all taxation was socialism. And that the sanest elements of the GOP were lying their asses off about the economy and foreign and domestic policy. To say nothing of the birthers and baggers who tried so hard to pretend they weren’t itching to call Obama the N-word. Or the people who clogged Facebook and Twitter with Bible verses that apparently specifically warned us of the apocalypse imminent if Obama took Ohio.

Yeah, I didn’t really mind seeing their hopes dashed.

Conversely, seeing Obama supporters cheer is always good for the soul. They're diverse and you know they care for others.

To paraphrase Adam Smith, there seems to be an invisible hand over presidential elections that keeps out the extreme and the unqualified. Sometimes that hand is preoccupied, but it worked like a charm in 2012 — first by eliminating the Rick Perrys and Rick Santorums, and then by cashing out the man who promised his vicious supporters that he’d roll back everything that’s helped this country recover from the last Romney-like guy we had in office. Given how vocal and forceful extreme elements tend to get, it’s reassuring that (most of the time at least) the American people and system temper their influence.

Most of all, I’m hopeful that this election will finally put the kibosh on a three-decade-long, failed experiment in trickle-down economics and hypocritical social intervention. The emerging generations are less racist, sexist, homophobic and anti-government than ever before; more nuanced toward drug and other social policies; more connected; and less hawkish than ever before. Any candidate or party that wants a voice is going to have to appeal to that. Change may be scary, but change for the better always deserves a warm embrace.


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