Sunday, November 11, 2012

US elects a president, Florida watches from the sideline

Imagine two siblings being scolded by their parents and banished to their respective rooms. One sibling dutifully, almost meekly, climbs the stairs to his bedroom. But not the other... oh no, that one pushes back from the table and leaps to his feet so fast the chair is sent skittering. He blusters and moans that it's not his fault, it's because of this... or that... or perhaps even this AND that. And then he storms and stomps up to his room, slamming the door, raging all the while, then proceeds to smash things in his room in a fit of unbridled fury.

That second sibling, my friends, is America's Republican Party as of November 7, 2012.

The night before, American voters delivered a punishing, blistering smackdown the likes of which I've not seen in my lifetime. It wasn't just the Republican stooge Mitt Romney who lost the presidency, the entire nefarious ideology of the Republican Party was dismantled and thrown out. It was very nearly a clean sweep across the board and on the strength of over 62 million votes, Barack Obama was elected to a second term. Turns out that the 47% was really more like the 51%. The Romney/Ryan ticket amassed even fewer votes than loser Republican candidates John McCain and Sarah Palin did in 2008. The Republican establishment was not amused, because for weeks, they had been telling themselves and each other that all the momentum was on Romney's side, and many of the Republican pundits were openly predicting a Romney landslide, despite there being absolutely no facts or polls to lend credence to this claim. None. The Romney campaign even dropped $25,000 on a massive fireworks display over Boston Harbor (in the state of which Romney was once governor and which went for Obama by like a 30-point margin) to celebrate his certain victory. How's that for hubris? It's not without a bit of schadenfreude that I confess I smiled at the thought of all those skyrockets and mortars being wrapped back up, impotent and useless, and sent back to the warehouse.

Ohhh Mr. and Mrs. Obama... the world feels the same way
Meanwhile, back in reality, it was a triumphant night for regular Americans, and the evening also held a treasure trove of election happiness for gays and lesbians, Latinos, women of all colors, and hey... even pot smokers caught a break when not one, but two states legalized marijuana for recreational use. What this election really was, though, was a clear signal about the dawn of a new America. This was likely the Republicans' last, best chance to get a candidate elected to try to shape the country to their conservative ways. And they bet it all. Mitt Romney ran hands-down the most dishonest campaign I think I've ever seen at the presidential level. You expect politicians to play a bit fast and loose with facts, distort some things, cherry pick some statistics. Romney and his people flat-out lied. They made things up. They invented an alternate reality. The press took to calling VP candidate Paul Ryan "Lyin' Ryan." And their last-ditch, desperate Hail Mary pass late in the game? Trying to convince the autoworker-heavy Midwestern states that thanks to Obama, Jeep would be sending its production overseas to China. Even the carmakers jumped on Romney hard for these lies. But instead of retreating, Romney just dug in and upped the ante, reasserting the lies. But Americans – at least the majority of them – didn't fall for the trap. Not this time.

Karl Rove, the political guru whose gift to the world was two terms of Bush and Cheney, convinced billionaire donors to pony up some $300 million to his Super PACs to elect a raft of Republican candidates, including one-time presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich and, naturally, good ol' Mitt. They all lost, so Rove had a public freakout on live television trying to argue the results of the election to none other than the propaganda arm of the Republican Party itself, Fox News, which had just called Ohio, and subsequently the election, for President Obama.

And now the real reckoning begins... and not just for Karl Rove.

If we're to see another Republican president in the next decade or two, the party is simply going to have to start remaking itself, something Republicans have seemed remarkably unwilling to do. Already, they've come up with over a dozen reasons why their guy lost the election. Not one of them has to do with the real reasons. As long as these guys keep their heads buried in the sand and refuse to pop the alternate-universe bubble and let a little reality seep in, the next election will look an awful lot like this one did.

When you consider that America always moves (albeit slowly) to a more progressive place, this can only be seen as a good thing. Hopefully, the Republicans will come around and modify their platform and reject the extreme elements in their party because a healthy two-party system is necessary and desirable for America to thrive. I hope this, but I don't have a great deal of confidence that they'll do it right away.

And Florida, bless them, finally got around to counting their votes. The banana republic state that's somehow still allowed to participate in national elections after the debacle in 2000 still can't manage to hold a proper election 12 years later. Finally though, four days after every other state in the country, Florida did finally manage to count enough votes to declare Obama had carried their state, too, giving him an electoral near-landslide of 332 to 206 votes. That it took so long didn't matter this time, though: Sorry Florida, the rest of us went on ahead and elected the president without you.