It sometimes seemed it would never happen, but it has. The 2012 presidential election is over.
The robocalls have stopped. The ads are gone. There are no new polls for pundits to pick apart, no new stump speech sound bites to discuss, no advisers spinning data points.
The people have spoken, and they have invited President Barack Obama to spend another 4 years in the White House.
As those of you who read my blog regularly already know, I was cautiously optimistic about this election. I never, ever take for granted that things will go a certain way in any election, particularly not one as hotly contested and as closely run as this one has been. With all of the possibilities for chaos and confusion, I truly did not know what would end up being the final word yesterday, or even if there WOULD be a final word yesterday.
Luckily, things did get wrapped up, although it stretched out into the wee hours of the morning before the dust had finally settled. But compared to the possible scenario I had been envisioning in my mind’s eye (problems caused by Hurricane Sandy, voter suppression, recounts and contested results, possible legal intervention as there had been with Bush/Gore 2000), we got off pretty light in terms of difficulties. And in terms of results, it was even better for Democrats than most people expected. Man, would I ever love to know what’s going through the minds of people like Rupert Murdoch, the Koch brothers, Grover Norquist and all those other hard-core right-wing establishment types today!
I am tired – exhausted really, having had about 2-3 hours of decent sleep last night – but I am beyond happy, y’all. It was really, really hard work to discuss politics here in Florida over the past year or so, and it was especially tough to work on behalf of the president’s campaign. The partisan divisions I’ve been seeing in this part of the state were real, and deep, and extremely emotional for most people. If you need any evidence of this reality, look at the fact that Florida is the last state to be called, and it is still too close to call as of this post, more than 17 hours after polls closed here last night. This state was truly split straight down the middle between the two candidates. It was clear to see this split every time I involved myself in any way in this race, whether it was trying to register voters or simply having casual conversations with neighbors and friends. The polarization in this state was, and still is, incredibly stark.
Yet, in the overall results I’ve seen across the US, I am far more encouraged than I have been in quite a while. America seems to understand that we have to figure out a way to find some common ground and work together. It remains to be seen whether our elected officials can or will do this, but the voters left no room for doubt: they expect something to change in Washington, and they expect politicians to deliver.
What were some of the more notable moments and developments as the election unfolded? There were many, but I’ll touch on several that stood out to me:
- The GOP is old school…but not in a good way
This is certainly the most obvious point out of everything we learned last night. When someone rocks classic Adidas kicks, or spins vinyl instead of plugging into an iPod, that’s good “old school’. When you’re the GOP and you’re stuck in the 1950’s, then it’s bad “old school”. I mean, the TV that Republicans use to view the world is so old, it doesn’t have color yet. It doesn’t even have black and white – just all white, all day and all night. Latinos/Hispanics, African-Americans, and any other people of color need not apply, for they will not be represented or respected. Nor will women, or the LGBT community, or young people, or blue-collar workers, or basically anyone that is not a middle-aged, upper-class Caucasian male.
Now, after last night’s shellacking, that may change. But whether that change will be substantial or not remains to be seen. If the GOP tries to put Marco Rubio or Susana Martinez out there next time, it might attract some attention. But if those people represent nothing more than a new face on an old party, it won’t wash with voters. The changes must be more than cosmetic. They must involve serious reconsideration and repositioning of policies, as well as serious outreach, so that those who have been shut out by Republicans for so long will know they are being heard, not dismissed. For the GOP, the bottom line is you can run, but you can’t hide. Gay marriage is becoming accepted by the mainstream. Women are over this ignorant “rape” talk. Young people are turned off by the extremism of the right-wing fringe. That’s where things stand in America, and the GOP must grow a pair and face this reality head on, as scary as it may be for them to do.
- Money can’t buy an election
Between Citizens United, the rise of the SuperPAC and the insane ad buys this time around, it could have been a case where he who had the most money also got the most votes. But that idea was soundly rejected by voters. Those who spent the most money did not prevail. Those who took a proactive approach to their ground game did. Old fashioned, hands-on organization, in many tiny offices all over the country, led to victory when all was said and done. Still, it makes me feel a lot better to know that people like Sheldon Adelson and the Koch brothers and Karl Rove are out a big pile of moolah after their horses failed to win. And speaking of Karl Rove…
- The Turd Blossom wilts on live TV
When Fox News called Ohio for Obama, it melted the last working circuit in the brain of über-strategist Karl Rove. His dismissal of this information was high drama and high comedy combined, and his on-air demands to have the Fox team justify their call were the most desperate thing I think I’ve seen in politics in years. I’m sure you’ve seen it by now, but it never gets old:
And the best part? After Rove begins his tantrum, the Romney campaign sends out word that they, too, are questioning the call and will not concede Ohio yet. If anyone was ever in doubt about who STILL pulls the strings in the GOP, just note this astounding coincidence and draw your own conclusions.
- Ballot initiatives show a nation in transition
Gay marriage was approved by popular vote for the first time in America – not once, but twice, in Maine and Maryland (and while the vote is not yet final at this time, a similar initiative on the ballot in Washington seems poised for approval as well). There was also a voter-approved referendum on legalizing recreational marijuana usage, in Colorado and Washington. Here in Florida, proposed state amendments sponsored by Republican legislators were decisively shot down, including one which would allow public funds to be used for religious organizations (including private parochial schools), one which would reject the Affordable Healthcare Act’s individual insurance mandate, and one that would limit abortion privacy laws. The voices of moderate, tolerant voters were raised last night, and they delivered a clear message to those who have been overzealously pushing this country to the far right in recent years: Hell no! Again, these shifts in attitudes toward social and legislative issues will need to be considered carefully by the GOP before the 2014 midterm elections.
- Stupid, insensitive comments by politicians about rape are no longer allowed
They never were, although Richard Mourdock and Todd Akin apparently never got that memo the first time around. I have a feeling they got it last night. Hopefully the rest of the US got it, too. Seriously, folks, I do not ever again want to have to address some dumbass political discussion of rape as “legitimate” or “forcible”, or as a means for God to work his magical plans on women who really ought to be thankful for these little bundles of brutally violently-created joy. Not ever. Hear me, politicians? You assholes HAVE BEEN WARNED. Don’t make me come up there and slap all y’all.
- Our nation might be ready to move forward after all
I admit to being as cynical as the next person about how bad things are in America right now. In terms of our government gridlock, our public discourse, our huge apathy problem and our unprecedented polarization, it seemed as bad as it could possibly be. But if there were enough people willing to vote for Obama, and for other forward-thinking folks like Elizabeth Warren, Tim Kaine and Angus King last night, then maybe we haven’t quite hit bottom just yet. I know that President Obama still believes in us, and in our ability to overcome these obstacles. I know he’s ready to lead again, and I hope this time there will be more in Washington who are ready to follow. It is the only chance we have of restoring America, particularly our middle class, to the thriving health it once enjoyed before it was driven into the ditch.
But as the president pointed out last night, and as I have pointed out in my blog before, we are not off the hook, y’all. We did our jobs getting the president re-elected. But that’s the end of one chapter, and now the next chapter must begin. We are all part of the story. We can’t expect the president to do this alone. Nation building is a hard job and it requires shared effort. So this time around, if you can do anything more than you did over the last 4 years, resolve yourself RIGHT NOW to doing it.
Can you keep your eyes open for political developments in your community, and your state, which are important, instead of letting legislators go through their motions unsupervised and unchecked? Can you write letters or make phone calls to legislators who are doing stupid crap, and let them know you’re watching them and that you give a damn? Can you keep talking to neighbors, friends, co-workers and relatives, to make sure people are engaged and aware, rather than tuning out (or, even worse, swallowing misinformation from some media dipshit like Hannity or Limbaugh)? Can you support local causes that will make your community better – volunteer at a public school or a youth mentoring program, donate to a charity of your choice, join a social or political group that has an active community agenda? Whatever you can do, please consider doing it. Lead by example, and see if it moves others to follow and help out in their own way. We need to make some serious repairs, but I’m not talking about our infrastructure. We need to look after the burned and crumbling bridges between us as American citizens, and find some common ground, and stop thinking of one another as the enemy. There are people out there who can be motivated to move forward to a better place, and you can be the one who convinces them to do it. Even if we only act as individuals, we are making a huge positive impact on the world we live in. If we can bring someone else along for the ride, even better. But all I ask is that you keep tuned in for the next chapter. Our American story could have a really happy ending if we want it to, so think about where you want this country to go over the next four years – and then do what you can to help it get there.