Six or so years ago, I started a blog; partly out of a passion to write, and partly because, I realized soon after starting it, I was immensely frustrated by the politics of the early 2000s.
At the time I wasn't alone, and a whole world of blogging grew and thrived and started the wave of change that, I'm convinced, eventually swept Barack Obama into the White House.
Six years later, life is different, politics is different, and my passion for writing... drifted. This year I largely sat out the election, and blogging - both thoroughly disenchanted with the politics of right now, and pursuing some personal ambitions.
In any case, I'm glad I waited. Now, I feel like I have something to say. Again.
For months - probably close to a year - I've been gamely predicting to anyone who'd listen that Barack Obama would, most likely, be reelected by a grim electorate who, while clearly not impressed with his first term, saw little alternative. When Mitt Romney steamrolled his way to the GOP nomination, I calmly told family and friends that America would not elect him President.
Yeah, I feel pretty vindicated, but that's not really my point.
Mitt Romney was a bad bet that Republicans made whose loss confirmed political ideas I've been trumpeting for months, if not years: that Republicans have deep internal issues that must be addressed to grow and thrive, that anger alone cannot win an election of make a movement, and that both Mormonism and a pronounced inability to seem genuine or sincere wrecked Romney well before the debates. I feel particularly heartened that the dark witch's brew of undiscussed racial bias and deep personal hatred for Obama of many conservatives led to nothing but failure. And I remain amazed about how months of obvious indications of Romney's unfitness - the "47 percent" remarks, the lack of any common touch, the ham-handed inability to note any comprehension of the problems ordinary people face - still left so many with some sense that Romney could win this. He couldn't. He never could.
More obviously, though, this election is yet further confirmation, as if we needed it, that the Presidency of George W. Bush and the worst tendencies of the conservative movement have combined to create a Republican Party on a slow path to complete failure. Virtually everything about this election underlines that reality:
- Demographics: 93% of blacks voted for Obama, 74% of Asian Americans, 71% of Latin Americans. A majority of women. It's no longer just that the Democrats arw a party who "look more like America", it's that this is simply what America looks like. This isn't about one policy (immigration) or simply reinventing a political position (on abortion, say, most obviously); this is is something much, much deeper.
- Ideological purity tests: Conservatives have been shoving everyone out of the party who cannot walk in lockstep on an ever expanding list of grievances - that's why Republicans lost the races with both Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock (oh how i wanted to write those, but really, what else was needed to say?), and why Richard Lugar and Olympia Snowe fled the Senate. And those are just a few examples on a really long list. Mitt Romney didn't lose because he had to "play to the base" - he was the bad nominee selected because political purity is the requirement to get picked in the first place.
- The Rage Machine: In the end, conservatives had nothing to offer on virtually any issue that mattered to the electorate; this year was the culmination of years of cynical "intellectual" posturing that masked a failure to think, in any serious way about the problems this country has: there is no "conservative" economic plan, housing policy, health plan, foreign policy (Benghazi, they cry!, as if they had any idea how to address the chaos in Libya), on and on and on. What conservatives had to sell was rage: rage about the economy, rage against "Obamacare", thinly disguised rage against African-American success, and such animus against one man - one prefectly ordinary, hardly worth the energy, man - that they can barely even say his name anymore, never mind "President." It's no wonder, really, that the people least served by either party - working class people, mostly white, with limited education and opportunities to advance - identified most with the rage. What's shocking is how little the GOP seems to want to come up with any policy or plan that might provide even the barest minimum of positive growth or change. Hurricane Sandy, in that sense, was simply icing on their angry cake: how hard would it have been for GOP leaders to swoop in and back up Chris Christie in efforts to start rebuilding decimated parts of New Jersey? That one's a gimme. And they couldn't even manage that.
I think this election was also the culmination of lefty, liberal attempts to try and prod the right to change from without: if conservatives couldn't find the will or the sense to change from within, I think liberals -in our good hearted, naively hopeful ways - figured that if we challenged them hard enough, thoughtfully enough, they might rise to the occasion. Enough with the name calling; enough with the "divide and conquer" politics. I think a lot of people - many of them young people, new to politics in the post Clinton years - dreamed that the "hope and change" message of Obama could somehow change politics if we could, in fact, "be the change."
So hands were extended, ideas were offered, discussions embarked upon. And in the past four years, that backlash has been incredibly vicious and harsh. That, I suspect, is why the "birther" movement, the "Obamacare" screeds, the Luddite and science denying nuttiness, the shelves of screechy conservative tomes, are so galling to lefties. Can't they - those poor, somewhat pitiful, righties - see how they're hurting no one but themselves? Liberals stopped feeling hurt, or even all that mad, about all the insults and invective, all the crazy proposals and bad local governance (antilabor, antiwoman,,, anti-everything, ain't they?)... and they simply got theuir act together and got to work.
This election was a big "that's it, we're done" from the left to the right. No more Akins, nor more Mourdocks, no more taking you people as anything but what you are - out there, intolerant, extremists who cannot be taken seriously or reasoned with. No one, really, on the left is wondering what "compromise with the right" looks like, how cooperation might look or feel. If you come to your senses, we might listen, we might be able to work some things out... but until then, we're done. And frankly, if that makes things worse in the short term, then that's what it takes. A nation that's been pretty beat up in the last few years has learned to live through the bad times. It's not easy, it's not fun... but the only alternative you offer is... Mitt Romney. And Paul Ryan. And that's no answer at all.
So we did what we do - we grimly reelected the so-so, not all that effectual guy who most of us really wish would figure out how to get better, be better, do better... fast. We rejected the most extreme examples of conservatism... something the right itself, it seems, cannot bear to do. Until conservatives learn to draw lines, set boundaries, give up on even a small minimum of the most extreme ideas and rhetoric... there's nothing to discuss. And sadly... that's not something the left can change. And if that's all we've learned in Barack Obama's first term... it's not the worst lesson to take away, I think