Sunday, November 11, 2012

Election Reflection

by Blueberry T

Victory is sweet!  What a relief that the long, long election is over, with such wonderful results:  President Obama and VP Biden re-elected, gains in the Senate and House, several important ballot questions on marriage equality, abortion rights, legalization of marijuana and curtailing the influence of money in campaigns.  Tuesday was a great day in American history!

Here are some reflections on the election:

Big Winners:
  • Democracy, which survived Big Money and SCOTUS’s Citizens United ruling (this time)
  • The American people – especially the poor, middle class, women, veterans, Latinos, students, elderly, those who are at (physical and financial) risk due to health issues
  • President and Mrs. Obama, and the campaign (from top to grassroots)
  • Joe Biden (who did such a fine job in his debate and the campaign that he quieted many critics)
  • Democrats, Progressives and Moderates (together, we can!)
  • Our soldiers and veterans (whom Romney rarely mentioned, but Obama always did)
  • Women, EMILY’s List, Planned Parenthood
  • Progressives in the Senate, who have old and new allies in Sherrod Brown, Elizabeth Warren, Tammy Baldwin, Mazie Hirono, Heidi Heitkamp, Amy Klobuchar and others 
  • LGBT Community, abortion rights advocates and other social policy liberals
  • PBS, Big Bird, Martha Raddatz and Candy Crowley, Mother Jones
  • The environment (even though it never became a core campaign issue)

  • Voters, especially those who had to wait in long lines for hours to exercise their rights, with a special tip of the hat to Latinos, blacks, women, and young voters 
  • Bill Clinton for his hard work and clear explanations that everyone could understand
  • Messina, Axelrod, Plouffe, Cutter, campaign strategists, managers, staff and volunteers, who were too organized, too good and worked too hard to be overcome by big, dark money
  • Ted Kennedy, who helped strategize about how to beat Romney before he died
  • Patty Murray, who headed up efforts to win the Senate
  • The Bain former employees/insiders who went on record about how Bain operates
  • AnneOnymouse670, the secret videographer at the Romney “47%” fundraiser, Mother Jones, and others, including Politicalgates (even before MoJo’s report) that exposed Romney
  • Bloggers, new media and those few in the MSM who consistently pointed out Romney’s lies, flip-flops and the real issues in the campaign; a special hat-tip to Steve Benen of Maddow’s blog for his extraordinary documentation of Romney’s lies
  • The writers, budget analysts and others  (like Bernie Sanders and Paul Krugman) who publicized what Romney and Ryan’s budget and other proposals would really mean
  • Those like Matt Taibbi, Vanity Fair and others, who dug through Romney’s business, tax and financial records to expose Bain's predatory business practices and Romney's tax evasion tactics
  • Nate Silver, several pollsters and analysts who collected and analyzed data and kept us informed (and sane)
  • Business leaders (Buffett, Gates, many others), scientists and economists who came out strongly in favor of Obama’s policies, helping to weaken Romney’s credentials regarding the economy and business
  • The Nuns on the Bus
  • Many artists and celebrities who spoke up and helped out in a big way, including Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor, Eva Longoria, George Clooney, Katy Perry, Beyoncé and Jay Z, Scarlett Johansson, Kerry Washington, Cher, Kathy Griffin,  and others.
  • Colin Powell, David Stockton, Lincoln Chafee, Larry Pressler and other Republicans, along with Indies Michael Bloomberg, Charlie Christ and Angus King, who either rebutted Romney and/or endorsed President Obama; despite his Romney endorsement, Chris Christie gets some points, too
  • The middle-left of American politics, which mostly stuck together and didn’t freak out (except once) or do the circular firing squad thing
  • All of us who did whatever we could – wrote blog posts, shared information on Twitter, corrected the record, wrote letters to editors, donated money, made phone calls, canvassed, went to rallies, held signs, helped GOTV.  This victory is ours.

The Biggest Losers: 
  • Mitt and Ann Romney and some of the <1%, ultra-wealthy they represent
  • Paul Ryan, who was shown to be a lightweight, a liar and not too good with numbers
  • Tea Party and other right-wing extremists
  • Karl Rove
  • Koch Brothers, Sheldon Adelson, Donald Trump, other right-wing financiers and blowhards
  • Vulture/vampire businesses and tax evaders (whose tactics are now in the open)
  • Catholic bishops, Evangelicals and other social conservatives
  • Senate and House whack-jobs like Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock, Joe Walsh,  and those like Scott Brown who chose to go nasty and in doing so, ruined their own image.  
  • Right-wing media (Fox, Hannity, Limbaugh, Beck, Coulter, etc.)
  • Misogynists and homophobes, those opposing social and economic justice, health insurance reform, marriage equality
  • Bibi Netanyahoo (spelling deliberate)
  • Others, including more moderate voices like David Frum, Andrew Sullivan, Peggy Noonan and Maureen Dowd, did themselves some harm.

Leadership:  President Obama ran an excellent campaign, proved his leadership many times, took some risks (especially going big early in the campaign to define Mitt Romney) and campaigned incredibly hard, all while doing his day job (which, it turns out, is actually a 24/7 job).  He deserves a lot of credit for clearly defining the campaign as a real choice between very different visions, policies, and pathways for America – this is essential going #forward.  He managed to rekindle the progressive fires, maintained a moderate tone, all the while dealing with issues from the global to the local that are part of his job.

Romney’s Business Record:  The Obama campaign, and many others, did an excellent job at recasting Romney’s strength – his business record – as a liability.  The campaign, with a lot of support from researchers, writers, former employees, and many others, exposed the predatory tactics that Bain used to suck the life, and jobs, out of successful companies and harvest their assets.  The returns for Bain were always huge; investors usually made out well too; but all too often, the employees lost their jobs and were robbed of their pensions, and communities that had once had healthy economies went bust.  This was an ugly picture and really undermined Romney’s core argument as to why people should vote for him.  He also helped reveal himself as a corporatist with his "corporations are people, my friend" comment.  By summer, he was trying to run away from his record at Bain, rather than on it. 

Summer trip and conventions:  The Romney's spent part of the summer on a trip to Europe that was meant to burnish his foreign policy credentials, but ended up being a gaffe-a-minute, insulting one country after the other.  Then, the Republican convention was delayed because of another of those pesky hurricanes, although it didn't stop Romney from making a joke about rising oceans and also offering useless advice to those hit by the hurricane.  The convention itself was a true benefit only to insomniacs.  Governor Chris Christie's keynote failed to mention the actual candidate; Romney's biopic was not shown; and Romney's own acceptance speech was upstaged by Clint Eastwood's bizarre "dialog" with an empty chair.  In contrast, the DNC was electrifying, with one dazzling and inspiring speech after the other.  Michelle Obama, Joe Biden, Bill Clinton and President Obama were of course the highlights, and there were many other inspiring moments, including Gabby Giffords leading the Pledge of Allegiance.   

LibyaThe horrific attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya was a defining moment, not so obviously for President Obama as for Mitt Romney.  His opportunistic attack on the President even as the attack was unfolding, followed by the infamous smirking press conference, caused even staunch Republicans to criticize his craven exploitation of the tragedy for political purposes.  While the confusion about what happened when did hurt the President somewhat (apparently unjustly), Romney’s opportunism was widely derided.  Instead of having the good sense to STFU about it, he reprised his criticism in the second debate, with devastating consequences to his own campaign. 

47% Video:  Mother Jones release of the video in which Mitt Romney dismissed almost half the population as a bunch of irresponsible moochers was a major turning point.  Now there was direct evidence of what Mitt Romney really thinks about many Americans.  Unfortunately for him, not only was it taped, but by conflating Obama supporters, people who receive government assistance and people who pay no federal income taxes, he managed to actually alienate all three groups.  He later tried to walk back his remarks, but it was too little too late.

The first debate:  I can see where the President was coming from in the first debate, since Romney lied so much and disavowed positions that his campaign was based on (and that were still on his website despite his disavowal).  I think Obama may have been cautious about stooping to Romney’s level and thus seeming “unpresidential.”  Perhaps he assumed that the fact-checkers would nail Romney after the debate.  Unfortunately, Obama’s passive performance left Romney unchallenged, so he got away with his lies and misrepresentations.  Instead of putting Romney away, the debate allowed Romney to reinvent himself to some voters.   

Yet Obama wasn’t that bad and Romney wasn’t that good.  In the days following the debate, though, the “left” was overly critical and negative, making things worse.  But the debate did allow Romney to re-create the impression of a competent leader, thus allowing him to overcome some of the negative impressions that had built up through a summer of gaffes, insults to allies, a mismanaged convention and embarrassing revelations like the 47% video.  I can well imagine that President Obama was a little surprised that all Romney’s failings were forgotten or forgiven based on the President’s weak debate.   

Joe Biden comes through:  I don’t think Joe Biden has gotten the credit he deserves for stopping that narrative in its tracks.  He did a great job of being Joe Biden, and that made for a terrific comparison with Paul Ryan, who was revealed as pretty shallow, somewhat petty and out of his league.

Presidential Debates #2 and #3:  The Libya exchange, and particularly President Obama’s brilliant, “Please proceed,Governor,” followed by Candy Crowley debunking Romney’s claim, will be replayed for years to come.  The President came ready for action, and while he remained his usual polite self, he was still sharp, quick-witted, well-informed and much more successful at challenging Romney’s smoke and mirrors.   

Superstorm Sandy:  The devastation of New Jersey and New York evoked memories of the Bush Administration’s pitiful response to Katrina, and also brought attention to Romney’s ill-advised joke about rising oceans and more importantly, his vows to reduce the federal role and budget for disaster relief.  Yet, it was not without risks for Obama, not the least of which was that Governor Christie is one of the GOP’s rising stars.  But because Obama is naturally attuned to bringing people together, the way they were able to put partisanship aside reminded people of how government can and should work.  At the same time, Romney’s lame attempt to appear relevant and generous fell flat, making him look like an opportunist.  Which he is.   

Let Detroit Go Bankrupt/Lies about Jeep:  As our reader maelewis pointed out, Mitt Romney's words came back to haunt him.  Try as he might, he couldn't distance himself from the opinion piece that he had written for the New York Times back in November 2008.  Nor could he rewrite history about what he really meant, even though he tried. Not only did Detroit and Michigan remember that he had argued for the demise of the auto industry, but Ohio remembered, too.  It was a really wonderful thing that he wasn't able to spin this, and in the end it killed him in several swing states he really needed to carry.  Then, late in the campaign, Romney continually lied about Jeep sending jobs to China.  This was particularly ironic for someone who could have become the Outsourcer-in-Chief. However, his lies were debunked by every news outlet and by the VP and later the CEO of Chrysler.  (h/t sleuth1) In effect, what Romney did was prove himself a liar, and voters noticed.

Beautiful Karma:  I have had a not-so-secret hope for weeks that Romney’s final vote tally would be 47%, and it looks like I will get my wish.  Poetic justice.

Non-Democratic House:  One of the few really unfortunate outcomes of the election is that the GOP held onto its majority in the House, so it looks like we are stuck with Speaker Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, certifiably whacky Michele Bachmann (on Intelligence Committee-gag) and other unqualified hacks for another two years.   Ironically, Democrats received more votes (in aggregate) in the House races than Republicans, by more than a half-million votes.  Gerrymandered districts are the reason that many House seats stayed in Republican hands.  This needs to be solved.   

Voter Suppression:  I wasn’t the only one who felt that Karl Rove’s meltdown on Fox News was due to his belief that voter suppression and tampering with the vote totals would deliver Ohio to the GOP, as in 2004.  My impression was that he wasn’t going on like that because of the numbers; it was because they weren’t factoring in enough dirty tricks.  This needs to be solved.

It’s not over.  Concerns for the future:  I am so relieved that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan lost, and that the margin of victory was so significant – an Electoral College landslide.  We all deserve to truly savor this victory.    

Yet, of course, this is one election.  Karl Rove was embarrassed and criticized, but he’s already shrugging it off as if nothing happened, and getting ready to work some more of his dark magic. 

I am also very concerned that Romney got as many votes as he did, despite his extreme dishonesty and non-disclosure.  The media was not effective in preventing him from running a campaign of lies, distortions, misleading statements, and dizzying flip-flops that is unparalleled in American history.  He (sort of) got away with refusing to even engage with the media for much of the campaign, except in pre-scripted ways.  He (sort of) got away with cheating and certainly got away with lying through his teeth at the first debate.  He raised lying to an art form, and although he lost, he set a horrible precedent in that the media (despite occasional efforts) was really not able to pin him down on the lies.  He disregarded and (to some degree) made a mockery of fact-checking.  He also (almost) got away with not releasing his tax returns; ironically, since it was his father who had set the precedent, the fact that he (almost) successfully stonewalled on this seems all the more troubling.  Serious questions about his character were raised and undoubtedly made an impression on some voters, but he was still largely successful in portraying himself as a successful businessman and a man of personal integrity.  Many voters voted for an illusion of what Mitt Romney wanted them to believe about him, rather than who he really is.  Fortunately, despite seemingly "getting away" with these things, he LOST.  Of course, chances are if he HAD disclosed his taxes or been held accountable for his lies, he would have lost by more.    

Another concern, of course, is Citizens United.  Yes, we survived this election, but what about the mid-terms in 2014?  What is going to get out the vote then, so that we don’t regress to the Tea Party dominance that happened in 2010?  Who is going to so inspire the minority communities in 2016 to enable the Dems to get out the vote?  What about the obvious impacts of gerrymandering; how will we solve that? 

Let’s celebrate, and then let’s roll up our sleeves and get back to work!  

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