Thursday, November 8, 2012

To All the Conservatives Out There

Despite the glee expressed in my last post, I'd like to reach out to all my conservative friends (or now, former friends) out there.  Its been a tough election, and an even tougher election night for you.  As much as you think that you are alone, or that no one knows how you feel, trust me, I do.

You see, eight years ago George W. Bush, a President I despised and thought was a disaster for this country, was reelected over John Kerry.  And as I will detail below, the parallels between 2004 and 2012 are absolutely striking.

In 2004 and 2012, the incumbent President faced a politician from Massachusetts with a reputation of being an elitist and a flip-flopper.  The bases of the opposition were energized, and found new ways to spend soft money like never before (we had the 527's, you had the Super Pacs).  Both challengers did extremely well in the first Presidential debate (I, for one, haven't forgotten about Poland), with the President making a comeback in the next two debates.  And both times, the losing side was sure, absolutely sure, that they would carry Ohio (2004 - the exit polls, and 2012 the unskew guy).   And, of course, both times, despite extreme enthusiasm by the challenging side, the incumbent President won because he was able to get his supporters to come out to the polls in large numbers.  

When Kerry lost in 2004, I was devastated because I realized that there was nothing more I, or any other Democrat, could have done to stop Bush from winning.  Our leadership just wasn't smart enough to beat Karl Rove, and there was more Republicans in the country than Democrats.  Sound familiar?

Despite all the jokes about Karl Rove blowing $390 million (!!!), and whatever can be said about Mitt Romney, you, my conservative brethren  did everything you could to win this campaign.  You spent more money than the President.  You had election officials in key states who shamelessly did everything they could to prevent Obama supporters from voting.   There was no stone left unturned.  You left it all out on the field, and for that, I salute you.  

In the next few months and weeks, you are going to hear a lot of excuses by the Republican Party leadership about why Obama won and Romney lost.  I've heard Limbaugh say that Romney was running against Santa Claus, and O'Reilly saying much the same thing.  I've heard Rove say that Obama's negativity discouraged Romney supporters from voting, and there will be plenty of bullshit out there, peddled by the people who said that Romney was a shoe-in, and that the polls were biased.  Do not believe them.  No, you lost for the same reason that Hillary Clinton and John Edwards lost to Obama in the 2008 primaries - Obama went out and found more voters. 

And these voters did not vote for Obama because he promised them free stuff - but because he had a plan that is kinda, sorta, working.  Because he represents a turn away from policies of George W. Bush, who, as you might remember, had an approval rating in the twenties when he left office.  Romney never articulated how he was going to be different - instead he looked like a plutocrat.  Most importantly, though, these voters came to the polls because Obama reached out to them in ways that Romney could not and did not.

Okay, I'm sorry to sound like I'm piling on - I don't mean to.  You worked your ass off, and damn if you didn't come close.  But you need to accept reality.  If you ran a campaign against Obama the man, as opposed to the Kenyan anti-colonial communist you think Obama is, you might have won.  Trust me, I know.  We Democrats kept running against Bush the idiot, instead of Bush the actual guy.

So, you might ask, why the hell am I writing this?  Its because America needs conservatives and conservatism just as much as it needs liberals and liberalism.  Neither side has all the answers, and we both have our excesses.  We need each other for balance. 

Lastly, as someone who got over the pain of 2004, here's my advice to you - take a walk.  Get some air, play some music, catch up on some old hobbies and/or chores.  Put politics aside for awhile.  Turn off Fox News (who's more interested in selling stuff than Republican wins).  Trust me, 2016 is a lot closer than you think.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Reelection of Barack Hussein Obama (and Other Observations)

Before I get too far into this exercise of schadenfreude, I have a brief confession to all those who have wondered where I have gone in the political world - for some time now, I have developed a strong sense that I am a jinx, as far as politics go.  The only candidate who I volunteered for, worked for*, or gave money to, and still won was Barack Obama in 2008.  And then I gave money because I despised Sarah Palin's acceptance speech at the RNC.  Every other candidate (and there have been over ten at this point), has lost.  So, while some of my lack of participation was due to the typical things in life - job, girlfriend, dog, etc. - I also desperately wanted to avoid jinxing anything or anyone.  Also, I'm pretty sure that as a jinx, I have to want the candidate to win, so no volunteering for Carl DeMaio or Mitt Romney.

I mention my belief that I'm a jinx so that you can understand how I felt in the days leading this this election - I was terrified.  After all, I strongly supported Barack Obama, hated Mitt Romney, and wrote blog posts about the election. What if my blogging jinxed Obama?  What if I jinxed Bob Filner with my posts on  Okay, that's really true, I wasn't worried about jinxing Filner.  But I was terrified about Obama.  Oh, when it comes to politics, I am very superstitious.

Politics, particularly American politics, is an amalgam of sport and policy.  Not only do you root for your team, but winning and losing has real consequences.  Obama will most likely nominate at least one more Supreme Court Justice, and will oversee the implementation of the Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare).  The Democrats who are buoyed today, and the Republicans who are depressed today have some reason to feel the way they do (though Obama is a lot more moderate than the Republicans think). Add in the intimacy of Twitter, and politics can get very, very personal.

My own nightmare scenarios included, among other thoughts - the election coming down to New Jersey, and the only voters in New Jersey who could vote because of Sandy were Republicans.  Mother Jones' election coverage, which included a vote machine in Pennsylvania that only recorded Romney votes, and long lines at polling places wasn't exactly helping my paranoia.  The only thing to prevent my panic was Nate Silver's excellent blog.

And let me say that Nate Silver and all the other poll aggregators did have a small role to play in Obama's win.  After the first debate disaster, Democrats like me were dispirited, or like Andrew Sullivan, outright panicked.  In politics, as with war, panic is a death knell.  From ancient times, the first army to break, or flee lost, and lost horribly.  Politics is no different, and if Democrats thought Obama was going down, they wouldn't have shown up at the polls, and it would have been 2010 all over again.  Instead, we had Nate Silver telling us that everything was going to work out.  And he was right.  Which lead to my favorite moment of the night:

When I first contemplated the video (after enjoying the schadenfreude), I thought that Karl Rove anticipated that the Democrats would panic, that we wouldn't show up, and that it would be 2010.  But now, I think that Rove just doesn't understand the numbers anymore.  The electorate has changed from being 85% white (to now just 72% white), with more and more Hispanics/Latinos voting, with Asians becoming a strong constituency for the Democrats (they used to be Republican-leaning), and young voters going overwhelmingly Democratic.

The other thing that has always amazed me is that the Republican Party has a completely different perception of Barack Obama.  The birther thing, the anti-colonialist thing, and all the crazy conspiracy theories about Obama completely miss the point of who Obama is - a shockingly normal man.  As Chris Rock noted:

Yeah, he's black, and yes, his middle name is Hussein, but Obama is, in his private life, incredibly normal.  Romney, on the other hand, was far from normal - his attempts at normal behavior were creepy and weird.  Now, in part, I think that was Romney being the salesman, trying to sell himself as being more conservative (on economic issues), than he actually is.

With that said, Romney wasn't a total disaster.  As candidates go, he looked good on television, could speak clearly (no Bushisms), didn't appear to cheat on his wife, and was reasonably intelligent.  Romney is a B level candidate.   Given that the rest of the Republican field were absolute disasters, Romney really was the best the Republicans could put up.  In 2016, I suspect that the various Governors will fight it out.  I, for one, am absolutely terrified of Brian Sandoval. 

That said, the GOP during the primaries was so conservative, that even a good candidate wouldn't have had any wiggle room.  Rick Perry, for instance, was viciously attacked because he wasn't a total asshole to immigrants, which in turn, turned off Latino voters.  

The other thing that caught my ear was that during the RNC, there was talk about preserving job creators and protecting the entrepreneurial class.  While that has always been part of the GOP platform, guys like Reagan and Bush would talk about expanding the entrepreneurial class.  The message being - don't tax the rich, because you might just be rich someday.  But this time around, the hope was gone.  You don't win elections that way.  

*The term work is loosely defined, as the author was paid a pittance in these "jobs."