Wednesday, November 7, 2012

There's got to be a morning after

Let's dispense with the tin foil claptrap first and foremost: there were no conspiracies, no covert operations to steal the election, no fraud on a massive scale. Today is a good day to swear off listening to unhinged screeds from know-nothings like Donald Trump. President Obama defeated Governor Romney in the election, more or less soundly, though it was not a landslide victory in the least. It was, however, an easy victory, as the networks had no trouble calling the race for Obama well before midnight and Romney himself honorably conceded shorty after that.

Looking at the pattern of votes as they rolled in, it was clear to me by around 9:30 or 10:00 that Obama would prevail. And I think most people watching realized this at about the same time, even if some didn't care to admit it.

Meanwhile, Republican hopes for Senate gains were similarly quashed, as Democrats picked up two more seats. The failure of George Allen to win in Virginia was a particularly bitter pill for the RNC to swallow in this regard. Yet, Republicans easily retained control of the House. With a handful of races still to be decided, the Republican margin of control looks to be more or less unchanged. The number of Governorships similarly continues to favor the GOP, as it appears there will be at least one more Republican Governor, thanks to Pat McCrory's victory in North Carolina, a State that has not had a Republican Governor since 1988.

Still, the night as a whole belongs to Obama and the Democrats, as victors include Senator-elect Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts, independent Senator-elect Angus King in Maine (who is likely to caucus with Democrats), and Representative-elect Tammy Duckworth in Illinois (who defeated incumbent Joe Walsh). Then there is Democrat Alan Grayson of Florida who will make a triumphant return to the House after being ousted in 2010. And Floridian Patrick Murphy who appears to have unseated tea party favorite Allen West.

All told, I think the DNC will be thrilled with these results, for Democrats appear to have had some fair gains in State legislatures, as well. Yet given the dispersion of votes, neither party can claim any sort of a mandate to govern. The biggest takeaway of last night is that there remain deep divisions throughout the nation.

Nonetheless, we are likely to see a flurry of stories about the demise of the GOP--like those that appeared in 2008 and 2009--despite it's continued control of the House and clear majority in Governors. How to respond, that is the question.

First, let's note a truth here: the GOP field of Presidential candidates was weak. Romney was merely the strongest of the group. But as a candidate he was always flawed (this is not to say he would have been flawed as Chief Executive, exactly the opposite in fact). His religion--Mormonism--was a problem for him, fairly or not, as was Romneycare and his history at Bain Capital. Each of these issues was a turn off for portions of the electorate that might otherwise have given Romney more support. None of these issues mean he would be a bad President, but again what matters is the ability of a candidate to win an election. Romney simply could not overcome these issues.

Second, a myth was finally banished last night: VP selection cannot deliver States. Ryan remains popular in Wisconsin (he easily retained his seat), but that didn't translate into a Romney victory there. People just don't vote for the Vice President, they vote for the person at the top of the ticket.

Third, as Ryan's continued popularity indicates, there is an up and coming crop of leaders in the Republican Party who are poised to take control; in some ways, this election cleared the table for them, both with regard to 2014 and 2016. And these people--like Rubio, Jindal, and Haley--have serious minds, solid principles, and strength of character.

Finally, the fact that Republicans were returned en masse to the House indicates that, despite the exceedingly low approval numbers for Congress, a significant portion of the citizenry--very possibly a majority--is not happy with the Administration when it comes to economic policy. People actually want the House to continue standing in the way or least offering alternatives to the President's proposals.

The next four years will be interesting, to say the least. This being the day after, I'll cling to the hope that real progress can be made with the economy, that the President and the House can reach an understanding of sorts, and that those fat bastards in the Senate actually start doing their jobs. The last, I know, is a pipe dream...

Cheers, all.

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