I was working Tuesday and Wednesday, so I haven’t had a chance to really chime in with my opinions on what happened on election night. Let’s go over a few things.
– Marijuana legalization moved forward
– Minimum wages were increased by four states
– Abortion access was protected
– The Republicans got a majority in the Senate
During the time Obama has been in office, we’ve seen unemployment cut nearly in half, from a height of 10% during the mid-point of his first year in office down to the current rate of 5.9%. The stock market has, and continues to have, record highs. Bin Laden is dead, GM is alive. The GDP is up. The deficit is down. We’re out of Afghanistan, for the most part, and barely in Iraq (though stay tuned). Syria’s chemical weapons are gone. We’re engaging in talks with Iran. Russia is reeling from the economic sanctions imposed upon them. Millions of Americans have health insurance who did not (myself, two of my friends), and millions of others are paying way less for their medical coverage (my mom). That’s all coverage that can’t be denied for pre-existing conditions and can’t be cancelled when you’re sick.
So, yes, a litany of failures, and extremely poor poll numbers, as the Republicans would have us believe (though the poll numbers aren’t bad and have actually been steady). The sad part is that for some reason, the Democrats believed it, too. If you’re a Democrat, whether you voted or not, you share some of the blame for the fact that the GOP somehow won in the Senate.
For those of you who did vote Republican, let me ask you this: if there had been a president who accomplished all of those things, but was a Republican, would you have voted for him? Don’t lie. You would have. You know you would. You know this because Reagan did way less than that and still managed to get re-elected.
Though, to be fair, Reagan was white and not a Democrat.
Let me address the second part of that sentence first. The Democratic party is full of a bunch of pussies. They absolutely refuse to stand up for the things they believe in, and do so loudly and with passion. We finally have something approximating universal health care, something that was in the works for one-hundred years, and the Democrats couldn’t run from it fast enough. We have a president who stood up for gay marriage and eliminated Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Yet someone like Clay Aiken, who now one presumes is on his way back to whatever he has left of a musical career, had the temerity to claim that he, Aiken, wasn’t interested in same-sex marriage rights, and turned down a chance for the President to come and campaign for him.
Let me restate that: an openly gay, first time politician was running for office, and refused to speak up for gay rights and let the President come campaign for him. Aiken did this in a cynical ploy to somehow get get votes from the sort of people who wouldn’t vote for him if you held a gun to their heads. He lost, by the way.
But that’s just the start. Here in Arizona, I got to watch all sorts of unpleasant campaign ads. The Republican ones were generally awful, but the Democratic ones were just as bad, though in a different way. They were bad because it was the Democrats running rapidly away from their party and their president. They couldn’t distance themselves fast enough.
They won handily, by the way, but thanks to the huge advantage incumbents have, mixed in with massive levels of gerrymandering, they were going to win no matter what.
Democrats were almost certain to lose control of the Senate regardless. That’s what usually happens in off-year elections; the party of the President loses seats in Congress (especially in a year like this, where it was mostly red states voting for Senators). There are a bunch of reasons for this, most of which center around the reality of governing verses the promises of the campaign. I know there are many, many liberals out there who didn’t vote this time around because they’re disappointed in various aspects of Obama’s presidency, like the NSA spying on Americans, the drone strikes, the fact that the ACA is a big blowjob to the insurance industry, and other things.
Hey, those are all valid reasons to not vote. I’m sure the Republicans will be waaaay better on those issues anyhow.
To be fair this is not a new thing for Democrats. We’re very, very good at running from ourselves. This started back in the day when we allowed the Republicans to turn “liberal” into a dirty word. I am a liberal, a Socialist to be exact. Even I instinctively cringe a bit from the phrase, “latte-sipping liberal” and want to try and make excuses. What I should be doing, what we should all be doing, is standing up and saying, “Yeah, so?”
We have a thirty-plus year legacy of rolling over and ignoring our positions. We need to knock that shit off and be proud of who we are. We need to stop being a slightly left centrist party and embrace our liberalness.
Now to the racial issue. Don’t even pretend there isn’t one. You know there is. It might get dismissed, but it is there. Bill Maher once observed that not all Republicans are racist, which is very true, but that if you are racist, you’re more likely to vote Republicans. The Republicans never, ever, express this openly, but it’s a fact, and they campaign on those points. Why else do you think there was all this stuff about Obama as an outsider? A Muslim, a Kenyan, an anti-colonialist (that being against colonialism is a negative in this of all countries makes me laugh and weep), and basically everything except a red-blooded American. Muslims, Kenyans, and people who were against British colonization in recent years have all been, you know, not white. So even if the Republicans are too cowardly to openly cater to the racist vote, they’re happy to do so in various non-subtle ways.
Now…on a practical level, what does all this mean? Well, I expect either more gridlock, since now the Democrats can prevent things from exiting the Senate with a mere 51% of the vote, or just possibly some sort of detente where the Republicans realize that now they have to govern. Maybe they’ll give up on their impossible quest to kill Obamacare and get into the much more reasonable quest of fixing it, because there are some problems with it that need fixing.
I’d like to hope that’s the case. I’d like to hope that now they have some power, the Republicans will actually be allowed to govern. But that’s not up to me, the Democrats, or the President. It’s up to the Tea Party Republicans. It’s up to those people who have been elected on a pledge to never compromise, and to fight to destroy everything Obama has touched, no matter the consequences.
If the Republicans can successfully stifle that wing of the party, well…things might happen. Maybe even some good things. If they don’t, well, there’s a solution coming up in 2016. Maybe we on the left can, as a group, go back to embracing what makes us great. Maybe we can retake the House and the Senate. The White House is…well, I don’t want to say it’s a given, but it’s pretty likely we’ll have that, too.
And if we fail, and if we lose in the elections, let’s fail by standing up for who we are, and not pretending we’re something we aren’t.