A few thoughts, the morning after:
This time it's really different! For sure! There are certainly demographic and cultural shifts going on in this country, and they will have an electoral impact. But I beg you, try not to be one of those people who buy into the "this represents a fundamental shift in the American electorate" narratives. In my lifetime, I heard it in 1980 and 1984 and 1992 and 1994 and 2000 and 2006 and 2008 and 2010, when one party or the other found favor, and there was much talk of "permanent majorities" and the like. Take it with a grain of salt.
On the other hand . . . . Same sex marriage prevailed in four states, a clean sweep. That ends the "gay marriage is always defeated at the polls" argument. Culture and demographics are not on the side of the opponents of same-sex marriage or other gay rights. I think — I hope — last night's success will continue. The question is whether Republicans will interpret last night as a signal that they should revert to using gay marriage and gay rights as wedge issues, a strategy that has sometimes worked for them at the polls. That would be bitterly disappointing to me; I'd like to see a party based on fiscal conservatism, not cultural conservatism.
I can make you famous: There is now a cottage industry of D-list celebrities losing their shit on Twitter over election results. It's more entertaining than 80% of network television. More, please.
I voted for Gary Johnson; snort my taint. Both major parties feel entitled, as a matter of right, to the votes of certain constituencies. Today there's some Republican outrage over the 1.1 million votes that went to Gary Johnson, even though those votes wouldn't have swung the election (even in Florida, though it was very close). Don't like it? Bite me. I'm happy voting for someone whose policies I actually supported, not the lesser of two evils. Fighting for an alternative to the two party system may be a task of generations, but it's a fight worth having.
I'm not happy Obama won. But I wouldn't have been happy if Romney had won, either. Obama is more fiscally reckless than Romney, though I don't think Romney's economic plans made any sense either. It's probably a matter of whether our courtship of economic collapse is a whirlwind romance or a prolonged seduction. Romney might have been somewhat more belligerent on the international stage than Obama, though their foreign policy differences seemed to be mostly matters of degree and recrimination for Obama's mishandling of Benghazi. Romney would surely have continued the ruinous War on Drugs, the steady one-way ratchet of the insipid "tough on crime" mindset, the post-9/11 security state, and the unprincipled asterisk grafted onto the Constitution that is the open-ended War on Terror. My chief concern is that because Obama — a Democrat widely (but inaccurately) classified as a liberal — is doing those things, they will become even more firmly entrenched and normalized. With respect to the power to appoint Supreme Court justices, my reaction is mixed: Obama-appointed justices will be more likely to recognize rights traditionally classified under the heading "privacy," somewhat more likely to protect the rights of the accused, probably no more reliable on First Amendment issues, and vastly worse on restricting government power over individuals in anything related to economics.
No change, but a little hope: Mark Bennett, an outspoken and unapologetic criminal defense attorney, ran for a seat on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals as a libertarian and got 22% of the vote — more than 1.3 million votes. That's astounding. In Texas. I want to believe that voters can be convinced that "law and order" is a political position, not a principled legal one, and that due process is an American value.
Speaking of the importance of education: Will either party take the right lessons from this election? I doubt it. Many Republicans will become convinced that the party needs to double down on social conservatism to nominate "real conservatives." This may make for an entertaining primary process, but I don't think it's a great long-term strategy, particularly because the social conservatism seems inextricably intertwined with things like bragging contests over who can build the most terrifying flaming machine gun emplacements on our enormous border fence. Democrats, on the other hand, are likely to walk away from this with "stay the course, everything you are doing is swell," rather than recognizing they were fortunate in their opponents. You can't count on Republicans — well, not all Republicans — to say stupid things about rape every year, people.
I'm imperfect: Because I'm deeply ambivalent about the Presidential result, my appetite for schadenfreude is quite limited. Just heavy appetizers, please. I will say, however, that the braggadocio and spite from the right was annoying me more than the braggadocio and spite from the left in the days leading up to the election, generating a certain amount of satisfaction afterwards. That may well be selection bias, though; I probably read more right-wing nuts than left-wing nuts. Honesty compels me to admit that I am fully satisfied today if homophobic Jabba the Hutt and Nutpants McScary are miserable and humiliated today. Also, as a lifelong geek myself, I feel a certain amount of affinity for Nate Silver, the criticism of whom seemed to have strong undertones of swirly-the-nerd by popped-collar frat-douches.
This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end: Could the victory of marijuana initiatives reflect a slowly growing sentiment to limit the war on drugs? Could Democrats grow a spine on the issue? Could Republicans be forced to confront the disconnect between their ostensible commitment to federalism and their pursuit of the federal War on Drugs? Stay tuned.
I hope to have some reactions to California's propositions up later this week.
Last 5 posts by Ken White
- Follow-Up: U.C. Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks Gets Free Speech Right This Time - September 12th, 2014
- The Quality of Mercy Is Not Strained, But It May Have A Litmus Test - September 11th, 2014
- [Rerun from 2011] Ten Things I Want My Kids To Learn From 9/11 - September 11th, 2014
- Yale Might Want To Look Into Some Sort of Basic Civic Literacy Course - September 10th, 2014
- U.C. Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks Gets Free Speech Very Wrong - September 6th, 2014