Nov 08 2012
Its Thursday now, and after 13 hours of sleep last night-I went to bed at 6:15 PM- I feel much better.
Meanwhile, the post mortems on the election have begun. And as I expected, some people are learning all the wrong lessons. Writing off the results of the election to a bunch of parasites doesn't get you any friends. Giving your pompous speeches on self sufficiency won't either. I already work hard as does just about every member of the 60,000,000 who voted for Obama. The more you guys delude yourself about this misguided idea of "dependency"-the more it makes the rest of the country want to kick your ass. People don't want handouts-they want a level playing field. They want the incredibly rich to understand that decently compensating and benefiting one's employees is not an act of kindness-its an obligation of being part of the civilized world. And they don't want pompous bastards telling them what to do with their bodies-and what they should do if they are raped.
John Cole has it right, " when you insult folks and dismiss them, they tend to get mad and they tend to want to kick your ass.". That had a lot to do with my feelings on the election-the more I heard that because I felt strongly about decent benefits and wanting what I was entitled to, that I was a "moocher" the more emotionally invested in Obama's victory I became. Well played wingnuts-well played.
So what are the lessons learned here?
First for the Democrats, they should heed Jon Chait's warning:
Democrats will not keep winning forever. (In particular, their heavy reliance on young and non-white voters, who vote more sporadically, will subject the party to regular drubbings in midterm elections, when only the hardiest voters turn out.) Eventually, the Republican Party will recast and reform itself, and the Democratic Party’s disparate constituencies will eat each other alive, as they tend to do when they lack the binding force of imminent peril. But conservatives have lost their best chance to strike down the Obama legacy and mold the government in the Paul Ryan image.
Which of course begs two important questions. 1) How effectively will the Democrats use that time they have before the day of defeat comes? And 2) How well will they be prepared to persevere when the day of defeat comes? More importantly, will they heed the message that came from the stridency of the folks who didn't vote for Obama? The unspoken message is that admit it or not-steps will need to be taken to get America's financial house in order. The real challenge will be to do so in a responsible fashion that does not resort the Draconian-and quite evil-methods of Romney's running mate, the "zombie eyed granny starver" Ryan. Spending cuts are going to have to come-as is the repeal of the Bush tax cuts. Finding a good middle ground will be hard. And much as he might rightly be able to point to the immensity of the damage done by the idiot who preceded him, in the second term, Obama will own everything that happens, for good or bad.
For the Republicans the lessons are more stark: "Being in bed with extremism doesn't work-it just pisses people off".
Alas I fear that the GOP won't learn this lesson but will learn exactly opposite. The forces of lunacy, who say that the party should be even more conservative are already gearing up their efforts. The slime is already starting to crawl out of the woodwork, like Herman Cain advocating the creation of a third party. I find this more than a little amusing-since its clear that the GOP could probably have won this election, just as they could have won in 2008, if they had not gotten so off the deep end groveling to people who are not worthy of anything but utter contempt. The Teabag wing has to be put out of its misery, like Old Yeller, taken out back and dispatched quickly with aid of a loaded shotgun.
Will the Republican Party mature, reach out, and bring in the old guard centrists who were/are the adult voices in the room so that they can be competitive and work for the Common Good? Or will the Tea Party GOP dig in, become even more extreme, and further obstruct the Common Good in order to advance their increasingly narrow partisan agenda? Does Romney's defeat lead to a more reasonable Republican Party or one that is even more extreme and intransigent?
The answer should be a definitive yes-the party has to go back to its roots. Unfortunately this requires and honest understanding of the facts and the truth-and the information machine of conservative American is quite ill equipped to do this. Connor Friedsdorf, writing at The Atlantic points out very well how the right is not served well by its insistence on living in an echo chamber. One big reason that so many conservatives are disappointed today-is that they had no one telling them the honest truth. They believed they could live in a world where they made up the "facts"-and they bought those lies hook line and sinker. In a proper world, it should lead to a massive loss of revenue for Fox and a decline in readership for Hinderaker and the rest of the swine like William Jacobsen who inhabit the Liars Club. But it won't:
Barack Obama just trounced a Republican opponent for the second time. But unlike four years ago, when most conservatives saw it coming, Tuesday's result was, for them, an unpleasant surprise. So many on the right had predicted a Mitt Romney victory, or even a blowout — Dick Morris, George Will, and Michael Barone all predicted the GOP would break 300 electoral votes. Joe Scarborough scoffed at the notion that the election was anything other than a toss-up. Peggy Noonan insisted that those predicting an Obama victory were ignoring the world around them. Even Karl Rove, supposed political genius, missed the bulls-eye. These voices drove the coverage on Fox News, talk radio, the Drudge Report, and conservative blogs.
Those audiences were misinformed.
Outside the conservative media, the narrative was completely different. Its driving force was Nate Silver, whose performance forecasting Election '08 gave him credibility as he daily explained why his model showed that President Obama enjoyed a very good chance of being reelected. Other experts echoed his findings. Readers of The New York Times, The Atlantic, and other "mainstream media" sites besides knew the expert predictions, which have been largely born out. The conclusions of experts are not sacrosanct. But Silver's expertise was always a better bet than relying on ideological hacks like Morris or the anecdotal impressions of Noonan.Sure, Silver could've wound up wrong. But people who rejected the possibility of his being right? They were operating at a self-imposed information disadvantage.
Conservatives should be familiar with its contours. For years, they've been arguing that liberal control of media and academia confers one advantage: Folks on the right can't help but be familiar with the thinking of liberals, whereas leftists can operate entirely within a liberal cocoon. This analysis was offered to explain why liberal ideas were growing weaker and would be defeated.
For all the conservative whining about the "main stream media" they missed the main point-those folks understand the profession of journalism far better than their conservative counterparts. Jon Stewart pointed this out a couple of times last year when interviewed by Fox. The media as a whole is not biased politically-it is biased towards sensationalism .Still, even with that handicap they for the most part kicked the right wing news media's ass:
In conservative fantasy-land, Richard Nixon was a champion of ideological conservatism, tax cuts are the only way to raise revenue, adding neoconservatives to a foreign-policy team reassures American voters, Benghazi was a winning campaign issue, Clint Eastwood's convention speech was a brilliant triumph, and Obama's America is a place where black kids can beat up white kids with impunity. Most conservative pundits know better than this nonsense — not that they speak up against it. They see criticizing their own side as a sign of disloyalty. I see a coalition that has lost all perspective, partly because there's no cost to broadcasting or publishing inane bullshit. In fact, it's often very profitable. A lot of cynical people have gotten rich broadcasting and publishing red meat for movement conservative consumption. On the biggest political story of the year, the conservative media just got its ass handed to it by the mainstream media. And movement conservatives, who believe the MSM is more biased and less rigorous than their alternatives, have no way to explain how their trusted outlets got it wrong, while the New York Times got it right. Hint: The Times hired the most rigorous forecaster it could find. It ought to be an eye-opening moment.
It would be nice if folks would learn the right lessons from this and move back to a more balanced seeking of information-but they won't. And ass rockets like the National Review and Michael Barone are determined not to let them. Which leads to one final point, this cycle of self destruction cannot continue. Americans have to figure out how to have political conversations without them devolving into a shouting match. I tried to have one at work today with my incredibly still pissed off co-workers. It failed miserably. The Economist writing in a post yesterday points out I am not alone in this dilemma.
I'm not sure-but I blame a part of it on my tea sniffing friends who have decided that there are moral absolutes in politics. There are not, and it would be better if we stopped pretending that there were. Realistic arguments over policy don't happen any more especially in places that are rather backward to begin with, like it was in Alabama. After enough bad starts you quickly learn to avoid politics altogether, since it is impossible to have a political conversation. Every conversation one tries to have risks a descent into Republican talking point hell. When I try to refute those points with facts, it falls on deaf ears. This has to change.
Setting aside the policy issues we're facing over the next four years, I think the most immediate need is for Americans to find a way to live civilly with each other. "This American Life" brought on a pair of writers, liberal Phil Neisser and conservative Jacob Hess, who've written a book ("You're Not as Crazy as I Thought (But You're Still Wrong)") about their efforts to find a way to talk to each other and agree to disagree on fundamental philosophical and moral issues. There need to be a lot more similar efforts along these lines. This election has put Barack Obama back in office, and returned him a Democratic Senate and a Republican House. Over the next four years, legislative battles are going to continue to be savage and hard-fought. Neither conservatives nor liberals are going to change their minds en masse about fundamental issues of political philosophy. The top priority is for Americans to figure out a way to keep these divisions from dividing the country into two hostile armed camps that are incapable of talking to each other.
The extremes have gotten too much influence on both sides of the aisle. The biggest lesson learned is that the center has to come back to the fore and the extremists have to be marginalized so we can go back to having the national conversation that must be had-what kind of a nation does the citizenry want to build and how do we work together to achieve it?
That's a lesson we all should be able to learn. But, alas, I fear the US just won't want to.