11/14/2012 01:48 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

The 2012 Election and the 5 Stages of Grief

According to the Kübler-Ross Grief Cycle, when we experience trauma or change, we go through five stages of grief -- denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance -- each of us at our own pace. Clearly, the ultra-conservative right is passing through that first stage as they respond to America's decision to reelect President Barack Obama in a $2-billion campaign, vote for marriage equality in three states, reject Minnesota's anti-gay-marriage amendment, oh, and legalize marijuana for recreational use in two states.

Here in Iowa, voters maintained a pro-equality majority in the Senate, increased ally seats in the House, and retained Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins, the targeted justice who had supported the equality-minded decision in the Varnum v. Brien case.

So here they are, those ultra-conservatives, in that first stage of grief:

  • "Our opponents and some in the media will attempt to portray the election results as a changing point in how Americans view gay marriage, but that is not the case," said Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM). "Americans remain strongly in favor of marriage as the union of one man and one woman."
  • Karl Rove exhibited denial on Fox News when he refused to believe that the president had taken Ohio and challenged the Fox News' projection. As he shared his "numbers," co-anchor Megyn Kelly asked him, "Is this just math that you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better, or is this real?" The following day Rove announced that it was by suppressing the vote that the president had won his reelection. I think that this is a signal that Rove is quickly moving into the second stage of grief, anger, which may manifest as delusions.
  • Rush Limbaugh responded to the president's win by saying, "Conservatism ... did not lose last night. It's just very difficult to beat Santa Claus. It is practically impossible to beat Santa Claus. People are not going to vote against Santa Claus, especially if the alternative is being your own Santa Claus."
  • Bill O'Reilly, who lives much of the time in an inarticulate stage 2, said, "It's not a traditional America anymore, and there are 50 percent of the voting public who want stuff. They want things. And who is going to give them things? President Obama."
  • Here in Iowa, evangelical leader Bob Vander Plaats, attempting to spin his organization's failure to get Justice Wiggins removed as a win, said, "We believe the people of Iowa are winners even though we fell short of removing Judge David Wiggins from the bench." He also told The New York Times, "We're not going away, we just need to recalibrate."

It's hard to say when the majority of ultra-conservatives will turn to anger, the second stage of grief, but we can expect it soon, and their wrath will be a sight to behold. We have seen some of that already, as some seem angry with themselves or with others in the party. Some are blaming the Tea Party; others place the blame squarely on their candidate, Mitt Romney.

  • Robert Stacey McCain, writing in The American Spectator, blamed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie: "The list of fools who have brought this disaster upon us certainly also will include New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the gelatinous clown who (a) hogged up a prime time spot at the Republican convention to sing his own praises; (b) embraced Obama as the hero of Hurricane Sandy; and (c) then refused to appear at campaign events in support of Romney's presidential campaign. Good luck with the remainder of your political future, governor. It is unlikely Republicans shall soon forget your perfidious betrayal."
  • Karl Rove blamed Hurricane Sandy, among 19 other things.
  • Donald Trump tweeted, "Congrats to @KarlRove on blowing400 million this cycle. Every race @CrossroadsGPS ran ads in, the Republicans lost. What a waste of money."

I am anxious to see the bargaining stage. If it comes soon, it may allow Congress and the Iowa State Legislature to do the work of the people, to work on the real, day-to-day issues that affect each one of us.

The depression stage will call for us all to understand that this is just one step away from acceptance. And I cannot wait for acceptance. What will that look like for ultra-conservatives, for Iowa and for America?

Those who won generally accepted their wins with grace, civility and some thread of reconciliation. My favorite of the election, bar none, was Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper's cautionary response to the vote to legalize recreational marijuana in the Rocky Mountain State: "Don't break out the Cheetos or Goldfish too quickly!"

Isn't Democracy wonderful?