I woke up the Wednesday morning after the midterm elections feeling like the guy who had slept through a tornado, was now surveying the damage, and hearing third-hand what had happened. It's not as if, Tuesday night, I hadn't been refreshing Facebook incessantly while simultaneously glued to the three or four channels I was flipping between. I watched the results and they weren't unexpected. I fully expected the GOP to take the Senate and for the Democrats to stay home in record numbers and let it happen. After all, there wasn't much to vote for.
In an uncharacteristically positive tone I opined last week that should the GOP inevitably take both houses, they would be saddled with the unenviable task of actually having to do something for the next two years. After nearly six years of accomplishing little more than obstruction, they would actually have to legislate and govern. The roles would be reversed and they would have to go, hat in hand, to President Obama in order to prove to the voters that they could actually get some bills through Congress that Obama would sign.
Sure, the GOP would win this round but they would show voters that not only were they incapable of passing legislation, they would also prove to us that it was going to be more of the same. I also got some sick pleasure imagining what a blood bath the civil war within the GOP would look like. You thought The Game of Thrones' Red Wedding episode was bad? This was going to be a feeding frenzy. The next two years were going to be comedic gold and low-hanging fruit. The complete cluster eff that was to come would lock things up for Democrats in 2016.
Typically and historically the Democrats don't show up during the midterms. They've always had a bad habit of making a poor showing, but this election was pretty important and from what I was seeing on social media and in my circles, it looked like it was going to be bad, just not this bad.
The GOP swept the country. It took control of the Senate and added at least nine more seats to the House, giving it close to 245 seats -- the largest Republican majority since the Truman administration. Republicans will inhabit 65 percent of the governors mansions and they took control of 70 percent of the state legislatures.
Some of the people elected to these positions make Michele Bachmann and Louie Gohmert look like MENSA members. Jody Hice (Georgia), who was elected to the House, blamed the Sandy Hook shooting on "kicking God out of our schools," compared abortion to Hitler's murder of 6 million Jews, and thinks that Muslims don't deserve First Amendment protection. Joni Ernst (Iowa), who Chris Matthews has repeatedly referred to as "The Hog Castrator" due to an ad she ran in which she bragged about having castrated hogs for a living, has endorsed the impeachment of President Obama and slammed Medicaid recipients for not taking personal responsibility for their health. She also denies climate change and says she'd defend herself with her "beautiful little Smith & Wesson," from the government. Tom Tillis from North Carolina won in a close race but still managed to be elected to the Senate by wanting to abolish the minimum wage. He is a climate change denier and suggested that liberals plotted to use climate science "as a Trojan horse for their energy policy." Tillis also opposed a resolution apologizing for an 1898 massacre of African Americans in a North Carolina city, explaining that the amendment didn't sufficiently honor white Republicans.
On a local level voters elected a white supremacist in Maryland, a guy in Michigan who called anti-bullying measures a "Trojan horse of homosexual activists," and this guy who calls himself "Dr. Chaps." He wrote a book about how President Obama is possessed by demons and once performed an exorcism of Obama. Dr. Chaps also thinks that homosexuals may sexually abuse their own children. Those are just a few examples of who Americans elected to lead -- at least the ones who showed up and bothered to vote. Politico's Alex Isenstadt wrote a good piece about the onslaught of wingnuts coming to Congress, appropriately titled, "Animal House."
The Republican message this election, at least according to the ads, was that Ebola and ISIS are about to cross our border and Obama hasn't done a thing in six years. As for the message from the Democrats? They ran on three distinct issues: We're not the GOP or Obama; we're not really sure what we've accomplished in the last six years; and Barrack who? Alison Lundergan Grimes, who ran against McConnell in Kentucky, stopped short of denying Obama's existence -- she got fewer votes than the president did in her own state.
Over the course of the last six years, while Democrats were able to get stuff done, we've seen 63 straight months of economic expansion, a depression averted, a deficit reduced by two-thirds, a health care law that's working and lowering costs, two women on the Supreme Court, Osama bin Laden dead, the stock market at record heights, the unemployment rate reduced from 10.2 percent to 5.9 percent, and gas prices are down. The Democrats, rather than point any of that out, decidedly went with, "I'm not a wingnut. Don't vote for wingnuts."
And that's just past accomplishments.
In ballot questions and polling across the country, people showed support for progressive ideas: marijuana legalization, equal pay for women, raises in the minimum wage, paid sick leave, gun control and reproductive rights. Yet, Democrats avoided those issues as if they were some sort of flesh-eating bacteria. So when it came to voting in the legislators that would purportedly carry out the apparent will of the people, the people made some incredibly idiotic decisions -- they voted for the party who opposes all of these ideas.
Jon Stewart sums it up in this clip, in which he refers to the Democrats, appropriately, as chicken shit:
Howard Dean, former DNC chair, also weighed in on Meet the Press, saying:
The Republican message was 'We're not Obama,' no substance whatsoever. What was the Democrats' message? 'Oh, we're not either.' You cannot win if you are afraid! Where was the Democratic party? You gotta stand for something if you're gonna win!
This same attitude permeates Facebook pages and groups with names like, Liberals are Us, I am Liberal, and Liberals Unite, among others. Tens of thousands of members and fans sharing and reposting articles, images, videos, and memes showing how crazy the right is. Little more than hapless Facebook users who seem to think reposting something constitutes civic involvement, pleading with everyone to not vote the crazies in. There's no policy to speak of, no candidate endorsed, no movement to get behind, just example after example of, "Look what that crazy rightwing lunatic said today."
Carl Gibson wrote "Open Letter to Democrats from a Disillusioned Young Voter," published on Reader Supported News last week, which is a good, though perhaps unintentional response to Democrats wanting to blame the loss on a poor turnout by younger voters -- 12 percent of this election.
The few of us who did show up to vote largely did it to support state ballot initiatives that actually mattered in our daily lives. We still voted to raise the minimum wage in 4 states to a slightly more respectable amount, and to $15 an hour in San Francisco. We voted for a week of paid sick days in Massachusetts, and for marijuana legalization in three more states (okay, well, DC isn't a state yet, but it definitely will be by the time we're grandparents). We voted to turn nonviolent drug offenses from felonies into misdemeanors in California. We even boosted high voter turnout in Michigan for Gary Peters, a Democrat who made climate change -- something we'll have to confront long after the boomers are gone -- his top issue. We just didn't vote for Democrats who haven't done anything for us since we voted for them in 2012, and who brazenly took our votes for granted this year.
He goes on to point out that the GOP actually had a message, that the Republican platform comes in easy-to-remember, tweet-sized sentences and even alludes to the fact that most people really don't pay attention to what actually goes on in Congress.
"We all know their buzzwords -- 'national security,' 'family values,' 'free markets.' That may translate to endless war, homophobia, and corporate feudalism for the better-informed, but for most people, those are catch phrases they can get behind," Gibson writes. He then offers some of his own to get the Democrats started, suggesting, "affordable education," "good jobs," and "healthy families," referring to Elizabeth Warren's 0.75 percent interest rate for student loans, single-payer health care, or a public health insurance option.
Gibson, who is 26 years old and more socially and politically active than most, received his fair share of attacks from liberals finally and uncharacteristically showing some sort of outrage and anger, if only from the comfort of their home and hiding behind screen names. "I am sick to death of your kind of shallow, selfish, short-sighted, ignorant extortion. What's in it for you, spoiled little boy," one commenter wrote.
One angry liberal even took the time out of their day to post a blog, "Responding To The Shallow Open Letter To Democrats From A Disillusioned Voter" publicly chastising Gibson. In typical fashion, it offered no real response, no solution, no reason for young people, or anyone to vote for a democratic candidate. It was posted on a site called Liberal America, and written by someone, unlike Gibson, who chose not to give their real name but instead hid behind the name "Anomaly." As with comments on articles, it's difficult to take anyone seriously who doesn't have the stones to tell us who they really are.
It's a bit naïve and self-serving for people like "Anomaly" to expect anyone to not vote in their own best interest. It's bordering on stupidity to expect people to vote simply because the other candidate is nuts. Gibson wrote a well-thought-out piece and even suggested some issues that would compel young voters to show up at the polls. Rather than accept this, commenters and "Anomaly" chose to alienate young voters even more with self-righteous and condescending garbage.
A large majority of voters are behind the ideas that Elizabeth Warren (MA-D) and Bernie Sanders (VT-I) are presenting. The very few candidates who stood behind progressive ideas and ran on them won. Al Franken won in Minnesota and Gary Peters, running in Michigan, leaned hard into liberalism and in a landslide victory claimed his seat in the Senate. Peters, unlike his colleagues, didn't shy away from talking about the accomplishments of the last six years. He didn't apologize or pretend that Obama didn't exist. He aptly pointed out that his party helped save the auto industry along with millions of jobs and the voters thanked him for it.
As for the candidates who didn't run on the accomplishments of the past six years, they allow the GOP the opportunity to take credit for all of it and take advantage of an electorate that has the attention span of a gnat.
The day after the election, The Daily Show ran this clip, in which commentator and Senior Political Analyst Jordan Klepper shows the GOP taking credit for it all:
Last night at approximately 11:27 Eastern Time, Republicans gained control of the US Senate and the results were almost immediate," said Jordan Klepper. "The economy now growing at a robust 3.5 percent. Gas this morning, under three bucks a gallon. Stock Market at record levels. Deficits cut in half. Ten million more Americans have health insurance. And unemployment sub six percent for the first time since we elected chairman Obama.
Klepper goes on to say, "If Democrats had accomplished all of that, they would have been out there bragging about it for months." It's a brilliant clip and worth watching in its entirety.
Yes, the GOP won big this round and there will be a lot to watch these next two years. The American people are fickle, for the most part ill-informed, and have short memories. Every couple of years these same ill-informed voters, who are unhappy with the way things are going, will vote the current bums out and whoever is in control will be at risk. Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, "Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of a democracy, therefore, is education."
It's up to either party to educate the public with regards to their respective platforms, courses of action, and vision of the future. And if they don't give us something to vote for, can they really expect us to keep voting against something else?
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