I am overjoyed by the Presidential and Senatorial election results, but primarily from a feeling of relief at a disaster averted, as compared to the sense of a watershed victory that seems to be reflected by some commentators.
The most recent example of this was the intelligent, heartfelt but overly optimistic commentary by Rachel Maddow in which she exhorts the Republican Party to become reality and factual based, as compared to believing the voices in their own echo chamber.
That is simply not going to happen.
Right wing nut jobs have been around since the beginning of American electoral politics, and they will not simply go away or have a sudden fit of rationality. The Republicans who might listen to Rachel’s exhortation are few and far between and essentially as extinct as the dinosaur.
Just ask Lincoln Chafee.
We need to stop trying to make them rational, and rather work like crazy to completely marginalize the Republican Party until they are literally forced to join the 21st century and renounce the nutjobbery of the Tea Party, in which far too many of their lunatic fringe resides, while being goaded into further lunacy by the billionaire sponsors leading them astray.
The most sobering aspect of this past election is that a resounding victory for the President and an astounding two-seat gain in the Senate (considering how many seats we had to defend as compared to the GOP, a net gain was absolutely remarkable), was amazingly not matched in the House of Representatives. Even though the nationwide vote for Congresspeople in general was roughly even, and should have resulted in an almost 50/50 split in the House, the Republicans retained control and therefore the ability to gridlock Washington.
How did they do that? I believe the answer lies in their reaction to the resounding loss in 2008. If any election should have resulted in the kind of rational self-examination which many of us are urging the Republican Party to do, it would have been that election. Consider again how revolutionary that election truly was. It was a landslide in favor of the first serious African- American candidate for president. It resulted in majorities in both houses. The election was a resounding repudiation of George W. Bush and of the Republicans.
Instead of reevaluating their party and moving more to the center, they instead went the opposite direction into Tea Party madness, channeling the ignorant right-wing rage at having a “foreign” “Muslim” and, worst of all, African-American president. More importantly, however, they adopted a strategy based on blatant obstructionism at the federal level, coupled with a campaign to control state legislatures, gubernatorial seats and secretaries of state. This resulted in redistricting and state controls of elections that resulted in a massive shift in the House in 2010 and allowed them to continue to control the House in 2012 in spite of a presidential election with phenomenal turnout and a landslide victory in the electoral college.
Meanwhile, in 2008, the left-wing settled into a sense of complacency, and in some cases disillusionment at the failure of our brilliant new president to produce the hoped-for (and somewhat promised) reforms and initiatives that would have continued our momentum after 2008. That resulted in the fired up right wing, charged with the almost frothing at the mouth Tea Party activists and fueled by millions of dollars of fatcat war chest money, turning out far more voters and much more passion in the 2010 elections, completely stalling any momentum from the 2008 elections and almost grinding the Obama administration to a halt. Very few of the accomplishments trumpeted by the Obama campaign occurred after 2010, at least on the domestic front.
Do we really have any reason to believe that the Republican Party will not react as they did in 2008? We cannot engage in wishful thinking or imposing our own rationality on others. The same fanatical followers who believe that Donald Trump is a visionary, who follow Fox News, who believed that Romney would win in a landslide, who vilified Nate Silver, and who now apparently believe that it was the Democrats that engaged in “voter suppression,” will not suddenly engage in careful introspection, realize the error of their ways, and step forth into the light of reason. Not going to happen.
Instead, they will “go to ground” in a manner very similar to 2008. The same billionaires that were willing to spend $400 million to try to win this time are not going away. Fox News is not about to become balanced. Scanning their lineup on election night, I did not see one Democratic face. It was as overt an adoption of one party as could possibly have been imagined.
They will now turn to the states and try to continue the effort to take over as many state houses and governorships as they possibly can, they will try to enact laws to suppress votes under the guise of fighting “fraud,” and they will obstruct in Congress, and then obstruct some more.
The evidence of this conduct could not have been more clear for the last four years. Simply look at how many judicial appointments made by President Obama were never acted upon by Congress and remain unfilled. Every Republican officeholder knows that if they cooperate, move to the center, or even become rational, that they will draw an expensive primary challenge from the nutjob wing of the party, and may well lose, as happened during this past cycle.
We can expect nothing more than what we got for the last two years. That has already been signaled by Boehner and McConnell. To expect otherwise is to engage in fairytale politics.
We must react to this likely future by our own “ground game.” To do this, we need to accomplish some immediate goals:
1. President Obama must remain the same campaign orator and employ the “bully pulpit” throughout his remaining term. It simply amazed me that a campaign communicator of his skill was so poor at expressing his agenda and exposing the obstructionism he was facing throughout the last four years. He seemed reluctant to lift up the carpet and expose the cockroaches. He must be willing to fight for what he apparently believes is right and he must continue to communicate. His first priority to be able to move “Forward” will be to start the 2014 Congressional campaign right now.
2. We must start fighting for our beliefs at the state level. Much more passion and energy needs to be placed on winning the state legislatures, winning the gubernatorial seats, and controlling the Secretary of State offices. That model worked remarkably well for the Republicans, and I believe it was largely because we became complacent and self-satisfied with the remarkable achievement of 2008. Instead of exhorting the Republicans to become more rational, cooperative and move to the center, we need to prepare for the next onslaught at the state level. The same passion that fueled the Occupy movement needs to be brought to the state level.
3. True electoral reform must become a primary issue and must be pursued starting now. The President should announce a task force combining prominent retired politicians of both parties (but his Republican choices should be moderates at minimum), combined with the FBI and the federal investigatory authorities, with the goal towards prosecuting voter suppression to the fullest, investigating whether there is any truth to allegations of “voter fraud” (which would hopefully put to rest the canard constantly advanced by the right-wing to justify making voting more difficult or suppressing it outright), and streamlining voting and voting procedures so that we end this ridiculous prospect of legitimate voters being barred from voting, from votes not being counted (as in Arizona right now) from voting machines flipping votes, from long lines discouraging voter turnout, and the list could go on and on. Ideas to accomplish this could include:
a. Voting machines must be owned by a governmental agency, and not by corporations or individuals. How many of you were concerned as Ohio was becoming closer and as Rove was foaming at the mouth that it was not over, that the many voting machines owned by the Romney family in Ohio would start spitting out false returns? What happened to John Kerry in Ohio in 2004 and to Al Gore in Florida in 2000 cannot be allowed to be repeated.
b. A Uniform Voting Rights law needs to be adopted requiring all states to allow voting by mail on all federal elections, and such voting by mail must be a matter of right, as compared to based upon some requirement of unavailability on election day, following the California model. I admit that I do not know how many states this would impact, and if this is already the law, then much more publicity of that right needs to be brought forth.
c. Election day should be a national holiday, permitting voters to exercise this precious freedom without having to choose between doing so and working. Since Veterans Day is a holiday coming close to election day, either election day needs to be changed to the Monday of Veterans Day routinely or the Veterans Day holiday needs to be declared to be the same as election day. It would seem appropriate to honor our veterans by having elections on their day, since they have fought, died and given their blood to preserve that right. If proposed in that fashion, it would be extremely difficult for the Republicans to fight that.
d. Voter eligibility standards need to be simplified, as even “trained” poll workers do not seem to know the laws of their states in all cases.
It is simply a travesty that the Republicans have been able to engage in institutionalized voter suppression on a scale unknown since the Jim Crow era without significant consequences. Investigations at the highest level of the federal government must be launched and prosecutions occur where warranted.
The take away from this election must be that we cannot be satisfied with where we are, we cannot rest on the laurels of this accomplishment, and we must continue to resist the right-wing. The only path to achieving the revival of the moderate wing of the Republican Party (to the extent it even exists) and to achieving the goal of a system of government where compromise is not viewed as being consorting with the enemy, will be to continue to demonstrate again and again that they are on the wrong path, that they will continue to suffer electoral defeat at all levels, and they will become more and more marginalized until they have returned to the roots of the Republican Party of Lincoln, Eisenhower and Rockefeller (or for that matter, even George Romney).
Until that day, we must remain vigilant, active and realize that our campaign never ends, because theirs never will.