Daily Archives: November 7, 2012

Post-Election Notes For the GOP (Not That They’ve Asked For Them)

Having just voted against both its presidential and Ohio senatorial candidate, I am reasonably sure the GOP doesn’t want any notes from me about its failures last night. On the other hand, I am a white, male, well-off, heterosexually-married, college educated fellow, which means according to these exit polls at least, I am the GOP “demographic” down to the last jot and tittle. Maybe it’ll listen for just that reason.

So, fellows! Some notes for you. Please note this is addressed to the party leaders, not the party members.

1. Recognize your brand is damaged. You can’t seriously be considered to be the party of fiscal probity at this point; your record for the last thirty years makes this laughable. Bush shot your international relations standing in the foot. All you have left is social issues, and — surprise! — on social issues, most people who are not you think you’re intolerant at best and racist, sexist, homophobic and bigoted at worst.

Seriously, guys: What does the GOP actually want to be the party of? At this point, and for the last few years, it’s been “The Party of Not Obama.” This is not a good way to run a railroad.

2. Deal with your base. Your base is killing you. Did you see your presidential nominee slate this year? I know your base was excited about them, but from the outside we were all, like, “seriously, WTF?” The fact that an unrepentant bigot like Rick Santorum managed to pace Mitt Romney for the nomination as far into the process as he did should have sent up enough red flags to rival Beijing on May Day. Then it makes the (relative) moderates who eventually win the nominations spend too much time tending to its issues and selecting awful vice presidential candidates. Sarah Palin terrified the non-base voters she was supposed to attract. That Paul Ryan counts as an “intellectual” in GOP circles speaks to the almost unfathomable poverty of your brain trust at the moment. That these two were brought on to bolster their respective presidential candidates with the party’s base should throw up all sorts of warning signs.

Your base is fine for now with mid-terms, when you’re dealing with house races, and districts that have been gerrymandered to allow for genuinely horrible politicians to be elected (yes, on both sides, but we’re talking about you for now). For presidential elections, when you have to deal with a national electorate? They’re a bad foundation. They’re going to keep making you fail. If you don’t want to believe it, two words for you: Akin, Mourdock. If you think they only lost their races, think again.

3. Accept the fact that the US is browner and more tolerant than you are, and that you need to become more of both of these things. By “tolerant” I mean that we’re okay with gays marrying and women deciding what to do with their own wombs and that we think science doesn’t want to shiv Jesus in the night when no one is looking. By “browner,” we mean, well, browner. Lots of Latinos and blacks and other ethnic minorities out there. More every day. And very few of them want to have anything to do with you. Both of these mean that lots of younger white people don’t want to have anything to do with you either, because — again, surprise! — many of the people who they love and grew up with in this browner and more tolerant nation are the folks you spend a lot of time railing against, in code or just straight up. And that’s bullshit.

I am a white, well-off, college-educated man married to a woman. And in my family and close circle of friends I have Hispanics, African-Americans, Asians, gay, bisexual and trans people, religious, agnostic and atheist, able-bodied and disabled. You lose me when you classify any of them as the other. They’re not the other; they’re us.

4. Stop letting your media run you. Look, guys: Fox News and Rush Limbaugh don’t actually care about the GOP. They really don’t. They are in the business of terrifying aging white people for money. To the extent that your political agenda conforms to this goal, they’re on your side. But when you step outside of their “terrify aging white people for money” agenda, they’re going to stomp on you. How many GOP politicians have had to grovel at Limbaugh’s feet because they said something he didn’t approve of? Stop it. Tell him to fuck off every once in a while. It’ll be good for you.

And while you’re at it, tell Grover Norquist to fuck off, too. The fact this dude keeps the lot of you from facing economic reality with that damned pledge of his is an embarrassment.

These are the things I would start with.

Do I expect you to consider them? Not really, no. What I expect you to do is the same thing you’ve been doing for the last twenty years, which is to decide that the problem with the GOP is that it’s not socially conservative or fiscally irresponsible enough, cull anyone who doesn’t subscribe to the new tighter and angrier level of orthodoxy and go from there. If that’s the direction you go, I wish you joy in it, and look forward to years and years of Democratic presidents.

The Schadenfreude Pie I Make This Week Will Be Dedicated to Right-Wing Pundits

Particularly the ones who shat all sorts of bricks in the direction of FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver. Nate Silver, who applied statistical modeling to the polls to see how likely it was that either Obama or Romney would win the White House, consistently had Obama as the most likely to win — in fact, he never not had Obama as the favorite for re-election. Silver’s not the only stat nerd to say this (for example, my personal favorite electoral stat nerd, Princeton’s Sam Wang, did the same thing and was even more confident of the probability of Obama’s re-election), but he’s the stat nerd whose blog is hosted by the New York Times. So as election day approached and Silver’s site continued to show confidence in the probability of an Obama victory, the right-wing pundits decided to use him as their generic piñata for everything they hated about the polls not conforming to their own hopes. Some folks even decided to “unskew” the polls to make them more palatable.

Then along came election day and the actual electoral map conformed to Nate Silver’s probability map (almost) exactly. We have to wait for Florida to officially drop into the Obama tally, but once it does, Silver’s probability map is gold. He called it true, as did Wang. This will, of course, be the cue for the right-wing pundits whose own predictions — “based on their experience” rather than rigorous statistical analysis — were wildly off base, to complain that it’s the media who skewed the results to meet its own predictions, nevermind that the pundits themselves are part of the media they are griping about, because it’s different for them, you see.

It’s not just reality that has a well-known liberal bias, guys. Now it’s math, too.

If there’s one thing that I would fervently hope for the right wing of this country in the aftermath of this election, it’s that it finally stops viewing the world from the warm, safe confines of its own ass. Or if that can’t be managed — and why should it be? There’s money to be made inside the warm, safe confines of the right wing’s own ass — that everyone else truly and definitively recognizes that much of the right-wing punditry of the country simply does not have the ability to accurately model the world as it actually is, as opposed to how they want it to be.

I understand no one likes having to face reality, when reality doesn’t give you what you want. But in the case of Silver, Wang, et al, modeling reality didn’t mean “Making guesses based on what I want to happen,” or (in the case of the now hilariously named unskewedpolls.com) “starting from a political point of view and then fiddling with things to get the desired result.” It meant “using a transparent system of statistical analysis and accurately reporting what it tells us on the probability front while simultaneously pointing out where errors can and do occur.” Strangely enough, it makes a difference.

In point of fact, neither math nor reality have a liberal bias. However, it might be accurate to say that liberals may be more comfortable with both math and reality. Or at least, they were in this election cycle.

Next Morning Presidential Election Thoughts

Last year in October, I did a book tour of Germany. Every night I was there, after my reading, I would have dinner with some of the Germans who were kind enough to have hosted me on the trip. And almost without fail, after enough time had passed that they felt comfortable with me, the more-or-less same question would come up. Paraphrased, it is thus: “Okay, seriously, what is going on with your politics over there? You’re scaring the hell out of us.” And specifically, they wanted to know what was going to happen to President Obama, which the Germans, to a person, saw as a reasonable and moderate leader. They were terrified that he would not be re-elected.

Here’s more or less what I said to the Germans then: “Look, all the political noise is going to get much worse in 2012 because it’s a presidential election year and that’s how we get. It’s going to get loud and weird and you’re going to be much more scared before it’s all over. But in the end Obama’s going to win, because he’s doing as well as he can under the circumstances, and because things are slowly turning around, and because the GOP is running its B-team for President. It’s going to be close, but Obama’s going to do it.”

So to all of my German friends: See? Just like I told you.

***

Four years ago, there were a lot of people who believed that Obama’s election heralded a material change in American politics. I would argue that it’s this one that’s the actual signifier of that change. Look: It’s one thing for a black man with a name like “Barack Hussein Obama” to win an election after eight years of a GOP presidency that culminated with two wars and the greatest economic crisis in eighty years. It’s another thing entirely for that same black man with a funny name to win a second term in the face of an unimpressive economic recovery and the full, uncontained and often unreasoned fury from his opposing side. For better or worse, Americans view one-term presidents as losers or historical flukes: See Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George HW Bush as examples of this. Barack Obama, whatever else you will say about him — and many will — can no longer be categorized as a loser or a fluke. He won both the electoral and over 50% of the popular vote twice, which is the first time since Reagan that any president managed that.

More to the point, two years after a mid-term election that swept into office some of the most recalcitrant opposition that any modern president has seen, and after four years of dealing with a GOP whose major legislative goal (as Mitch McConnell so memorably put it) was to make Obama a single-term president, Obama’s electoral map was strikingly similar to his first; he lost only two states from 2008. This was a close election, on the popular election front. But after all the noise and thunder and intonation, and assuming Florida falls into the Democratic tally, as it appears likely to do at this point, Obama walks out of the election with 50% more electoral votes than Romney.

This wasn’t a squeaker, and Obama didn’t just get lucky. To be clear, he did get lucky, most obviously in drawing Mitt Romney as an opponent, who gave Obama far too many opportunities to punch at him, and in a GOP which persists in fielding candidates far to the right of the US population as a whole, giving the Democrats a field of bogeymen with which to scare its voter base. But Obama also won because he was canny: how Obama won Ohio this year will be required reading for political wonks for decades. And he also won because of demographics — a word which is currently being used as code by the right for “people who are not straight white men.” Well, as it happens, there are lots of people who are not straight white men in these here United States, and whatever code word you want to use for them, it turns out that their votes count just the same as anyone else’s. Unless the GOP is irretrievably stupid, this is the last presidential election they’ll assume they can win entirely white.

And saliently, Obama successfully made the argument that he was doing his job, despite (and sometimes in spite of) a solid, unified wall of opposition from the GOP. At the end of the day, luck, campaign smarts and “demographics” aren’t going to make the case for a re-election by themselves. People have to believe he’s getting things done. It appears they do.

Obama is not a fluke or a historical blip. You can argue he won his first presidential election on credit, and I’ll let you have that argument. It’s four years later, and the voters have seen him in action. This election he had to win with what was on his ledger. He won it, and he won it big enough to forestall all doubt. If you are one of those who will persist in thinking he’s there by accident or by trivial circumstances, you’re delusional. And you’re likely doomed to see your preferred presidential candidates lose. This isn’t Reagan’s America anymore, or Bush’s. It’s Obama’s. You should get used to that.

***

For all that, four years ago when Obama won, I offered readers here a reality check regarding their expectations for the man. Here is the reality check this year:

* The House is still in GOP hands. In the Senate the Democrats do not have a filibuster-proof majority. We have a divided government, and the GOP standard operating procedure is to oppose every single thing Obama is for. Don’t expect that to change.

* You’ve had four years to see how Obama works and how he does his job. If you’re expecting that to change, you haven’t been paying attention.

* Obama is not a liberal. He’s definitely not a socialist. He’s a moderately left-leaning centrist. Anyone who believes (or at least says) otherwise on either side of the aisle is speaking rhetorical nonsense. Obama will lead from the center. That’s what he does. That’s who he is.

* Those who dislike Obama for whatever reasons they do are still there. And they dislike him even more today. They also dislike what he represents: The end to a comfortable (for them), right-leaning United States. You will not stop hearing from them.

* The presidential election settled one thing: Who is president for the next four years. All the rest of it is up in the air. And a lot of it will be up to you, and us.

***

How do I feel about Obama’s re-election? As I said last night: Relieved. Pleased. And ready to move forward.

Congratulations to our president.

Congratulations to the United States.

Let’s get to work.