I wanted to take a little bit of time before I dove into the results of our 2012 presidential election. With most of the votes tallied, exit polls shown true and the pundits’ increasingly irrelevant bluster now out in the open, we can get real-real for a moment and have an honest conversation and what (I think) is going on in this country of ours.
Disclaimer: I’m not speaking for anyone but myself.
A few times throughout our election coverage you might’ve heard my name mentioned — that’s because I was in the control room, digging through exit polls, returns, my handy-dandy Twitter list of major media outlets and my own gut reactions on where the race was going. (At the end, you might’ve seen a cup in my hand. And yes, I was having a screwdriver. Leave me alone.)
When it was all said and done, the country at its core by significant margins largely rejected two important political items:
- The far right’s hyperpartisanship, and
- The Republican leaders’ obstructionism.
Neither of which is a repudiation of the basic tenets of conservatism, mind you.
I have to stress that the GOP as an idea wasn’t rejected. And let’s keep in mind that 48% of the country (as it stands now in the returns; that may hold or tick up/down a point when it’s all said and done) voted for Romney. And an AP exit poll shows that 51% of voters believe the government is doing too many things that are better left to business and individuals.
However, nearly half — 47%, a number that will remain in infamy — believe in raising taxes on the wealthy. Overall, the voters have a much more nuanced idea for what they want — but one thing is clear: They weren’t buying what the Tea Party was selling.
There will be folks who note that Tea Party politicians will still have clout in the House, but their influence has taken a major hit from within the Republican party. Allen West and Joe Walsh went down in flames, and Michele Bachmann, who won in 2010 52% – 40%, barely survived by less than 5,000 votes this time around.
Due to their attempts in 2010 and 2012 to force through Senate candidates that fit their mold of fiscal conservatism without compromise and extreme social conservatism, I lay the failure of Republicans to take the Senate squarely at their feet. When looking at what people voted on down-ballot, four states legalized gay marriage. If you see that and think the country doesn’t want to progress socially, then you’re just not looking at reality.
The overall intent of voters is rather clear: Raise taxes on the wealthy (Democratic belief). Cut spending to get us out of this mess (traditionally Republican belief), and stay the hell out of our personal lives (a libertarian small-government belief).
And even more clear is simply that America’s had enough of political obstructionism. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell embodies this when he said in 2010: “Our top political priority over the next two years is to deny President Obama a second term.”
The voters responded in kind: “Your job is to govern. Obstruct at your own peril.”
And then there’s the intangibles. The youth vote is up. Minority groups across the board are increasingly larger voting blocs. Bill O’Reilly bemoaned the death of the “white establishment,” which is also insulting to white folk, over 40% of which voted Obama. I wasn’t aware that my whiteness meant I should be voting Romney.
Enthusiasm was down amongst the voting populous. And while it didn’t reach the heights of 2008, if we consider ’08 an outlier due to its historic nature, voting turnout was still high. I myself had it wrong as well, because like many of the pundits, I conflated enthusiasm with willingness to show up at the voting booth.
Elliott said it best: “you have a very important job to do.” We don’t have to be enthusiastic about doing something in order for us to do it. I believe, now, as I didn’t before Tuesday, that the country rides on emotion less and less and just shows up to do their job, which is to demand their representatives to do their job.
Policies can be debated, as is clear in exit polling data. What won’t be debated — indeed, won’t be tolerated — is one party refusing to work with the other.
The Democratic party will say they have a mandate (they don’t). The Republican party will say they’ll hold the line (they won’t).
The voters, however, told them both today loud and clear: We’ve had enough of your partisanship; get your asses in a room together and work your problems out.
Both parties would do well to listen.