Delusional, but still spewing hate
examines the Republican blame game after Mitt Romney's loss--and argues that the Democrats won't deliver for their base unless they're forced to.
NOTHING WAS more gratifying on Election Night than watching the color drain from the faces of conservative commentators as the realization set in that President Barack Obama would win re-election.
Any reader of SocialistWorker.org knows we have been very critical of Obama and the Democrats--but that doesn't mean it wasn't a joy for us to watch the Who's Who of professional bigots slouching toward despair.
At the top of our "payback time" list would have to be Karl Rove, known widely as "Bush's brain" for his role in pulling the strings behind the scenes in the Bush administration--though Dubya apparently favored the nickname "Turd Blossom" for his chief adviser.
Rove had the kind of tantrum that any toddler would envy on Election Night. As he sat in the Fox News studios, the network projected that Obama would win Ohio--and therefore was over the top for an Electoral College victory. But Rove was having none of it. He demanded that Fox retract the decision, saying it was too early to call the state and insisting the vote was slowly swinging toward Romney (it never did--Obama won by more than 100,000 voters).
Rove's on-air fit eventually forced host Megyn Kelly to leave the studio and wander through the network's offices to demand answers from the Fox News in-house research team--but not before Kelly tellingly asked Rove, "Is this just math that you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better? Or is this real?"
I think we all know the answer to that one.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
CONSERVATIVES NOT only had to concede that Mitt Romney lost, but that there was no conservative "red tide" sweeping the land--and so they needed an explanation. The one they quickly embraced was that Obama's victory was the fault of multiracial "urban" voters.
As Fox's Bill O'Reilly pontificated when he was asked what had happened: "Because it's a changing country. The demographics are changing. It's not a traditional America anymore. And there are 50 percent of the voting public who want stuff. They want things... The white establishment is now the minority."
There was plenty of Republican scorn to go around for the ladies as well. The day after the election, a blogger at the "Christian Men's Defense Network" (because Christian men need defending?) blamed Obama's win on "the slut vote": "[O]n radio ads, on TV, and on the web, the Democrats tried to make this election about a single issue: The right to slut."
Likewise, the human sack of bile known as Rush Limbaugh sneered on his radio show, "Obama treats 'em like vaginas and they say 'He's my man.'"
And if you thought it was only demoralized liberals who threatened to move to Canada if the wrong party gets elected, consider that in the wake of Election 2012, petitions have been created in 21 states in support of secession from the U.S. More than 81,000 people have already signed one petition in Texas, urging the Obama administration to allow the state to "withdraw from the United States of America and create its own NEW government."
You'd think that Obama and the Democrats would call out the disgusting racism underlying such a petition. But given their past record, they aren't likely to.
The post-election freak-outs and hand-wringing by leaders of the Republican Party have a basis in reality. The Republicans' strategy has been based for years on appeals to racism, sexism and homophobia that are predicated on the American electorate as being whiter, male, older and conservative. The turnout on Election Day showed the opposite.
You can understand the concern in GOP circles when you consider the following statistic: 89 percent of voters who chose Romney were white, according to exit polls. Overall, 59 percent of the white vote went to Romney, who won a majority in every age group. Meanwhile, 93 percent of the African American vote, 71 percent of the Latino vote and 71 percent of the Asian vote went to Obama. Fifty-five percent of women voted for Obama, including 67 percent of single women.
After the vote, many Republican pundits and party leaders may try to comfort themselves with racist notions that Blacks voted for Obama because he will "give them stuff" or that women "want our birth control." But in significant ways, the Obama victory represents a rejection of racist, sexist and homophobic attitudes that are endemic to the Republican "Tea Party" base.
Even some Republican political leaders can read the writing on the wall. "Instead of them curling up in the ball and asking, 'Where did we lose conservative whites,' we need to add people to the coalition," former Virginia Rep. Tom Davis told Bloomberg News. "There are just not enough old white guys around."
On CBS This Morning following the election, even Newt Gingrich admitted that the Republicans had a failed strategy. "We were wrong," he said--Republicans "misunderstood what was happening in the country." Gingrich added that unless the Republicans can learn how to appeal to Latinos and other demographic groups who supported Obama, "we're going to be a minority party."
This from the man who, as a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, called Obama the "food stamp president"--a direct appeal to the worst racist stereotypes and red meat for the Tea Party.
The slightly-less-rabid wing of the Republican Party may attempt to make such a shift in the coming months and years--reaching for a "compromise" on immigration, for example, in an effort to soften its image and expand the base. But that doesn't mean come election time, they won't still unleash racism in an effort to whip up the most hardened elements of their base.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
BUT IF most conventional Republican "wisdom" (to use the term loosely) is wrong about why Romney lost this election, then so is the conventional wisdom from many mainstream pundits about why Obama won.
Prior to the election, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman declared that no matter which candidate won, "America's biggest voting bloc--the center-right/center-left--will win" the election. He continued:
By now, it should be obvious how much America is a center-right/center-left country and how much this center--not the extremes--has dominated this election...
The reason the center-left/center-right bloc is dominating this election is because it intuitively knows that the only way our country can progress is with some grand bargains forged at the center. One is a package deal that slows entitlement and defense spending, raises taxes, invests in infrastructure, education and research and institutes tax reforms that unleash more entrepreneurship--all in the right sequence and scale--so the economy is nursed back to health.
But Friedman's analysis can't explain the results of the election. While the presidential vote was especially polarized and somewhat close, a host of ballot measures and other results suggest that further inroads are being made on social issues like same-sex marriage, immigrant rights and even union rights. People, it turns out, don't want "grand bargains"--they want progress, civil rights and for the rich to pay their share.
That's why Republican Senate candidates who had sounded so flippant about rape--from Todd "legitimate rape" Akin to Richard "pregnancies from rape are God's will" Mourdock lost their races.
As Salon.com's David Sirota commented, "Simply put, the election outcomes are ignored because they so powerfully expose the lies behind all the 'reform' propaganda coursing through the media and treated as unquestioned fact in our politics."
Calls by the likes of Friedman for "centrism" are nothing new. They emerge frequently after elections that the Democrats win--the Republicans, somehow, are never lectured about moderating their program. The so-called "middle road" is an implicit call for the left to tamp down expectations and accept whatever negotiations take place with Republicans on the basis of "pragmatism."
But we don't need pragmatism--we need to get ready to fight.
Obama has already signaled that he will do incredibly little, bordering on nothing, for the masses of working people who once again put him in office. Anyone who thought a second term would bring meaningful change in Obama's policies should think again.
Just a day after the election, Obama signaled as much by bombing Yemen. And the week before the election, in an interview with MTV, he endorsed same-sex marriage ballot measures, but then stated bluntly that he won't push for these rights on a national level. "For us to try to legislate federally into this area is probably the wrong way to go," he said, adding, "It would be up to future generations of Americans to implement meaningful reform."
Friedman's talk of "grand bargains" with the right wing to cut the deficit aren't so much predictions as stating the established precedent from the Obama administration--only they aren't so much "grand" as "grotesque."
Millions of people want Obama and the Democrats to defend Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. According to TheNation.com's George Zornick, "A survey of people who voted in the past election, for both candidates...found that many individual elements of the Simpson-Bowles plan are deeply unpopular with the electorate...These things are not just unpopular, but unacceptable among voters by wide margins."
But the Obama administration has already signaled its willingness to engage in trillions of dollars of cuts to bedrock social programs. Obama appears all too ready to throw ordinary people off the "fiscal cliff."
Next time you hear that you should moderate your criticisms of the president because Obama's hands are tied by Republicans, remember back to 2008, back when Obama dared to call himself a progressive.
At a fundraiser in Montclair, N.J., the then-senator told the famous account of A. Philip Randolph meeting with Franklin D. Roosevelt and speaking about the plight of labor and African Americans in the U.S. After listening, Roosevelt supposedly replied to Randolph, "I agree with everything that you've said, including my capacity to be able to right many of these wrongs and to use my power and the bully pulpit...But I would ask one thing of you, Mr. Randolph, and that is go out and make me do it."
Obama's concluding words to the crowd? "Make me do it."
If the first four years of Obama's presidency have proven that activists couldn't rely on him to make change, the next four years need to be about our side organizing to prove that we can make our demands heard, no matter who's in power in Washington.