Glad to see the election results last night, and thought I'd share a few thoughts about it. This post will have lots of personal opinions in it, like it or not, so feel free to have your own opinion.
Here's a short version, and yes, it's pretty Internet Troll-like: After years of awful political gamesmanship by both major parties that continued to erode our Representative Republic, people voted. Thankfully, a small majority of Americans decided not to put a racist, homophobic, bigoted religious zealot in charge of our nuclear payload.
Here's a few more (hopefully) intelligent thoughts on the election:
In many ways, I think the 2012 election was as much a referendum on the past four years as it was a message about what people want to see during the next four. For Democrats, it was a victory, but a victory that was probably less pronounced than they would have expected and hoped. The race for President was very, very close, and it clearly underlined people's discontent with the actions of President Obama and the Democratic leadership during the first term.
Barack Obama was swept into office in 2008 on a platform of Hope and Change; people saw lots of the former during his first term, but not enough of the latter. I think many of us expected to see better leadership from the President than we got, and were disappointed to see him mired in, and in some cases take part in, the kind of partisan obstructionism and mud-slinging that has prevented too many things from happening in Washington. I know I at least expected better from him, and was quite disappointed to all-too-often see him go along with the petty political games hatched by other prominent members of his party, rather than truly bring about the change I expected to see in office. I wanted him to stand up against elements of his own party rather than allow them to engage in their stupid games with Republicans. I realize that a President isn't King, but I don't think he spoke out against things he should have, and allowed the Democratic leadership in the House and Senate to set the tone and course of action far too often.
That said, he did win, and the election also sent a clear message to Republicans about their hideous, hurtful and backwards social agenda. In many ways, the race for President is won by convincing the middle third to vote for you; Obama did a great job of that in 2008, and Republicans showed voters numerous times why NOT to vote for them in 2012. Racism, rampant homophobia, bigotry, hatred against women, hatred toward non-Christians, and extreme zealotry were all terms that defined the central tenets and core beliefs of the Republican Party in 2012. They may claim to be about fiscal conservatism, smaller government, and independence, but I think many Americans realize those ideas are go-to's meant to hide the truly awful core of the party. You may consider yourself to be a Republican who disagrees with your party on the social issues. You should know then that your party doesn't represent you, and you are supporting hatred and violence toward many people who do not deserve it.
This is the election where the GOP was defined by "legitimate rape", Romney's "47%", clear messages against immigrants and homosexuals, and a scathing primary process which gave Democrats lots of fodder for campaign ads to run against whoever won. I suspect the GOP will try next time to have a less public nomination; while the numerous debates helped hone Romney's public speaking skills, it also served as an easy way for Americans to see all of the backwards opinions and positions of the party on social issues. The GOP primary was all about catering to their most extreme wings. I think they hoped that average voters wouldn't pay attention until after the primary process was over, so they could come out with a clear winner who could then shift his rhetoric to a more moderate position. Romney tried to do that, but people were able to contrast his more moderate comments with his earlier comments too easily, and see that either he was lying then, or lying now. :) That's not really very fair terminology, but the point is that you can't have it both ways. You can't be an extreme right-winger one month and a moderate the next. We live in an age of the Internet, where all comments are archived and YouTube'd, and you have to be clear about where you stand throughout your political career. The Democrats had some of these same problems (in regards to shifting positions), but they didn't have a competitive Presidential primary, and thus avoided a lot of mainstream attention prior to their national convention.
The cynic in me doesn't think our two-party system has the ability to overcome the incredible financial problems that lie ahead in the coming years. Taxes, debt, Social Security, and health care will remain problems for years to come. Unless I'm wrong! I hope I am. I don't see things changing unless both parties stop worrying so much about jockeying for the next election and start working together. I think Election 2012 actually began the day Obama took office in 2008, and everything that has happened since has been colored by the parties' needs for 2012. It's a shame we can't even go six months without the next race being more important than problem-solving. Maybe if the problems become so great that they can't be ignored we'll see actual actions take place by our politicians. Then again, that's already happened, and we got months of bickering and one-upsmanship that prevented solutions from being approved. I know I was hoping that post-2008 we wouldn't see as much "politics as usual"; I thought Obama's election would send a clear message to both parties. Unfortunately, they got the wrong message, I think, and became even more entrenched in their failures.
Perhaps the future lies in a third party. I know it's a nearly impossible hill to climb at this point in our history, but I truly feel that the Founding Fathers didn't intend for our government to become a two-party system. I'm no expert on American history, though, it's just a gut feeling that we need to figure out a better way, and get people to support it.
Regardless, I am overall quite pleased with 2012 when it comes to social issues and referendum. People are voting in favor of gay marriage (or, in Minnesota's case, at least voting against homophobia.) Several states have enacted medical marijuana and/or legalization. Both of these issues are ones that I never would have expected to see happen in my lifetime, and I'm happy to see real action being taken to improve people's lives and eliminate hatred and harm.
Here's to hoping that our elected leaders from both parties actually work together in the next four years, and if not, that the American public will finally decide to do something about it.