It turns out Republicans are in a pretty bad way. Worse than I thought. How bad? Well there was a certain election recently that went sufficiently badly for them that a disturbingly large contingent seem to be stubbornly continuing to deny reality (I also can’t help but mention that “republicans deny reality” popped up as a frequently used search term on Google, before I could finish typing it). And it put a canned ham-like face on the problem, while bringing Rational People the most entertaining and psychically satisfying few moments of television we’re likely to witness in our lifetimes. But the disturbingly large contingent had been denying reality since well before the election.
But no, I’m referring to a new Pew Research Center poll – which actually allows us to answer the question of ‘how bad’ quantifiably – released today that describes an American public increasingly frustrated with how the GOP has been conducting itself. The high notes are that Obama’s job approval is at 55%, up from 44% in January, and the highest it’s been since May 2011 when he announced the death of Osama bin Laden; and only 32% say Republican leaders are making a serious effort to reach an agreement on the budget deficit, while 57% say they aren’t, and 11% don’t know. 55% say Obama is making a serious effort. Pew asked some interesting questions and got some interesting statistics, such as approval for raising income taxes on incomes over 250,000 in order to reduce the national debt and deficit – 69% approved. 77% disapproved of reducing funding for education, and 58% disapproved of reducing funding “to help lower-income Americans.” All good signs.
Greg Sargent of The Washington Post has drawn some even more interesting and infinitely more important conclusions from this poll, and the election, and the GOP’s rejection of reality, should he turn out to be right. And from what I’ve seen, he very well may be, which means the GOP is in a pretty bad way.
Romney’s loss on November 6th came as a relief to many people, myself included. Unfortunately for him, the judgement passed on him, and more importantly, the decision not to vote for him, was not entirely dependent on his opinions or actions. In fact, it wasn’t even mostly dependent on his opinons or actions. For me, and for many people, the scariest thing about Mitt Romney was the party he represented.
Romney’s policies are one thing, and there is plenty of fault I could and did find with them, but that largely was not the issue I voted on. In the current political climate, I thought it would be immensely damaging to the country to put someone in the Oval Office who could be at all beholden to the current Republican party, as radical and unstable as it has become, and far more damaging than anything Obama was or is likely to do. Romney, the former moderate governor of Massachusetts (and I would have been a lot more likely to vote for him if he’d stuck to those positions) flipped hard right in order to win the Republican primaries – particularly in states like Iowa and Texas – by changing positions to portray himself as “severely conservative,” in order to appease the increasingly radical Republican party (with its increasingly relevant and powerful fringe). Whatever his motivation was, this sets up a precedent for doing whatever he had to do – appeasing whoever he needed to – in order to win. A Romney win would have provided a conduit, if you will, for the radicals to possibly have influence over the Oval Office. This, in essence, is the main reason he lost my vote, and, I believe, the votes of many, many other moderates. The allegations that Romney would simply “rubberstamp the Tea Party agenda” – of which there were many – rang too true. As National Review columnist Ramesh Ponnuru put it, “Romney was not a drag on the Republican party. The Republican party was a drag on him.” This, to me, is the number one reason it is good Romney did not win the presidency.
I’m assuming that most bloggers are, like me, either aspiring writers, unsuccessful writers, jilted writers, writers who have had a deep yet unrequited affair with writing, or some combination of all of the above. For this reason, and for anyone else who’s just interested, I recently read an intriguing article that might be worth reading to anyone who would describe themselves in any of the aforementioned ways, which I will now relate to you. This article was intriguing for two increasingly improbable reasons: the first is that it related good news – I know, actual good news! – and not just good news, but good news and even positive outlook in topics relating to the economy, to economic growth, to a prospering vocation, to trade, and to an increasingly profitable and prosperous industry. The second is that the article was about writers! Yes! Writers, novelists, and the publishing industry. Stephen Marche, writing in the December issue of Esquire (yes, again, I’m a subscriber), says that the medium may be changing, but that we are living in the golden age for writers.
In music, it’s a truism that technology liberated creators and listeners in magnificent ways but more or less ruined the industry in the process. Even big-name acts have struggled to adapt financially. But the world of writing has escaped this mess. Writers are prospering as never before, on all levels. At the very pinnacle, J.K. Rowling is a billionaire. She is richer than the queen of England. A little lower down the scale, Tom Wolfe was paid $7 million for his last novel. Just to put that in perspective, Charles Dickens’s net worth when he died would be about $10 million today. And for writers starting out, there are more options, more means of access to the marketplace, than ever before. With Fifty Shades of Grey and a whole whack of other e-book miracles, self-publishing has almost lost its stigma. Small presses have never produced more lovely editions or had an easier time disseminating their products. In 2010 the National Book Award and the Pulitzer for fiction both went to books from tiny presses.
Many people across the political spectrum – myself included – have spent the past few weeks hoping, surmising, and even expecting that one result of this election, perhaps the most important result of this election, is that it may have delivered to the right a wake-up call. That the drumming they received in state houses, legislatures, on the Hill, and in the White House would bring about some new thinking, that more prescient members may come around to the idea that they must as a whole stop doing so much to appease the radical fringe – currently in the form of the Tea Party (one lone but germaine example of which is here, and the subject is also covered quite well in David Corn’s book Showdown) – and halt these elements from dragging the whole party further right, which continues to alienate voters. That they may decide in order to win elections, in order to continue to influence events and remain relevant – and in order to stave off the emergence of a third party, as has been suggested in some circles – they might need to go after voters other than upper-class white men (if there’s one thing we should have learned from this election, it is the importance of minorities). They might decide, “it’s time for Republican elected leaders to stand up and to repudiate this nonsense [of the extreme right wing], and to repudiate it directly,” says Republican strategist Steve Schmidt (on Salon.com). They might think, as Newt Gingrich put so eloquently:
“For the conservative movement and the Republican Party to succeed in the future (and while they are not identical the two are inextricably bound together) we will have to learn the lessons of 2012. An intellectually honest and courageous Republican Party has nothing to fear from the current situation.”
From an email I wrote to a friend last week, who, in the words of Mitt Romney, is “severely conservative,” in a way that Romney himself never actually was:
So I read your articles, which wasn’t a problem, since reading articles is what I do with a large amount of my time lately [the articles he sent me are here, here, here, and here.] I don’t have any interest in or support for a particular candidate, though, I’m more interested in the machinations of politics, the strategy and tact that goes into elections and governing. I myself would of course never run for anything – just imagine that for a minute, what the attack ads against me would look like. Which brings me to my first point…
I am not an Obama supporter. I’m not. I voted for him, but I am not the person who thinks he has all the answers, or that liberalism and progressivism are the only paths to enlightenment. I was in 2008. I bought in to the whole hope and change, let’s-elect-the-first-black-president, history-making craziness of it. Not that my support was a whole lot of help, as I spent most of my time at that point trying to figure out if I could, in fact, ingest my own body weight in, uh, jelly beans before my liver gave out – 2008 was not a good year for me – and was just generally a worthless human being. I actually saw the final election results in Troy, where my dog-man dwelleth, rather than at home, and I never actually made it to the polls to vote for anyone. But I am not a supporter now. I think he’s made a lot of mistakes, that there are a lot of things he could have done better, that he is not an infallible individual (when he got the Nobel prize I thought that was RIDICULOUS). I think he has no where near lived up to the hope and promises he made in 2008.
From emails I sent to my mom on election day, in response to her difficulty in understanding how any of our relatives who are concerned with women’s rights could vote for Romney:
The forward thinking in-laws very well may vote on different issues than you do. I’m sure Grandma is in favor of women’s rights – I’m sure Grandpa is too, and so is dad. They would probably even agree with you that Obama is best on that issue. But they’re not voting on that issue – that’s not what is most important to them. To them, it’s probably the economy – at least I know it is for Grandpa, because he told me he’s voting Romney because Grandpa’s been a businessman all his life, it’s how he provided for his family, and Romney is a businessman too, and that is what he thinks we need to get the economy going again. That is what is most important to him. As I said in my last email, it is a question of priorities.
From a series of email sent between myself and members of my extended family in the days leading up to Election Day:
Something I’ve forgotten to mention for the past couple days: on Thursday of last week, I made a trip to my local early voting place – the courthouse – and voted for Barack Obama. (I also voted for NC gubernatorial candidate Walter Dalton, NC Lieutenant Governor candidate Linda Coleman, and U.S. Congressional candidate Elisabeth Motsinger, running for the 5th district – all of whom are Democrats.)
Though early voting turnouts have shown Obama leading by as much as 15% over Romney in NC, it is not likely Obama will win our home state – liberals tend to vote early. And though Obama did win our state in 2008 – the first time a Democratic presidential candidate had since Carter in 1976 – and though there have been times in the current race when the candidates were polling close enough to each other for NC to be considered a possible swing state, the Obama campaign publicly conceded the state last week, saying they would no long campaign here, and the NY Times has Romney with an 82% chance of winning this state. But, mom, we can always hope.