Well, citizens, Tuesday was an exciting day in American politics. I hope you were among the many who exercised their civic responsibility. If you’re tired of watching the talking heads–and who wouldn’t be; watching CNN on Election Night was like watching the most coked-up panel of celebrity judges on a rerun of The Match Game–then allow me to break it all down for you, with my usual eye for the unusual.
Of course, the major story was that the Republican Party made large gains in state and federal positions. The biggest prize was winning back the House of Representatives. This makes John Boehner, congressman from Ohio, the presumptive Speaker of the House. At some point Tuesday night, he finally came on air to make a statement. I was half-listening to him, but perked up when I heard him repeat verbatim the start of a paragraph. “Oh, the poor bastard,” I thought, “Somebody forgot to collate the pages of his speech.” Then he stopped talking, and kind of just stared out over the lip of the podium, shifting his weight slightly from side to side. I thought, “Oh my God, he’s going to stroke out on national television!” And then…then John Boehner started to cry. And I was very uncomfortable.
Look, I get it. The guy just got handed the biggest promotion of his life (and since a potential Republican president would need a strong ally in the House, it’s probably the biggest promotion he’ll ever get in his life). But the choking sobs of a grown man from small-town Ohio were enough to make me call it a night.
So, what does Yours Truly make of the shake-up on Capitol Hill? While I tend to find most of my viewpoints shared by Democratic lawmakers, it’s not like the D’s didn’t have this coming. They held the majorities in both houses and yes, they got shit done; but when they slipped up, they were splayed flat on their backs, and took too long to get back on their feet again. I also marvel at how the Republican party can be so unified, and the Democrats wound up having to try to placate a few greedy rabble-rousers who wanted a bigger spot in the sandbox. I don’t understand why the party leadership didn’t put more pressure on these individuals–who went on to lose reelection overwhelmingly anyway–to tow the party line. Maybe there’s something to be said for a little dissent within the party, but when you face a group as obstinate as the Republic lawmakers, you should just be fighting with fire, especially when the math works in your favor.
But now Democrats find themselves in the minority, at least in the lower chamber. And here’s where it can get interesting. The most consistent and most appropriate criticism of congressional Republicans
is that they are the Party of No. I wonder how easily the R’s in the House will transition from idea-squashers into idea-makers. If the Republicans said, “Our goal is to repeal Laws 1, 2, and 3, and replace them with Laws A, B, and C,” I’d say, “Well, I might not agree with that idea, but it’s an idea.” But instead, all Republicans have been saying is, “Our goal is to repeal Laws 1, 2, and 3.” Where’s the follow-up, Goppers? I mean, it’s really hard to take you seriously when your leading figure in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, announces with a straight face that “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” Honestly, Senator, you may think that, but you shouldn’t say it. That’s the least constructive objective you could possibly have. That has no one’s best interest at heart. And seeing as how you’re still in the minority in the Senate, and have personally never once been considered to be a potential standard-bearer for the Republicans in 2012, it’s rather delusional.
Historically, it’s also unlikely. Many a president has won reelection without lots of friends in Congress. And if Republicans squander their new influence with a lack of alternate solutions to the nation’s myriad problems, they’re not going to win any new fans in 2012.
Bottom line? The fireworks might be a little bigger when the 112th Congress convenes, but I think the country’s climb out of the shit hole it’s been in will continue to be a slow one. And that, my friends, means that the pendulum may well swing the other way in another two years. As one of Good Morning, America‘s commentators, whose name unfortunately escapes me now, had said, the American people have become dangerous accustomed having things done for them yesterday. We can communicate instantaneously across time zones, we carry around entire libraries of music in our pockets, and we watch our favorite television shows whenever we so choose. Government seems to be the only thing that hasn’t been swept along by the digital revolution, and as our patience grows thinner, so does our tolerance.
But there were other stories to follow this Election Day, some serious and some straight-up comical–and some that straddled the line between. Let’s get to it…
Crazy for You
I think the Tea Party crowd kind of broke even on Election Day. Embattled septuagenarian Harry Reid eked out a victory in Nevada, defeating the daffy Sharron Angle, who is famous for not being able to differentiate between Asians and Latinos. Also losing was Christine O’Donnell, Delaware’s Tea Party surprise, who will now most certainly be on next season’s Dancing with the Stars. However, Kentucky voters sent Rand Paul to the Senate, and Sarah Palin-sponsored Nikki Haley will be moving to the governor’s mansion in South Carolina. Ms. Haley is the first woman to land the job, and only the second Indian-American to be a governor, joining current Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal. I have to admit that I find it curious that the party that fights tooth and nail against immigration, gay rights, and affirmative action–in short, attempts at diversity–is championing these minority politicians.
Hey, Big Spender
The 2010 election showed, reassuringly, that you can’t buy your way into office. Linda McMahon spent her wrestling millions trying to become the junior senator from Connecticut and failed. Carly Fiorina, the wealthy former Hewlett-Packard executive, couldn’t unseat popular California senator Barbara Boxer. And elsewhere in California, the former CEO of eBay, Meg Whitman, is now $140 million poorer after losing the governor’s race to Jerry Brown. Honestly, Meg Whitman, $140 million? That’s like the combined gross national product of twelve sub-Saharan countries. The staggering thing is that I imagine this expenditure will not impact her lifestyle in the least.
All in the Family
Money can’t buy you electoral love, but a recognizable name apparently can. Andrew Cuomo got his dad’s old job of governor of New York. Joe Biden III was reelected as attorney general of Delaware. And Ben Quayle, son of the much-maligned former vice president, was elected to Congress from Arizona. Also still coasting on his fame was John McCain, who retained his senate seat for another six years, and will now almost certainly die in office, thus treating us to a week of institutionalized mourning the likes of which has not been seen since the passing of Ronald Reagan.
There were two particularly interesting results that proved the validity of independent candidates. Lincoln Chafee, formerly a Republican member of the U.S. Senate, was elected governor of Rhode Island as an independent. This was no fair-weather change of allegiance either. Chafee left the R’s in 2007 and openly supported President Obama’s campaign in 2008.
In Alaska, the circumstances were a bit different, but no less surprising. After sitting Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski was passed over for Tea Party charmer Joe Miller, she announced her intention to run as an independent. Due to Alaska’s election laws, this meant she would have to compete solely on write-in votes. At press time, she is in the lead. I admit to not knowing much about her views, but if she’s proving that this many literate people live in her state, I say bully for you, Senator!
So, is there a future for independent candidacies? Perhaps. If she is indeed elected, Senator Murkowksi will be the third active independent senator. Looking at a map, it’s interesting to see that successful independents come from states small in population but not necessarily small in size or wealth.
The Body Politic
There were a number of ballot measures for voters to decide on across the nation. Three of particular interest revolved around citizens’ health and well-being. In a direct repudiation of President Obama’s efforts, Arizona and Oklahoma passed measures to prohibit mandated health care. And in Colorado, a major victory for those respectful of women’s rights came when residents overwhelmingly defeated a measure that would define personhood as “beginning at biological development”. Consider these harbingers of two issues sure to be discussed in 2012.
And now, for something completely different…
I promised electoral comedy, and here’s the first installment. There were a number of ballot measures put before voters that honestly just made me laugh. Here are the highlights:
- To the cheers of college students, tailgaters, and Kennedys across the state, Massachusetts has repealed its sales tax on alcohol.
- In effort to utterly confuse its electorate, California put forth one ballot measure which would “remove elected officials from the redistricting process” and another which would “replace the redistricting commission with elected officials”. As it turns out, Operation: Extreme Redundancy was a success: the first one passed, the second one failed.
- The people of Michigan and North Carolina don’t believe in second chances. A Michigan ballot measure now prevents “certain” felons from holding elective office, and North Carolina now forbids felons from being elected sheriff. Here’s my question: will the North Carolina sheriffs lend their virtue and expertise to help weed out the good felons from the bad in Michigan?
- In an intense display of overreaction, Oklahomans voted to make English the official language of governance and to forbid the implementation of sharia law in state courts. I imagine the thriving fanatical Muslim community in the Sooner State was outraged.
- My second favorite ballot measure was the one approved in Virgina to “increase the size of the state’s ‘rainy day fund'”. What the blue fuck does that mean? Is there honestly a jar of spare change at the Virginia statehouse that people just empty their pockets into? Who decides how this money gets used? If the House of Delegates’ Annual BBQ and Famous Confederates Lookalike Contest gets rained out one year, who makes the call between going to the nearest 3-D IMAX theater or just picking up a few sets of Risk, Battleship, and Stratego at Target and expunging slighted separatist rage while munching on jerky and cream puffs? I have so many questions.
- Finally, my favorite ballot measure of 2010 came from Colorado. After surreptitiously defending a woman’s right to choose, the citizens of the Rocky Mountain state also made their voices heard on the crucial matter of minor-league gambling. The people of Colorado resoundingly rejected a ballot measure that would change the oversight of bingo and raffles. That’s right! The government asked the question and the people gave their answer. They went to the polls and they said, “B-I-N-G-Oh no, you fucking don’t! You do not screw around with my black-out rounds and 50-50’s, thank you very much!” Truly, a victory for democracy.
Catch A Rising Star
So, whose stock is up post-Election Day? There’s quite a few names to watch, if you ask me.
First, at the state level, former mayor of San Francisco Gavin Newsom is now California’s lieutenant governor-elect. In Illinois, Lisa Madigan, who was once thought to be a shoe-in to fill vacancies left by Barack Obama and Rod Blagojevich, won reelection in the race for state attorney general. Another notable lady of the law, Massachusetts’ Martha Coakley, showed her previous loss for U.S. Senate couldn’t keep her down; she was reelected state attorney general. Her boss, Deval Patrick, retained his job as Massachusetts governor. New Yorkers reelected both of their Democratic senators, the veteran Chuck Schumer and the rookie Kirsten Gillibrand. Rob Portman, Republican senator-elect from Ohio, and John Kasich, Republican governor-elect from Ohio, could shape the electoral future of this crucial swing state (particularly with fellow Buckeye Mr. Boehner controlling the U.S. House). And Joe Manchin III, senator-elect from West Virginia, is now every Democrat’s new best friend. Thanks largely to him, they retained their majority in the upper chamber.
And since the yapping maws on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News have no other way to fill 24 hours of airtime, why not speculate about which of Tuesday’s winners could make a play for the presidency in 2012? Mike Pence, the successful congressman from Indiana, has not shied away from the suggestion. Jim DeMint, Republican of South Carolina, and John Thune, Republican of South Dakota, both won reelection to the Senate with ease. Former senator and previous presidential hopeful Sam Brownback was elected governor of Kansas. And Rick Perry, who bears a disconcerting resemblance to one of his professional predecessors, was reelected governor of Texas. If you’re looking for a dark horse to enter the conversation, perhaps only as VP candidate, consider Peter King, the Republican congressman who has repeatedly won reelection in my ancestral homeland of Long Island. A downstate New Yorker who serves on the Homeland Security Committee? Could be a profitable balance to some bible-thumping yokel from south of the Mason-Dixon line.
What’s In A Name?
To close out this exhaustive electoral recap, I offer my second dose of laughter, this one utterly childish and unapologetically low-brow. I hereby present to you a list of the funniest names from Election Day 2010.
- Colorado Governor-elect John Hickenlooper
- Maryland Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger
- Nevada Congressman-elect Joe Heck
- Ohio Congresswoman Marcia Fudge
- Virginia Congressman Bob Goodlatte (was his birth name Starbuck?)
- Here’s a two-for-one special. The contest in the Texas 23rd was between Ciro Rodriguez and Quico Canseco. Rodriguez vs. Canseco. Canseco won. Poetic?
- Idaho Senator Mike Crapo
- Alabama Attorney General-elect Luther Strange
- Alabama Treasurer-elect Young Boozer
Thank you, America. Good night.