Elections 2012: A Retrospective

Here at the Principles for a Self Directed Society blog, I’m not able to post commentary on every event in real time.  I would have loved to comment on the 2012 election while the season was in full swing, but I simply don’t have time.  Maybe at some future date I might be able to do a follow-up assessment on the political bias of NPR’s political coverage but as yet I haven’t had time to compile those statistics either.

There were several take-away points from this election, worthy of reflection after the fact.

I’m not alone.

A majority of Americans agreed that Barack Obama would be a better President than the other guy.  I think most of us agree that he’s not perfect, but he had a couple of really important things going for him:

Obama got us out of Iraq, as he promised to do, which was a primary reason that I endorsed him way back in 2008.

Obama almost saved America from the economic disaster that was caused by Republican fiscal policies during the Bush administration.  I say “almost” because he’s not a superhero and there’s only so much he could have done to stop that moving train; and I also say “almost” because Obama is no FDR, and we’d have been much better off with a revival of the public works projects that put Americans back to work during the Great Depression of the 1930’s.  Still, I think that in ten or twenty years’ time, most reasonable economists will agree that Obama’s policies prevented the disaster from becoming much worse, as it  certainly would have done if the Republicans had kept the White House in 2008.

The race was tight.

An electoral college landslide does not equal a popular vote landslide.  While a majority of the people in a majority of the states chose to re-elect the President, the math worked out to a pretty slim majority of the popular vote overall (although I’m happy to say that the margin was in fact bigger than I had privately predicted).  This indicates that more convincing is needed, to help a larger share of the total population understand that neo-feudalism only benefits a few very rich people at the top of the economic spectrum: it does not benefit the country as a whole.  It doesn’t seem to matter that Ronald Reagan’s “trickle down” theory of economics has been factually disproven by economists, time and again.  As long as the other side continues to make the same old argument, reasonable people must continue to refute that argument, over and again.

Furthermore, while hardly unexpected, it saddened me that third parties were not nationally viable.  I can only think that having more options available to voters would benefit and strengthen our democracy.  The fact that we’re locked into this black-and-white, either-or, binary, two-party system really ends up harming the voters who find themselves having to make a choice between the lesser of two evils.

Many of my political opponents are reasonable people.

In the run-up to the election, I sat down to coffee for a political discussion with a registered Republican.  He was very personable.  He avowed well-reasoned views of fiscal conservatism, and was actually apologetic for his party’s positions on social issues.  I came away from the meeting with a sense that, far from being some sort of extremist whacko, my Republican counterpart is well-meaning and reasonable.

Of course, that doesn’t change the fact that he is wrong in every important respect.  The economy is NOT driven by the size of the bank accounts of the 1%.  The economy is driven by consumer spending.  As I have discussed in previous posts, the Paul Ryan budget would have the effect of bankrupting the middle class, leading to a worse economy than ever.  Reasonable people on the other side of the political divide really need to face this reality.

Many of my political opponents are NOT reasonable people.

Look, I’m all for reasonable debate between well-meaning, even passionate people.  We can disagree with each other’s points of view without descending into name-calling and other kinds of attacks.  But the reality of the world we live in, is that many of my political opponents are all too ready to descend into this kind of disreputable behavior, and they should be ashamed of themselves.

Voter Fraud and Intimidation

Despite the Republican obsession with voter fraud, and their fairly convoluted belief that somehow the Democrats were going to get so many felons into the voting booth that it would swing the election, the actual voter fraud that actually occurred was committed by Republicans in an attempt to swing the election their way.  In the great state of Oregon, an election worker actually changed ballots to favor Republican candidates.  In many other states, new voter ID laws were improperly applied, and judicial decrees were ignored by elections workers.  There were robo-calls and billboards in low-income neighborhoods that discouraged voter participation.  There were even a number of reports of Republican operatives intimidating people of color outside of polling places, to try to keep them from voting.

These are not the actions of reasonable people.  These are the actions of extremists who do not believe in democracy.

Furthermore, these were not simply isolated incidents.  These incidents are just part of a larger picture of anti-democratic initiatives passed and implemented by Republican state legislatures, governors, and other officials in many states.  They want to limit voter access by requiring the very sorts of ID cards that are not owned by the elderly or the poor.  They want to limit early voting, which makes it more convenient for the working classes to vote.  They like the status quo, which requires people in populous neighborhoods to wait in line for hours before they can cast a ballot.  Of course, for people in high-income neighborhoods, voting is always easier and more convenient.  This is class warfare at its ugliest.  The rich and powerful class wants to prevent everyone else from accessing the machinery of democracy.

The solution, of course, is to implement vote-by-mail in every state, and to permit early voting in every state.  It’s the only fair and equitable solution.

Right-wing extremists cannot tolerate dissent

This is where the election gets personal.  If this had happened to you, you would be angry about it, too.

This blog that I’m posting to here, it is not important.  It is not widely read.  It does not get links from major blogs or other websites.  It is not frequently updated.  It is a quiet blog, an unimportant blog.  This website only receives a handful of legitimate readers.  Most of my visitors are indexing bots, spam bots, and employees of the Russian Mafia, who want to hack it and use my mail server to send their spam and spread viruses.

Yet this is a blog that stands up for progressive principles, and there are some right-wing extremists who cannot tolerate the idea that I should be allowed to exercise my First Amendment rights.

First I received a threatening e-mail from some anonymous hooligan hiding behind a proxy server, telling me to keep my mouth shut.

Then, if that wasn’t enough, this blog has been subject to numerous, repeated, and concerted hack attempts from people who want to bring it down.  The fact that the number and intensity of these attacks spiked in the runup to the election demonstrates that they were politically motivated, and not just random.  One night in late October, just two weeks before the election, somebody tried so hard to brute-force my password that he set up thirteen different servers in nine countries and set them to work all trying to break in simultaneously.  I believe that that incident was orchestrated by a certain residential IP address in New Jersey, but of course I can’t prove that.  This was just one of many incidents, although it was the most flagrant.

These events demonstrate to me that there are some Republicans who believe so strongly in their own self-righteousness, that they will stop at nothing to stifle dissenting voices.  These are the same sorts of people who shot a bullet through the window of the Obama campaign headquarters in Denver.  These are the same sorts of people who stand outside polling places and tell black voters that they’re not allowed inside.  They are perfectly content to employ threats, intimidation, and cyber-crime to pursue their extremist agenda.

So ask yourself.  Are you on their side?  Or are you one of the good guys?

About Jesse S. Smith

I’m just a regular guy who happens to have had a lot of interesting experiences. I believe in self-improvement, both for the individual and for society as a whole. I’m subject to strong opinions, but I’m trying to learn to be less confrontational about the way I present them.

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