April 18, 2014

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Politics & Prejudices

What it all meant

From the day he took office, millions of people were out to ruin him. The haters, the racists, the birthers. "I want him to fail," Rush Limbaugh proclaimed before he took office. The GOP leadership was on the same page. They indicated they'd do anything they could to make that happen.

President Barack Obama came into office in what was clearly the scariest national economy since the Great Depression. His first task was to prevent it from toppling into collapse. The auto industry was facing bankruptcy. Had Chrysler and General Motors shut down, Ford would have undoubtedly followed. Ann Arbor's Center for Automotive Research, or CAR, told me that could mean the loss of another 1 million to 3 million jobs, many of them in this part of the world.

Obama bailed 'em out — got the industry back in its feet, cleaned up General Motors and had Chrysler merge with Fiat. Today, they are all making billions. Most said the president should then have put his political muscle into a quick-fix jobs program. Instead, he opted to spend his capital to try to do something no other president had managed — universal health insurance. 

Franklin D. Roosevelt wasn't able to do it. Harry Truman wasn't. Even Lyndon Johnson couldn't. But Barack Obama got the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed, though it cost Democrats control of the House of Representatives. He also did what George Bush failed to do for more than seven years: Find Osama bin Laden, and kill him.

Nevertheless, the Republicans thought he was toast. Unemployment was still maddeningly high — barely less than 8 percent. The deficit had skyrocketed out of control. They smelled victory. They nominated their best-looking candidate.

Mitt Romney promised to balance the budget, provide millions of new jobs, cut taxes (mainly for the wealthy), and — oh, yeah — reduce the deficit at the same time. He figured he was in.

He was so sure he was going to be the next president he had his transition website ready to go, and a huge display of fireworks ready to be shot off in Boston Harbor.

Romney bragged that he only had written a victory speech, not a concession statement. He spent Election Day dashing around the country.

President Obama hung out in Chicago, playing pickup basketball with his friends. Then the votes started coming in.

"We'll see who is on the correct side of the electorate," one right-winger from Ohio e-mailed me, just before the first numbers arrived. I never heard from him again.

Long before 11 p.m., stunned Republicans were watching CNN's John King standing in front of his famous election map, explaining he saw no way Romney could win Florida. 

Everything was over well before midnight. The electoral vote was Obama 332, Romney 206. The popular vote was closer than last time, but when all the absentee ballots have been counted, that reviled Kenyan socialist will have defeated the boy from Bloomfield Hills by about 4 million votes.

That makes Barack Obama the first Democratic president since Franklin Roosevelt to win a majority of the popular vote two elections in a row.

Early the next morning, I received a hysterical e-mail from a woman from the Toledo suburbs. WE ARE NOW A COMMUNIST COUNTRY RULED BY A MUSLIM, it said.

Inshallah, baby, and straighten that hammer and sickle on your burqa! Incredibly, the voters hadn't been fooled. They saw what the Republicans were offering, and they didn't like it.

Though the presidential election got the most attention, other results indicated a real repudiation of much of what the Republican Party stands for. For the first time, voters in three states — Washington, Minnesota and Maryland — voted to legalize gay marriage. Wisconsin elected an openly gay woman — Tammy Baldwin— to the U.S. Senate, defeating a popular former governor. That's the home state of GOP vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan, by the way. Wisconsin voters gave Obama an easy win, indicating they didn't want Pauly boy as veep.

Republicans also had two candidates for the U.S. Senate in deep red states who could have won easily — till they started showing their true colors and feelings about women. Todd Akin of Missouri said if a woman was the victim of "legitimate rape," she couldn't get pregnant. Richard Mourdock in Indiana said if a woman became pregnant as a result of rape, "that was something God intended to happen."

Fortunately, God evidently didn't intend for them to become senators. A year ago, it seemed an almost safe bet that the GOP would take control of the Senate.

It seemed completely safe to say that Republicans would gain seats. After all, 23 Democrats were up for re-election; only 10 Republicans. But when the votes were counted, the score was 25 Dems and independents who vote with them; 8 Republicans.

Thanks to expert gerrymandering by state legislatures, Republicans lost a few seats but kept solid control of the U.S. House of Representatives, probably by 235 to 200.

This, despite the fact that more people voted for Democrats. That means we are back to divided government.

Whether any sanity will prevail before we hit the "fiscal cliff" of deficit reduction, nobody can say. But we can say this:

That which both sides now call "Obamacare" will now go fully into effect, and will be so embedded in our fabric four years from now it will never be repealed. 

We won't get any horrible Supreme Court justices for the next four years, which is tremendous. If Jesus should happen to call Antonin Scalia home, or Clarence Thomas leaves the court to open a video store, things may overwhelmingly change for the better,

And Republicans still don't have a clue. When the votes were in, the Tea Party news network put out a press release calling for a more extreme right-wing candidate for president next time. "The lesson the GOP and Americans need to learn is that weak-kneed Republicans do not get elected. Conservatives do," it said.

Just think. If the Republicans stick with those guys for 2016, next time we may all be able to go to bed on Election Night before the streetlights come on.

 

Next week: What the election means for Michigan. (Matty Moroun has locked himself in the bathroom, and in fairness, I wanted to wait till he came out.)

 

Give it up: Turning to the truly nutty-cause department: Center for Creative Studies student Joe Benghauser posted a phony sign on the fence where Tiger Stadium once stood.

The sign says a classy new car dealership "Navin Auto Sales," will soon be built there. I saw that, and was cheered; a new bustling business is exactly what Corktown needs. Alas, it is all a hoax.

When you go to the website you find that what Benghauser really wants you to do is contribute money towards building a statue of longtime announcer Ernie Harwell on the site.

Now, that's just plain nuts. Ernie, by the way, was a friend of mine. But there's already a fine statue of him at Comerica Park a mile or so away, and the city doesn't exactly need another one.

There are a million bigger needs poverty-stricken Detroit has, and many better ways Benghauser could use his talent, or any money he is able to raise, to help. Joey, we're sorry to break it to you, but Tiger Stadium is not coming back. I didn't want it torn down either but that war is over. Comerica Park is a fine baseball stadium, and we all have our memories. But now it's time to get on with, like, life.

 

Jack Lessenberry opines weekly for Metro Times. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

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