Shortly after the results came in for Presidential Election 2012, Fox News projected that Obama would take Ohio. At the gathering where I was attending, everyone kept talking, kept schmoozing, kept eating and drinking. Everyone was also awaiting the results from the 33rd Congressional District race, which two hours after the polls closed showed only a narrow victory for Rep. Henry Waxman. Bill Bloomfield did not concede anything. It was the morning after when I learned that Congressman Waxman squeaked by with 53 percent of the vote.
Now I know how documentary provocateur Michael Moore felt after Election 2004. I have a sense of how all Democrats and liberals felt when they dreaded four more years of George W. Bush, the same wrath which voters voiced throughout the 33rd Congressional District.
Like many voters, I felt like the main characters from the final scenes of Martin Scorsese’s film The Departed. Irish Mob boss Frank Costello (played by Jack Nicholson) gets cornered in a state police cross-fire, which younger mobster and mole Connie Sullivan (Matt Damon) was supposed to head off. The acolyte had learned that Costello was an FBI mole, and the plots of double-dealing doubled over, with Costello shot and down in the back of his car, moaning: “What the h--- happened?” Then the disillusioned Sullivan finishes him off.
Here’s some answers for "what happened":
1. Voters, rich and poor alike, cannot be bought. Billions of dollars (take that, Citizens United) will not massage a message which is missing real substance, or a message which promises less from the government for those who depend on the government. A solid message of debt and deficit reduction means nothing for the man or woman who does not have a job, who cannot look past the grim present into a calm of even smiling future.
2. The electorate has grown increasingly volatile, with one slew of candidates thrown out in place of another in every election cycle, yet neither major party, neither its leaders nor its acolytes, will pull the trigger to cut the spending, curb the entitlements, and diminish the over-extended prestige of this country.
3. The “Tea Party” message is getting watered down, even though the platform of returning our government back to its constitutional principles would solve many problems. Two years ago, many of the same Tea Party supporters stood out on the curb waving “Don't Tread on Me!” flags, yet when I told one of the attendees that this country needs to curb entitlements, she balked, saying that anyone over 70 should retire with all that the government promises. Another member standing on the sidewalk wanted to lecture me about his frustration with local police could not remove a dead bird from the street. The same kind of “Occupy Wall Street” rage of blame without a name bubbled over on Torrance Boulevard. I am tired of people getting angry because they feel betrayed while still betraying their own principles. All in all, the tea tasted watered down: one more group of people who want to cut the spending, but not their spending.
3. The moment-modern media has made an indelible mark on our platforms and our politics. One stray remark about abortion and rape helped kill potential GOP pick-ups in Missouri and Indiana. From Twitter to Facebook, from the Internet to the blogophere, the opinions of the many, whether reasoned or rationed, are driving this nation’s discourse. The voters, the commentators, and the political elites cannot paper over missteps which get hammered at length in easy, breezy private media. Still, no one has commented how corrosive, if not corrective, the influence of instantaneous media has become.
4. People are looking for safety and security in a world that is still shaking. 9-11 gave George W. Bush free reign not to rein in spending or military ventures. From easy credit to easy invasions in the Middle East, all of this power unrestrained has made us worse off, less secure. Freedom is an afterthought if your choices are a split baby between bad and worse. Fiscal discipline means nothing if government remains undisciplined with our money, or careless when caring for our rights or securing our borders.
5. The polling was not as accurate as one would have assumed. How many statistics indicated that Romney had a slight lead in certain swing states, only to see them melt away into a bare Obama resurgence? So much information was misinformation.
Obama has been reelected. Waxman is still in office. The chance for change of a different sort has departed. One side feels betrayed, done in by the very people whom they trusted would carry the day, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who praised Obama following Superstorm Sandy. Still, the fish are swimming, and the birds are singing. Life goes on. Unlike the unlucky Irish mobsters in The Departed, we are still breathing, notwithstanding the unwanted outcomes.
What happens in the White House or in the state house does not have to hurt the peace and prosperity in ours. Perhaps if we stop trusting the minute-by-minute and rest in the moment, we can stop asking “what happened” and just focus on what’s happening now.