Saturday November 10, 2012

Alden Graves

All the Koch millions and all of Rove’s guile

Couldn’t on Romney make victory smile. When I walked out of the polling place in the old train station in North Bennington, it suddenly occurred to me what a beautiful morning it was. The crisp autumn air was invigorating, the sky was blue, and the sun was shining. I wasn’t going to be late for work because the long line that I had anticipated was not there. The lady sitting next to the voting machine had been cordial and pleasant. As I was walking back to my car, I could even hear church bells in the distance. It was like being in a Frank Capra movie.

There was always a happy ending in Capra’s movies and my imaginary one was no exception. Boy, was it no exception!

At some point during election night, the esteemed Fox News contributor, Karl Rove, beads of perspiration no doubt breaking out above the beady eyes, got into an argument with his fair and balanced colleagues over Romney’s loss in Ohio, an eventuality that Mr. Rove evidently hadn’t anticipated.

He maintained his pouty insistence that Ohio wasn’t lost over shots of cheering Obama supporters until someone in the newsroom said, "They’re not listening to you, Karl." That quote should be carved on Rove’s political tombstone.

Barack Obama’s election in 2008 might have had its roots in a desire on the part of the American people to obliterate the memory of eight years of a prolonged and bungled war, reckless deregulation, genuflecting to the wealthy, and other aspects of George W. Bush’s calamitous brand of "you’re either with us or against us" Republicanism. But, the GOP couldn’t pretend that the president’s decisive re-election was anything but an affirmation of the nation’s confidence in his ability to find a way out of the messes they created.

It was an especially bitter rebuke because the operative word for Republicans during Mr. Obama’s first term had been obstructionism, no matter what the impact might be on the vast majority of the people in this country. The president’s seeming inability to move the economy forward would destroy his chances of re-election. That was the plan. Instead, the mad dog that the Republicans created turned around and bit them on their well-padded posteriors.

I have always been amazed at the ability of people to just erase unpleasant things from their consciousness, like static on the tape in an old cassette player. Just press a couple of buttons and it’s gone. That didn’t hold true for a lot of people who voted on Nov. 6 and it, more than anything else, probably saved the country from four years of superior smirks, the one constant in the blinding, shifting sand trap called Willard Mitt Romney.

If the GOP counted on the notoriously short memories of the American public -- oftentimes a pretty good bet -- it was a mistake of the first magnitude in 2012. Half of those polled said that the country is still trying to recover from the chaos that Bush left in his wake, not Barack Obama’s inability to thwart the intransigence of a Congress with the collective petulance quotient of a particularly bratty kindergarten class.

A lot of grand old politicians who are fond of hailing America as a diverse nation are going to have to face the fact that it really is. These are people who actually think that Michael Steele represented diversity or that Clarence Thomas is a step forward. These are people not so much bound by tradition as shacked to it. The litany that we have been hearing from the right since Election Day is that Romney wasn’t "conservative enough" (read mired in the past enough) to win, a refrain that will provide a similar blueprint for another GOP disaster in 2016.

Things that don’t adapt invariably die and the numbers have always been stacked against those who stand to gain the most by a continuation of GOP politics. The elections of 2012 have proven that massive infusions of money from obscenely wealthy people cannot counteract the accurate perception of the general public that what is good for the Koch brothers isn’t necessarily good for them. Until Charlie and Dave can figure out a way for their votes to count more than a college kid waiting on tables to pay for his education, money alone isn’t going to guarantee the Oval Office, a revelation that in itself makes 2012 a watershed year for American politics.

Thousands of people in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut are still hoeing out of the devastation left by Sandy. The hugely destructive storm has once again brought the subject of climate change to the forefront of public discourse. It is another issue that is anathema to corporate America and thus it continually finds itself positioned in the bullseye of GOP targets.

Even if the issue itself is still debatable -- and most of the credible scientific evidence points to climate change as the most serious problem facing the planet today -- the central question has never been so much "Does climate change exist?" as it is (and should be) "Can we afford to gamble that it doesn’t?"

There is little doubt that Sandy played an important role in the president’s re-election. In the hurricane’s stark reality, we saw the difference between the Republicans and their "flyover" philosophy and Mr. Obama’s laudable reaction to a catastrophe. The memories of Katrina reared up like a vengeful graveyard ghost and Mr. Romney, who had FEMA slated for demolition, was forced to do another about face. Not exactly a difficult feat for a man with more faces than Lon Chaney, but you have to wonder if he ever unshakably stood for anything except advancing his own ambition.

In the end, Mr. Romney lost the state in which he was born, the state in which he was governor, the three states in which he maintains houses, his vice-president’s home state, and even the town in Massachusetts where he lives. The loss was so decisive that no one gave a tinker’s damn about Florida and its endless machinations. Come to think of it, that might be history of sorts, but it certainly wasn’t the history that the Koch brothers set out to buy.

Alden Graves is a reviewer and columnist for the Banner.