You would think that, with the election over, we would not have to deal with such tremendous levels of bullshit. That our daily political diet would consists of more substantial matters. That we would leave the empty calories of the campaign season behind.
You might think that, but you would, of course, be wrong. And if you do think that, this is probably the first presidential election cycle you’ve followed, because as long as I’ve been covering the stuff (which is admittedly only three cycles — hey, I’m 36, not 76), it has always been so. The bickering of the campaign season slides into the bickering of the congressional session, which slides into the bickering of the off-year campaign, back into congressional session, back into the presidential campaign, ad infinitum.
Even I held out hope that it wouldn’t be so, and I’m not exactly what you would call an “optimist” by the traditional definition of the word. Still, I figured that the election results were as sure a sign as any that the nation was sending Congress a message, and that Congress should be able to read that message loud and clear. The Republican House’s intransigence on issues of debt and deficit has angered voters to the point that all the Tea Party gains made in 2010 seem like ancient history, almost a different country and a different electorate. Indeed, a strong case can be made that the GOP should have lost control of the House on Nov. 6, and would have, were it not for gerrymandered redistricting efforts that insured continued Republican control. The voters let Congress know loud and clear that they wanted it to work
But no! Speaker John Boehner took one look at President Obama’s plan and called it a nonstarter. The Speaker said, “We’re nowhere” on solving this crisis. Senate Minority Leader and known man-turtle Mitch McConnell said that Obama’s plan made him “burst into laughter,” an absurd statement on its face as no one has ever seen Mitch McConnell laugh about anything. The plan calls for $1.6 trillion in revenue, including more than $900 billion that would come from raising taxes on the wealthiest few. It also offers $600 billion in savings, mostly in cuts to Medicare. This, of course, is some sort of communist outrage. One aide said it would be as if the Republicans offered up Paul Ryan’s budget, as though the complete dismantling of Medicare and Social Security is the same thing as raising the top marginal tax rate by a few points.
So it looks right now as though we’re headed over the dreaded fiscal cliff. Which is fine by me. I count myself among the folks who have been derided by the punditry as the “Thelma and Louise” class. Let’s all just hold each others hands and drive our 1966 Ford Thunderbird straight off the Grand Canyon. Tax rates skyrocket on everyone, and suddenly the rates the Democrats want don’t look so bad to the GOP anymore. As for the huge cuts to defense the sequestration calls for, great. It’s about time. You mean we’ll go from spending 41 percent of the entire world’s defense budget to only in the 30s? Oh, dread of dreads! However shall we defend ourselves?
Here in Florida, we have our own magical nonissue-pretending-to-be-a-crisis, and that is voter fraud, which almost never happens. But boy howdy, to hear the Republican Party tell it, this is the great issue of our times. It’s as though every other person in line was voting for the second or, say, 54th time, when in reality you have a better chance of being struck by lightning than committing voter fraud. And yet, the GOP did everything it could to “curb fraudulent votes” on election day. Of course, the reality is that they were doing everything they could to “curb black votes.” Disgraced former Florida Republican chairman Jim Greer has been sounding off about the reality of GOP voter purges in Florida for a while now. But GOP consultants and former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist have now also gotten in on the act.
Living in a separate reality lost the GOP this election. Mitt Romney was sure he would win because his internal polls told him so. Many, many GOP pundits were even more shocked than Romney. Reagan administration official turned GOP Cassandra Bruce Bartlett had the best post-election analysis on this score. And yet, here we are after the election, and the GOP remains as intransigent as ever on even the most basic revenue increases. As long as they continue to ignore reality, and the desire of the vast majority of voters, they will continue to lose, and only gerrymandering chicanery will keep them in power.