One of the reasons I dislike politics was on proud display in the days following the election last week, and has necessitated my wearing sunglasses at all times lest my constantly rolling eyes frighten small children and tiny dogs.
We’re all familiar with the sour grapes of the sore loser, but what about the sore winner? Really, what reason does a winner have to be angry? You won; be happy!
We expect, and indeed sometimes chuckle, when someone who came down on the losing side of something expresses disappointment in a petulant “you’re being mean to me” manner. But when the winner does that? I’m just confused.
It’s not a new phenomenon, but I can’t recall an election when so many winners’ supporters complained so much about so little. I tried and failed to track down much in that area from the last time control shifted in Congress (in 2006). Maybe I’m just looking in the wrong places. And I can see the likely first comment on the print version of this column on our newspaper’s website now: Waaaaah! Did too!
Perhaps the recent peevishness is because of a realization that not everyone thinks as they do, as one online commenter on a John Brummett column seemed to suggest, saying that his subscription would be canceled if Brummett, Voices’ lone liberal, continued to write for the paper since Republicans had won.
Yep, nonconformity will do that. Pitiful when columnists can’t write in lockstep with the ruling party. Why, Stalin wouldn’t stand for that! Except … oh, yeah, this is Amuricah, where media is not state-owned and no one has to read something by someone they don’t like. Trust me, no one will come to your home to “ensure” your compliance. And yes, I know those air quotes just made some heads explode. And yes, I’m cackling about that right now.
I’ll say what I often say—all the answers will never be found on only one side of the aisle but, more likely, in the aisle itself. We have a wide range of opinion in this state and the nation, most of it somewhere in the middle. Excluding the input of others because you don’t agree with them won’t fly. Now, if it’s because what they’re putting forth is factually incorrect …
Wait a minute … what am I saying? That’s what the campaigns pretty much were this go-around—if we tell politicians they can’t lie any more, D.C. will be nearly silent, and then what would we write about? Hell, Fox News would go out of business!
Regardless, the ferocity of some of the comments I’ve read in the past week on various news sites would be frightening if I hadn’t had the feeling I’ve seen them many, many times before. If you’re going to complain, can you at least be original, or is that too much to ask? What’s the purpose of Mad-Lib talking points on comment boards? Are you that afraid of going off-message? Am I just talking to myself again?
Here’s reality: The voters spoke. Some media outlets are painting the wins as a “seismic shift” and a mandate. Yeah, guys, not so much, historically speaking. It’s less a mandate than a challenge—you’ve been elected, so put up or shut up.
This wasn’t the first time power shifted in Congress after a midterm election, nor will it be the last. Each of the last four two-term presidents faced a Congress ruled by the opposing party in his final two years. The National Journal, citing Vital Statistics on Congress, noted that since 1862, in only three midterm elections—1934, 1998 and 2002—did the president’s party not lose seats in both the House and Senate.
It wasn’t even the most significant shift. For example, under Warren Harding in 1922, Republicans lost 77 seats in the House; in 1958, Dwight Eisenhower saw his party lose 12 seats in the Senate. At the moment, it appears Republicans gained seven seats in the Senate in this election, not counting pending Louisiana and Alaska (Louisiana has a runoff, and Alaska’s votes are still being tallied)—and will have to defend 24 seats in 2016, as opposed to the 10 Democrats defended this time. The party has thus far gained 14 seats in the House.
Hardly record-shattering. Not that that matters to a lot of these people; it’s significant because they say so, and that’s enough, dammit!
Yes, more states voted in Republican governors, and Arkansas voted in all Republicans as constitutional officers for the first time in, like, EVER … but don’t try making a mountain of this midterm molehill—it didn’t happen all at once. Life doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and isn’t just black and white, no matter how much politicians try to oversimplify the situation.
And unless the voting public has completely lost its collective mind, those who fail to do their job won’t last that long. Plus, there are always the inevitable scandals (remember Mark Darr, Arkies?) … I’m not worried yet.
Few would disagree that this was one of the most negative elections seen in the U.S. And guess what—by rewarding all those negative campaigns with wins, we’ve ensured many more to come. Yea, us. Like in television, if we prove there’s an audience for that kind of thing, we’ll be given more of the same … that’s the kind of thinking that gave Snooki star status, and we shouldn’t be proud of that.
Mudslinging has happened in virtually every election in the U.S., but it seems it reached new depths this year … as well as covered the same ground (hey, politicians recycle too!).
That ground sometimes, it seems, is the playground, and the name-calling is only sometimes a little more advanced.
Katherine Connor Martin, head of U.S. dictionaries at Oxford University Press, examined the terminology used by the major U.S. parties when insulting each other in online publications since 2012. She found the overall number of insults in the sample was split fairly evenly between liberals and conservatives, but that there was more variation in those used for liberals. (So Republicans, who hate diverting from talking points, are more creative with their insults. Yea?)
Insults like “idiot” and “nutjob” were split relatively evenly, while “hack” and “extremist” were the top insults for liberals and conservatives, respectively.
Gosh … makes you proud to be an American, doesn’t it?
OK, I’ll admit I cackled a bit when I got a letter this week about a “right-wing nutjob” on staff, but yeah, that’s the kind of schoolyard taunting that just pisses these guys off. And you really don’t want to do that. Just think of the whining … it’ll never stop …