Here We Go Again

Election day is upon us at last. The older I get, the shorter the years seem to get. Except for presidential elections. They just seem to keep getting longer, and longer, and longer...No matter. Hopefully, there will be a clear winner tonight, and I, along with the rest of the country, will get a bit of a breather before the politicians and the media begin gearing up for the 2014 midterms. How tragic that we have such a dynamic democracy, but it wears us down so much.

Like Super Tuesday, Missile Test will be updating live tonight, until the race is called, or I’m either too tired or too drunk to continue on.

7:02PM

Well, that was fast. At 7pm on the dot, CNN has called Vermont for Obama and Kentucky for Romney. ABC has called Indiana for Romney. No surprises there whatsoever, but wow, calling states immediately after polls close is something I will never get used to. CNN is also showing exit polling in Virginia as tied. At least no one is calling the swing states fast.

7:11PM

The focus right now is all on Virginia. That’s the first swing state the networks are looking to call, and I’m sure the news directors have been staring at exit polling all day and salivating. Virginia is not a make or break state for either candidate, but it is more important for Romney than it is for Obama. If Romney loses the state, his path to the nomination gets that much harder.

For any viewer tonight, the challenge is wading through all the noise before a state is called. During the day, I had the Huffington Post’s live election update feed open, and I had to turn it off. They are not an objective source for news, to be sure, but all the ‘sky is falling’ reporting that went on throughout the day was driving me nuts.

Mark Warner is on MSNBC right now. Four years ago he was being touted as a possible nominee for the presidency, maybe even a frontrunner. He might be wise to run in 2016. What? Too soon? Piss off, this is politics.

7:26PM

Bernie Sanders reelected in Vermont. Good. There aren’t nearly enough lefties in government. I only wish Dennis Kucinich could have found a race to run in this year. His reputation as a bit of a kook was undeserved. He is an intelligent man, a staunch liberal in a government where ‘liberal’ is a four-letter word. And he bats above the average...wink wink.

Matthew Dowd on ABC, talking about how difficult Romney’s road is if he fails to take both Virginia and Florida, and how even if he does, he has to pick off either Ohio or Colorado to have any hope to win. Romney and his people know this, which is why he spent time campaigning in Pennsylvania this week, hoping to win a state the campaign had given up on previously.

Only a few minutes until Ohio and a couple more states close.

7:39PM

West Virginia to Romney. Exit polling locked up in North Carolina, Obama holding a 3 point lead in Ohio. After 2004, I don’t know if I will ever take exit polling as factual, but until actual votes are counted, it’s all we have.

My old man was working the national desk at the Philadelphia Inquirer on election night 2004. I was damn nervous that night. President Bush had spent four years fucking up the country, yet he wasn’t getting his ass kicked by John Kerry. It made no sense. (I understand many Republicans voters feel the same about President Obama, but I do not sympathize in the least. President Obama never started an unnecessary war on false pretenses. Whatever you think of him, the blood of thousands is not on his hands.)

Anyway, I talked to the old man on the phone after I got off work, and he told me it was in the bag. He’d been going over exit polls all day, getting a sneak peak before they were released to the public, and he assured me Bush was getting stomped. During the night, states that he told me were going to Kerry kept popping up on the television in Bush’s column. It was exasperating, watching all that inside information I had go up in smoke. About an hour before the race was called for Bush, I got the old man on the phone again, and all he said was, “The exit polling was wrong. I’m sorry.”

7:56PM

Continuing on a theme, my mother retired at the end of September after 39 years at the Akron Beacon Journal. As far as I know, tonight is the first presidential election she has not worked since Nixon’s reelection in 1972. To the people that drove her and so many other good journalists out of the business, I say, you’ve dug your own grave.

South Carolina to Romney, giving him a 33 to 3 lead over the president right now. No swing states have been called yet, which means the networks are just filling air until some real numbers come in.

One thing I’m really looking forward to tonight is watching the reactions on Fox News and MSNBC after the race has been called. No matter the outcome, one side will be in a needlessly apocalyptic mood, and the other will look like they’re drunk. It can’t be anything less than massively entertaining to anyone who thinks those networks are a journalistic farce. (Full disclosure: I do not believe there is equivalency between the two. Fox News is a propagandizing machine of unprecedented proportions in American broadcasting, while MSNBC only has designs on snatching the title away. What is keeping them from doing it? Facts still have a home on MSNBC, even though they are increasingly an endangered species.)

8:11PM

Georgia to Romney. Missile Test, the home of breaking news.

Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachussetts, 3 of 4 Maine’s electoral votes and the District to Obama, the last vote in Maine still too close to call. Oklahoma to Romney. A bunch of others still not being called. The tally right now, according to CNN, which is not being conservative in its calls this evening, stands at 64 to 40 for Obama.

One thing about this evening. It’s hard to separate the election from the coverage. It would be nice if the story was all about the election, but the fact is, it’s not. The voters rule the day, but the news networks rule the coverage, and how a person perceives the night is very much being left up to them. Maybe it’s unseemly that the night has devolved to just another moment in pop culture, but I don’t think so. Nothing the networks do tonight will change the outcome, and if it’s not close, a little entertainment could be good.

What is rough on a viewer is the cheapness of the experience. I’ve only been tuning in for a little over an hour, and I already have a similar feeling to that when I wake up with a massive hangover and suffer a crisis of conscience. It’s not them. By tuning in, I feel like I’m the one disrespecting the process. Of course, I could just be full of shit. But why does election coverage have to feel like driving slowly by the scene of a nasty car accident?

8:34PM

Speaking of car accidents, right now the local stations are using a little time to update New Yorkers on some of the local races. I was a bit worried that I’d have to spend the evening with the local talking heads. It’s not unprecedented. Just last week, the local stations pre-empted their national news departments to stay on the air to deliver hurricane coverage. While the local stations were invaluable in providing up to the minute information on evacuations and the progress of Hurricane Sandy, and probably saving some lives, after the storm had passed, I was hoping to get some news from the big guns.

I also remember 9/11. Back then, the local stations were broadcasting the entire day, not letting the national departments into the game until their normal broadcasts at 6:30. That sucked. The story was far bigger than the local hacks could handle, but instead of Peter Jennings and Tom Brokaw, New Yorkers got Dana Tyler and Ernie Ansastos. I defy anyone, anywhere, to find me footage of Brokaw or Jennings spouting off about bestiality with Gallus gallus domesticus on live air. It did not happen.

Still no surprise in the race. Everything is going according to plan. It’s not even 9 PM yet on the east, still too early for things to get difficult for the networks.

8:48PM

Linda McMahon goes down in Connecticut. For my two regular readers, you’ll remember I laid down some cash on this one at -750. Not a big win, but it will buy me a couple steaks. Oh yeah.

In all seriousness, Linda McMahon had little chance to win. The main reason she got her first shot at a Senate seat two years ago was money...I mean the Tea Party movement. Now that the Tea Party movement has passed, all she had left was a pile of cash gleaned from the corpses of prematurely dead wrestlers and an ideology that was having trouble finding traction in red states, much less in the northeast. She should have saved her hundred million bucks.

The polls have now closed in 26 states and D.C. This going to be getting interesting very shortly.

9:03PM

It shouldn’t take this kind of heroism to vote in America in 2012.

— Van Jones on CNN on the long lines still ahead for many voters this evening.

He’s right. As a country, we’ve been voting for over 200 years. It’s not like people showing up to vote is an unexpected event. Every four years we have one of these presidential contests. What we are seeing is a failure of simple infrastructure. It’s not complicated. I hate to sound like a conservative, but only government could fuck up something as simple as voting. This is a country that runs on dollars and cents. Billions upon billions of dollars worth of transactions are carried out in the country every single day in a quick and efficient manner, yet there are still districts where voting, another numerical transaction, is an exercise in logistical futility.

More states have been called, but not a single swing state, so no point in going through them.

9:39PM

And Pennsylvania goes to President Obama. This was a predicted outcome, made interesting by the Romney campaign’s decision to begin campaigning there after the final debate. He needed this state badly. Obama supporters will be breathing a little easier, right up until the moment North Carolina, Virginia, or Florida is called for Romney.

Guy in deli when I just went on a beer run: “Hey, you vote?”

Me: “Yeah.”

Guy: “Who you vote for?”

Now, where I grew up, these are fightin’ words. Not really, but I can’t remember the last time anyone but friends or family asked me this question. It’s kind of touchy, like asking a person how much money they make.

Me: “Obama.”

Guy : “Yeah, me too. Those lines were long, dog. I was in there goin’ up to people askin’ them, ‘Yo, you votin’ for Romney, right?’ They was lookin’ at me like I was crazy, man. You see this shit?”

He holds up today’s New York Post, which has a provocative, and very opinionated front page. Anti-Obama, of course.

Guy: “That’s fucked up.”

Me: “Yeah.”

There was more, but the guy in the deli got me thinking. When he was messing with people in the voting line today, he was making light of the fact that New York City is a very blue city in a very blue region of the country. It made me think back to my decision to move to the city. One of the reasons was my distaste for much of the ideology of people in Ohio. I wanted to be around like-minded individuals. In that, I’m part of a demographic trend that has been fascinating political scientists and anthropologists for a while now. I am part of the ideological divide that is cleaving the country, and my decision to live around like-minded people is part of the reason the political atmosphere is so poisonous. That wasn’t the main reason I moved, of course. If it was, that would have been a poor political decision, as the Democratic Party would much rather I live in Ohio than New York City.

But the fact is, politics is stressful. Thinking about politics is stressful. Talking about politics is stressful. Talking about politics with someone you disagree with is more than stressful, it’s downright unpleasant, so it’s no surprise to me that people seek out the company of people they already agree with.

The challenge, and one we as a nation are failing, is that we still have a responsibility to understand the arguments on the other side of the issues we believe, in order to have a coherent understanding of ourselves. It’s not enough to believe in universal healthcare or privatization. You have to know why you believe what you do. And a good way to do that is to understand the other side, so you’ll recognize bullshit when you hear it.

10:11PM

Joe Donnelly defeats Richard Mourdock in Indiana. That’s some more samoleons in my pocket. The GOP is really suffering from foot in mouth disease in some Senate races this year. Elizabeth Warren wins in Massachusetts. Teddy Kennedy’s corpse has stopped spinning. New Hampshire to the president.

The networks are starting to swing their commentary towards favoring Obama. It’s still early, but Romney has yet to have any good news on the evening. If he doesn’t get either Florida, Virginia, or North Carolina soon, I may be able to go to bed on time.

Minnesota goes to Obama. Suck on that, George Will.

With the New Hampshire call, the New York Times’ Path to the White House engine has Obama with 221 different winning scenarios versus only 31 for Romney. It’s still early, like I wrote above, but it’s getting late awful fast.

More predictable states have been called.

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day in Stow, Ohio. He has roots just up the highway in Cleveland, and he was very frustrated by the amount of attention the campaigns focused on Ohio. It was smothering. He was surprised to hear that I had only seen a handful of election ads all year, and I was of the opinion they were wasted money on the part of the campaigns.

Perversely, a part of me has been hoping for an electoral college/popular vote split, with Obama still winning the White House. It would do much to cripple his second term, but it would hopefully ignite a real discussion about doing away with the electoral college. It’s stupid and anathema to democracy. The concerns of the vast majority of voters are not being addressed by so-called national politics because the votes of the vast majority of citizens do not matter in a presidential election.

Urban issues are something I care about deeply, having spent my entire life living in cities, but I have yet to hear any real discussion from candidates about public transportation, crumbling inner city schools, or old infrastructure, among many other subjects. I have never heard anything about the disproportionate amount of taxes that exit American cities bound for rural areas and what we get back in return. If our votes mattered, our opinions and beliefs would matter.

Briefly, I toyed with the idea of not voting as a protest against the electoral college, but decided not to, for a sappy, but very real reason. I am the only citizen that lives in my building, most of my neighbors Egyptians. I could not imagine facing my neighbors, or the Indian immigrants that run the corner deli, and having to tell them that I had the opportunity to choose my leaders and chose not to because the system has flaws. In the end, I decided to vote because I could, which is all the reason I should ever need, electoral college or no.

10:42PM

President Obama wins Wisconsin, and the door is closing fast for Mitt Romney. Once again, not a single bit of good news has come in yet this evening for Romney. There is little chance the president will sweep Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida, but he is rapidly moving to a position where he can lose three, if not all four, of those states and still win the election.

At this point, it’s no longer too early to talk about the reason this election got away from Romney. There has rarely been a time in American history when an incumbent president has been as vulnerable as Obama heading into an election. The economy is improving, but it still has a deathly pall over it. So much of the administration’s big ticket ideas, with the exception of health care reform, have fizzled in Congress. The opposition has never let up on attacking and undermining the president, and their constituents have hated this president to such an extent that many not only don’t believe he is an American, but that he wishes harm on the country. Did I mention the state of the economy? So how did Romney and his campaign lose control of the message?

As it turns out, ideas do matter. Despite the rightward shift in the country, a paradigm that has now encompassed more than a generation, the idea of empathy still holds strong. The dissonance between believing we are the greatest country in the world, and the realities faced by Americans every day, just does not jibe with extreme political positions from either side of the spectrum. The GOP, and by extension its standard bearer, Romney, are losing this election because their ideas are extreme and bereft of empathy. The voters have noticed, and they are speaking.

Hopefully, this election will turn the GOP away from extremism, but it is also just as likely that the party will dig in.

11:02PM

Eleven o’clock. Time for the local hacks to protect their turf. They won’t dare cut into a football game, but a national election? Hell yeah!!

11:14PM

North Carolina goes to Romney. Wow, that was a long time to wait up in Boston. Over at the Times’ machine, President Obama has 55 paths to the White House while Romney has just 8. In addition, a bundle of western states have closed, and there are no surprises. Oh, and CNN just projected the Senate to remain in Democratic hands.

With the House staying in GOP hands, the Senate remaining with the Democrats, and Obama likely headed to reelection, what will the next four years look like politically? Unfortunately, the answer is about the same as before. The gridlock will continue to be paralyzing, perhaps even more historic than before. (Obama wins Iowa.)

How could this possibly be good? If you are a liberal, like me, your expectations for liberal governance have been dashed for over thirty years. All you want is a dam that will stop conservatism from running roughshod over the nation. It’s a cliche to say that conservatives want America to return to a vision of the 1950s that didn’t really exist. The fear for liberals is that conservatism would go even farther, returning the country to the era of robber barons and Pinkerton thugs, where all the gains of labor are returned to an increasingly sequestrated aristocracy. If you think conservatives fear the spectre of socialism, that is nothing compared to the fear liberals have of the gilded age.

11:17PM

NBC has called it for Obama. Good enough for me.