Lessons Learned from Election 2012

On November 13, 2012, in Past Morning Briefs, by David

With last Tuesday’s decisions finalized, thankfully without the need of Supreme Court intervention, let’s take a look at the hits and misses of the campaign and the vote so we can learn our lessons and focus on the future.

LESSON 1

The Undecided Voter Isn’t So Dumb After All

You can’t really blame a voter for not loving their choices in the past election. In my opinion, Barack Obama has done a fantastic job as President, under epically difficult circumstances. But the Democratic Party, Obama’s campaign, and $6 billion dollars worth of mostly negative campaign FUD never really clarified what we were voting for. So when it comes down to a few million people not thrilled with what they’re hearing having to make a decision on imperfect to downright untruthful campaign fodder, we are all lucky they got it so very right.

LESSON 2

Americans Aren’t Engaged Enough in the Process

Ultimately, the American people are going to have to do some reckoning about their politics. The Parties are too narrow and not serving our interests. Moreover, the People are fundamentally disinterested, uninformed, and unwilling to engage in meaningful debate about the election process, except for those times when “crisis” is invoked. Politicians are not proactive in responding to their constituents (unless the constituent is money), and Citizens are not proactively taking action to ensure a government that works. For example, the House of Representatives has a 15% approval rating, and yet we elected the exact same majority we did two years ago. Are politicians to blame? Yes. Are the American people to blame, too? Yes again.

LESSON 3

Being Rich and/or Powerful Doesn’t Necessarily Make You Smart

Thank you Karl Rove and Donald Trump for putting cherries on top of a nearly perfect Election Day. Victories by Barack Obama and Elizabeth Warren (perhaps the most compelling candidate in the whole election) along with defeats by Rape Foot-In-Mouthers Akin and Mourdock, the unseating of nimrod Allen West and the near-defeat of ding-a-ling Michelle Bachmann all give America much to be thankful for heading into Turkey Day.

Rove’s on-camera meltdown may have been one of the most satisfying (if temporary) political reversals of fortune ever. And it happened on Fox! If any of you ever have the pleasure of dropping $400 million of influence on a country’s election, and if you happen to support a bunch of losing candidates with that investment, I hope you will wind up with $400 million or more of valuable self-knowledge. Having the most voi$e out of 300 million other fellow Americans is as privileged a position as there is in the world. If you can’t handle that with grace, class, and an understanding of simple math, maybe you shouldn’t be in charge of so much capital.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump’s deranged Tweeting rampage further reinforces the conviction that above and beyond the money, the property, the self-promotion, the bluster, the ego, the hair, and the general misanthropy, Mr. Trump is himself a Deranged Tweet.

You want Smart? Try Nate Silver, Elizabeth Warren, Jon Stewart, Joe Biden, and our own President Obama for starters.

LESSON 4

Rules of Social Etiquette Apply in the Macro and Micro

It’s one thing to be cynical enough to run a Presidential Campaign on alleged standing as a Financial Genius when your wealth and reputation were built on the calamities of millions of your American peers. It’s another to whisper sweet nothings to voters in public while speaking pure ill of the masses (i.e., 47%ers) in private. And it’s yet another thing to make up a story about how cutting taxes on yourself and all your wealthy peers will actually result in more revenues for the Federal government when the math says otherwise. Personal integrity matters. Don’t talk behind others’ backs. Do unto others. And not just the wealthy others.

LESSON 5

Lose With Grace and Dignity, Please

Mr. Romney’s concession speech was the most honest and sincere moment of his entire campaign. I was turned off by the cynicism, lack of real ideas, unwillingness to disclose pertinent information, and the overall shallowness of his campaign. But he conceded admirably and I’m almost certain his failings are as closely linked to a lack of self-awareness as they are to a pathological lack of integrity (see Rove and Trump, above).

My hopes and prayers are that the vocal minority will take at least a step toward the greater good, setting a course for individual and collective success. Obstruction has gotten us nowhere from 2010 to 2012. If constructive collaboration becomes the best phrase to describe the next two years, we will all be the better for it.

LESSON 6

The Social Agenda of the 20th Century Won’t Cut It in Century 21

Maybe there is a New Majority in the US. Maybe it isn’t just about white men and the people they influence when it comes to vote. Perhaps the increasing numbers of Asians, Latinos, Women, Young Adults, Gays and nearly every other demographic other than Caucasian Men (the one I happen to be in) voting overwhelmingly for Democrats is a transparently wrapped message for Conservatives, especially Ultra-Conservatives. And the message isn’t, let’s deport everyone who isn’t white.

The rape dialogue was a disgrace. Alienating women by massacring women’s rights vis-à-vis abortion backfired badly. Thinly veiled racism isn’t very invisible when the discrimination is pointed at you. The immigration policy war of words has had an impact on the national level. It may even lead to Republicans losing power in Texas. Read that twice just to be sure: It may even lead to Republicans losing power in Texas. Ooh. Ow.

LESSON 7

Math and Science are Real

The Ultra-Cons don’t believe in Climate Change. And they didn’t believe the polls going into the election. Although they do believe in owning the voting machines on Election Day. No one has ever accused Conservatives of not knowing where the bread is buttered.

Which is why it’s not surprising that some conservative pundits, including Dick Morris, have fessed up to making up election data to sway undecideds with the “news” that Romney was doing better in the polls than he really was. If you don’t believe in numbers, there’s nothing wrong with making some up.

After this election, in which New York Times math wiz Nate Silver correctly predicted all 50 states (he got 49 right in 2008), the polls were actually under-stating Obama’s popular vote and electoral vote leads, and everything went pretty much the way everyone (who believes in math) thought they would, Conservatives who can count have increased their power base within the party.

Then there’s the electoral math whereby a candidate focused on 1% of the voters (some of whom are Liberal to begin with) proceeds to alienate women, the youth vote, every single race that isn’t the Caucasian one, Liberals and the 47% would seem unlikely to carry a majority of votes in the States and/or the Electoral College. Which makes one wonder how they got 48% of the vote when all was said and done (ahem, Tax Cuts).

And if Math 101 in 2012 wasn’t enough, Hurricane Sandy’s profound timing put an exclamation point on Climate Change Doubters’ question mark by inundating the city of New York and the Jersey Coast. God? Nature? Science? Maybe All of the Above?

LESSON 8

The Only Way To Go is Forward

The 2012 Elections were one good idea away from having one good idea. Had any candidates – other than Elizabeth Warren, who has lots of good ideas, and the big-picture success of the Obama Administration – shown a knack for forward-thinking or big ideas, Tuesday might have been a decidedly different day. Mitt Romney’s Five-Point Plan was 5 points shy of having a point. 3 points shy, a specific tax loophole mentioned here or there, and who knows? That’s too close for comfort if you ask me.

I have a few not-so-original ideas about how the next four years might look (like 1996-2000 minus the Lewinsky scandal; slash military spending, return tax rates to 1998, less regressive social dialogue…) and, for starters, one original, new idea that I’ll share with you now:

There is approximately $1.2 to $1.5 trillion in U.S. revenue currently in foreign countries, and a debate about whether to tax that money at 35% (current policy), 5% (the Republican plan), or somewhere in between.

I’m a fan of somewhere in between. Five-percent is a non-starter. We are $16 trillion in debt. No radical tax holidays until that number is below, say $10 trillion, OK? But the way to make sure that the money we repatriate in any level of tax discount is put towards job creation is to make policy that specifically rewards job creation.

You want a tax discount to 30% plus incentives? OK. Put the tax money in an escrow-type account and distribute the funds back to corporations who create new jobs. They can pay down new salaries (rather than re-hire already existing positions) as well as healthcare benefits using the credited taxes. Let them do whatever they want with the remaining 70%. If we’re going to take a penny less in taxes from corporations who have leveraged America’s standing to make big bucks overseas, let’s push as many dollars as we can towards job creation.

Conversely, if we don’t want the government in the job creation business, let’s not pretend that tax cuts are a viable form of job creation. Tax cuts for the wealthy are entitlements for the rich. Let’s start moving entitlements for the wealthy towards incentivized policy that will benefit everyone and we will all be better off. And why should all of us be better off?

 

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