OK, let's do an election once-over before moving on to more important things.
Nope, not bitter. I'm certainly disappointed in the outcome, and worried about the future of this country in general and the next four years in particular, but there's no reason to be bitter. I voted my conscience and did as good a job as I could of arguing for my position, and the results are what they are. We fight the good fight and move on -- that's the wonderful nature of our "peaceful transition of power." Besides, the election hit during one of the family reunions my brother and sister and I periodically manage to pull off, so I was able to put the whole thing in perspective by understanding what truly matters. (To your point about no one being here at a crucial time, Andrew. There's crucial, and then there's crucial.)
And of course, I am bewildered by the outcome. I can't begin to fathom why the country voted as it did. This column pretty much captures my sentiments.
Ronald Reagan called the 1964 election "a time for choosing." Tuesday's election yielded a time for bewilderment.
Given his record, it is astonishing that President Barack Obama won re-election. He should have lost, big time. Despite an $833 billion stimulus and $5.6 trillion in fresh national debt, the economy crawls forward with 2 percent growth. Shovel-ready projects were not shovel ready. The Department of Energy has generated some 60,000 "green" jobs -- at $578,333 each. When Obama arrived, the unemployment rate was 7.8 percent. It's now 7.9 percent. Nonetheless, Obama is the first president to get re-elected with joblessness above 7.2 percent since FDR in 1936.
[. . .]
A majority of Americans voted for big government. Now, we all must share the bed that they made. Unfortunately, as Reagan once said, "If you get in bed with the government, you'll get more than a good night's sleep."
That's the opening and closing of a piece by Scripps-Howard columnist Deroy Murdock. I don't run across his work very often, but this column caught my attention in The Indianapolis Star Friday. I recommend the whole thing as a good overview of what went on.
Maybe I really do have a glimmer of the implications of the election results, and I just don't want to think too hard about them right now. The conversation I have always wanted in this country is one between those who favor more and bigger government and those who do not. That's the great dividing line running through every major issue of the day, and figuring out where everybody stands in relationship to that line is the key to knowing where the country is going. But we obviously haven't been having that conversation -- the choices lately have been between big increases in government spending and slightly less increases in government spending. What's the conversation going to be now, a choice between bigger government and more spending and even bigger government and even more spending?
The longer this goes on, the worse it gets, and the more desperately we will need that more vs. less debate, and right now I'm not sure who will carry the other side (my side) of the argument. I can't seen it being the Republicans -- they can't decide whether they want to be principled conservatives or the moderate, Democrat Lite party, and there are signs their social issues constitute baggage Americans no longer want to carry. The Libertarians have the purest economic message without the social-issues baggage, but they have a hard time breaking out of the single digits. Perhaps the country has moved beyond the point of wanting a fiscally responsible government because a majority of us are now too invested in what the government provides, never mind whether it can be paid for. That's the implication that scares me the most and the one I least want to think about right now.
I do think one interesting battleground in the government-power struggles over the next decade or so will be the issue of federalism. An increassing number of states are beginning to insist on going their own ways despite the edicts from the federal government. A couple of states approved recreational marijuana use in defiance of federal anti-marijuana laws, and three out of four gay-marriage referendums passed, the federal Defense of Marriage Act notwithstanding. The cases are different, certainly. On marijuana, when you add in all the states that have already approved it for medical uses, there is a clear loosening of attitudes across the country. Will that spur some movement on the part of Congress and/or the president at least toward decriminalization? On gay marriage, this is the first time voters have actually appporved it as opposed to judges or legislatures ordering it. Voters in other states have approved the one-man-woman standard either by law or in their constitutions. This is an issue the Supreme Court is likely to have the final say on, and sooner, rather than later.
I don't mean to imply that there will be a sudden resurgence of state power, but it is something to watch. These liberal issues like marijuana and same-sex marrigage might open the states' rights door, but conservatives are there ready to walk through, too. There has been a movement building -- mostly under the radar but gaining strength nevertheless -- of trying to tame the federal government on a wide variety of issues. The nullification movement seeks to give state legislatures the power to invalidate federal laws to which they are opposed.
A FEW RANDOM THOUGHTS:
* The one result that truly shocked me was the defeat of Republican Sueprintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett -- did not see that one coming. I think it means the Indiana State Teachers Association is back as a highly influential lobby, if indeed it ever went away. I don't think it means the end of the education reform movement here -- that effort is still in the hands of the General Assembly, which is even more Republican than before the election. But it certainly means a probable slowing down of new initiatives, possibly to the point of zero, as Republicans consider the ISTA's power. New Superintendent Glenda Ritz can't refuse to implement the things already on the books, but she can be, well, difficult to the point of obstructionism about the pace of implementation. This should give us time to evaluate the effectiveness of the bewildering array of changes already enacted, so maybe not altogether a bad thing.
* Speaking of the General Assembly, what I had written about as "a possibility but a long shot" has come to pass -- absolute power for Republicans. They retained the governor's office and their supermajority in the Senate and gained a supermajority in the House. They can literally do anything they want to -- Democrats have lost the ability to prevent a quorum by staying away, the only weapon they had left. Though I generally favor the GOP's approach to state government over the Democrats', this is still worrisome. People who have the ability to abuse power are too often tempted to do so. I think House Speaker Brian Bosma (and to a lesser extent Senate President Pro Tem David Long) might now have the most difficult job in state government, that of looking beyond his party's powers to the needs of all Hoosiers, while restraining some of his more boisterous colleagues.
* Too bad about Richard Mourdock, but that wasn't exactly a stunner. He was, in fact, caught up in a perfect storm: 1. Richard Lugar die-hards perhaps did not flock to Joe Donnelly's campaign, but a lot of them skipped the Senate race when they cast their ballots. 2. The Libertarian made a stronger-than-usual showing; 3. Mourdock had an inept way of saying things and an inability to keep his mouth shut when he should have known better. 4. Donnelly was very successful at painting himself has a work-across-the-aisle moderate, despite his votes for Obamacare, the stimulus and other big-government programs. Whether Mourdock is "too extreme" for Hoosiers is a matter for debate. I did notice that Marlin Stutzman won the 3rd District by 34 percent, and he's pretty much the same as Mourdock on most issues.