I have to admit, I did not write a concession column, just in case I needed it.
Seriously, a man running for the most powerful office in the country didn't bother to plan for one of the two contingencies that were guaranteed to happen last night? And he wanted us to let him make crucial decisions for all of us? Willard Mitt Romney's shocking lack of preparedness last night, when it came to speech time, was truly the icing on the sweet, sweet cake of Barack Hussein Obama's second victorious election, at least for me.
Then I looked around at the rest of the election, and saw that America hadn't just re-elected a black man to the White House, but the entire country lurched leftwards last night in a significant fashion. Which is what my title refers to (conceived in homage to the greatest subtitle on a book, ever: Geoff Nunberg's Talking Right: How Conservatives Turned Liberalism into a Tax-Raising, Latte-Drinking, Sushi-Eating, Volvo-Driving, New York Times-reading, Body-Piercing, Hollywood-Loving, Left-Wing Freak Show). Because Obama wasn't the only big winner last night -- so was pot smoking, and gay rights, and women and Latinos. And liberalism. We're now a center-left country, so don't let anyone tell you differently (at least for the next two years).
In the very same election, the citizens of multiple states voted to legalize recreational use of marijuana and to legalize same-sex marriage -- both for the first time ever. That is stunning, when you think about it. It's the beginning of the victorious conclusion to the Sexual Revolution and the triumph of the hippies of the 1960s. Both of which consisted mostly of liberals, as I recall.
Now, states have decriminalized marijuana before, and even flirted with semi-legalization of cannabis previously, but for the first time, Colorado and Washington states have poked a rather large blunt instrument into the eye of the federal government with their vote. Same-sex marriage is legal in a few states, but it has never been approved by voters before now. This is the arc of history -- you can see it bending before you.
Does this mean we're all about to enter a liberal paradise? Well, no. Things never work out quite that easily in the real world. The Justice Department will likely fight back against the concept of legal weed, and if history is any guide, they'll fight back rather fiercely. After all, an entire industry has been built around the "War On (Some) Drugs," and billions of dollars are spent every year to keep this industry humming. So I don't expect it to go away any time soon, or to suddenly declare defeat. The drug warriors are almost religiously committed to their cause, which requires them to have an absolute faith in their beliefs, even when concrete evidence contradicts such beliefs. The number of states which have legalized marijuana for medicinal use was increased yesterday, and is now approaching half of all the United States -- and yet, the federal government refuses to admit that anyone, anywhere is using pot to alleviate suffering. Even though there are people alive who still get marijuana as a prescription for glaucoma from the very same federal government. As I said, it's a matter of faith, not rationality. All of which will lead to a gigantic court fight.
But it's a fight that is long overdue. A legal case of "Scopes Monkey Trial" proportions. Even if the case is ultimately lost at the Supreme Court, it is going to spur a political discussion that every politician since Nancy Reagan's time has been doing their best to avoid (most famously, by Bill Clinton, who "didn't inhale"). That right there is going to turn out to be a good thing, in my opinion, no matter what the outcome. Let's haul the whole subject out into the light of day and have a big political debate. It's about freakin' time.
On the gay rights front, many who voted in this election for the first time may not even remember the recent history of this fight. Back in the 1990s and 2000s, gay marriage (and gay rights in general) were used as a heavy club in elections -- by Republicans. It was the wedgiest of wedge issues they had going for them. Their reasoning was: "The more we say the word 'homosexual,' the more the suburban moderate voters are going to be scared of the liberal Democrats, and they'll reliably turn out and vote Republican." This seems like a stupid thing to do, now, but it surely wasn't back then -- because it worked so well. Want to increase GOP turnout in a weak state? Toss an anti-gay amendment on the ballot. Worked like a charm for them, while gay activists were slowly making ground getting people to accept merely same sex "domestic partnerships" or "civil unions."
The voters would reliably turn out and vote against any sort of rights for gays. Proposition 8 passed -- in California, of all places -- just four short years ago. The same election Barack Obama won the White House, the supposedly-ultraliberal California voted down gay marriage. Anti-gay marriage ballot measures worked for the Republicans thirty-two times, remember. Until last night. Meaning putting gay marriage on the ballot is now going to come from liberals and not conservatives, not just because it's the right thing to do, but because it can indeed win at the ballot box. There are several cases heading to the Supreme Court on gay marriage, and the federal ban on it in particular, and this is going to be another epic legal showdown. And for the first time, gay rights activists can point to victories and say "the voters approve." That wasn't possible before today.
In 2012, the Republicans waged a "War On Women." The knuckle-draggers came out from their dark spots to paint a vision for the future of women's health rights in this country -- moving us all right back to around the 1950s. They lost at the ballot box, and they lost big. By my count, the Tea Party has now snatched defeat from the hands of the Republican Party in five Senate races. The GOP could have five more seats today, to put it another way. Last night, women voters prevented at least two of these candidates from making it to Washington. Women voters everywhere broke in an enormous wave not just for President Obama, but for liberalism on women's health issues.
Finally, the Latinos of America have weighed both political parties in the balance and (not surprisingly) decided to go with the one who wasn't demonizing and demagoguing and scapegoating them constantly. Some Republicans have been crying in the wilderness for years now on this subject, and warning that the Republican Party is dwindling as it relies solely on older white men who really do want to return to the 1950s. Perhaps the Tea Partiers will listen, but I'm betting not. I'm betting that whenever immigration reform gets discussed the first, last, and only word out of their mouths will be "Amnesty!" The only thing that's going to save the Republican Party is when they lose Texas as a reliable state -- and any chance of gaining the White House with it. This could happen in 2016 or 2020, by some estimates. Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush and all the rest of the moderates will be ignored until disaster strikes. And losing Texas would indeed be a disaster, because while Mitt Romney found it hard to put together 270 electoral votes, no Republican will ever be able to do so without Texas' 38 votes. Until the party rejects its anti-immigrant stance, that is, at some point in the far future.
We all woke up to a different country this morning. Barack Obama is going to be our president for the next four years. He'll have his ups and downs, but we know who he is and we all dearly hope he will be less restrained now in his own liberalism because he'll never have to run for any election again. The conservatives will fight him every step of the way, of course. The progressives will likely fight him from the other direction, whenever a compromise is detected. Maybe, through all of this, Barack Obama can finish some of the things he started in his first term.
America woke up more liberal this morning -- it's an undeniable fact. Legal weed. Rocky Mountain high, indeed! Voters approving of marriage equality. Anti-abortion extremists losing easy Senate races. Immigration reform a real possibility. America is, as the Obama campaign slogan said, about to move "Forward!"
But one note of caution. The political winds have indeed shifted, but they can shift right back again in the blink of an eye. America is basically getting sick of our two political parties, because neither ever seems to get much done. What this has meant, since George W. Bush's time, is a whirlwind of tacking back and forth. America's political pendulum swings faster and faster -- from Obama's first victorious wave in 2008, to the Tea Party election of 2010, to now.
Personally, I'm hoping Barack Obama now steals a page from the George W. Bush playbook. Because the obsession inside the Beltway is soon going to become "Does Obama have a true 'mandate' to govern?" You could feel it sprouting and taking root last night, when the idiots who pass for our national political chattering class got all in a tizzy over the fact that Mitt Romney was still leading in the national popular vote count even after Obama had clearly won the Electoral College. "Will Romney win the popular vote?" they all smugly asked themselves -- not noticing that California's votes hadn't been counted yet. I mean, it's pretty predictable that California was going to add millions to Obama's total, but nobody even mentioned this fact. This is inside-the-Beltwayism at its worst, folks.
So I'm hoping that Obama does exactly what George W. Bush did (twice, as I recall) when asked how he could possibly govern without a clear mandate. Bush replied that he had all the mandate he needed, since he won the election... next question, please. That was all it took to shut up the media obsession. He didn't get asked the question much after that point, since all the reporters knew what he would say. Obama should do exactly the same thing, the first time someone uses "mandate" in a question to him. "I won. That's my mandate. Next question."
That way, maybe we actually can move forward, starting immediately.
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