Thank God it’s over.
At this point, I couldn’t give a damn if Donald Trump somehow managed to pay the 50 percent of Americans who don’t vote to write him in and send him and his birth certificate to the Oval Office.
Campaigns have never been my cup of tea, but this one left me with a particularly nasty taste in my mouth.
I don’t want to come across as that naive, jaded teen (though I certainly am, in a sense), acting as though presidential campaigns used to be a fine gentlemen’s sport that, like face-to-face communication and classic rock and roll, have slowly deteriorated and been destroyed by the forces of modern culture. Heck, back in 1884, James Blaine ran against Grover Cleveland with the slogan “Ma, Ma, Where’s my Pa, Gone to the White House, Ha, Ha, Ha” in reference to the out-of-wedlock child that Cleveland had allegedly fathered. (Cleveland got into the fun as well, running on “Blaine, Blaine, James G. Blaine, The Continental Liar from the State of Maine.” Good luck getting either of those on a bumper sticker.)
But in the light of ever intrusive and constant media, and in a post-Citizens United world, it really does feel like we may have hit a new low, reaching an embarrassing level of triviality and competitiveness.
This was a race that began with a Republican primary in which it often seemed that the majority of the national conversation was focusing on which part of Kenya Obama was born in. Trump, a man known mostly for his TV show and his hair, became a political player. Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain were considered contenders at one point.
Then Romney was nominated, and Republicans nationwide began their Jeb Bush 2016 campaign. (As disturbing as various parts of Romney’s campaign were, I can’t help but be impressed by his ability to go from best-of-the-worst to the-only-thing-standing-between-us-and-Armageddon among his Republican base.)
Ayn Rand became relevant with the Paul Ryan VP pick. P90x and marathon times entered the discussion, as “Paul Ryan shirtless” was Googled nine times as often as “Paul Ryan budget.”
The endless gaffe war continued, fueled by everyone’s new favorite number — 47 — and the “unchaining” of Wall Street. Horses and bayonets and binders full of women unleashed cyber firestorms of endless memes, replacing the age-old bumper sticker as the cheap political medium of the modern era.
Clint Eastwood debated health care with a chair.
A single debate performance (and a flood of over-dramatic media spin) actually made people think the debates mattered.
And then there were the countless tweets and Facebook posts and blogs and pundits that told us that this was the biggest presidential election in years, that this was a war to decide the future of political culture in America, and that you had to vote this way or that.
I’m calling bull.
These were two technocrats, two managers, who’ve talked out of the left and right sides of their mouths in order to jazz up their respective bases, and, with a record-setting advertising effort, were able to heat up this campaign to an undeserving high.
Obama was never going to radically redistribute wealth. Romney was never going to send women’s rights back to the Middle Ages. The economy is recovering, and it appears that 12 million jobs are headed our way no matter who’s up on Capitol Hill. A presidential vote in this election seemed less like a vote for one ideology or another than a vote for who is going to get to claim to have presided over the economic recovery — and who will get to handle the ever-approaching super-budget-debt-deficit deal that, no matter whether Romney or Obama had been elected, would have included both huge budget cuts and, yes, some tax hikes.
This was not as controversial a decision as it was made out to be, or nearly as colorful. It was an election that was simply overdone, both with its focus on the trivial and in its radicalization of what the candidates would have actually done in the White House, and to America.
We lost this election. We lost it when we spent weeks discussing binders full of women, or when we spent nights listening to pundits tell us how one candidate was certain to send this country to hell.
I watched the electoral scoreboard light up for much of yesterday. I wasn’t waiting to see who hit 270 first; I was counting to 538: the total number of electoral votes. Because once we hit that, it was finally over.
At least until the endless wave of “analysis” comes to shore.
Unleash the naive, jaded teen in you by writing John at firstname.lastname@example.org.