Widgets Magazine


The day after

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 jhmurray@stanford.edu.

About John Murray

John Murray is a sophomore. He enjoys eating cheese and crackers. He misses his dog.
  • Yup!

    Agree wholeheartedly. When will people see that the actual Obama is a realist unconstrained by ideology?

  • Nitpicker

    Apologies for the pedantry, but the expression is “Couldn’t give a damn”

  • femme

    Only an oversheltered white male could possibly claim that the only difference between an Obama and Romney presidency would be who presides over the economic recovery. You’re probably the only group who wouldn’t be affected no matter who the president is. The rest of us don’t want to elect a ticket that dehumanizes us in its positions and in its candidates’ past records. This is actually a conflict between ideologies, because I refuse to cast a vote for someone who will even ACT like he’s going to reduce my rights, even if that act is just for show.

    Also, just because the Internet explodes with trivial faux-political discourse doesn’t mean there isn’t some real conversation actually taking place. It’s the internet; of course there are going to be stupid memes and Facebook statuses. There’s also a ton of thoughtful discourse taking place between everyday people online.

  • robert

    It’s really easy to point fingers at people’s opinions and say “oh you’re a white male so you don’t know anything” or “you’re black so of course you voted for obama” or whatever. The answer to most things isn’t so simple, and you seem to be reducing it to that. This sounds like every other “someone on the internet is wrong so I have to correct them” post I’ve read over the past six months.

    The fact that you pick one idealogical issue to vote on is a little troublesome, but the fact that you sound uninformed about it is depressing. If you’re really going to vote on one issue, at least make it one that’s actually going to affect the world. Abortion (which is what I assume you’re referring to) and many other social issues are state issues. Important ones, but ones that the president won’t change a bit. Both candidates stay away from talking about such topics for good reason, because they’re political poison. Romney is out of touch with women, but I think if you’re going to hide your biases under the guide of ideology, then that’s misleading. I don’t mean to be condescending, but if people actually voted on their ideologies, then Gary Johnson would be president right now.

    As a hispanic male who didn’t really care for either candidate, I can say that the real losers in this election, like the author agrees, are the American people. This presidential race wasn’t about issues, it was about politics. I agree that women’s rights are extremely important, and if that’s what you’re voting on then that’s your right. Thank god we still have rights. But I think it’s more important to be voting on reality–what I mean by that is that you should be voting for senators and representatives who share your views on social issues, and for a president who will steer this country in the right direction. Reproductive rights aren’t the most important issue at stake right now, and I’m sure even most women would agree. (Though I can’t pretend to speak for them.) The *national* issues of gravest importance right now (IMO, obviously, and if you disagree that’s fine), are the deficit and the climate.

    The deficit because if we keep up like this, the US is going to default and there’s a reasonable chance that the government will collapse and we’ll have riots. (According to exit polls, most people who care most about the deficit voted for Romney.) But pretty much every other “political” issue wouldn’t even matter then. By that time, who cares about abortion rights or giving gays the right to marry? (An issue I care passionately about, by the way). The climate is important because most scientific research says that if we don’t do anything in the next 10-15 years, the climate change we face will be catastrophic and irreversible. We need to do something about this now, but nobody wants to touch the issue–the environment was mentioned exactly ZERO times throughout the presidential debates because it’s a supposedly ‘controversial’ issue. Give me a break–all the science says we’re basically screwed, and we need to enact some national and global changes, now. My heart sang when Obama mentioned climate change in his acceptance speech last night, and I hope to God he actually tries to get congress to do something about it. Only time will tell.

    But anyway, just saying, the powers of the president are basically to propose legislation on national issues and to provide for national security. With apologies for the double negative, Nowhere in this article the author didn’t say you should vote for Obama or that there was still a right choice, so I think your reply was a bit harsh. I get worried about how many people of my generation basically worship obama (or romney, I suppose) and vote based on party lines justified by ideologies rather than the real world consequences.


  • memme

    Attacking the authors race and socio-economic status are great ways to argue your point. Great job.