Talking politics on what is normally an "outdoors" and/or "hiking/running" blog can be quite risky. Any time you elect to bring up a subject where people's beliefs weigh heavily into the discussion, means you will likely get many, shall we say, "spirited" comments. Still after sitting through last night's results, and thinking a lot about how various races turned out, I've been thinking a lot about what it all might be telling us about the evolving mindset of our nation....and why perhaps so many GOP candidates find themselves on the losing end of their respective battles. Over the past 6 months or so, I've tried to be very open-minded about the campaign and the politics leading into yesterday's elections. I've listened to a lot of NPR, read a lot of web commentary (from both sides), and have listened to heavily conservative news radio. I am a registered independent and I want to hear what everyone is thinking. I have even peeked in on the the cooky and fringe sites that exist on both sides of the aisle....you know the ones. Crazy conspiracies abound. In all of my reading, I've found genuine concerns and noble ideas from both sides of the spectrum.
It's pretty clear that the GOP took a bit of a blow last night. True, the Republicans will maintain their slight majority in the House, but in general, last night was a big win for the Democrats. On most of the websites I read this morning I keep seeing the same question, "Why did the Republicans Lose?". Not so much, "Why did the Democrats Win?" So after compiling my thoughts this morning after the results have all been tallied, here is my own answer that I've come up with to that question. Obviously this is my opinion alone, and is only meant as food-for-thought.
Why did Republicans Lose Last Night?
- Because Americans are moving more and more away from the idea of a religion-based society. When you listened to concession speeches of Republican candidates last night, you heard a lot about "God this...", "Jesus that...", and "...He can never be elected off of His throne...". What in part makes this country so wonderful is the idea that we are all FREE to practice our religion of choice. Whether it be Christianity, Hinduism, Baha'i, Judaism, Islam, Scientology....you name it. The more and more modern people are hearing politicians talk like this, the more and more I feel they are being turned off. People don't want a Theocracy. NPR ran a story a few weeks ago about how today has the highest percentage of people identifying themselves as being associated with "no religion" as has ever been seen in the past. It seems people are truly wanting to keep their religious beliefs and practices as more of a personal choice, keeping it out of politics and the public discourse, and not aggressively evangelizing it anymore. I want desperately for this country to preserve this fundamental right. Everyone...and I mean EVERYONE has right to worship how he/she sees fit. But I pose a thought to you. Can you imagine if a candidate that lost his/her election, gave a concession speech praising Xenu and that Xenu has plans for us all? Or if he or she gracefully accepted defeat, and then praised Allah? It seems sometimes that we have freedom of religion, but not freedom from religion; specifically Christianity. People WANT separation of Church and State. People want a society built upon ethics and humanitarianism, not biblical morals. I long for the day that this great nation becomes one that has a foundation of secular humanism....but one where people can and will still hold dear their own religious beliefs, and practice them without persecution. A nation where Science and Reason are held in high regard, but a nation where there will always be a place for philosophy and religion...and freedom to worship how you see fit. Much like what I saw and experienced when I was in Japan.
- Because people are tired of bigotry, hatred, and elitism. Last night I watched as early favorites Todd Akin, and Richard Mourdock both lost their Senate bids. I also watched as Maine and Maryland voted for equal marriage rights for same-sex couples (and possibly Washington - still being tallied I think). I watched as people like political commentator Bill O'Reilly said things like, "The white establishment is now the minority", and I watched as results numbers showed that the Republican presidential candidate only won 21% of the Latino vote (as compared to 31% in '08, and 40% in '04). I watched as Hawaii not only elected the first ever Japanese-born, Asian-American, Buddhist woman to the US Senate (Mazie Hirono), but also elected the first practicing Hindu, Tulsi Gabbard, to the House (who will also be sworn in over a Bhagavad Gita). I watched as Arizona elected attorney Krysten Sinema, a ridiculously smart (B.A., M.A., J.D., PhD) and Mormon-turned-atheist to the House of Representatives (now the only open nontheist in the House). I watched as Wisconsin elected Tammy Baldwin, now the first openly gay Senator in the U.S. I watched as women voters made a bold collective statement that they are tired of primarily conservative men telling them what they have a right to do, or not do with their bodies....or that they have a right to get in between a doctor and a patient. People are tired of a party that isn't progressive and moving forward with the rest of the world. People are tired of a country that preaches "equality and liberty for all", but then puts exceptions on it. Minorities and various ethnic groups seem to feel like they are being treated less and less equally, and I feel that this was also reflected in the polls.
- Because people care about the environment. People want clean air, clean water, and a knowledge that horrible chemicals aren't seeping into the groundwater network. There is genuine worry about a future affected by what nearly all climate scientists agree on is a warming world. People are simply tired of hand-waving politicians trying to convince us that they know more than scientists who have studied their respective fields for years and hold multiple degrees (and have numerous peer-reviewed papers). It seems people are finally seeing through the cloud of banal and/or vacuous garbage pundits are spewing. People want Facts....as was clear by the huge number of hits on the various fact-checking websites throughout the debate season. People don't want numbers pulled out of the air. They want real science, and real numbers. Not fringe websites and not so called "experts" that are really just politicians or pundits. I wrote a very long blog entry a few months ago after an experience I had with a climate denier. It was all about our problem as a nation with the accepting of science and dismissal of conspiracies. I never published it, because I thought it may spark too many comments. But perhaps that will get posted soon as well. Even in my tiny little corner of the world, people made a statement. Here in Ferguson Township where I live, a generally red-leaning township, people voted for an environmental "Bill of Rights" that includes a Fracking Ban. I was proud to vote for it...even though I am a graduate student in a Geoscience department. In reality this referendum doesn't mean much practically, as Ferguson township sits upon limestones and not over any real part of the Marcellus Shale....but still I feel as though a statement was made. People do care about our energy needs, but I feel that more people are looking at the way modern and progressive countries around the world are doing things with wind, solar, water, and geothermal, and want to follow suit. People are tired of putting excessive greenhouses gases into our atmosphere, soot into our air and chemicals into our groundwater. As much as you may chose to deny it, a greenhouse gas will warm the planet. It is a thermodynamic certainty.
- People are tired of cooky and fringe conspiracy theories. I could write essays on why this topic fascinates me, but quite simply I feel that people are tired of turning on the news, during prime time, and having the slot be filled by someone yapping on about birth certificates and college transcripts. We have more important things to do as a nation, and more important problems to solve. We are all simply sick and tired of our elected officials wasting our time with nonsense.
- People truly, honestly, and desperately want REAL HEALTHCARE REFORM. This topic is one that I am incredibly passionate about and one that I know very well as I worked for a premier hospital for seven years. I worked in and around the billing and claims departments and know a lot about how it works. I also have spent time in other countries that utilize a single-payer universal system that is not only cheaper than our system, but offers much better care. A system that means you walk into a doctor's office, get treated, and then never experience the months and months of endless claims, bills, and bankruptcies. Life expectancy around the world in countries with superior universal coverage is nearly always higher than the U.S. Our system is inefficient, broken, ridiculously overpriced, and does not guarantee health coverage to all of this great nation's citizens. I truly believe that Health Care is a right, not a privilege (A belief I know not shared by most conservatives). A country so willing to send and protect her citizens in countless wars, should also be willing to protect all of her citizens back home. I realize this is an extremely divisive issue, but like I said, one that I am exceptionally passionate about. Yesterday people made a statement that while the Affordable Care Act may note be the single-payer universal system that many had hoped for, it is definitely a step in the right direction.
- People want real and honest immigration reform. When Mitt Romney said in an early campaign appearance that undocumented foreigners should "self-deport", it upset a lot of people. Obviously most people agree that there is a problem with undocumented immigration, but there are thousands of people that have grown up in this country since their childhood that have only know this country to be there own. Surely there needs to be a way for those people to be put on a path to citizenship. How is it that an undocumented resident can sign up and serve in our military...and be injured or even die in battle, but not be allowed to be a citizen? I feel that people realized this last night, especially the Latino and minority voters, and then voted accordingly.
- People want corporations to stop being considered individuals and want them to pay their fair share of taxes. Since the '08 crash, and during the slow recovery that has followed, people have been hit hard. People are working harder than ever to just barely get by. But then we see reports that major corporations and banks are able to pay little or no taxes because of corporate loopholes. We struggle to pay 3-4 dollars a gallon for gas, yet watch as major oil companies rake in their highest profits ever in history. I feel that last night's election reflects this frustration.
I think what remains eerily unsettling though, is that in the very first few hours following the election results, there is already talk amongst the conservative right of launching an all out, crossed-arms, foot-stomping, stubborn blocking-style Congress to anything and everything that the Senate or President puts forth. Nevermind the will of the people that the government is supposed to represent, nevermind the civic duty of those elected, but instead....lets act like stubborn and bratty children and not agree to work together on anything just because you didn't get your way. When Olympia Snowe retired from the Senate last year, she said her reason was because Congress had become so toxic and unwilling to compromise, that she just couldn't handle it any more....despite the fact that she loved being a Senator. Olympia was a Republican, that often voted or worked with Democrats. A true and honest compromiser. Hearing this can only make the rest of us independents more dejected.
So I pose to you...Congress: Rise above the temptation to be obstinate and uncompromising. There is a reason that Congress has less than a 20% approval rating. People voted yesterday the way they did, and it should be sending you a strong message. I know that Republicans and Democrats will likely not agree on much...but please....be willing to work across the aisle and listen to what the country is telling you. This goes for you too Democrats. You must be willing to compromise. It's time to evolve, and accept that the younger generation is simply more progressive. There is much value in many conservative ideals. I, myself, ascribe to many. It seems that last night people told the GOP that while being more fiscally conservative is good, you need to also be more moderate or progressive on social issues. We don't live in the 1700's anymore. Time brings changes, and societies grow, change and, evolve. So we must evolve together, including those conservative ideals, or the Republican Party may continue to drift farther from relevance and continue to lose in the future.
....and I definitely welcome comments, but do please be civil. These are only my opinions and don't really mean diddly squat. I simply brain-dumped on here to get my thoughts down on "paper" while they were still coherent. Shoot for all I know, all these reasons are garbage and the real reason Republicans lost is because of the hack that all the Democrats installed on the voting machines. See I can be a crazy conspirator too! Muuhhaaaahaa. ;-)