The United States re-elected Barack Obama as president yesterday and just as importantly, did NOT elect Mitt Romney, a loathsome, cynical multi-millionaire opportunist and egomaniac with nothing to offer the vast majority of Americans who aren’t white, rich and male.
Starting around 8:30, a bunch of us — James Brotheridge, Carle Steel, John Cameron, Aidan Morgan and Greg Beatty — watched the election in O’Hanlon’s well-hidden, TV-filled back room along with a cheerful pack of Friends Of The ‘Dog. The mood was good right from the beginning, thanks to the NY Time’s Nate Silver, who gave Obama more than a 90 per cent chance of re-election (and consequently, us a less than 10 per cent chance of total despair).
And let me tell you, it was a nice change. I remember the last federal election, which we also followed at O’Han’s. Watching Stephen Harper win the majority government that would let him unleash his radical agenda was crushing, as was the knowledge that more than half of Saskatchewan voters (56.2 per cent) had supported him*.
Then there was the city election, which was disappointing thanks to the fact that only one non-status quo candidate was elected. When your status quo is a housing crisis, a pension crisis, questionable city management that purges its best civil servants, no recycling, bad transit, and sketchy stadium plans that use a P3 model condemned by consultants, status quo is a problem. I don’t envy Ward Three’s Shawn Fraser, the lone progressive councillor.
While it was a pleasure to follow the U.S. election last night, it’s important to remember how crazy this campaign was. Republicans are cracked. It’s astounding that anyone would vote for the Republican party, which champions free market extremism, restricting women’s rights, banning same sex marriage, unrestricted oil drilling and mining, and invading Iran (because the last couple of Republican ego-wars worked out so well). The party is riddled with religious zealots who don’t accept science and say awful things about rape.
And nearly half the United States wants these morlocks to run the show. It’s a nightmare.
Fortunately, nearly half was not enough.
I feel an extra connection to this election thanks to The Stranger, an alt weekly in Seattle that’s one of my daily reads. The Stranger is written by good people who support all the right things: universal health care, women’s rights, same-sex marriage, social programs, smart urban planning, strong public transit, etc. After more than a decade of reading that paper, I care about its writers and their city, and The Stranger’s ebullience at winning just about everything** — the presidency, same-sex marriage rights, legal marijuana and more — gave me a personal connection to an election I was already passionate about. A tweet to us from Stranger writer Paul Constant (who wrote a great piece for us this issue) that said “You would have let us Americans crash on your couch if things went really bad tonight, right?”, sealed the deal. Yes, liberal America. You’re always welcome on our couch in a political emergency.
I have days and days worth of things to say about the U.S.election but I think this is enough for now. We’ve got our own city, province and country to worry about, after all. And there’s a lot to be worried about.
A U.S. election that wasn’t the disaster it very well could’ve been sure is great inspiration for those of us who want to believe this country can be better, though.
*When Harper’s win was announced, some moron in the bar shouted “The American lost! Suck it, Iggy”, referring to Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff. Pretty rich coming from someone who helped vote in the closest thing to a Republican president Canada’s ever seen.
**Waiting to hear more, but it sounds like a couple of very, very bad billionaire-backed initiatives passed–one of which will prevent Washington state from raising taxes without a two-thirds majority. Which is impossible to get. Which means Washington state will never raise taxes again. Which is a recipe for the state going bankrupt.