Compared to the all-night street party that attended Obama’s election in every liberal stronghold in the country, the left’s reaction to the Republican takeover of the House on Tuesday has been surprisingly muted. True, there was gnashing of teeth and tearing of hair from the expected pundits, as well as lengthy analyses of why the country had voted the way it had, couched in desperate, weaselly turns of phrase like “referendum” and “wave election” to avoid sounding condescending and liberal to those honest, patriotic Americans that had seen fit to restore to power the exact same group of individuals who had created most of the immediate problems the polls said voters were concerned about. But even Colbert and Stewart were eager to portray the most sensational election cycle in the nation’s history, in which the most money was spent with the least accountability and least transparency (one guess for which side), as a battle between two equally guilty, equally shrill and irrational ideologies. To quote Stewart, he and Colbert brought an NPR tote to a knife fight.
Apologies to Mr. Colbert and Mr. Stewart, but saying that Republicans want what’s worst for everyone isn’t insane partisanship; it’s called being informed. How many chances are we obligated to give Reaganomics before acknowledging that maybe it’s not working so well? Is thirty years not long enough?
I’ll do what mainstream pundits dare not and lay the blame for this flaccid outcome right at the feet of the ignorant, selfish, amnesiac public. I’m not saying their anger over the country’s direction isn’t righteous; I’m saying that they lack the temperance and knowledge of history (as recent as two years ago) to make an informed decision about what to do with it. In this case, they decided to cut off their own nose to spite their face. Their face being Democrats, I guess? Or maybe their nose is the job at the plant they lost eighteen months ago and blame Obama for? I’ll quit torturing this metaphor by eliding the rest of my rant and saying, without apology or equivocation, that Americans are stupid and we got exactly what we deserve.
Nowhere is this more obvious than in Washington State, where we had the rarefied privilege of voting on a large number of ballot initiatives, almost every one of which demonstrated the single-minded avarice and ignorance of the public. Do you accuse me of exaggeration? Let’s do a quick recap.
- Initiative 1098, establishing a state income tax, was rejected 65% to 35%. Given that it lowered taxes for 98% of households and raised them for the 2% making more than $400K per year, this is a surprising outcome. It’s even more surprising given that the proponents far outspent the opponents. You could explain this result with fears of a slippery slope of income taxation, but personally I think it comes down to the old adage: that a poor man would rather have the chance to be rich than admit he’s poor.
- Initiative 1100, ending the state liquor sales monopoly, was rejected 52% to 48%. If you think that a state monopoly on anything is good, what kind of conservative are you? But then, if you’re a conservative, what do you care about the income generated by liquor sales, or about the right of a person to get drunk in the first place?
- Initiative 1107, repealing the recent sales tax on soda and candy, was approved 63% to 37%. This one’s pretty simple: we’re in the middle of a tax revolt, and Coke spent $16 million to put this on the ballot and pass it. It’s possible for reasonable men to disagree about whether governments should use tax policy to shape society; but if you’re on the other side of that disagreement, I suggest that you repay the Feds your mortgage deduction.
- Resolution 4220, amending the state constitution to deny bail for violent offenders, passed 85% to 15%. Tough-on-crime legislation is always popular, even when it means that an innocent person can be locked up for months or years without having been found guilty. Violent crime is perceived as an eminent danger of modern life, despite the fact that it’s declining and is now less common than any time since 1970.
- Initiative 1053, requiring a 2/3 legislative majority or voter approval for tax increases, passed 65% to 35%. This is perennial jackass Tim Eyman’s latest electoral stillbirth, likely to be struck down by the State Supreme Court, as it was when it passed in 1999, hidden in a ballot initiative about car tab fees. 12 years later, the citizens of the state still won’t acknowledge that taxes are necessary to run a massive industrial society. I saw a lot of ads about 1098 and 1053, all some variant of “We don’t trust Olympia with our tax money.” Yeah, they’d probably fill some potholes or pay a schoolteacher.
To be fair, citizens also declined to privatize worker’s compensation insurance. But on the whole, Washington residents continue to reap the benefits of their parents’ and grandparents’ investments in the Commons while feeling absolutely no responsibility to give any of that wealth back.
As for Congress: things aren’t that bad. Really. Republicans know they can’t roll back health care reforms, despite talk to the contrary, and even the most cynical part of me can’t fathom what they think they can gain by taking on the scientific establishment over global warming. What we’ll have is two years of total deadlock with mounting voter frustration, hopefully followed by a rueful admission that maybe, just maybe, the GOP doesn’t have anyone’s best interests at heart, no matter how quavering, corrupt, and ineffectual the Democrats happen to be. In the meantime, it’s not like there’s anything to fix in our society.