I find myself really depressed today, and it's about American politics. Logically I should be happy. We just re-elected a black man as our President despite a still weak economy and attack ads that began two years earlier. The Democratic Party managed to increase its lead in the Senate despite defending twenty-three seats to the Republicans ten. In my own state of Ohio Sherrod Brown was returned to the Senate despite a series of super-pac attack ads that began about a day after the Citizens United decision came down from the Supreme Court. It was a good day for Democrats and I much enjoyed the great wailing and gnashing of teeth that followed from the right, particularly Karl Rove's meltdown on Fox News.
But at the end of the day it just makes me sad. Today people from several states sent secession petitions to President Obama. They are of course, ridiculous, illegal and mark the people who sent them as nincompoops. Glenn Beck is telling his followers to move out of blue states and buy guns. A few fundamentalist ministers are crying the end is nigh, and one even named Obama the Antichrist. More stupidity. A man in Florida wrote "Fuck Obama" on his will and then committed suicide. A woman ran over her husband because she blamed him for Obama's election. And no, she wasn't drunk or on drugs. And while I've heard a few sensible voices from the right, by and large they still seem unable to believe what happened. Like they expect to pinch themselves to discover it was all a bad dream.
It's not difficult to explain why Republicans lost. 'Legitimate rape' may appall your average Republican voter, but Akin's opinion represents where the party itself stands. The party primarily appeals to poorly-educated white men and religious fanatics and survives primarily because it has its own media and is backed by lots of really rich people. Money is not a problem for the GOP. Reality is.
America is deeply divided, to the point we cannot even agree on what reality is. The Republican Chair of the House Science Committee openly called evolution and climate change lies spawned directly from "the pit of hell". Texas Republicans recently passed a law banning the teaching of critical thinking because it might lead to liberalism. Arizona Republicans passed into law that life begins two weeks before conception. The Republican Presidential contest most closely resembled a Voltaire satire then anything that ought to happen within a mature democracy. Rick Perry couldn't name three Federal Agencies. Newt Gingrich delighted comedians everywhere by lecturing the President on morality. Michelle Bachmann is batshit insane. Rick Santorum? Herman Cain? Seriously? Akin and Mourdock's statements were vile, but they were only the Republican WTF moment of the week.
Much of the anger is directed toward Mitt Romney, with the feeling that he was a bad candidate. Frankly, he was the best of all possible Republican candidates. Not all conservatives are nuts. They'd like someone moderate enough to appeal to the center with arguable economic knowledge and who is well spoken. Romney is that. He is also the most brazen liar I have ever seen in American politics. But he had to lie. Only a moderate willing to lie like a dog could possibly win the nomination among primary voters so detached from reality.
A conservative movement with zero roots in reality is not a good thing for America. Nor is one seething with anger. The secession petitions are not the first I have heard of, and indicate a real unwillingness among many to accept the results of the election. Liberals may have complaints about the 2000 election, but nobody filed a secession petition over it. Many really do think what the President wants is unconstitutional and they won't even listen when fellow conservatives tell them differently. Nor do may listen when fellow conservatives point out they've been played for patsies by their own media, because the truth isn't profitable.
A country that cannot agree on what reality is cannot solve its problems. Blame is laid where it does not belong and possible solutions are rejected without debate. Compromise, upon which Democracy runs, becomes impossible. Consider last year when the President and House Speaker John Boehner reached a grand bargain on the deficit only to have it rejected by Boehner's own Republican caucus because it rolled back some of the Bush tax cuts. The so-called fiscal cliff is in front of us solely because of the GOP.
When a population is both seething with anger and detached from reality the potential for political violence is high. It is not an accident that the Bible Belt and the heart of the red states occupies much of the Confederacy. The Myth of the Lost Cause has sanitized a cause reignited by fear of ongoing social change including the Browning of America. Americans are angry, and many do not see the other as human. This trend began long ago, but has deepened lately. The biggest tragedy of September 11, 2001 is that it could have been used to unite the country. It wasn't in part because of Karl Rove, but it is useless to lament opportunities lost. The question is what will come. And what I expect to come is violence.
President Obama is probably smart enough to pretend those secession petitions don't exist. But the issue isn't going away. Rick Perry gave secession lip service last year, though opposed secession once confronted with an actual petition. There will be other calls for separation by people who can't accept that gay is normal, that people need to pay taxes, that women are full human beings or that the government has a positive role to play in their life even though it serves so many of the angriest. A few will collect their guns, assemble their bombs and head out on what they believe a Holy Crusade. People like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh will egg them on because their living depends on keeping Americans angry.
We should enjoy these times while they last, the days where we can go to a restaurant without violence. And we have to hope that when the second bomb goes off, when people realize the violence isn't just coming from a lone crank that there will be an "Oh Shit" moment that pulls us back from the brink. But to be honest, I'm not optimistic. The right can be counted upon to condemn the acts while telling us on the left that 'we should expect' that sort of anger from people who feel their rights are being violated. The right wing media will work to distance itself from what they have wrought, but they will defend it while they do. Because at the end of the day there is only one reality. Two competing versions cannot safely coexist.