I was away during the elections, so let me first say: THANK FUCKING GOD, MAN.
I found the whole campaign just fascinating, particularly the Othering and anxious White Manhood on display by the GOP. Take, for instance, the whole “Macaca” thing with George Allen: in front of a group of good ol’ boys, he singled out a dark-skinned Webb campaign operative for abuse — not only with an obscure racial epithet, but with an Othering “Welcome to America.” ‘Cept, you know, S.R. Sidarth, native Virginian, was every bit as American as Confederacy-lovin’ California native George Allen. And then he flipped out when someone brought up his mother’s Jewishness.
The RNC (or was it the RSCC?) got into the act, with the less-than-subtle jungle drums and he’s-coming-for-the-white-women anti-Harold Ford ads in Tennessee. Which they didn’t pull for a long time after the Republican candidate asked them to. While Ford lost, he only lost by three points in a state that hasn’t elected a black Senator since Reconstruction. Plus, he’s a bit oily.
Anxious masculinity? Hell, yes. How many times did you hear about some GOP pundit or candidate muttering darkly about Nancy Pelosi becoming Speaker of the House? George Bush, acting like a whipped dog after the election, made a crack about picking out new drapes for the Speaker’s office. Because she couldn’t possibly have any kind of substantive agenda or anything. Bush’s demeanor sure changed after his party had its ass handed to it, though. Here’s Paul Krugman the day before the election:
At this point, nobody should have any illusions about Mr. Bush’s character. To put it bluntly, he’s an insecure bully who believes that owning up to a mistake, any mistake, would undermine his manhood — and who therefore lives in a dream world in which all of his policies are succeeding and all of his officials are doing a heckuva job. Just last week he declared himself “pleased with the progress we’re making” in Iraq.
Mind you, even though he said he was willing to work with the Democrats, in the same breath, he called on the lame-duck Congress to ram through his radical right-wing agenda in the last weeks of their term, everything from approving John Bolton as the ambassador to the UN now that his recess appointment is ending to retroactively approving his program of warrantless spying on Americans. Bolton’s finished, though — Lincoln Chaffee, who was voted out of his Senate seat, is doing the right thing and switching his committee vote so that Bolton’s nomination will never reach the floor before the end of the term. And as for those warrantless wiretaps? Many Republicans don’t like them, either.
Lord knows the Democrats aren’t willing to let them be given ratification by act of Congress. Here’s what Frank Rich has to say about why Allen’s “Macaca” moment resonated with voters:
The macaca incident had resonance beyond Virginia not just because it was a hit on YouTube. It came to stand for 2006 as a whole because it was synergistic with a national Republican campaign that made a fetish of warning that a Congress run by Democrats would have committee chairmen who are black (Charles Rangel) or gay (Barney Frank), and a middle-aged woman not in the Stepford mold of Laura Bush as speaker. In this context, Mr. Allen’s defeat was poetic justice: the perfect epitaph for an era in which Mr. Rove systematically exploited the narrowest prejudices of the Republican base, pitting Americans of differing identities in cockfights for power and profit, all in the name of “faith.”
Oh, those black committee chairmen-to-be? Other than Rangel (Ways and Means), there’s John Conyers (Judiciary) and Bennie Thompson (Homeland Security). All of whom were active in civil rights, all of whom well remember segregation and the targeting of civil rights leaders by the government. Which targeting included, it should be noted, warrantless electronic surveillance (something another civil rights activist, Judge Anna Diggs Taylor, shot down this year — for which she was derided as intellectually suspect by someone who hadn’t even bothered to read the opinion, among others).
And now they’ve got their worst nightmare — women, black people and gays are in charge of Congress, and despite their warnings, the base didn’t really care enough to turn out to vote (well, except to help pass homophobic ballot initiatives in six states). Oh, and the emperor has no clothes.