There is a deeply bitter whimsy in the results this year. But first a bit of background.
One of the mantras we heard throughout the long election, and most especially in post-voting analysis is how The People voted for "change."
As I wrote the other day, I don't see this as being the case. Democrats did pick up two Senate seats, but that body stayed in Republican control. Democrats also picked up six seats yet it stayed in GOP control, too. Furthermore, as much as the Electoral College showed how the voters wanted to change parties in the White House, Hillary Clinton actually won the popular vote by a huge amount, almost 2 million votes and there's still more counting going on in California, New York and several Western states that she won.
Confusing this issue of "change," six million more votes were cast for Democrats in Senate races. And throwing more fun into the mix, though I haven't been able to find any definitive results, it looks like Republicans got three million more votes in House races, where there were a significant more number of incumbent Republicans running for re-election.
All this makes it seem like "change" was far less an issue than many pundits are suggesting. This isn't to say that "change" wasn't a factor in how people voting -- I am absolutely certain it was -- but that it's not The Answer to why the results turned out as they did. (As I wrote at length before, I think there are a great many reasons for the election results, not just one -- though as an umbrella covering all the reasons is 35 years of attacks and investigations by the GOP to tear down Hillary Clinton, which can't help but have had an overriding impact on people sensibility, despite -- after these 35 years of attacks and investigations -- nothing even as much as a traffic ticket misdemeanor has been found against her.)
Indeed, the idea of The Public wanting "change" does not seem nearly as supported by the contradictory voting results as so many otherwise suggest. In part, this may be because so many analysts confuse unhappiness with wanting change. Sometimes they're the same, but sometimes you're unhappy with people you like and just want them to do a better job. (Consider, too, liberals who said they were "unhappy" with the Affordable Care Act, and got mixed together with conservatives. But conservatives wanted to get rid of national health care, while liberals dearly wanted to keep it but make it even more encompassing.)
To be clear, I am absolutely certain there was a huge amount of unhappiness in the public. But as I said, unhappiness can take many forms. When asked if people are "unhappy" with Congress, the results are usually very high. But the unhappiness is likely for totally different reasons, almost 180-degrees different. Republican voters may be unhappy that Congress is trying to pass liberal issues like the aforementioned universal health care and extending support for Social Security, and that Congress didn't stop gay marriage, while Democrats may be unhappy that Republicans in Congress keep blocking hearings on bills and judicial appointments by the president. So, we have unhappiness across the board, but for polar opposite reasons.
That brings up the larger point here, which is a certain bitter whimsy. While so many people who voted for president did seem to show that they were deeply unhappy with how government was not helping them with their struggles in life, they voted for the party -- the GOP -- that at its foundation is specifically about making government as small as possible, the party that is about keeping government out of your life, that insists near totally on personal self-reliance -- and which historically not only abhors government, but change, period. In fact, "making government so small until you could drown it in the bathtub" is how one of their party consciences, Grover Norquist, has described conservative philosophy. So if one is actually unhappy that government is not helping your difficult lot in life and wants government to help you, then looking the the Republican Party for that is about as bizarre example of a contradiction in terms as one could look for.
And when you vote bizarre, you end up screwing yourself.
I am sure many voters wanted change. I am equally sure that in wanting change, many didn't look closely at what that change will actually be and if it will, in fact, benefit them. Because they voted for the party that is historically against government and against change. And I am additionally sure that if you look at the fullness of this election, people voting wanted much more than just change, because (among so many other things) they didn't vote to change everything.
Unfortunately, as we learned long ago from our parents, if you don't open your eyes and look both ways before crossing the street, you risk getting run over by the oncoming traffic. And as a result, the one change we did end up with was getting as chief strategist Steve Bannon.
As I wrote before, be careful what you wish for, you might get it.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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