Watching the election returns last Tuesday night was all about the numbers. Which candidate will get to 270 first? How does Romney’s path to the presidency change now that PA’s 20 electoral votes are in Obama’s column? Will Obama finish with 332 or 303 electoral votes?
But for me, the most surprising number was 168. That was the number of Facebook friends I had the day after the election – one less than the day before.
In the month leading up to the election, I often logged on to Facebook to engage in spirited discourse with my Republican friends. Tuesday night, I went there to revel in the joy of victory with my Democrat friends.
On election night I watched with bemusement as Chuck Todd moved battle-ground states into the Obama column with the wave of his hand – like a mythological soothsayer. As the night wore on and it became apparent the President would be reelected, I felt euphoric and somewhat vindicated (selfishly so). Vindicated, because I had argued with some republican friends that Obama’s vision for America was better than Romney’s, and that most Americans would see it that way. To me it was a choice between two very different views about the role of government in America. It was about social and economic justice. And watching Karl Rove stubbornly deny the science of polling (in much the same way his party denies climate change and evolution), only to be smacked down emphatically by truth was the frosting on the cake. It was remarkable.
In the heat of an election candidates and voters can let their emotions get the best of them – taking on an aggressive tone and speaking words that normally they would not. On election night as my son and I sat on the couch watching the returns, the network cut away to Todd Aikin’s concession speech. It was a divisive speech, ungracious, and full of the vitriol and misguided views of a typical Tea Party candidate. I immediately typed a statement on Facebook in which I referred to Mr. Aikin as the dime-sized part of the human anatomy directly south of the tailbone and north of the nape of the knees. Without forethought or hesitation I tapped the Enter key and sent my words into the infosphere. A few seconds later my son chided me with a “that’s not a very nice thing to say dad”, and of course he was right.
I am convinced that my actions resulted in being “unfriended” by an old high school classmate. It had been many years since I had seen or spoken with him in person, and if not for Facebook we probably would not have kept in touch. My friend’s Facebook page was like everyone else’s, a reflection of his likes and dislikes, from pop culture and sports to politics and religion. He has strongly-held views about the role of government (keep your hands off my money, put my god in your classroom, and put this trans-vaginal probe in your vagina).
Politics is a blood sport, and to the victor go the spoils. In this case those who elected Obama are the victors and the President has a sacrosanct responsibility make good on his campaign promises. At the same time, the President must be mindful of the 49 percent of American’s who voted for Mitt Romney’s vision of America. Some republicans would argue that Obama does not have a mandate. I strongly disagree. That said, the President has a difficult road ahead – pushing his vision for America while at the same time keeping the 49 percent who disagree with that vision “in the fold” of the American family. He needs to extend an olive branch to Republicans, while staying true to his principals – no easy task. Push too hard and he risks further fracturing the country, don’t push hard enough, and the same risk applies.
While the president does his part, I will do mine by reaching out to my republican friend in an effort to get back to 169.