election 2012

What the Most Negative Election in U.S. History Says About Us

In the wee hours of Wednesday morning, we learned that President Barack Obama would remain the leader of the free world. But his victory came at a price. He and Governor Mitt Romney now have the honor of participating in the most negative election in United States history.

“The campaign has already set records for nastiness and negativity,” Senator Joseph Lieberman commented to CNN in August. Howard Fineman echoed the sentiments on the Huffington Post, calling it “the nastiest, most abrasive personally accusatory presidential campaign in modern times.”

It’s hard to argue with their assessments, but does anyone care? And if so, what are we going to do about it?

Every campaign has a measure of negativity, but 2012 was exceptional.

Every campaign has a measure of negativity, but 2012 was exceptional. Mudslinging became an art form, and the lack of truth-telling turned “fact-checking” into a cottage industry. At one time in this country, disagreements could be settled by a good old-fashioned duel. (If you don’t believe me, ask Aaron Burr.) But in the media age, guns are no longer necessary. We have commercials.

The campaigns unleashed roughly 1,000,000 television ads during this election, and a record four out of five were negative.

Post-Election: Jim Wallis Breaks It Down for Homebrewed Christianity Podcast

Sojourners CEO, the Rev. Jim Wallis

We were stoked to sit down with Jim Wallis, Sojourners guru, political activist and all-around change agent for the common good to chat up what happened during the most recent elections. We talk about what comes next, how the parties will respond to the electorate and where both sides can come together for real change.

And although Jim Wallis does sound a little bit like Darth Vader in this episode, it’s not his fault. We had an audio glitch in the recording in our haste to get this to you quickly.

Listen to the podcast and read a partial transcript inside the blog ...

‘10 Commandments Judge’ Wins His Old Job Back

Roy Moore

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Roy Moore, forever known as Alabama's Ten Commandments judge, has been re-elected chief justice in a triumphant political resurrection after being ousted from that office nearly a decade ago.

Republican Moore defeated Jefferson County Circuit Judge Bob Vance, a Democrat, to win back his former office.

"It's clear the people have voted to return me to the office of chief justice," Moore said.

"I have no doubt this is a vindication. I look forward to being the next chief justice," Moore told a crowd of sign-waving supporters.

Moore thanked supporters at his party for sticking with him through what had been an up-and-down night that had Vance out to an early lead. Moore eventually won the race with 52 percent of the vote with 99 percent of precincts reporting.

"Go home with the knowledge that we are going to stand for the acknowledgment of God," Moore said to shouts of "Amen" from supporters.

Arizona Democrat to Replace Defeated Pete Stark as Sole Atheist in Congress

Pete Stark

Pete Stark

Rep. Pete Stark, (D-Calif.), the only openly atheist member of Congress, lost his race for another term on Tuesday.

But nonbelievers will not remain unrepresented in the Capitol. Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, a former Arizona state senator, Mormon-turned-nontheist and a bisexual, has narrowly won her pitch for a House seat by 2,000 votes.

“We are sad to see Pete Stark go,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association, which gave Stark its Humanist of the Year award in 2008.

“He was a pioneer for us, and by being open about his lack of a belief in God we hope that he has opened the door for people like Kyrsten Sinema and others that will come after her.”

Stark, who turns 80 this year, is the dean of the California congressional delegation and has served Fremont, a religiously diverse community near San Jose, since 1972. He “came out” as a nonbeliever in 2007, and went on to win two re-election bids. But this time he faced recent redistricting and a fellow Democratic challenger, Eric Salwell, almost 50 years his junior. 

“I don’t think his lack of belief in a god had anything to do with the results of this election,” Speckhardt said. “The numbers were close.”

American Muslims Celebrate Defeat of Congressional Critics

Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations

American Muslims are celebrating the ouster of two congressmen known for their anti-Islamic rhetoric, and heralding the outcomes as a sign that Muslim voters, at least in some districts, are a political force to be reckoned with.

"These encouraging results clearly show that mainstream Americans reject anti-Muslim bigotry by candidates for public office and will demonstrate that rejection at the polls," said Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "This election witnessed an increased political awareness and mobilization effort among American Muslims that dealt a major blow to the Islamophobia machine."

Republican Rep. Allen West lost to Democrat Patrick Murphy by about 2,500 votes in Florida’s 18th Congressional District, which includes Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. West has not conceded, however, and has filed a motion to have paper ballots recounted. 

There are roughly 160,000 Muslims in Florida, comprising about 0.9 percent of the population.

Over in Illinois, 21,000 votes separated Republican Rep. Joe Walsh from his successful Democratic challenger Tammy Duckworth, an Iraqi War veteran and double amputee. Illinois is home to the country's largest concentration of Muslims, about 360,000 comprising 2.8 percent of the population.

'We're the Greatest': Empty Boast or Call to Action?

President Obama delivering his acceptance speech Tuesday night in Chicago.

I believe we can seize this future together -- because we are not as divided as our politics suggest; we're not as cynical as the pundits believe; we are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions; and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are, and forever will be, the United States of America. And together, with your help, and God’s grace, we will continue our journey forward, and remind the world just why it is that we live in the greatest nation on Earth. -- President Barack Obama, 7 November 2012  

Yesterday I joined a Facebook exchange about whether the United States is indeed the greatest nation on Earth. By quite a few objective criteria, I argued, we trail other nations: health care accessibility, lifespan, maternal mortality, education, infrastructure development, employment, equality of opportunity ... well, the list is frighteningly long. We are clearly not the greatest nation on earth by any standards that people from other nations would accept, and we are becoming less great every year (for a European view of America's decline, read this sobering article - in English - from Monday's Der Spiegel).  

Yesterday I also told my two little dogs -- Muffin the poodle mix and Tiggy-Winkle the terrier -- that they are the best little dogs in the world. By quite a few objective criteria, I am deluded about my dogs. Tiggy  digs holes in upholstered furniture, and she barks so much that she was nearly kicked out of obedience school ("Just give up," the trainer advised; "she's going to bark, whatever you do"). Muffin snores, refuses to cooperate with her groomer, and bites large dogs. But I love my dogs passionately. I wouldn't trade them for any Westminster champions or obedience winners. Several friends, watching me interact with Tiggy and Muffin, have said they would like to be my dogs.

The Prerequisite of the Common Good

Common good concept, Gunnar Pippel / Shutterstock.com

Common good concept, Gunnar Pippel / Shutterstock.com

The day after the 2012 election brought a great feeling of relief. Most of us, whether our candidates won or lost, were so weary of what elections have become that we were just glad the process was over. Many were disappointed that dysfunctional and bitterly partisan politics in Washington, D.C., had undermined their deep desires for “hope” and “change.” Politics has severely constrained those possibilities by focusing on blame instead of solutions, and winning instead of governing. And, as the most expensive election in American history just showed, the checks have replaced all the balances. 

But the election results produced neither the salvation nor the damnation of the country, as some of the pundits on both sides seemed to suggest. 

The results of the presidential election showed how dramatically a very diverse America is changing; people are longing for a vision of the common good that includes everyone. As one commentator put it “the demographic time bomb” has now been set off in American politics — and getting mostly white, male, and older voters is no longer enough to win elections, as the Romney campaign learned on Tuesday.

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