There was no euphoria this time around. More relief than anything.

I watched for the first two hours nervously eyeing the results as the Deep South pushed Mr. Romney to an early lead. The television was tuned to MSNBC, where the assembled pundits were manic fiends in a crack den.

I tried to enjoy the experience. There was a time I dug politics on a level somewhere between a sporting event and a semi-fictional drama. But the thrill has been gone ever since the modern Republican Party decided to respond to the Obama presidency by leading one last confederate charge up the bloody hill of the American Id.

So when they called Ohio for Obama—and with it the overall election—there was the briefest feeling of satisfaction before the reality of what’s ahead started setting in. That was about when I fell asleep.

When I woke up, there had been no late night shenanigans, Mitt Romney had conceded, and Obama had still been re-elected.

But the weather was gray, the ocean waves were angry, and the wind blew cold from the nor’easter forming out over the ocean—like Mother Nature’s way of not-so-gently reminding us that the hard part starts now.

Thankfully, some decent people were elected on Tuesday night, and some real assholes lost.

Heroes:

Tammy Baldwin – The first openly gay United States Senator. Elected less than a decade after opposition to gay marriage formed a cornerstone of George W. Bush’s re-election coalition, on a night where gay marriage was approved by voters in three states. Her victory came, in no small part, thanks to the groundwork that was laid in opposition to Governor Scott Walker’s anti-union efforts.

Elizabeth Warren – Had been written off by most of the establishment media, due to the fact that Scott Brown, her opponent, wasn’t completely batshit crazy. But thanks to a bullying and ineffective campaign by Brown, and a relatively flawless one on the part of the Warren team, she reclaimed Ted Kennedy’s old seat for the Democrats and scored a win in the struggle that rages eternal between nerds and jocks.

Tammy Duckworth – The daughter of a U.S. Marine, she became Black Hawk pilot in the Illinois National Guard, attaining the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, and was deployed to Iraq in 2004. While in Iraq, her helicopter was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, and she lost both her legs. She returned home and in 2006, ran for Congress, ultimately losing to her Republican opponent. Duckworth campaigns wearing custom patriotic prosthetics. She ran again this past year and defeated a real asshole.

Assholes:

Joe Walsh – TEA Party hero and bombastic douchebag. Defeated by Tammy Duckworth in the 8th Congressional District Of Illinois. Called out for being full of shit by this column in June. His astonishing lack of self-awareness gave us a frightening look into the subconscious of the right wing mindset. Pages could be written about his reactionary sleaziness, but one is grateful that, with any luck, his name won’t be appearing in print or pixel too often going forward.

Linda McMahon – Would have brought the renowned class, sensibility, and business ethics of the WWE to the United States Senate. Appointed to the Connecticut State Board Of Education in 2009 but resigned upon learning she couldn’t raise campaign funds as a board member. Subsequently burned mountains of McMahon family money over the course of two failed Senate campaigns.

Allen West – Described Obama supporters as “a threat to the gene pool.” Attempted to address the peculiar relationship between race and the Republican Party by enthusiastically hating gay people, Latinos, progressives, women, moderate Republicans, and Barack Obama. TEA Party and CPAC darling. Unlike Joe Walsh, it’s unlikely that West will fade off into obscurity willingly. There will always be a market for brown-skinned people who make white conservatives feel like they aren’t racist.

Todd Akin & Richard Mourdock – Creepy authoritarians who held attitudes about women’s bodies that came straight out of a Nathaniel Hawthorne novel. Akin, with his spooky belief in magical lady parts, and Mourdock, he of the “God-intended rape babies,” actually speak for a vastly ignorant swath of the American population. Fortunately for the country, their constituents do not number enough to win an election, even in very conservative territory.

 

The next four years are going to be a little rocky. It’s doubtful that the Republican Party will experience a change of heart and start compromising with Obama, nor is it likely that Obama will give up his undying obsession with striking a grand bargain with people who have no desire to negotiate.

But the world will continue to turn, and the American Republic will play its role, for better or for worse. I am relieved that the actors on stage at least know their lines, if nothing else.

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