I ignored the election results for most of the evening yesterday, but before I went to bed, I did sneak a peek. And I was not surprised that President Obama won.
I was surprised, however, at the dark wave of disappointment that washed over me as I read the returns. Although I voted for Obama's opponent, I consider myself a moderate Republican. Not one of your typical right-wingers.
This morning, a lot of those typical right-wingers are lamenting Mitt Romney's loss, some with almost apocalyptic dread at what it must mean for the future of our country, and a few seething with barbaric vitriol. When I chided one of my ardently Republican Facebook friends who'd called for a military coup against the president, he shot me an expletive, wished for my death, and promptly de-friended me.
And some people think I'm hard to get along with!
Not that personally, I ever assumed Romney would do all that much differently than Obama has done, since his healthcare plan for Massachusetts was the model for Obama's. Both men hardly differ in their muddled foreign policy views, neither one are born-again evangelicals, and Romney's positions about same-sex marriage and abortion strike me as more political nuance than personal conviction.
Romney is a businessman who made his money in the shady world of corporate raiding, an industry that even Romney's own peers in the trade admit contributes nothing of sustainable value to our national economy. It uses other people's money to put other people out of work so a repackaged company can be slapped with lipstick and resold before its new buyers have time to read the fine print. That's not my personal analysis of how Romney did business; that's what David Stockman, Ronald Reagan's controversial budget director, says. And he should know, because he's been doing the same thing since leaving Washington, although not as successfully.
Stockman, by the way, also lost favor among Reagan Republicans because he believed they should have cut government spending along with Reagan's famously large tax decreases.
Politics is full of contradictions.
Traditional, business-focused Republicans should have been ashamed that their party was putting forward one of America's shrewdest leveraged buyout kings as the top of this year's ballot. But the love of money has come to define the Republican Party, and that proved to be a hard sell when so many Americans are watching their earning power stagnate, home values plunge, and retirement savings evaporate. The gleeful derision by many conservatives towards people who've needed to go on food stamps has painted the party as a bunch of insensitive hoarders. After that clandestine video from Boca Raton surfaced this fall, in which Romney proved his liberal skeptics right, Obama's resurgence in popularity took hold.
Remember, earlier this year, pundits had practically written the epitaph for Obama's administration, assuming that our nation's miserable finances, Obama's obvious ineffectiveness in leading his own staff, questions about his role and subsequent handling of the raid to capture Osama bin Laden, and his woefully sloppy effusiveness towards Arabs at Israel's expense, all were conspiring against his chances of winning re-election.
They were wrong.
This race was about economics, so at the end of the day, it wasn't marijuana, gay marriage, and other liberal social issues (which succeeded on some state ballots) that won the presidential election. It was Romney's inability to prove to Democrats that he isn't a hater of poor people, combined with many Republicans' own disappointment in Romney's awkward pedigree, that apparently convinced enough undecided voters to stick with the devil they knew, rather than the devil they didn't.
Hey, at 52% to 48%, is this an epic victory for Obama and what he stands for? Or is it mostly simply a vote tally between two candidates whom supporters in each party never truly embraced? A relatively small fraction of undecideds tilted the balance between two sides that have been pretty disparate for some time. Perhaps New Jersey's Republican governor Chris Christie's gushing praise of the president's response to Hurricane Sandy last weekend helped convince them that Obama can't be as bad as Republicans had painted him as being.
Still, the disappointment at Romney's loss that washed over me last night likely came from the realization that overturning Obamacare instantly became that much harder. Negotiating our way off of the impending Fiscal Cliff became that much more complicated. Reducing the size of our government and what it spends became that much more remote. And protecting the unborn, the sanctity of marriage, and religious speech became that much more imperiled.
These are all important issues, and Americans - particularly evangelical Americans - have a right to be gravely concerned about what Obama's re-election means for each of them. But frankly, how much less concerned could we have been if Romney had won? Maybe for evangelicals, these issues would have seemed more within our grasp. Yet how often does God allow the safety nets to be pulled from underneath us? Not so we could panic at the free-fall we assume is inevitable. But so that He could prove His sovereignty to those of us who've come to luxuriate in what we can see, instead of what He can?
America is still a democratic republic, and today, we still have all of the same opportunities to advocate for our viewpoints that we had yesterday. Even more importantly, we still have all of the same opportunities - and obligation - to pray for President Obama and the leadership of our country.
Not necessarily out of fear at what we think a worst-case scenario for America may look like. But out of hope for what God wants to do in us and through us for His glory. Did we really need Mitt to win so America could be the success we want it to be? More importantly, did God need Mitt to win?
God wants us to find our purpose, peace, and promise in Him.
And Him alone.