Magic Math, a 1% Revolution, and the White Establishment: Chronicling the Election Night Dickishness of Karl Rove, Donald Trump and Bill O'Reilly

Presenting a handy guide detailing three of the weirder moments in last night's election results coverage, in case you missed them.
Publish date:
November 7, 2012
politics, race, election 2012

Last night’s election results, although far less of a nail-biting roller coaster than predicted, saw some curious reactions from Republican luminaries. One memorable interlude occurred when Republican strategist Karl Rove (Turd Blossom to his friends -- oh, who am I kidding, Karl Rove doesn’t have any friends) decided he didn’t like Fox News’ decision to call Ohio, and therefore the election, in favor of President Obama at around 11:15pm last night.

In a bizarre Hail Mary effort, Rove and a few other anxious Fox News analysts argued against their own network, stating that according to the random math in their heads and/or their gut intuition, it was too soon to call the deciding state, even while acknowledging that Obama’s lead in the remaining swing states had all but dashed any hopes for a Romney administration.

Rove’s insistence that Republican votes might still come through may have sounded plausible to anyone unaware of the massive nerd machinery that calculates these results, grinding away in quiet obscurity in the bowels of the massive corporate news organizations that so relish toying with our sanity every election cycle. But it’s not as if these decisions are arrived at by a coin toss -- they happen because of meticulous research and analysis.

To make the point, Fox sent anchor Megyn Kelly (who, in her defense, had met Rove’s New New Math lecture with a tense, “That’s awkward.”) behind the scenes to illustrate that intelligent people really do work at Fox, even if they’re usually on the other side of the camera. Kelly went on an adventure down some hallways until she located the decision people, whom she asked if they were sure about the call. Shockingly, they said yes, they were sure.

(It’s actually kind of horrifyingly insulting that the network felt it was necessary to prove this point to its audience, but then Fox is the preferred news source for a party of which 68% of its members believe that demons can possess people, so I suppose asking them to just trust that there are smart people at work on these election results was probably not going to happen.)

If it weren’t Karl Rove doing the complaining, his concerns might look like they have some merit -- on the surface, it does seem awfully unlikely that a race with less than a thousand votes between the candidates (at the time) could be decisively called.

But as my imaginary TV girlfriend Rachel Maddow pointed out, we can’t ignore the fact that Karl Rove is one of the biggest spenders in support of the Romney campaign -- and also he’s the dude who engineered the travesty of democracy that was the 2000 election, not to mention the campaign strategist who prefers to bank on voter suppression and disenfranchisement to secure a result.

Rove expected to win, because he’d bought and paid for a Romney success. On some level most of us can probably sympathize, as I know I get pretty bummed when I buy a pair of shoes that then get lost in the mail. The only difference is that my lost shoes don’t result in all but the very wealthiest and most privileged Americans being powerfully screwed out of their constitutionally ensured fair participation in democracy.

Speaking of travesties, the least surprising but possibly most entertaining meltdown of the evening came via Twitter, where Donald Trump made a final spectacular break with reality, live, in front of almost two million followers. Trump, who was understandably upset, undercut any of his more reasonable concerns about the problems of the Electoral College system by sharing such gems as, “This election is a total sham and a travesty. We are not a democracy!” and, “Lets [sic] fight like hell and stop this great and disgusting injustice! The world is laughing at us.

In the former, I suppose Trump’s notion of democracy is one in which the guy he likes always wins. In the latter, I think Trump is misunderstanding who, exactly, the world is laughing at. (Also, can you undo an election, just by complaining? Maybe if you're really really nauseatingly rich you can.)

Trump has also deleted some of his more inflammatory tweets, such as, “He lost the popular vote by a lot and won the election. We should have a revolution in this country!” Aside from being inaccurate -- the popular vote was far from counted at the time, as many polls were still open -- I guess maybe Trump’s lawyers decided that repeated calls for a 1% uprising (GATHER UP YOUR BINDERS, GENTLEMEN, AND WE WILL BEAT BACK THE UNWASHED MASSES STEALING THIS ONCE PROUD NATION FROM ITS RIGHTFUL MASTERS) were probably not in his best interest.

But the most poignant (?) moment came earlier in the evening, before Ohio and thereby the whole race were called, and it came from my favorite grumpy old gnome of a pundit, Bill O’Reilly.

When asked why Romney wasn’t kicking ass from coast to coast like the GOP had predicted, O’Reilly replied, with theatric gravitas:

“Because it’s a changing country. The demographics are changing, it’s not a traditional America anymore. And there are 50% of the voting public who want stuff. They want things. And who’s going to give them things? President Obama. He knows it, and he ran on it. And whereby 20 years ago President Obama would have been roundly defeated by an establishment candidate like Mitt Romney, the white establishment is now the minority. And the voters, many of them, feel that this economic system is stacked against them, and they want stuff... People feel that they are entitled to THINGS, and which candidate is going to give them things?”

You know, THINGS. Like being able to marry who they want, and full autonomy over their own internal organs, and a well-funded educational system, and access to affordable health care, and taxes that don't fleece the middle class to benefit the rich, and a fair shot at success in this world. STUFF. I love how O'Reilly manages to make liberal politics and civil rights sound like a new toaster.

If the reaction on Twitter is anything to go by, many people were gobsmacked by these remarks, by this candid admission that "the white establishment" is a thing that exists, or rather that has existed for a very long time, and the assertion that people of color are only interested in sponging as much as possible off a bloated federal government like so many parasites. This assumption is grotesque and contemptuous, but it’s also a rare clear look into the minds of the GOP’s old guard.

I mean, regardless of party affiliation, most of us don’t like to look at the fact that since 1870, we have had a grand sweeping total of SIX African-American senators in this country, two of which were elected prior to 1900, and have no black folks in the senate AT ALL at present. Latino senators fare slightly better with a total of seven senators since 1928, with two currently serving. Asian Americans have also had seven senators, since 1959, with three in office today. And Native Americans? Three -- or four, now, if you count Elizabeth Warren.

Even as a kid in the 1980s I remember the predictions of a future white minority being made on the news with a certain air of foreboding, as though the subtext was white folks wondering, What the fuck are they gonna do to us when we’re outnumbered? Like they expected to pay for sustained institutionalized racism, one day. This is, after all, the moment many more conservative -- okay, I mean racist -- Americans have long dreaded, the precipice on which the ability of a still-white majority to control the direction of this nation is no longer a sure thing.

And make no mistake -- this election was won on the votes of people of color and women, those folks who have traditionally gotten the shit end of the stick from Bill O’Reilly’s sad white establishment, and whom the modern Republican party has done virtually nothing to connect with in its eagerness not to alienate its fearful radical fringe.

This is not to suggest that the Democrats are shining models of anti-racism -- they are most assuredly not -- but looking at the diversity of the crowd assembled at Obama’s victory speech last night, it’s clear that the Dems have been far more successful in speaking to the issues that affect so-called minorities of all stripes, and in drawing their enthusiasm.

O’Reilly’s thinly veiled disgust toward people who want “stuff” is itself an illustration of everything that is wrong with his party -- wanting a level playing field, or a hand up in hard times, is not out of line with what a government should reasonably provide its citizens. And for all the GOP talk about people who feel “entitled” to certain outcomes, the entitlement flowing from Karl Rove and Donald Trump and Bill O’Reilly last night -- dinosaurs of a dying age, all three -- was far more in evidence.

Of course, there are still a few bright spots of moderation in the Republican party, and even as results first began coming in last night, several strategists were acknowledging that the GOP needs to do more reach out to Latino voters (and to a lesser extent, black voters and women voters), and I’m glad of that, because as passionately lefty as I personally am, I still believe balance is critical. And I also think that conservatism shouldn’t be an all-white enterprise. Politics should be for everybody.

Except maybe Karl Rove and Donald Trump and Bill O’Reilly. I think they’ve deserved at least a short trip to the woodshed to think about what they’ve done -- and whether they really do have the best interests of all Americans at heart.