by Luke Irwin
“Ooh! A political discussion at our table. I feel like a Kennedy!”
— Lisa Simpson
Ohio will decide this election.
It’s one of the quirks of the US electoral voting system, allowing the possibility for winner of the popular vote to fail to win the election. This is due, in part, to the fact that each state is designated a number of points based on it’s population rather than voter numbers alone; thus creating an environment in which swing states becomes vital. Consider the fact that in 2000 George W. Bush had fewer total votes than Al Gore, but due to the fact he ‘won’ Florida (25 pts), won Texas (37 pts), and— most crucially— Ohio (22 pts). He won with a 271-point majority.
That was the first time since 1888 in which the popular winner didn’t win the election, but with this year’s race is proving so close – Republican Mitt Romney holding a 49%-48% lead in the most recent polls – we could once again see controversy.
With the majority of power states being a formality, Texas will always be a red state and New York blue, the only undecided state worth over 10 electoral points is Ohio. And it’s about time Ohio mattered again; with the loss of LeBron James, the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns having never won a Super Bowl and two baseball teams with a combined one World Series since 1980 all they’ve got to cling to is this and the fact they were the birthplace of aviation.
And despite the fact that this is the fifth consecutive election in which Ohio’s electoral votes have decreased – now accounting for just 18 of a total 538 – it remains the only state that really matters; something both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are only too well aware of. Romney and Obama have appeared giving speeches frequently in the state while the GOP have splashed out on their television campaign, this week running an average of 333 ads per day.
More alarming than that, however, is the schizophrenic change in political beliefs from Mitt Romney – an ailment that coincidentally struck him shortly after he was trailing in the Republican primaries. In the past eighteen months there has been a considerable moderation in Romney’s stance, shifting his views on foreign policy, gay rights, and most notably Planned Parenthood – or to you and I, “abortion.”
The issue here is that because Ohio is the only state that matters, Romney (and to a lesser extent Obama) have been able to twist their core beliefs to appeal to the 87% white, largely-affluent Ohians in order to win votes, no matter if they truly believe in their policies or not. Ohio is, essentially, Homer Simpson in Lisa vs Malibu Stacy; “I’m a white male, aged eighteen to forty-nine. Everyone listens to me, no matter how dumb my suggestions are!”
“An election?! That’s one of those deals where they close the bars, isn’t it?”
— Barney Gumble
One of The Simpsons’s most iconic episodes, and a potential turning point on how homosexuality was depicted on American television, was John Waters’ guest appearance in the 1997 episode “Homer’s Phobia.” In it, a rather naïve Homer worries that Bart will somehow “turn gay” by being around the flamboyant John (played by Waters). The episode works because it shows homophobia without of the divisiveness that almost unanimously surrounds the topic – Homer doesn’t dislike John because he’s gay, he’s merely worried about the influence he might have on his son.
What makes the episode so exceptional is that it highlights the oafish beliefs of the self-centred blue-collar American; essentially making Homer intentionally vulgar as a means to point the finger at Middle-America. However, while the episode ends an epiphany for Homer, it’s a rather personal journey, and one which, ten years later, many Americans have yet to come to terms with – there is nothing wrong with being gay. The line that remains depressingly true is John’s closing statement:
“Homer, I won your respect, and all I had to do was save your life. Now, if every gay man could just do the same, you’d be set.”
What the episode highlights is that what bothers most people opposed to gay marriage (or more specifically, homosexuality on a larger scale) is often insecurity, rather than puerile hatred. I’m not going to suggest that Mitt Romney is opposed to gay marriage because he’s afraid gays will roam the streets like zombies infecting people. Although…
Mitt Romney is a man who, albeit in high school, led a posse of friends to tackle a fellow student and shave off his hair. Why? Because that student was gay.
And we once again turn our attention to Romney’s flip-flopping in order to win votes. He is on record in 1994 supporting gay marriage, but eleven years later was quoted saying, “I fully support gay rights. Homosexuals should have the same rights as the rest of us; to marry people of the opposite sex.”
As governor of Massachusetts Romney passed a series of bills in support of gay rights, but while running for President blocked birth certificates for same-sex parents in that very state. Is this a man in denial?
“Ironic, isn’t it, Smithers? This anonymous clan of slack-jawed troglodytes has cost me the election, and yet if I were to have them killed, I would be the one to go to jail. That’s democracy for you!”
— C.M. Burns
There was once a country where, if you couldn’t afford to pay insurance on your own health then you ran the risk of being left to sit in agony for anything short of a life-threatening case.
It’s dumbfounding that so many Americans were opposed to Obamacare in 2008, and four years later, despite reducing insurance by up to 12%, allowing free contraception for women and a reduction in the CBO deficit of $200 billion, Mitt Romney has still pledged to end free healthcare the day he is elected.* I should point out at this point that Mitt Romney hasn’t said exactly what his alternative is; he’s just opposed the state giving free hand-outs to those who, potentially, don’t deserve it.
Regardless, if Romney were to scrap Obamacare it would leave America no better off than it was four years ago, creating the perilous position of leaving the under-funded on the brink of poverty – and worse yet, creating competition between those so-called Mr Businessmen with their doctorate degrees, and those “doctors” who have their qualifications from a university who’s name you can’t pronounce.
Furthermore, Obama’s healthcare reform drastically diminished the need for ambulance chasing lawyers, as the victims of these incidents would by-and-large have no need to sue the guilty party in order to pay for their treatment. If The Simpsons’ episode ‘Bart Gets Hit By A Car’ aired during the age of Obamacare the plot would be somewhat different; no longer would Homer need to forge the seriousness of Bart’s injury in order to con money out of Burns, and worse yet – they’d be no need to call either Lionel Hutz or Dr. Nick – the real victims of Obamacare.
Bart: Didn’t you wonder why you were getting checks for doing absolutely nothing?
Grampa: I figured because the Democrats were in power again.
The gravity with which this election is being held differs greatly depending on who you ask. Some might say that electing Mitt Romney will be a huge disaster for, not just the US, but the world as a whole. His panache, or lack thereof, with foreign policy has been readily evident over the past few months, no more clearly than he thoughts of England in his memoirs:
England [sic] is just a small island. Its roads and houses are small. With few exceptions, it doesn’t make things that people in the rest of the world want to buy. And if it hadn’t been separated from the continent by water, it almost certainly would have been lost to Hitler’s ambitions. Yet only two lifetimes ago, Britain ruled the largest and wealthiest empire in the history of humankind. Britain controlled a quarter of the earth’s land and a quarter of the earth’s population.
However, the level of success Barack Obama has experienced has been somewhat muted in his first term; perhaps not to the level as Fox analyst Brit Hume would have you believe, calling Obama the “worst President ever.” Nonetheless, his fondness for drone strikes, a stifling Republican-majority Senate as well as the impossibly high expectations the population gave him haven’t helped his cause for his re-election, and he’s within a whisker of becoming the eleventh man to fail in his bid for re-election. Unlike the last inductee to that group, George H. W. Bush, he won’t be able to claim that he completed all his aims during his first term; with nationwide same-sex marriage, Planned Parenthood and Guantanamo Bay still up in the air.
It does not matter which way you vote. Either way your planet is doomed. Doomed!”