"we can only do what it seems to us we were made for, look at this world with a happy eye but from a sober perspective.”

-W.H. Auden

A Half Dozen “Tweaky” Angles on Election Night 2012

1. Was anyone else freaking out when President Obama tweeted “Four More Years” worrisomely soon after CNN was the first to project his reelection victory? I was thinking, “Dude! You should know better! Stay cool, keep it cool! Are you trying to bring a cataclysmic technological jinx down upon yourself? Trying to stage a hubris-induced, Agamemnon-like political fall, a tragic peripety turned farce?” I was really thinking all of that, and all too quickly I was imagining Harry Truman prancing around a crestfallen Obama, swinging an iPhone 5 whose New York Times app read, “Dewey Defeats Truman.” And Truman, too, was asking, “What in the Sam Hill were you thinking?” Here’s some advice for the Obama family— please keep your husband and father off of social media when even his ardent supporters are still feeling super skittish about unconfirmed results from Ohio, Florida, and Virginia. Election-night tweets are right up there with drunk-dialing. Yes We Can, but No You Shouldn’t! No more overswift tweeting, Mr. President, which even a mild pessimist will tell you risks the kind of regrettable premature behavior that we usually associate with television commercials about male dysfunction.

2. As I write this, at nearly 1 a. m. Eastern Standard Time, Governor Mitt Romney has still not conceded the 2012 election. I don’t think this will surprise many people. The governor is highly unused to being compelled by anything approaching a commonly apprehended reality, one widespread and shared by a multitude. When you have lived his life, you’re not supposed to concede anything. I am imagining a hypothetical mortgage lender, and he arrives at the front door of the Romney vacation compound, and of course no one among the extended, very extended family recognizes him, and that lender has grown impatient, aggressive, and punitive, and is even now, as I continue to imagine this now, foreclosing on the candidate’s dreams. First he is dismantling that car elevator and repossessing the “couple of Cadillacs” and that New Hampshire speedboat that has seen a few too many summer photo-ops over the years. Karl Rove, it is being reported, is urging the Romney campaign to resist conceding too early, and declaring that Ohio is still too close to call and that nothing is settled and will not be for many, many days. Rove said all this, and then he ate another baby, and belched.

3. On one news show, Illinois Representative Bobby Rush was congratulated for his strong showing on this election night, and was also lauded for being the only political opponent ever to defeat Barack Obama in an election contest. In a moment of surreality, fed by endless hours of rhetorical rancor and a debasing kaleidoscope of mendacious political commercials, I really thought I heard the congressman say in response, “Yes, that’s right, and back then I totally whupped his ass.” This appears to have been a mishearing on my part, for which I apologize, and moreover I apologize two-fold for propagating this wrong inference here.

4. Seeing President Obama’s name on the television screen repeatedly this evening, I was suddenly struck about how the reversal of the president’s surname gives us “amabo,” which is the first-person singular future active indicative of the Latin verb “to love.” So you’re telling me our soon-to-be second-term president’s last name has hidden within it the statement, “I shall love”? Really?? Now, I don’t buy that Obama’s birth certificate was planted in a Hawaii archival office many years ago, but this little secret-name realization was definitely planted— possibly by the Holy Ghost. Similarly, it may be that God had a pre-campaign meeting with Obama (it was arranged by David Axelrod), and he said, “You know, I AM love,” according to some of my best fans, but you— you shall love.” They shook hands and the meeting ended. God returned to heaven, and Obama went back to Hyde Park, which is often mistaken for heaven by those in Hyde Park. “I shall love,” says the POTUS who halted the fiscal free-fall of four years ago and saved the auto industry and hosted a beer summit and took out Bin Laden and somehow refrained from taking out formally rebuked “You lie!” congressman Joe Wilson. It is close to 2 a. m. now, and the presidential motorcade is on the move, and soon we will hear a victory speech and confront the welcomed abyss of great relief that is the end of campaigning season and nearly twelve hours of election coverage. In other words, if I were not rather pathetically sitting in bed and watching David Brooks grin slightly and writing an inevitably near-miss, here-are-my-thoughts-now McSweeneys-style essay, I feel quite strongly that I would be noticeably in the grip of a controlled, hallucinogenic substance, and, if I still had any records, I would also be spinning Pink Floyd records in reverse so that they say “amabo, amabo, amabo,” and very likely crying a little softly at the sheer meaningfulness of it all.

Why didn’t anybody notice this four years ago? This sort of detail could have been the messianic tipping point back then, in those breathless and unreal days. Maybe then he could have saved us, saved everything, or at least coyly promised that it would soon be so: “I shall love.” And why didn’t we see the hidden message during this election year? I am convinced it would have determined the outcome almost immediately upon being discovered. And if that had happened, just think of the countless hours that would now be restored to us, like a gift we never thought to ask for, and think of the few billion dollars spent on campaigning, which might have been invested elsewhere, in nobler, less dirty pursuits involving children, the poor, and poor children most of all.

5. Speaking of the Holy Ghost— I think he just may be Jesse Jackson Jr., or at least they are distant cousins. Jackson, too, is hard to see these days, but his presence can always be felt, or at least those who reelected him tonight, some seventy percent of his district, must think so, despite his not being able to work for the past half year, not campaigning at all, and currently residing out of state at the Mayo Clinic. When the spirit descended in the Acts of the Apostles, many people from diverse nations spoke their native languages and were understood even as they understood others. Jackson, on the other hand, remains largely silent, and seems determined to be as inscrutable as an apocryphal, pseudo-canonical, inter-testamental document of uncertain provenance. But perhaps this is best discussed behind closed doors.

6. OK, President Obama just gave his victory speech. You know what I’m thinking now? Two words, bitches— “Second Inaugural.” No pressure or anything, Mr. President, but it’s going to be interesting. You will make it interesting, right? Please, for the love of country, no more podium snoozing. You were killing me with that. “Look, no hands” and “I’ll spot you a lead up front to make it interesting for the next month,” and all of that. As for the rest of you, you are hearing it here first: one of the Best-Picture Oscar nominees for 2028 will be Obama, or, I shall love: an American Biopic. It will be, naturally, a Steven Spielberg film, and starring Daniel Day Lewis in what is sure to be an Oscar-nominated performance.

The End of the Line?

Q&A: Ross Douthat