It has been one week since President Barack Obama was re-elected, and,
frankly, I'm disappointed.
I was told -- by none other than Chuck Norris, famous actor and kicker of butts -- that if the president won a second term, America would plunge into "1,000 years of darkness."
The sun's still shining, Mr. Norris. Don't tell me the YouTube channel where you broadcast your prediction lied to me.
Moreover, Tom Head, a county judge in Texas, envisioned that if Obama won the election he would hand over sovereignty of the United States to the United Nations: "What do you think the public is going to do when that happens? We are talking civil unrest, civil disobedience ... possibly civil war, OK?"
OK. I'm always up for some disobedience and would love to invade Indiana. Why's nothing happening?
Rush Limbaugh predicted the economy would collapse. The American Family Association's Bryan Fischer said there would be "serious talk about secession in any number of places around America." But the first seven days post-election have been notably nonapocalyptic.
What gives? It's enough to make me think that, had Mitt Romney won the election, other nightmare scenarios might have fizzled as well.
After all, actor Richard Belzer, via the always thoughtful megaphone of Twitter, envisioned the result of a Romney victory: "AMERICA WILL EXPLODE."
The progressive Agenda Project Action Fund produced a widely viewed ad suggesting that a Romney presidency would involve Vice President Paul Ryan occasionally stealing your wheelchair-bound nana and dumping her off a cliff.
After all of this noise, a funny thing called "the election" happened. And if you look closely at the exit polls, you see a smarter-than-all-that electorate that viewed these perilous predictions as hooey.
"What we see from the activists, the rhetoric is so extreme, it's designed to capture attention and evoke fear," said Amy Black, associate professor of political science at Wheaton College. "But the voters are more reasonable than that, and election after election, they take a measure of how things are going, and they make a decision on what matters most to them."
Consider these numbers from The Associated Press' exit polling, which showed a split electorate that thought the two candidates had different strengths.
On the economy, 49 percent thought Romney would be a better choice, and 48 percent preferred Obama. Four in 10 voters said the economy was improving, while 3 in 10 said it was getting worse, and another 3 in 10 said it was staying the same.
On the question of who was more in touch with voters, Obama led Romney by 10 points, and he also led on who would be more apt to look out for the middle class.
These are not figures that describe an American voting public in mortal fear of either candidate. Rather, they paint a picture of Americans who generally, though by no means overwhelmingly, think things are going OK. There was a prevailing sense of, "Well, I suppose I trust the guy in office a little more than the other guy, so we'll go with what we've got."
"You look at the exit polls, and you see people are making what seem to be reasonable, rational decisions based on their own circumstances," Black said. "I think there's a lot of reasonableness in the electorate. My guess is they might be even more reasonable if the messages were clearer and less from the fringe."
Indeed. Wouldn't it be nice if the loony brigade on both sides of the political fence would recognize that, for as loud as their voices may be, their audiences are small and their nonsense is routinely drowned out by American pragmatism?
"Hysteria is rampant among activists," said Bert Rockman, a Purdue University political scientist and an expert on U.S. presidents. "For the people who are most politically involved, the end of the world is always near."
But, Rockman said, a push toward sensible dialogue could be a boon for the country.
"We've got to get back to talking about things based on evidence, and that's hard right now in this current environment," he said. "But elections sometimes have the impact of giving one or the other sets of actors leverage."
Let's hope so. We could use fewer loudmouths with penchants for exaggeration, fewer charlatans peddling tales of horrific hellscapes for personal gain.
We could use a mute button for the white noise of ideological idiots.
We could benefit, I dare say, from listening clearly to a reasonable electorate as it describes, vote by vote, its vision of the future. A vision that in no way includes decades of darkness, the rise of brain-eating zombies or anyone getting pushed off a cliff.
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