Thursday, November 8, 2012

Come Sail Away: Our Top 3 Take-Aways from the 2012 Election

So there has been over 24 hours of sobbing, crowing, whining, gloating, and finger-pointing.  And that was just on Facebook.  Now that we have a bit of distance from the emotion of the night, what are our top take-aways from the election?  We will each give you our top 3.


1. Women Matter -

I'm really frustrated by the pundits on this one (shocking, I know - that never happens).  I've heard such superficial stuff about why women voted the way they did.  Cokie Roberts talked about women being very economically vulnerable.  Nicole Wallace (formerly of the Bush communications team) talked about how women aren't an interest group, we are the majority - the deciders (so far so good), but then claimed that Romney's problem was entirely about empathy.  Judges?  Bzzzzz, NO, it's about the positions Romney took as much as, if not more than, his empathy issues.

There are all these stupid, old-fashioned, sexist, mostly-male assumptions about how women choose candidates.  We choose the guys we're attracted to (NO).  We choose the guys who make us feel safe (NO).  Most women choose on policy, just like most men.  And policies like: equal pay, health insurance coverage of birth control, availability of birth control, and abortion - they have real, economic consequences for women (and families).  Women get that.  Most Rs do not, apparently.

In some ways I'm happy that Akin, Romney, Mourdock, Santorum, Ryan, McDonnell, and crew kept spouting off all year.

I've felt for a long time that a fair number of women my age and younger (Xers and Millennials) do not "get it" on feminism.  Many of them have disdainfully refused to call themselves feminists (I'm looking at you, Marissa Mayer of Yahoo!).  Many of them think we feminists are hypersensitive or living in the past.

The lady on the ground for your right to vote?  Feminist.

When women disdain feminism, I think they are accomplishing two things: 

  • Being incredibly ungrateful for the many, many women who fought for the rights and lives we now enjoy (and often take for granted). 

But in this election, Conservative Male Politician after Conservative Male Politician went out of his way to make it very clear what conservatives would like women's world and women's choices to be like.

Thanks, Creepy Guys!

And now many more women get it. They see the stuff we've been jumping up and down about for years.

It was really short-sighted to introduce a whole new generation to how sexist Rs can be (please note: I said can be - there are of course non-sexist Rs, but the Party is being yanked Right by the sexist ones).  Many women thought we who call ourselves feminists were paranoid and old-fashioned.


...But after this election: Sandra Fluke, birth control, rape as "God's will," vaginal probes?  Millennials and Xers now get it.  Unmarried women went for Obama 67-31%.  And they were a larger percentage of the electorate than ever before - 23 percent.  And they aren't likely to forget it, or trust Rs again easily.  So thanks, guys.  You provided the ultimate feminist teachable moment.

2. Nerds Are Useful/Good at Stuff -

Yes, Nate Silver is great (and a witch?).  But he's not the whole story here.

Science has shown us some useful things about the psychology of voting.  Those things were exploited - to a pretty impressive extent - by the Obama folks.  But ultimately, that was a part of the symbiotic Get Out The Vote (GOTV) operation.

Obama GOTV was intricately connected to social media, other organizing groups (planned parenthood, unions, local groups, churches, etc) - which made the election personal, interconnected, a community event where supporters could move their friends and family to committing to vote and help move supportive bodies to the polls.  And that social pressure was ever-present and effective.

Wile E C'Obama, Super Genius.
Meanwhile, fundraising was completely tech-heavy, with texting, emailing, FB, and web all providing easy ways to give a little when you were particularly happy - after Bubba's speech at the DNC, or after Biden the Happy Warrior's performance at the VP Debate, for example.  That led to large fundraising from small sources (non-rich people).

If you felt like the Obama Campaign was everywhere, well, they kind of were.  And between their new-school and conventional ground game focus, they were very efficient at mobilizing their vote.  This tendency showed in strategic policy decisions throughout the campaign in the same way - targeting voting blocs, getting policy differences out and clear to those voting blocs early in the election process - those moves were apparent to people who were watching for them.

And then there was Bubba (the ultimate policy wonk), who single-handedly made the most compelling, policy- and fact-based case for election that anybody made in the entire election process.  And it was very, very successful.   In an election marked by attack ads, generalized promises, and dubious claims with no supporting facts, details, or proof - the people actually wanted to hear a substantive case for what should come next.  Bill Clinton was the only guy who gave one, all year.  The only other person who came close was Paul Ryan, and Romney kept claiming he wouldn't do what Ryan wants to do.

3. How Right Are We?  (A.K.A. America is NOT a center-right country) - John King said something astonishingly stupid (for such a smart guy) on Tuesday night, about how his electoral map showed we are a center-right country because it's largely red if you look at the vote by districts. Break that out by numbers, my man.  Every district that goes blue is small because of the incredibly high population density.  This country is not a center-right country.  Cities and inner suburbs vote D, outer suburbs and rural areas (where the population density is significantly lower) vote R.

2008 - the one on the left is the state model.  The one on the right takes into account population density and how everybody voted (not just who won a district).  It's an even more striking difference when you look at districts.

So who are we?  We are a country that swings wildly back and forth from political election to political election - depending on turnout and current conditions, BUT in which the underlying views of the people are about 1/3 right, 1/3 left, 1/3 somewhere in between the two.

The overwhelming impression you get when you listen to and read broadly from your media options is this: everybody thinks Rs have gone too far right - except Rs, many of whom think Romney didn't go far enough.  So I don't see how this gets better.  Romney was so flip-floppy and equivocated so many times that the case can be made that any of those positions (including the fact that he had so many) was to blame.  The Republican Establishment seems to believe that the country is center-right-to-very-right, so they will say: "Romney muzzled Ryan too much.  Romney ran away from his conservative positions too much.  Romney failed to make a conservative case."

That's pretty clearly NOT what happened.  Ask Lindsey Graham.  But that's what a lot of Rs seem to want to believe.


Those were some very good points Emily, I only have a few additional ones to make.

1.The Supreme Court:

As Emily noted above, women matter.  And women's rights matter.  These are the current ages of the justices at the Supreme Court:

They don't look a day over 540.

  • 79 Ruth Ginsburg 
  • 76 Antonin Scalia
  • 76 Anthony Kennedy
  • 73 Stephen Breyer
  • 64 Clarence Thomas
  • 62 Samuel Alito
  • 58 Sonia Sotomayor
  • 57 John Roberts
  • 52 Elena Kagan

Not to be ghoulish, but Obama will likely have the chance to pick at least one additional Supreme Court Justice before his next term in office ends.  His pick could potentially shift in a considerable way the balance of power in the Supreme Court.  As we saw with the Obamacare provisions, a difference of one vote is the difference between having a president's legacy upheld, or potentially destroyed.  Obama will also have the chance to nominate federal judges at the lower level, giving him the chance to advance his agenda, and put his stamp on the federal judiciary.  But given the record number of judges blocked by Republicans in the Senate, Obama must find a way to power through and secure positions for the people that he  wants. 

2. Demographics:

Because it's a changing country, the demographics are changing. It's not a traditional America anymore. And there are 50 percent of the voting public who want stuff. They want things and who is 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.

You're going to see a tremendous Hispanic vote for President Obama. Overwhelming for President Obama and women will probably break President Obama's way. People feel that they are entitled to things and which candidate, between the two, is going to give them things?
                             -Bill O'Reilly, showing that Republicans have not learned nearly enough yet.

Pity the poor white person, undone by hordes of the great unwashed minority masses, who want stuff.  

Obama's coalition
Romney's coalition
The fact is that Obama managed to put together a winning coalition of single white women, educated white males, African-American, Latino, and Jewish voters, reflecting the broad spectrum of American demographics.  

Romney put together a coalition of married white males and married white females.  

According to exit polls, 88% of the people who voted for Romney were white.  56% of the people who voted for Obama were white.  But the numbers on Romney's side simply were not enough so that he could prevail.  As Lindsey Graham once said, the Republican party simply can't generate enough angry white males to stay in business for the long-term.  We've already noted on this blog the Republican party's demographics problem.The party that generated the meme of the welfare queen and Willie Horton now decries any sort of racial politics, even as they look for their next racial demographic.

So now the Republican party is casting about, wondering which one of the Democratic coalition is most ripe for wooing.  They seem to have settled on Latinos as that group.  Which does make a certain amount of sense.  Latinos are a growing demographic, tend to be very socially conservative, and do not yet have the traditional deeply-ingrained suspicion of the Republican party that African-Americans do.  We will see if and how the Republicans recalibrate to appeal to this demographic in the next round of elections.

3. The President's Mandate - 

Speaking of race, there was a quote from Politico writers Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen which said:

If President Barack Obama wins, he will be the popular choice of Hispanics, African-Americans, single women and highly educated urban whites. That's what the polling has consistently shown in the final days of the campaign. It looks more likely than not that he will lose independents, and it's possible he will get a lower percentage of white voters than George W. Bush got of Hispanic voters in 2000.

A broad mandate this is not.

I guess it's only a "real win" if uneducated, suburban and rural whites are involved, no one else counts a "real American", whose wishes should be taken into account while governing.

Much has been made over whether Obama, in the wake of his re-election now has a mandate to govern on his agenda.  One would think that being getting re-elected would be enough to qualify as a mandate, but apparently not.  Talking heads solemnly call this a closely divided election, and that Obama lacks a mandate because of this. But the fact of the matter is that Obama has become the first Democratic president since FDR to be elected to two terms with a majority of the vote in both of his victories.  Pundits have all the institutional memory of goldfish.  The same chattering class that claimed George W. Bush had a mandate to govern strongly, with a popular vote deficit, now says that Obama must be (even more) conciliatory to a group of rabid Republicans in the House, who have given every indication thus far that they would prefer to drive the U.S. over a cliff than compromise with the President.

With at least 303 electoral college votes to Bush's 286, and an outright majority of the popular vote, it is intellectually dishonest to suggest that Bush had a mandate, while Obama does not.  But such intellectual dishonest fare has become par for the course in Republican circles.  This goes to show that even with Republican's decisive defeat on Tuesday, the more some things change, the more they stay the same.  Buckle up everyone, it's going to be a very bumpy four years for everyone.


  1. As a white, married girl: some of us voted for Obama, too :-)

    Why does everybody automatically assume that Latinos are the most likely to go R?

    And the Court is Huge.

  2. But you are educated, so you don't count.

    Actually, I tend to think Asians are likely to go Republican, but their numbers don't yet justify an all-out wooing fom the Republicans. But Latinos tend to be socially conservative, especially on the abortion front, so they could be a good fit with the the religious wing of the Republican party. Plus their numbers are huge and growing, so Republicans feel they may as well get on that bandwagon.

  3. I don't think Hispanics and Latinos will go R, for the same reason African-Americans haven't. Republicans think Hispanics are less equal than whites. They actively persecute them by insinuating that they are all undocumented immigrants taking the white man's hard earned tax dollars (and whatever other handouts they can), while being shiftless layabouts, welfare queens and drug dealers.

    I mentioned before that my extended family isn't exactly subtle about their racist beliefs. The main object of their ire isn't African-Americans, it's Hispanics. They live in TX where the Hispanic population is booming (as it is in so many places), and they are terrified of losing their white privilege to, as my grandmother always called them, "those damn Mexicans."

    I have been looking for information specifically about the Cuban vote in this election. I think even that vote will swing in the D's favor before too long, as memories of Castro fade and as young Cuban-Americans identify more as Hispanic than just Cuban.

    This could also be my known bias towards Hispanics showing, but I don't think I'm wrong.

  4. We were just discussing this on another blog -- a bunch of us minority pro-lifers are feeling rejected by both parties.

    Latinos could easily go Republican, because of social issues like abortion and because of the pull of Catholicism, but the GOP seems determined to reject us. I'd actually be thrilled if the GOP changed tactics on immigration, poverty, education, etc., giving us a home. But then, it wouldn't be the GOP we all know and love, would it? Might as well wish for Democrats to drop that abortion thing.

    I've heard conservatives also say the GOP should do more to woo Asians, too, but I don't know enough there to opine.

    And anyway, Republicans seem to be clinging with ever more fierceness to the dwindling white-male demographic.

  5. Here's a very brief article on the subject of racial identity vs. political identity, with some ideas of characteristics that may sway political identity. Very brief.

    1. We have seen Rs as a Party grow to embrace Jewish folks, and that wasn't true before Reagan. It would make sense to find common ground with religious people who have money, wouldn't it? But see: racism.

    2. Very brief, but very thought-provoking.

  6. I think the problem on the abortion front is that the parties have gotten far more stringent on that issue. There are still some pro-life Ds - in fact 3 pro-life Ds won senate races on Tuesday, but other than Susan Collins, I can't think of a single pro-choice R. There are a few that Republicans for Choice call "mixed choice" in the House. Several pro-choice Rs lost in senate races on Tuesday. And I saw one stat claiming that 2/3 of hispanics think abortion should be legal, so I'm not sure it gets Rs a long way to be stringently pro-life on abortion.

    And I do think there's a real problem with economic policies and racism in the current Republican party - the Party has to resolve that, and I don't know how they can. McCain and Bush got skewered when they moved centrist on immigration reform.

  7. PS On Maddow last night she made an eloquent argument for Rs stopping the denial on facts (like Birthers, "Polls are all wrong," "Rape doesn't lead to pregnancy," "Evolution is wrong," "BLS lies about the unemployment rate," "Climate change is wrong," etc), because the country would be better off if we had two parties looking at the actual facts and proposing policy ideas to address them, rather than one party just living in an echo chamber that is based on weird theories and doing their best to ignore the other party's existence. - - her argument is towards the end, first she talks about how the election went.

  8. Yeah, imagine if instead of saying "rape doesn't lead to pregnancy" they had said "rape is horrible, and here are non-lethal things we can do to help survivors." Is the denial of evolution a big deal in the GOP? I know a handful are creationists, and I can see the GOP in general supporting "tolerance" of creationism in an attempt to keep the fundamentalist vote, but do Republicans as a whole really deny evolution?

    "And I do think there's a real problem with economic policies and racism in the current Republican party - the Party has to resolve that, and I don't know how they can. McCain and Bush got skewered when they moved centrist on immigration reform. "
    Maybe by not pandering to those voters any more, and (wo)manning up to say "this is racist and un-American, and we have to find another way to deal with problems in immigration." Stop being wishy-washy about it and do the right thing. They'll lose some votes, but gain others, and be more successful in the long run.

    re abortion, part of the problem is that "pro-life" and "pro-choice" can be both used to identify someone who is in favor of restricting but not entirely banning abortions. As I've mentioned before, for all that the extreme positions on this issue are (in my opinion) the most intellectually honest, most people are at neither extreme, because of two simultaneous gut reactions -- one that the fetus really is a baby, and the other that it is unfair for a woman to be pregnant if she really does not want to be. Moving away from a "fetus v. woman, one must lose" mindset would help.