My blogging has been light lately, what with the new job, but the big recent news is the election. To the surprise of anyone who is in the Fox News bubble--and therefore dismissive of the polls--Barack Obama won re-election, albeit by a narrower margin than in his election four years ago. (The last time a president was re-elected by a narrower margin than his first election was Woodrow Wilson). A few stray observations:
1) Some Republicans--let's call them "idiots"--are going to claim that Mitt Romney lost because he wasn't a "true conservative" and that this is what happens when the party picks moderates. This is complete bull. Romney certainly had his flaws as a candidate, but if anything it was due to his perceived need to appeal to the most hard core elements of his party that he had a hard time attracting the votes of moderates and racial minorities. 48% of the vote may have been all Romney could pull down, but anyone thinking any of his primary opponents could have even cracked 40% is kidding themselves.
2) Obama's vaunted "ground game" lived up to its hype. Years of data mining and organizing meant turning out the base in a big way, and getting what they needed where they needed it to win most of the tossup states. Thus, even with a 2% popular vote margin he was able to get enough swing states that even if among Colorado, Virginia, Ohio and Florida he could only win one of them, he'd still have an electoral victory. As it happened, he grabbed all four, dooming the GOP's chances.
3) Romney's major damage actually happened during the primaries, when cannibalistic attacks from the smarmy likes of Gingrich and Santorum ended up driving the eventual nominee's negatives up to unprecedented levels for a major party nominee. The GOP tends to "eat their own" in these primaries, leaving their nominee broke and unpopular and in need of wasting precious time trying to bring their party together. Even the Democrats' 2008 primary didn't mortally wound their nominee. What is it about the Republicans?
4) As I'd suggested earlier, Romney missed key opportunities back in the spring to shift to the center, perhaps with a "Sister Souljah" moment by telling off Rush Limbaugh over his Sandra Fluke comments, or embracing Marco Rubio's "mini-DREAM Act" or shifting to the center on gay rights. For whatever reason--most likely a fear of being abandoned by his party's base--Romney didn't do this, and allowed himself to be defined by his party's most unsavory elements--those that are crude towards women they disagree with, those that disdain Latino immigrants, and those that are bigoted towards gays.
5) By embracing the far right, Romney enabled Obama to mimic a strategy similar to Bush's 2004 strategy--turn out his own base, strong ground game, and define the rich, stiff, Masshole flipflopper he was running against in such a way that even a public that was lukewarm towards the president would still give him four more years rather than risk it with an unacceptable alternative. Obama's margin was similar to Bush's.
6) Also similar to 2004 was the reactions of each side to the election's results. Insufferable smugness from the winners (who have taken to posting photos of glum Romney supporters for laughs) and incredible derpy vitriol from the losers. There's been very little grace here, as there was little of that eight years ago. Considering the race was between a moderate Republican (albeit one that masqueraded unconvincingly as a tent-revivalist right winger) and a centrist Democrat (albeit one that pretended to be an anti-Wall Street crusader when he wasn't continuing Bush's TARP bailouts or pushing a health care plan that was first implemented by, you guessed it, that same Republican moderate), it's amusing to see Republicans act as thought William Jennings Bryan just won the White House and is planning to seize everyone's property tomorrow. Likewise, Democrats acting as though we just dodged the likelihood of this country turning into Thunderdome is also a bit much. Can we all just accept that we have our preferred candidates, and that even if the other guy wins, life will go on and we still need to work together to deal with the problems this country faces such as a sluggish economy and trillion dollar deficits? And maybe stop acting as though everyone in the roughly other half of the country who didn't vote the way you did is some sort of freeloading idiot or sociopathic theocrat?
7) As they lick their wounds, I'm hoping the GOP, faced with a loss that can't really be spun away (losing seats in both Houses of Congress, as well as the White House) starts to see that it needs to adjust to a future where ideological rigidity and narrow appeal has burdened it. Since 1988, the Republicans have been trounced in much of the country--the Northeast, Great Lakes and West Coast, and have only been able to win the White House by very tight margins under George W Bush. Loss of urban and suburban moderates--once the party's backbone--and losing 2/3 of the Latino vote (and almost all the black vote) will soon turn states like Texas and Arizona purple, if not blue. Romney's biggest problem was in the electoral college, where he needed to be lucky with several states, and Obama only needed to be lucky with a couple, as the GOP vote ceiling is lower than the Democrats'. The hold that the hard core tent revivalists and Tea Partiers have on the party is dangerous--look no further than Todd "Let's Talk Rape!" Akin or Richard "Hey I Don't Think Todd Talked Enough About Rape!" Mourdock to see what the uncompromising activist base will do for you.
8) And the power that that base--with its Grover Norquist style "no tax increases, ever, no matter the circumstances" pledges--holds over the congressional GOP certainly loses moderates. Most moderates don't want to see endless taxes and spending to swamp our free market economy, this is true--but a party that says they'd rather gut federal services and significantly reduce Medicare payments before they'd even ask a millionaire to pay one extra dollar in taxes will alienate all but the most fevered Republicans, let alone independents. A party whose leaders are so afraid of Rush Limbaugh that they have to apologize to him if they criticize him for the intentionally polarizing things he says is going to win no moderates over. This is a formula for long term irrelevance.
All that said, let's put the ugliness of this past election behind us--it was fun while it lasted.
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