Sunday, November 11, 2012

Election 2012: Waterloo For Old, Rich White Dudes

As the results poured in on election night, it became more and more clear that the delusional dream world the Republican Party, and their various spokespeople and pundits, had created for themselves has been set on fire and completely destroyed in an avalanche of votes from Latinos, African Americans, women and college educated white men.  Their Golden Boy Mitt Romney, despite his chameleon-like dash to the center that went ignored by those who expected him to lean more to the right, had lost by the exact same margin that his aides had thought Obama would lose to him by.  The polls literally were the opposite of what was predicted by the Romney camp and his surrogates.  But what had happened?

The first explanation is really simple: no one on the Republican side, from pundits like Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, Rush Limbaugh to Ann Coulter and others, paid attention to any polls that mattered and preferred simply to believe Rasmussen and Gallup when it predicted a Romney lead right up until the last second, even though it was obvious both before and after election night that these were outlier polls, and they did not reflect the actual polling data, notably from Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight Blog, showing a very likely Obama victory in nearly all battleground states.  All scenarios discussed before election night by these jokers simply assumed Romney could, by throwing money at states like Colorado, Nevada and Pennsylvania late and criss-crossing those states barnstorm style in the waning days of the campaign, secure a path to victory that did not require Ohio to win.  They were wrong, and the election returns in the aforementioned states made crystal clear that Romney had no chance in any of them and that the pundits were simply dreaming up these winning scenarios.

The second  explanation is even simpler: the so-called "experts" on the Republican side, specifically Dick Morris and Romney's own aides, simply misread the electorate and grossly miscalculated the potential turnout of women, Latinos and African Americans.  Obama won amongst all of these groups by double digits, as well as with voters under 30, college-educated whites and Asian Americans.  The main two demographic groups Obama lost with?  White voters (overall) and voters over 65.  No, really, it's all right here.    Dick Morris, for one, has since tried to explain all of his wrong information with a mixture of mea culpa and Sandy culpa, blaming the hurricane that Obama had to respond to in the closing days of the campaign and the praise he received from erstwhile Tea Party Golden Boy Chris Christie for Romney's defeat.  But what excuse does Romney's campaign staff have for so grossly miscalculating their chances for victory to the point that Romney himself was "shell-shocked" by the news of his defeat?  Their own internal polls were predicting 337 electoral votes for Romney and a decisive win, including a one point advantage in Ohio and a tie in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.  Obama won all three states, along with other so-called battleground states New Hampshire, Florida, Virginia and Nevada, many by 3% or better.

The fallout, predictably, has been sweet Schadenfreude for anyone who was betting against these Fox news types being correct.  The reactions of those on the right have been fairly predictable, from Karl Rove refusing to concede Ohio to Bill O'Reilly declaring "the white establishment is now the minority" and that "fifty percent of the electorate wants....stuff" to pretty much everything Rush Limbaugh said on his show last week.  All of them are dancing around the obvious, which to my mind was indicated more in the fact that Washington and Colorado just legalized recreational marijuana, and the fact that gay marriage is now legal in Maine, Maryland and Washington, along with voters in Minnesota rejecting a ban on same-sex marriage.  The new reality is that this country is getting more tolerant of alternative lifestyles, not less.  This country is getting more tolerant of minorities and women holding positions of power, not less, which is reflected by the Senate now containing the first openly gay Senator, the first Asian American Senator and more women serving than ever before.  What is it the Fox types are trying to say, but cannot?  That you don't only need a majority of whites and seniors to get elected anymore.  The "traditional America" they speak of, the one where whites are the majority and women, minorities and homosexuals don't count?  That's gone.  And the defeat of Romney, along with all of the other results nationwide, speaks this simple truth loud and clear.

Predictably, this is a distressing development on the right.  They have been struggling to define themselves post-Bush and, apart from taking the House in 2010, in what might be known as the old white people's Waterloo, they have had little electoral success on their road to relevance.  To understand this struggle, try to answer the following question: what exactly is the Republican Party today?  Is it the far-right fundamentalist party of Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock who believe the government's place is in a woman's uterus and that rape children are "gifts from God?"  Is it the party of rich businessmen like Romney who favor slashing taxes for the rich and entitlements for the not-rich?  Is it the party of Ron Paul with a progressive social policy of "live and let live" along with a strict conservative fiscal policy of "audit/end the Fed" and international non-interventionism?  I think most would agree after this election that the Republican Party of this exact moment is most clearly defined by Clint Eastwood arguing with an empty chair at the convention.  I can think of no better image for today's Republican Party than an old man arguing with an imaginary person.  The simple reality is that minorities and women are not going away, and the current Republican electorate is dying off.  The exit polls bear this out.  Dick Morris predicted that voter turnout amongst minorities and women in 2008 was "a fluke."  He was wrong.

No matter how you define Republicans right now, it is likely that the party itself will be unrecognizable by the election of 2016.  It's entirely possible that it won't even be recognizable in 2014.  As much as George W. Bush was said to have left the party in a shambles after his disastrous two terms in office, I would argue that the nomination and defeat of Mitt Romney, who contradicted himself so many times it made most logical people's heads spin, has done far more damage.  Even with him as the present de facto leader of the party, it is completely up in the air what Republicans stand for, and who will carry that message forward from this point on.  It is likely that the infighting that has already begun will continue and will probably result in the party splitting over ideological fractures, with each of the splinter groups I mentioned fighting for the right to dominate the party's message and image going forward, and the next strongest faction splitting off to possibly form their own party when they lose the fight.

Above all, it is clear the United States is a starkly different place in 2012.  Obama won but faces many challenges with a looming fiscal cliff, and challenges to federal authority all over when you include the legalization of marijuana and same-sex marriage, along with the nullification of Obama Care.  It is increasingly becoming clear that both parties, Republican and Democrat, will ignore the will of the people at their peril.  All through the election of 2012 we were all afraid the proliferation of huge Super-PACs funded by a handful of rich businessmen would squelch the voice of the people.  Now, in the light of day, with the likes of Karl Rove, Sheldon Adelson and the Koch Brothers being on the losing side even after all the millions, and really billions, of dollars that were spent, one wonders how important all this spending is when you focus on the bigger picture.  Either way, the future promises some interesting days ahead.