I was fairly confident that President Obama would win reelection in a fair fight. Even though he deserves it on his own merit, how could Obama not have won, given the lies and flip-flops that constituted the Mitt Romney campaign? Still, like many liberals, I went to bed last night just a little bit in shock that our democratic election process actually worked. We showed that our voices and our votes can’t be suppressed, no matter how strong the opposition.
In spite of the voter ID laws, the reduction in early voting hours, the gerrymandering, and the widespread voter suppression campaigns by groups such as True the Vote, Obama still achieved a decisive victory.
Obama won by about 3 million popular votes, and won the electoral college by a 3.3 to 2 landslide. Considering what the President was up against – not only high unemployment but also the GOP “strategy of gridlock” – I am not sure whether I am more proud of Obama or the American people. I think it’s the American people, although the skill, poise and determination of Obama, his campaign and his volunteers take much credit for the victory.
The President said last night in his victory speech that he has “never been more hopeful” – and his victory certainly affirms that hope remains in America.
But what does the Obama victory really mean? Here’s my analysis:
1. The People Have Rejected Trickle-Down Economics
A commentator on MSNBC remarked last night that Obama’s victory is an “emphatic vote of confidence” in the Democratic Party’s economic view. I’d have to agree.
This whole campaign centered on economic policy, the area where the two candidates contrasted the most. On the whole, we paid attention, evaluated the facts, and rejected the Republicans’ top-down economic plan of tax cuts for “job creators” – a system already proven ineffectual. We proved that we understand basic math and that we won’t be sold a sham of a deficit reduction plan in the guise of preserving Americans’ “economic freedom.”
Thus, Obama won the economic referendum. We showed that we can take a wide view of history, weigh the impacts of George W. Bush’s policies in creating our current sluggish state of economic growth, and choose to correct our course in the future. Also, after more than two years of Obama saying that millionaires and billionaires need to pay their fair share, the people say they agree. We voted that we don’t want more wealth concentrated at the top while the American middle class goes down on a road to nowhere.
While on the subject of referendums, we also said as a nation that we approve of extending health care coverage to alleviate the suffering of fellow citizens (aka Obamacare), and that we do think Obama’s handled the economy recovery well.
2. We Aren’t As Gullible As Republican Masterminds & Billionaires Think
Excuse my being frank, but Americans aren’t as dumb as they seem (just kidding). Seriously, the GOP negative ad blitz didn’t work. The majority of Americans can sort facts from lies.
For more than a year we listened to Obama and Republicans duke out what makes good economic sense, and we ultimately decided that a man of character deserved our trust more than a party of partisan die-hards.
Exit polls show that we didn’t elect Obama simply because he was the incumbent, or based solely on the notion of “class warfare,” like Republicans would like us to believe. The most influential idea driving people’s voting decision was whether the candidate could bring about “needed change,” with 37% of the electorate saying this was their most important issue.
About a quarter of people said they voted based on whether the candidate shared their values, the same amount voted based on who they thought cared about them most. Only 13.3% voted based on whether the candidate had the required experience.
As an aside, the people who knew Romney best were those who least wanted him for President; Romney lost by 23 points in Massachusetts, the biggest home-state defeat for a presidential candidate since Herbert Hoover lost Iowa by 18 points in 1932.
3. We Proved We Understand The Difference Between Fake Patriotism and Real Patriotism
We are not a country who says it’s okay to talk about patriotism, and then vote down common-sense bills like the Veterans Jobs Bill, which, without Republican obstruction, would have put unemployed veterans of the U.S. armed forces to work fixing our infrastructure and preserving our parks. The bill would have paid for itself in the long-term.
By and large, we also implied that implementing austerity agendas in Republican-controlled state legislatures to trigger massive public sector layoffs and keep the unemployment rate high falls more in the “treason” column than the “patriotism” one.
4. We Are Increasingly A Nation Where The White Male Majority No Longer Rules
What a wake-up call for the Republican Party. Obama’s second term says a lot about the changing face of America, and what we see as a nation when we look in the mirror.
Obama won with a 12 point lead with women and an overwhelming majority of the growing minority vote. Compared with 1996, non-white voters doubled their turn out, from 10% 16 years ago to 21% today. Obama beat Romney among Hispanics 60% to 39%, and the President may have won nearly all the African-American vote, as ABC polls predicted 96% of blacks backed him. Romney still won the white vote handily, 58% to 40%, the biggest white-voter lead for a Republican since 1988.
I think the nation’s increasing demographic diversity, consisting mostly of people who support liberal values more than conservative ones, is going to make America a better country. The increasing minority electorate will continue to pull American politics back toward the center as time goes on and more elections pass. The Tea Party will die off. Right-wing extremism will fall more and more by the wayside.
We are no longer a country of white male dominance, nor will we ever be again. That’s one of the legacies the Obama victory represents.
5. The Road Forward Is Not Going To Be Easy
Still, the road ahead will be filled with obstacles, and likely more partisan games from Republicans, if Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) election statement is any indication.
McConnell’s dream of a making Obama a one-term president was a big fail. Still, the Republican leader isn’t coming around to true compromise. Last night, McConnell released a statement that pretended Obama has been the one who lacked bi-partisanship:
Now it’s time for the President to propose solutions that actually have a chance of passing the Republican-controlled House of Representatives…To the extent he wants to move to the political center, which is where the work gets done in a divided government, we’ll be there to meet him half way.
It remains to be seen if House Republicans will still have the brass to be obstructionists, which may result in more of a backlash in the 2014 mid-terms. But let’s not forget, as Mitch did, that voters took 2 senate seats from Republicans, loosening McConnell’s grip on power, if only by a little bit.
But, at least for now, voters didn’t change the Republican hold on the House. While senatorial candidate Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Senate incumbent Claire McCaskill (D-MO) won their races, Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and Paul Ryan (R-WI) also won their seats, despite their states going to Obama. Then again, Tea Party extremist Allen West lost in Florida. Go figure.
Still, this election is characterized by real hope, despite how cynical opponents attack that notion. The decade-long, needless war in Iraq is over. Afghanistan is soon to follow. The 18-month contentious campaign season is finally done.
We chose the right President to guide us down the critical and winding path that lies ahead. And we, the American people, built that victory beautifully, vote by vote, hour by hour waiting in line. The beauty of the democratic process, and how it played out last night, really moves me, as I know it moves you, too. (Click here for an AP photo of large crowds waiting late into the night to vote in Miami.)
America has spoken. With our support of this President, we said we are evolving into a nation that believes that immigrants, gays and the poor deserve equal footing with their rich and powerful right-wing counterparts.
In his victory speech, Obama articulated how the majority of America has chosen to define itself: “We believe in a generous America, a compassionate America, a tolerant America” – an America that is “open to the dreams” of everyone.
Obama went on to say that Americans voted “for action, not politics as usual…[and] whether I earned your vote or not, I have listened to you, I have learned from you. And you’ve made me a better President.”
Finally, let’s not overlook the really, REALLY big win for future of the U.S. Supreme Court as Obama gets to shift the liberal-conservative balance with his next appointment. That’s right, folks, we are possibly looking at overturning Citizens United and the concept of unlimited corporate personhood before the next election takes place.
One of the most important messages of Obama’s victory speech is a great way to end this article, because it speaks to the new beginning we have starting today. Obama indicated that changing America for the better doesn’t end with casting a vote in this election. We all have to try a little harder to be involved, and to speak up and take action to uphold justice and protect our values. As Obama put it, we’re moving forward together, on to the “hard and frustrating – but necessary – work of self-government.”
Here are the video highlights of Obama’s victory speech: