Lessons from Election 2012: A Baker’s Dozen

1. Time to toss the tea bags. The first lesson is that one can be conservative, but one cannot be stark raving mad. The Tea Party had its hissy fit moment in 2010, but it is what it is: a group of angry white folks whose passion is far greater than its collective IQ. The defeat of mouth-breathers such as Richard Mourdock (IN) and Todd Akin (MO) ought to serve as a wake-up call for the GOP. (Akin was so extreme he managed to make Claire McCaskill seem like a reasonable person!) Some Republicans are touting Paul Ryan for 2016, but he’s exactly the sort of extremist Republicans must avoid.

2. Morality is dead. No, I don’t mean that the nation has gone to hell in handbag. But votes for gay marriage, decriminalization of marijuana and similar ballot issues across the country show that social mores are changing and that old-style morality doesn’t have a lot of political traction any more. Single-issue voters can produce steam, but not fire. I’ve said for years that most Americans are de facto libertarians.

3. White people are just another voting bloc. Romney won a majority of both white men and women, but Barack Obama won more easily than pollsters predicted. It might help if pollsters left the lily-white suburbs to conduct their polls. Angry whites (see Tea Party) can make a lot of noise and they hold a lot of financial resources, but this isn’t 1956, and they can’t dictate elections any more. Whether whites like it or not, America is a multiracial, multicultural society and a candidate who can’t attract black, Latino, and Asian votes needs to practice concession-speech writing. Yes, roughly seven of ten Americans still identify as Caucasian, but quite a few of them are liberals and many are biracial or Hispanic. Any political contest that extends beyond a single (gerrymandered) district must appeal to a broad demographic swath.

4. The old-style media strikes out.  The pre-election polls were such an embarrassment that one suspects they were manufactured by media moguls for the sole purpose of creating a track event out of sack race. The old media has no clue on how to parse social media, cell phones, Facebook advocacy pages, and other such like. Polls varied widely in part because certain pollsters—will we ever trust Gallup again?—relied on mid-20th century sampling techniques. And old-style media looked really old on Election Night. The PBS crew was so grey that it could have saved money by broadcasting in black and white, and ABC’s Cokie Roberts looked like she was on life support. Ditto Bob Schieffer on CBS. As for Fox News, its broadcast was far livelier than its competitors in part because postmortems tend to be grislier than postpartums. But have you ever seen so many blow-dried white boys and dyed blond gals in your life? Fox needs to see # 3 above.

5. The kids are alright. The media said that young people wouldn’t turn out. It was wrong. Pundits must have been thinking about their own youthful Baby Boomer non-voting behavior. Nearly 20% of the voters were under 35. This Baby Boomer offers this observation to youth: you guys rock!

6. Go Mid and West, young man. The electoral map is clear—for all the hoopla about the Sun Belt, the Midwest and West reelected Obama. Forget those coiffed white girls from Cobb County, Georgia; if you want to win you need to press the flesh in Iowa, drink coffee in gritty Michigan diners, and say nice things about the Badger State. And while you’re at it, keep heading west. Colorado isn’t red anymore, and neither is Nevada. Democrats have an opportunity, if they play their cards carefully, to turn Hispanic Arizona into the next New Mexico. They might even recapture parts of Texas.

7. The Solid South isn’t. Republicans might want to bury the old Kevin Phillips/Lee Atwater playbook along with their tea bags. Obama won Virginia, was very close in North Carolina, and won Florida (again). Hey GOP—take down the Confederate flags because the Old South is starting to look new. North Carolina, for example, has a large number of Latino voters. Okay, the old Cotton Belt is still rock-ribbed GOP, but this election shows you can safely ignore the NASCAR South and pick off states whose populace knows it’s the 21st century.

8. Even a blind man can smell faux leather. Harry Truman once warned Democrats that if you gave voters a choice between a fake Republican and a real one, they’d choose the real one every time. Mitt Romney should have listened. In the end, Romney was exactly what Massachusetts residents who have seen his act said he is: a man with no real political center who says what he thinks people want to hear, not what he believes. Romney was a made-for-TV candidate who looked the part of president, but flip-flopped more than a seal on a water-slide. Who is Mitt Romney? Can anyone really answer that question?  

9. Mud sticks.  Talk about fake! Americans say they hate mudslinging, but it’s not true. Barack Obama may have taught Democrats a lesson they’ve been loath to learn: define your opponent before that opponent defines you. How many voters repudiated Romney because they thought him a ruthless job destroyer, a tax-dodger, and an elitist who doesn’t care about half (okay, 47%) of the population? Answer: Just enough.

10. The ‘burbs shot a blank. After decades of ignoring inner cities and kissing butts in suburban malls, Democrats did very well in places like Akron, Milwaukee, Detroit, Las Vegas, and Manchester, NH. Suburbanites might not like cities, but more Americans live there than in gated communities or leafy suburbs.

11. Corporations are the Bane [sic] of our existence. Big money came from Fortune 500 companies—much of it aimed at defeating Obama. Small business is who actually employs Americans, not corporate giants. In fact, 52% of all employees work in firms with fewer than 500 employees. Many of those over 500 are employers such as schools, hospitals, and government agencies—not Bane Capital. Score one for Main Street over Wall Street. If, as the Supreme Court insists, corporations are people, many Americans have decided that they are the variety that sucks!

12. Big government works! Notice how many of the paranoid Big Government types shut their traps when Hurricane Sandy hit? Notice how FEMA came back to bite Mitt Romney in the butt? Notice the complete absence of Chris Christie in the waning days of the GOP campaign?  It’s oh-so-fashionable to decry government spending, but when the chips are down (corporate bankruptcy, bank failures, disaster relief, terrorist attacks), one doesn’t see private enterprise filling the gaps. Hurricane Sandy blew Romney’s anti-government screeds out to sea.

13. Enjoy gridlock? I hope so, because with the Congress divided and some of the most rabid tea baggers still in the House of Representatives, you’ll see more of it.

1 comment:

Some Awe said...

Incisive comment. I enjoyed reading, thanks.