What a fine night it was! And it was the night—late—, as given where I live the first estimations only started to come in after 1 AM and with Ohio—and thus the election—being called at 5:17 AM. Une nuit blanche pour moi. I had, of course, predicted, and with confidence, that Obama would win, albeit with a little less than the 100% confident certainty of four years ago. But everything went the Dems’ way during the night; there wasn’t a single disappointing or unpleasantly surprising call: of states lost or in any of the Senate races. I don’t know if I have anything particularly original or brilliant to say about the election now 12 hours later but here are some random thoughts and in no particular order:
- First, to toot my horn, my prediction was almost right on target. I gave Obama 303 EVs but sold him a state short, as he’ll end up with 332 once Florida is officially called (he leads by 47,400 with almost all the votes counted there, so is nigh certain to win it). I decided over the weekend to call FL for the last of the two candidates who went there, and that was Romney, on Monday morning (Obama went on Sunday)—though the fact that Romney was even campaigning in FL the day before the election should have been a strong hint that his internal numbers from the state were not good. On the PV, that I called 50-48, I hit the bull’s eye. And I predicted that the election would not be cliffhanger, and it wasn’t.
- In this vein, it is striking how all the swing states fell into Obama’s column, with most—NH, WI, IA, CO, NV—by a comfortable margin. Even NC, which was not really a swing state—as Obama did not return there after the DNC—, was fairly close (Romney winning it by only 2.2%). Thus Romney’s frenetic schedule of the final days—and with the desperate jaunts into PA, talk of “expanding the map” to MN and even MI, campaigning on election day—, as his campaign’s internal polling quite certainly showed the writing on the wall (though a secret well guarded).
- How delicious to imagine what Sheldon Adelson, the Koch brothers, crackpot Donald Trump, and all the other rogue billionaires and money bags who invested so much in Romney-Ryan must be feeling right now. All that cash up in smoke. Schadenfreude can be so satisfying a sentiment.
- As for schadenfreude, I am also feeling it toward one other category: all the conservative pundits and blowhards who predicted a Romney victory—and a large one, with over 300 EVs—with such utter confidence, when there was no objective basis to do so, as no analysis of the state polls could possibly give credence to this. They didn’t like the numbers so they dismissed them, or insisted these were distorted (and trashed Nate Silver while they were at; as if Silver would put his professional reputation at risk by cooking up bogus numbers just to boost liberal morale). Instead of basing their analysis on data, conservatives talked about the “enthusiasm” of Romney’s crowds, the drop in Obama lawn signs and bumper stickers compared to four years ago, the “fundamentals,” and just their gut feeling. How scientific. Conservatives treated this campaign the way they do climate change: as it is inconvenient for them—politically, ideologically, economically—to accept the data, they simply deny it. Cf. the 2004 election, when The Weekly Standard posted the predictions of all of its editors and staff writers, several of whom called it for Kerry (I wished I’d saved the link or screen captured it, as it has no doubt vanished from the website’s archives). And TWS was not only fanatically pro-Bush but Bush had the edge in the final polls in that one. That folks at TWS, National Review, Commentary et al would se rendre à l’évidence and predict an Obama victory this time was almost inconceivable.
- Continuing with the above thought, I am thinking of a piece the other day by Matt Latimer—a GOP operative and Bush & Rumsfeld speechwriter, entre autres, but who lives in the reality-based world—, who wrote the following about his fellow Republicans: “[T]he GOP has adopted an ‘us versus them’ mentality. If you aren’t on our side all the way, you are a traitor. The Bush administration said just that, basically, of George Will, William F. Buckley, Robert Novak—any conservative who opposed them on the war in Iraq. Since that time, an entire culture has emerged within the GOP where supporters are told half-truths or fed wishful words and expected to believe them true lest they too be banished, mocked, or blackballed on [Fox News].” Ask Andrew Sullivan, David Frum, or David Brooks about it (e.g. a Tea Party correspondent informed me a couple of years ago that Brooks was a “socialist”). The GOP world has become like the Soviet Union. Tolerance of contrary views is not its maître mot.
- For all the enthusiasm of the Republican rallies in the final month of the campaign, the mountains of money, the fact that Romney was by far the best candidate the GOP had on offer this year—and Ryan a far more serious pick than Palin in ’08—, and Obama’s manifest vulnerabilities (the economy, fall off in enthusiasm for him compared to ’08, etc), Romney could still only reach 48% in the popular vote. But this, in fact, seems to have become the ceiling for Republicans nationally. On this matter, it is instructive to look at the popular vote percentage of the GOP candidate in presidential elections since 1992 (N.B. for ’92 and ’96 I have split the Perot vote 50-50 between Clinton and Bush/Dole, which exit polls at the time indicated would have happened if Perot hadn’t been on the ballot): 1992–47, 1996–45, 2000–47.9, 2004–50.7, 2008–45.7, 2012–48. Only in 2004 did the Republican candidate, incumbent Bush, break 50%—and just barely—, and the economy was in better shape then than it is today, Bush’s base was solidly behind him, and the public had not yet soured on the Iraq war (the patriotic “support the troops” reflex definitely worked in Bush’s favor that year). The Republican mean over the past six presidential elections—again, adjusted for the Perot vote in the first two—is 47%. The Republicans have become the 47% party…
- Talking about the 47% and Romney’s revealing words on this at his now infamous Boca Raton fundraiser, this has become a granite-solid conviction in the Republican base: of the Democratic party’s voters being a “moocher/taker” class comprised of welfare cases and slackers, unionized public employees, public school teachers and university professors, and other socially useless parasites who want “free stuff” and/or live off the public trough, i.e. stealing the money of hard-working, tax paying “real Americans” (read: Republicans, people like themselves). This Weltanschauung has become hegemonic in the GOP base (if one doesn’t believe me on this, spend some time on conservative web sites and blogs; and note, in particular, the comments threads of these). Whether these moochers/takers constitute 47% of Americans or 30%—the latter figure argued in detail by Arthur C. Brooks, and adhered to by Paul Ryan, among many on the right—, it is starkly indicative that Republicans view the Democrats—including the voters—not as their opposition—as their political adversaries, though with whom one may sometimes compromise and even cooperate on specific issues—but as the enemy, politically and societally. In other contexts, such a posture leads to dictatorship, repression, and/or civil war. Not that there is any chance of this coming to pass in the US but the collective mindset of the Republican base would lend itself to these deleterious outcomes in a different institutional framework. As I liked to say a decade ago, if Bill O’Reilly had been an Italian in the early 1920s, he would have worn a black shirt and carried a black truncheon.
- The point of the above—in regard to yesterday’s election—is that the Republicans are going to have a very hard time winning national elections so long as their base is in thrall to this Ayn Randian world-view. The Republicans have a slew of talented politicians who will be credible candidates in 2016 should they run—to use a sports metaphor, the GOP’s bench is deep—but if they have to lurch to the far right the way Romney did to win the nomination, they will very likely hit the 48% ceiling in the general election. But given their rock solid base—politically, socially, and regionally—, their massive financial resources, formidable media machine, and the fact that they are the party of the right, they won’t go far below that number either. And they’ll do well in low participation midterm elections. Conclusion: the nasty, acrimonious politics that have become the norm in America—and that produced gridlock in Washington—will stay the norm for years to come. The new normal. C’est comme ça.
- On the supposed absence of enthusiasm of Obama’s voters, that turned out not to be the case. Blacks and young people voted in the same proportion as in 2008, according to exit polls, and Latinos voted for Obama in even greater numbers than last time. Now it is indeed the case that there was a significant fall off in Obama’s vote. In 2008, 69.5 million voted for him. The number this time will be around 61 million when all the votes are finally tabulated. In principle, this should have put Obama in the danger zone, except that Romney’s present national total of 57.4 million is lower than McCain’s 59.9 million in ‘o8 (not to mention Bush’s 62 million in ’04). There was a significant drop in participation this year, that I am sure political scientists and others will be analyzing to death. [UPDATE Jan. 2013: With all the votes counted, Obama’s total was 65.9 million (51.1%), Romney 60.9 million (47.2%).]
- So nice that Elizabeth Warren won. Tammy Baldwin too. And that the Dems have kept the Senate. As for the House, that looks out of reach for the next few cycles.
I have other random stream of consciousness thoughts but will stop here. I have links to good post-election analyses and commentaries, which I will post separately before the end of the day.