Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Final Thoughts on the Election

Here are some longer thoughts on this election:

1. The Electoral College map figures to remain very tough for Republicans for at least the next few Presidential cycles. Currently, the six states with the most electoral votes are all getting more Democratic every year. California (55), Texas (38), Florida (29), New York (29), Illinois (20), and Pennsylvania (20) are all much more Democratic that they were 20 or even 10 years ago. California, New York, and Illinois remain safe deep blue states. Pennsylvania is a swing state in name-only, and is leaning Democratic now. As long as the Republican party keeps their extreme positions on social issues, they've lost the Philadelphia suburbs for good, and thus any chance of winning the state. Florida remains a true toss-up. So Texas is the only large state that is currently solidly Republican. And with the projected demographic trends, in 10 years Texas will likely become a swing state.

Even other fairly large states are becoming more Democratic. Virginia  (13) and North Carolina (15) were solid Republican states just 10 years ago and now are toss-up states, while Georgia (16) is approaching swing state status with the last two Presidential elections decided by just 5 and 8 points, respectively. And the Democrats still remain strong in New England and the upper Midwest.

In short, it appears unless there are drastic changes, the Republicans will have a narrow path to winning the Electoral College in the foreseeable future. Florida, Ohio, Virginia, and North Carolina will be must-win states for the Republicans in every election, while the Democrats will start off with something like 220 electoral votes safely in hand.

2. Republicans aren't going to win in the majority of big cities any time soon, but they can't continue to get killed in cities and expect to win elections. Of the 25 largest cities in the country, Mitt Romney only won the majority of the votes in three: Phoenix (55-43), Jacksonville (51-47), and Fort Worth (57-41). The cities are where the voters are and in most big cities Democrats are winning 2/3 or more of the votes. The New Republic has more on this.

3. The Republicans and Tea Party marriage was mutually beneficial at first and now has really harmed Republicans. They used each other to get something in the short term. Republicans needed to re-brand themselves and needed grass roots energy to win back power. And the Tea Party apparently was really just made up of a lot of social conservatives pretending to care about the deficit in order to have more influence on social policy. Rachel Maddow was one of the first pundits to point out that the Tea Party kept insisting they were mainly concerned about the economy and the deficit, but if you actually paid attention to the people showing up at the rallies or how they spoke about abortion and marriage equality, you could tell this was just another iteration of the very extreme social conservative base of the party.

This was very apparent in 2010 when the Republicans lost what should have been three easy Senate seat pickups in NV (Harry Reid), CO (Michael Bennet), and DE (Chris Coons), by nominating the less electable Tea Party favorites in the primaries - Sharon Angle, Ken Buck, and Christine O'Donnell. All three of these candidates were favorites of the social conservatives and two ran on the "I will make abortion illegal, no exceptions" platform and were rejected by voters even in a Republican wave year.

Then the Republicans took back the House and decided to focus on passing a lot of bills (67 by last count as of August) to restrict access to abortion and contraception, because you know....jobs, jobs, jobs. So 67 bills directly or indirectly about restricting access to abortion or contraception and not one bill to create jobs.

4. In the 2012 cycle, the Tea Party still not deterred, cost the Republicans a chance at Senate seats in Missouri (Claire McCaskill). The more extreme Tea Party candidate won in the primary, so McCaskill ended up facing off against Todd "you can't pregnant from rape" Akin, while Indiana Republican incumbent Dick Lugar was defeated by Richard "rape is a gift from god" Mourdock in the primary. These candidates were a gift from god to the Democrats who won both seats easily.

We kept wondering why Republicans couldn't get the Tea Party coalition in line so they could win. But as the old proverb goes, "he who rides the tiger must beware lest he end up inside."

And arguably the Tea Party forcing the Republicans to adopt more extreme positions on abortion is what helped the Democrats turnout more women voters and win this group by such a big margin. This no doubt tipped other close House and Senate races to the Democrats and was a key factor in President Obama's victory in swing states.

5. When women voters vote in big numbers, Democrats win. Period. This election the Democrats won single women by a 67-31 margin and won women overall 55-44. The single women/married women gap was very large - 49 points! - as married women backed Republicans 56-43. The difference is there are a lot more single women voters now than there were years ago. This demographic trend is also helping the Democrats. Women are putting off getting married until later in life and thus the "marriage gap" is more of a factor every election.

6. I was offended by the dismissive talk in conservative circles about Obama winning by huge margins among the "non-white" vote, as if those voters don't really count. The argument boiled down to, "Obama won but he didn't win the majority of votes of real Americans." Republicans are still trying to comfort themselves that they didn't lose on the actual issues, since minority voters obviously don't vote on issues or anything. As if only white people concern themselves with abortion restrictions or tax cuts for the rich or Medicare cuts.

And actually a similar thing happened with how FDR's coalition came together in 1930's, but then it was the European immigrants of that time. If there were cable news and talk radio shows back then, I'm sure the Republican WASPs and the Rush Limbaughs of their time would have been saying similar things about how FDR just won with a coalition of unwashed masses like Irish, Italian, Jewish, and German immigrants who just wanted handouts from the government, taking from the people "who built this country." The more things change, the more they stay the same. That coalition of Northern ethnics and Southern whites mostly held for the Democrats for 40 years. It'll be interesting to see how long-lasting this new Democratic coalition is.

7. It was a solid win for the Democrats and the demographic trends are definitely in their favor, but perhaps a better Republican candidate and a flip of a total of a few million votes in a handful of states and we could be having a very different discussion at the moment. So I caution Democrats not to get too cocky and assume a semi-permanent new majority coalition is here to stay. It is going to take a lot of work to hold it together. Obama is a once in a generation politician who has the ability to motivate and inspire these voters. In four years there could a less-inspiring figure at the top of the ticket and this coalition could easily be fractured if Republicans make some savvy political decisions.

Marco Rubio could be running at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016 after having helped pass immigration reform. It's not hard to imagine the Republicans winning back similar levels of Latino support that Bush won, which would probably be enough to flip enough states to win the Presidency. So sadly the GOP could very well win again in 2016 without having to do much differently on the policy front. I figure the party will first try running on the same tired Bush/Romney agenda like they always do, but try it with a Latino guy at the top of the ticket and see how that goes. Only if that ticket is rejected will they moderate on other issues. So tokenism before substance most likely.

8. And finally, let's face it, Democrats don't just win over huge majorities of Latino and black voters because they have a lot of Latino and black officeholders. It's more the other way around - the big melting pot coalition of voters they already have, help elect the Latino and black officeholders. And the reason they have so much support from such a diverse group of voters is because of the results of the policies Democrats support. Clinton, Gore, and Kerry received close to the same percentage of the black vote nationally that Obama did because of policies not tribalism.

If Republicans wonder why 95% of black voters side with the Democrats, maybe it has something to do with the opposition to Civil Rights laws in the 1960's. Maybe it has something to do with the party passing state laws every cycle to try to keep many in this group from voting in elections. It's difficult for black voters to perceive the Republicans are treating them as equals when they are constantly trying to make voting more difficult.

Shockingly to some Republican pundits, black voters may not want to support a party who has people who attend rallies and consort and agree with people who carry signs like this

Or this:

Yes, surprisingly black voters who might even agree with you on taxes and social issues may not support your party if it includes a lot of people who think like this.

And of course who can forget this guy from a Romney rally in Ohio:

 (Source: Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Think of the comfort level these people at rallies must have to express such blatantly racist views in public. It's obvious they aren't scorned by other politically like-minded people and don't get a lot of negative feedback about it. And that's part of the problem with living in the bubble.

Maybe it has something to do with the conservative media that drives the party's agenda using code words or signals to attempt to make every issue into a "Hey, white people look at what black people are saying or doing now!" issue. Republicans, these are your friends in the media. You never say a bad word about Limbaugh or the people on Fox. If you want to appeal to black voters, maybe don't have so many racist friends or friends who are willing to play on white people's racial fears in order to get ratings.

The same thing applies to Latino voters. If you want to win over more Latino voters, maybe you need more candidates and talk show hosts who don't flex their muscles over how fast they can deport illegal immigrants, without giving any thought to the consequences of these policies on people and communities. The Arizona "papers please" law and near unanimous national Republican support of this did not help when it came time to run for President.

It may shock some Republicans, but if a significant portion of your base views Latinos as "invaders", then you might have trouble wooing Latino voters. (source AP/Chris Pizzelle)

If you are a Latino voter, do you want to vote for the guy who hangs out with the guy who views having too many Latinos in this country as a problem in and of itself?

In short, until the Republican party leaders stand up to and call-out blatant racists and xenophobes, instead of just ignoring them publicly while keeping them in the fold with dog-whistles, black and Latino voters simply won't trust that any outreach is sincere. Republicans have a big choice to make and they can't honestly court minority voters without alienating part of their base, and vice versa.

1 comment:

  1. re: the old white lady with the "America has been Invaded" sign. I'd love to see a Native American walk up to her with the same sign. She seems to have forgotten how this country became populated.