My look at Election 2012, and what it means for the nation now and in the future
Well folks, as of midnight last night, the 2012 Presidential election came to a close. As it has so many times before, as went Ohio, so went the Presidency, and this time around, Ohio went Democratic, giving incumbent, President Barrack Obama, a second term, as well as victory over his Republican challenger Governor Mitt Romney. After a year and a half of campaigning, the election is over, and the race to divine data from the aftermath has begun.
The election, after months of speculation, benefited from a number of last minute issues and spoilers, ranging from Mitt Romney’s knack for putting his foot in his mouth, to the President Obama successfully shifting the focus of the election from the economy and problems overseas to social issues, and perhaps most recently, the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which alongside getting the election out of the news, had President Obama looking every inch a President, while Mitt Romney was out of the news for almost a week. The result, as you no doubt know by now, is Obama has won himself a second term.
Of course, current events are far from the only factor that effected the election, with the 2012 election already showcasing a number of trends that will no doubt effect both future elections and the nation for years to come. Most notably, the shifting voting and demographic patterns of the last few years had perhaps finally reached a tipping point. This is perhaps most notable in that the way that the WASP voter goes no longer determines the election – back in 1984, getting under 35% of that block saw Mondale lose every state but Minnesota to President Reagan; President Obama barely got 39% of that same block and carried 26 states, and in terms of the electoral college vote, won in a landslide. While many are quick to dismiss this as a matter of race, I feel that is shallow, both in terms of trends and reality. While race is a factor, far more important was the lifestyle shifts, most notably religion – the fastest growing religion in the United States is no religion at all, with Atheism outpacing its fastest growing rivals, Catholicism and Mormonism in the 2010 census, especially among voters under 30, across all party lines. You need only see how the Republican Party’s efforts to brand itself the part of Judeo-Christian values failed to win them even a number of states that had a chance in, and often enough it backfired, especially among people who lean to the left on social values, another trend worth note.
The sum of these coming shifts will no doubt affect both parties, though the Republicans are showing cracks much more being the defeated party.
Despite smashing victories in every election since 2008, a stillborn economy and turmoil overseas, the GOP snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Ranging from a brutal primary season with few new ideas and a pitiful offering of candidates, the ‘best’ of which was the most unpopular and gaffe prone Republican candidate since his father ran in 1968, to the shift of focus from the more popular stances of limited government and free market capitalism to the far more controversial and unpopular conservative stances on social issues, a number of which, like abortion, women’s rights and LGBT issues hamstrung a good many Republican candidates, the result is a chastising that has left many in the GOP wondering about the future of the party. As mentioned before, had they made this about government growth and the economy, and nominated a candidate worth a bucket of warm piss, Obama would have been a one-term President – instead they offered a party insider and a platform that offered warmed-up Republican leftovers from the Bush years, and it cost them on election day.
The GOP has a good long list of the solid candidates, ranging from Marco Rubio to Chris Christie to Scott Walker, and in the last few elections, has proven when the Republican party focuses on limited government and free market economics, they win – something they need to keep in mind, as well as adjusting to demographic reality in the future. The Conservative angle of the party is starting to show it’s age as much as the parties core base – while the nation itself may be center-right when it comes to the role of government or the economy, this election may have once and for all settled where the nation stands on religion and social values, and it’s not in the Republicans favor – most voters fear the Government of God every bit as much as they fear the God of Government. Immediately, the GOP needs to discuss its first major shift since Reagan was elected, lest the GOP die with its core base – a party that has only won the popular vote for the Presidency once since I was born needs to start deciding if it ever plans to win a second.
Of course, it may be Democrats who need to pay attention to the results more, as even in their victory, there are the seeds of future defeat. While it may not look like it on the surface, the Democrats have cracks starting to show just as deeply as those of the right – had different Republican run or Obama not be the campaigner he is, we’d have a different President tonight. Almost by force of will, Obama held the various factions of the party together, and even then almost lost his grip – let’s not forget he very nearly lost a primary battle to a convicted felon. The Democratic Party draws its strength from the fact it holds a myriad of different divided groups under one banner, but this may be the last time the party may do so.
To give one example, the more socially left members of the party are at odds with a good many of the minorities aligned with the Democrats – the black community roared in protest when Obama compared the LGBT movement to the Civil Rights movement, and the LGBT community is furious that Obama only seems to come to them when he needs campaign donations or a photo-op, and the centrists and Leftists are miffed because they feel Obama was either too far to the left or not far enough. While it held together for 2012, it only delivered a slim victory in the popular vote, one where Mitt Romney’s ineptitude had as much to do with Obama’s victory as anything. Come 2016, there may be a reckoning, as unlike the GOP, the Democrats don’t have any serious popular candidates, let alone one that keep the factions together like Obama has – if 2012 saw the GOP show it’s age, 2016 may be when the Democrat’s big tent goes up in flames.
Most potently for me at least, is there is huge discontent with both parties – Libertarian Gary Johnson was the first party candidate in over a decade to get over 1% of the vote, and the Libertarian party may grow more powerful still if the GOP doesn’t shift from Conservatism to Libertarianism. A good many voters didn’t vote at all, dissatisfied with both parties and both candidates, and that wave of discontent with DC may spawn the next big political movement if things don’t change.
Regardless, the results are solid, and President Obama’s second term ahead, though in the end, he may wish it wasn’t – the second term has proven to be the pitfall of many of a President in the past, and President Obama will face a great many issues the second term of his Presidency that will determine the shape and tone of his legacy. The national debt largely continues to skyrocket, in a large part thanks to the President’s own spending and programs, and threatens to pull the nation off the fiscal cliff. Our allies grow weaker, rogue states grow bolder, most notably Iran is closer to getting the nuclear weapons it wants to spark Armageddon, and terrorism continues despite all out best efforts. The economy remains dead in the water despite trillions in government stimulus and about as many empty promises from the President, with a number of things on the horizon threatening to send us into freefall again, getting rid of any pretense of stabilization, let alone recovery. And then, there’s petty politics, from both sides, that threaten to do nothing to fix any of this, and having won a sliver of the popular vote more than his opponent. This will take true leadership, vision and compromise, something we have seen little to nothing of from President Obama in the last four years – in hopes he may change that, I will offer him the same advice he gave President George W. Bush back in 2004 after he won re-election:
“Maybe peace would have broken out with a different kind of White House, one less committed to waging a perpetual campaign – a White House that would see a 51-48 victory as a call to compromise rather than an irrefutable mandate.”
I just hope he obeys his own advice more than his predecessor did – we’ve got more than a legacy at stake.