Friday, November 16, 2012

November 6th Was Not Just Another Election

It’s been about 10 days since President Barack Obama scored re-election and I am still thinking about what the victory means for America moving forward.  A number of things happened during the campaign to make this election one of the most intriguing contests in our lifetime. There were a number of winners beside the President, and there were a number of losers beside Governor Romney. But one thing is for sure, this election cycle was a rollicking ride that drove Republicans crazy, got women riled up, made stars out of statisticians, made fools out of experts, let gays finally catch the rainbow and got me wondering what ever happened to the poor.   America has changed for the better and for the worse.

So what happened in the first Presidential election of the second decade in the 21st century?  

1) For the first time in American history a presidential candidate can no longer bank on overwhelming support from whites alone to win national elections. Governor Romney got one of the highest percentages of white votes in modern tracking history (59%) and yet still lost the election rather convincingly. Targeting the white vote may still work – for now – in Southern and Great Plains states. But to hang your political hat on just winning a sizable majority of white votes won’t win you in a national election. A post-election analysis complied by a Republican research firm concluded,  “Romney's performance among white voters would have been sufficient to put him in the White House in any election before 2008.”  But in 2012’s America white voters were not enough.

Chart from Real Clear Politics.

The American electorate is becoming more black, brown, tan, and yellow. President Obama won re-election despite receiving the lowest percentage of white votes of any candidate since 1988 when President George H. W. Bush shellacked Governor Michael Dukakis. Governor Dukakis only got 40% of the white vote. Dukakis’s white support was fairly strong until a black man was dragged into the campaign. Allies of then Vice-President Bush’s ’88 Presidential bid yoked a menacing black criminal named Willie Horton around Dukakis’s neck, effectively dooming his effort for the White House.

President Obama’s white support was actually a point lower than Dukakis’s ’88 numbers. In 2008, the President won 43% of the white vote; in 2012 that percentage slipped to 39%. The President held steady by winning 80% of the non-white vote in both 2008 and 2012. Despite getting low white voter support the President was able to win because of the continual drop of white voters nationally.

Chart courtesy of

Since the 1992 Presidential election the percentage of white voters has steadily declined. That year whites were 87% of the electorate. By the 2004 election the percentage had dipped to 77%. In 2008 the ratio had fallen to 74%. In this year’s election the number slipped further to 72%.  By contrast, the percentage of non-white voters went from 23% in 2004 to 27% by 2008 and inching up in 2012 to 28%.  A closer look reveals Latino voters grew from about 8% of the electorate in 2004 to an all-time of 10% in 2012. 10% may be a small figure but the Latino vote may have been the difference in at least four swing states as President Obama got nearly 3/4th of the Hispanic vote (see the go-to website Latino Decisions).  Their influence in the electorate will only grow as reportedly around 50,000 Latino/Hispanic teenagers turn 18 years old in the United States. Those are 50,000 potential new registered Hispanic voters each month.

Further proof of the declining significance of white votes is that Governor Romney won white female voters  by a hefty margin (14% gap). His support among white females voters was larger than it was for President George W. Bush in 2004 and Senator John McCain in 2008. Yet President Obama won the overall female vote by a double-digit margin. Why? Even though there are more white women then white men, white women are making up a smaller portion of the overall electorate from 44% in 2004 down to 38% in 2012. Non-white women’s impact in national elections has become more significant than white women’s.

Republicans candidates have lost the popular vote in five of the last six Presidential elections (including in 2000 when Gore won the popular vote but Bush won the Electoral College). That trend is bound to continue unless Republicans expand their demographics. If the GOP wants to be relevant in the future they better learn to reach out to non-white voters or they will continue to experience Election Day drubbings.  While immigration policy got a lot of play as to why Latinos ran from the Republican Party, people of color are not single issue-voters. Republicans do have to end their xenophobic and racist view of immigration as well as adapt policies that people of color and young voters (President Obama won the youth by 24%) can support across a broad range of issues. A little policy outreach to minorities could have gone a long way in this election. If Governor Romney had gotten the same support from Latinos that President George W. Bush had in 2004 (estimated at 40%) he would have won the 2012 Presidential Election in a rout. (Here is a great interactive map published by Latino Decisions that let the user adjust Governor Romney’s percentage of Latino support to see how many more Electoral College votes he could have gotten with more support from the Hispanic community.)   

2) The candidate or party with the money advantage does not automatically win. Team Romney outspent the Obama campaign by an estimated $90 million. Republican Super PACs outspent Democratic Super PACs by an astounding $260 million.  Even with that enormous cash advantage the Republicans lost the Presidential race and some Senate and Congressional races they should have won. I’m sure Republican Super PACs are scratching their heads at the fact that Democrats won the total popular vote over Republicans 53.6% to 46.9% in Senate races; in Congressional races the Democrats too won the popular vote over Republicans 49% to 48%. Several websites are calculating figures such as cost per Presidential vote, cost per electoral vote, and total return on campaign investment. Some of the numbers are shameful and embarrassing at the same time.  

The moneyed class shoveled dough into Republican Super PACs at an eye-popping clip. Casino king Sheldon Adelson was the leading contributor to Republican Super PACs dolling out a cool $53 million in cash. Of the nine candidates he bankrolled or supported via Super PAC eight of them lost. The candidate who did score victory won so narrowly that he was not declared winner until the day after the election.

At least Adelson got something for his money. That is more than can be said for Republican Linda McMahon of Connecticut. McMahon is the wife World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) founder Vince McMahon. McMahon spent a total of $100 million of her own money in attempts to win a Senate seat in 2010 and in 2012. She got body-slammed at the polls twice. McMahon lost her 2010 bid by 11 percentage points. In her second attempt on November 6th she lost by 12 percentage points.  Policy, not money, wins elections.

I’m not going to ignore the gross spending by Democrats and Progressives. The Left also spent sickening amounts money (see chart). Endless emails and text messages from the State Democratic Party, the Democratic National Committee, and the Obama campaign soliciting campaign cash greatly annoyed me. It seemed to get worse as the campaign drew closer to an end. I admit their begging worked but it got to be a bit extra at the end. But I take heart that I got a much better return on my contributions than money-moguls Sheldon Adelson and Linda McMahon.

Info-Graphic courtesy of Fast Company. Click here for larger view. 

3) Polls, pundits and partisanship all converged to shock Romney supporters in the 2012 election. Partisan political pundits, commentary hacks and subjective pollsters were embarrassed by the November 6th results, exposing the erroneousness of predictions based on emotion, party bias and skewed data. The pre-election forecasts of a relatively easy Obama win by statisticians like Nate Silver, Drew Linzer, Sam Wang and Simon Jackman sparked a much-needed battle between conservative pundits, network personalities and data scientist.

The list of partisan experts who predicted that Governor Mitt Romney would handily defeat President Barack Obama reads like a who’s who of the Right (and some on the Left). Even purportedly impartial academics armed with data (most notably University of Colorado system professors Kenneth Bickers and Michael Berry) wound up scrambling for alibis as to why their predictions were terribly wrong.

“Experts” on both sides of the aisle thumbed their nose at the data analysts who predicted that President Obama is likely to win re-election barring some monumental occurrence that would shift the election. They were ridiculed because they supposedly lacked a sharp political instincts or a savvy awareness of Washington politics, as if these are pre-requisites for making a mathematical forecast. But their lack of political reasoning is precisely why their forecasts were so accurate. As best they could the statisticians removed human traits such as gut instincts, intuition and biased cheerleading from their computations to, well, make predictions about human behavior.

Using survey data from various state and national polling firms Silver, Linzer and others ran thousands of Election Day simulations via computers each using their own forecasting models that controlled for such things as party identification, voter enthusiasm or lack thereof, economic factors, Presidential job approval ratings, geography, and biases and errors that all polls have. Even though each forecaster constructed different algorithms to control for a list of variables there were miniscule differences between each of their predictions.  They found the characterization of the race between President Obama and Governor Romney as a “toss up” laughable. None of their simulations ever gave Governor Romney more than a 40% chance to win at any point during the Presidential campaign. One forecaster, Emory’s Drew Linzer predicted back in June that Obama would win precisely 332 electoral votes.His computations never really deviated from that estimate between June and Election Day.  (Dr. Linzer explains his forecasting model in a November 15th post.) What really drove political analysts and network personalities batty was this group predicted President Obama had around a 91% chance to win re-election.

Their predictions over the last few weeks of the campaign were at odds with what political “experts”, pollsters and the news media were selling to their audiences. The Right was particularly steamed at anyone who predicted anything less than a Romney landslide. Conservatives both moderate and Far Right sharpened their claws and attacked Silver, Linzer and the gang. Some accused them of being in the tank for Obama. Others said they were part of some liberal conspiracy to make numbers for President Obama and the Democrats look better than they were to influence voters. As the election drew closer more commentators and journalists sought to personally discredit the data experts. Some resorted to name-calling, others penned nasty columns questioning their math acumen, and some even hurled anti-gay slurs and insults at Nate Silver in order to discredit his work.  Even those who did not resort to personal attacks thought the “number crunchers” relied too much on scientific data at the expense human intuition. Often their allies on the Left who cited the statistician’s results did so without great faith in their forecasts (see John Cassidy of The New Yorker magazine). To the political pundit, “gut feelings” trumps hard data; their “gut” told them it was a close race that was tilting toward Governor Romney.

But Silver, Linzer, Wang, Jackman along with a few supporters in the media stood by their findings. Despite the constant barrage of criticism they continued to insist that the contest was never a “toss up” or “too close to call” at any point in the final weeks of the campaign.  In fact, Silver – who also accurately predicted the 2008 race and was nearly perfect in the 2010 midterm elections – expressed such confidence in his work that he gave lesson on what is and isn’t a “toss up”. After observing 19 of 20 polls showing President Obama in the lead with just three days before Election Day he wrote in his blog FiveThirtyEight,  “A tossup race isn’t likely to produce 19 leads for one candidate and 1 for the other — any more than a fair coin is likely to come up heads 19 times and tails just once in 20 tosses. (The probability of a fair coin doing so is about 1 chance in 50,000.).”  

But still most “experts” including Governor Romney’s campaign staff insisted they were on their way to a big victory on November 6th. President Obama’s campaign manager David Axelrod said after the election that one of his friends in the Romney campaign told him they genuinely expected Romney to win the election. They were so confident that while the election results were coming in Governor Romney told reporters that he wrote an acceptance speech but not a concession speech. Team Romney even had a website for President-Elect Romney that was launched (supposedly by accident) the night of the election. Instead the Romney- Ryan team was stunned loss. It’s reported that Governor Romney was “shell shocked” after the defeat.

Many experts, pollsters and news personalities were fooled into thinking that the race was still very close because of what the national polls were reporting. Most polls showed a neck and neck race that was within the margin of error. Some had the President up 1 point; others had Romney up 2 to 7 points. Some showed a tie.  But polls only show you who is ahead at the time the poll was taken. It does not forecast how likely a candidate is to maintain that lead and win an election.

The limit of “gut feelings” in predicting an election is that a person can think that one event can make a drastic enough change to flip a race. One event almost never moves poll numbers beyond the margin of error. Poll numbers may sway on one direction or another but it’s usually only a temporary reaction to new events. Whereas forecasters understand that generally a confluence of events - more than one or two events  - are likely to have an impact on polls which may alter forecasts. One event does not really matter in voter choices.  For instance, many prominent Republicans like Haley Barbour and others publically said that Hurricane Sandy stalled Governor Romney’s momentum and flipped the race in the President’s favor. They seem to suggest that Hurricane Sandy and the subsequent imagery of President Obama and Republican Governor Chris Christie working in a bi-partisan manner won the race for the President. But statistical analysis by forecasters and mathematicians paint a different picture. There was a small lift in the President’s approval and favorability ratings that equated to about a 1-point rise in the polls. But Silver and the crew showed that Hurricane Sandy and the President’s response to the disaster only wrapped tighter what they saw as the already sealed re-election of President Obama. 

Here is Nate Silver's appearance on "Morning Joe" on November 20th talking about the accuracy of his 2012 prediction. He also talked about the shortcomings of polls. 

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Nate Silver, Drew Linzer, Sam Wang, Simon Jackman and others never claimed to be politically savvy like the political experts supposedly were. But they know math. And they were right .  Even before the election proved them right they warned that the much ballyhooed enthusiasm gap enjoyed by Governor Romney was probably not significant enough to tilt the election in his favor. They found that Romney’s so-called wave of momentum rippling through the nation had actually peaked nine days after the first debate. The consensus was that Governor Romney’s “bounce” had stalled on around October 12th (the day he had a 40% chance to win the election). Governor Romney’s slip in the polls began on October 13th and ended with him suffering a bitter defeat three and half weeks later.  In addition, they found October 13th was the same day that President Obama began to regain the support he lost after his poor performance in the first debate. They also found that if any candidate had the wind at their back in the final days of the campaign it was President Obama. No one in the media believed them, particularly the group that conservative columnist David Frum calls “the conservative entertainment complex”.  

Members of the “conservative entertainment complex” appear each day on FOX News Channel, talk radio, and on websites such as This “entertainment complex” includes authors of anti-Obama books and in some cases newspaper and magazine columnists. “Entertainers “ like Ann Coulter , Dick Morris, Karl Rove, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and other mouthpieces of the Far Right assured their audience that Governor Romney would take back the White House for Republicans on November 6th.  Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy took his extremism a step further by publicly wondering whether the 47% Governor Romney spoke about should be allowed to vote. They knew they were right because they said so and biased pollsters who tilted their findings toward Romney confirmed it. Newspaper editorial and magazine writers like Wall Street Journal’s conservative columnist Peggy Noonan, widely considered a shrewd conservative intellectual, alleged that Governor Romney would win the Presidency because she felt “vibrations”. George Will (who astonishingly predicted Governor Romney would win Minnesota), William Kristol, David Brooks and others joined the prediction craze and told their readers that a lopsided Romney victory was imminent. They pinned their hopes on an alleged silent majority that were neglected by national pollsters. Supposedly, this silent group would show up at the polls in droves, inspired by the wave of momentum that Governor Romney purportedly had. The truth is the highly publicized silent majority not only remained silent, it was invisible, too. And Romney’s alleged momentum was really no-mentum. 

The “conservative entertainers” had a fundamental belief that the 2008 election of President Obama was a fluke, as evident by the non-stop campaign on FOX News and on radio shows like Rush Limbaugh to delegitimize the President. They figured the electorate would revert back ‘to normal’ circa 2004. They pointed to the fact there wasn’t the same massive euphoric crowds at Obama campaign rallies like there were in 2008 as anecdotal evidence that things were ‘back to normal’. By contrast they pointed to a string of Romney gatherings with increasingly huge numbers with more enthusiastic supporters.  Governor Romney even joked about wondering if the people were there to see him or a rock star. Other “entertainers” pointed to the number of Romney-Ryan yard signs and bumper stickers they saw across various neighborhoods in comparison to Obama – Biden signs as a clue that Romney was poised to win.  Some Right-leaning pollsters insisted that Democratic turnout, particularly African American and young voters, would not approach the 2008 totals.  Among them was Neil Newhouse who was in charge of internal polling for the Romney campaign. He skewed his internal polling data with the theory that the electorate would mirror the 2004 election rather than the 2008 surprise. This caused his results to significantly overestimate Romney’s polling numbers. The “entertainers” and the Romney pollsters discovered that yard signs and bumper stickers don’t vote. And that no matter how large the crowd, each person in the crowd is only one vote no matter how enthusiastic they are.  And the funny thing about voting is that an unenthusiastic vote counts just as much as an enthusiastic one. (In December the Republican research group Resurgent Republic published a graphic showing why the difference in voter enthusiasm did not matter in this election.) 

In their defense, President Obama’s win did defy political history. No other incumbent President won re-election with factor’s against him like a high unemployment rate; his favorability lingering at or below 50%; an opponent with a significant lead in voter’s perception of who would be better at fixing the economy; and an opponent who also held a modest lead with independent voters.  Those factors have historically led to incumbents being ‘fired’ like President Jimmy Carter in 1980 and President George H. W. Bush in 1992.  But what President Obama had that they did not have was an improving – albeit slowly – economy, foreign affairs achievements, a generally high likeability among the electorate, and rarity in which more last minute undecided voters broke for President Obama than for Governor Romney.  Historically, last minute undecided voters nearly always side with the challenger rather than the incumbent.
The fact that President Obama defied history and won re-election brought out the worst elements of the extreme Right Wing “entertainers”. These folks include Karl Rove who had a meltdown on FOX because he was unwilling to concede Ohio even after all the major networks and FOX’s own research team called the state for President Obama. Two days later Rove constructed a myth that the President suppressed the vote (thereby providing an excuse as to why he was wrong in predicting a Romney win).  Bill O’Reilly said the people who voted for the President are getting “free stuff” and want to get more “free stuff” from the government. Ann Coulter said the election result meant the country has reached a tipping point in which there are more takers than makers. Sean Hannity and Herman Cain inferred that members of the New Black Panther Party intimidated white voters in Pennsylvania, which explains how the President won the state.  When it was clear the President won re-election The Donald (Donald Trump) lost his mind on Twitter by advocating sedition. Trump’s rant was so disturbing that NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams tweeted “Donald Trump has driven well past the last exit to relevance and veered into something more irresponsible.” 

The musings of political prognosticators and pundits must now be swallowed with a grain of salt unless they have some empirical data to back up their assertions. But the data has to be unbiased (Rasmussen, Gallup, Unskewed, etc., proved to be partial to Republicans) or they will be hacks without credible facts.  To their credit, some commentators and serious journalist on the Right did eat crow by admitting they were wrong and the statisticians were right.

I fully expect members of the “conservative entertainment complex” to continue ignoring results of hard data unless it fits their agenda. But I suspect from now on that fair-minded political analysts, reporters and hopefully voters in both parties will place more faith in predictions from neutral forecasters than relying on anecdotal evidence and “gut feelings”.

4) Gone are days in which a politician can use anti-gay policies or the threat of a so-called “gay agenda” to boost the number of conservative voters to win an election. Remember the 2004 Presidential election? To lift his Election Day odds President George W. Bush ran on a platform calling for a constitutional amendment barring gay marriage.  Conservative evangelicals flocked to the polls thanks in part to Bush’s stance and to a number of state ballot measures against gay marriage. Those socially conservative voters proved to be valuable in what turned out to be a very close election against Senator John Kerry. What a difference eight years make. On November 6th we saw just how much of a difference.

The first openly gay senator was elected. Before November 6th no state had voted in favor of marriage equality. But on Election Day the tide changed when three – count ‘em three - state ballot measures legalizing gay marriage passed.  Another ballot measure to add a gay marriage ban to the state’s constitution failed. That’s represents a huge cultural shift since 2004 when Republicans used gay marriage as a wedge issue. Each year it seems more Americans are supporting marriage equality. Polls earlier this year show slightly more than 50% of Americans support same-sex marriage.  After President Obama ‘came out’ in support for same-sex marriage in May the percentages bounded to around 54%. Even many Republicans have come out in support of marriage equality.  Steve Schmidt, Senator John McCain’s campaign manager in 2008, recently said that he supports gay marriage because the institution of marriage is a conservative value regardless if the couple is heterosexual or gay.
When President Obama went on television to explain why he supported marriage equality, many feared that the President might lose some support, thus damaging his re-election chances. It was clear that like most thoughtful Americans the President had evolved on the issue of gay marriage. (Then Senator Obama did not support same-sex marriage when he ran for President in 2008. He advocated civil unions instead.)  There is anecdotal evidence that the President did lose some votes. There is real evidence that conservative evangelicals again voted Republican in record numbers. But the numbers were inconsequential to the final election result.

Now that the President won re-election its quite possible that he will have one, maybe two Supreme Court appointees over the next four years. His Supreme Court appointments could tip the balance from a majority conservative court to a more liberal or moderate court. This is important because if the issue of gay marriage ever comes before a moderate or liberal leaning court it is likely to view bans on gay marriage as un-Constitutional. Of course all of this is speculation. It is possible the current high court will hear a challenge to California’s Proposition 8 that bans gay marriage this year with a ruling set for next summer. But the Court has not decided yet (as of this writing) whether they will hear arguments. If the Court does hear the case, I would expect the Obama Administration to submit a legal brief stating its position as to why Proposition 8 should be ruled un-Constitutional.

Gay rights and marriage equality may not be the same lightening rod it once was in 2004, but it still carries a few volts that can the be difference in close local elections.  For instance, the Minnesota ballot to add a gay marriage ban to their constitution helped Michelle Bachmann get the evangelical votes she needed to narrowly retain her seat in Congress.

I will caution that I am not concluding that the fight for marriage equality is almost over or that people have changed their views completely overnight.  I’m just saying there is strong evidence emerging from the 2012 ballot boxes that people are changing their opinion about marriage equality. As I often say, the world is changing.
5) The Tea Party has a stranglehold on the Republican Party and it’s choking the life out of them. The Tea Party is generating politicians that think compromise is akin to treason.  Moderate Republicans are being run out of office either voluntarily or being kicked out by Tea Party challengers. And make no mistake – Republicans are running scared. 

Tea Party stars such as Richard Murdoch, Todd Akin, Allen West, Joe Walsh and a few others lost elections because they were so far removed from the mainstream that they make the late President Ronald Reagan look like a Johnson Liberal. The awful and offensive things that came out of their mouths this election cycle were hard to believe. Rightfully so, most of them lost rather badly. But the Tea Party has cast a shadow over the entire Republican brand and if someone does not turn the light on Republicans will continue to suffer beat downs at the ballot box.

These extremists strike fear in the political heart of sitting Republicans in Congress and the Senate with characters like Grover Norquist, founder of Americans for Tax Reform. He bullied most Republicans in the House and Senate to sign his no tax pledge that basically says under no circumstances will they vote to raise taxes on anyone. Instead of pledging to do what is best for the citizens, these scared Republicans are carrying out the whims of control freaks. This culture of “no compromise” and the practice of  “obstructionism” are straight from the Tea Party cup. The result has been total gridlock in Washington. And the vice is tightening and getting nastier each year.

Republicans who do not drink the “Tea” are threatened with facing a Tea Party-backed candidate for what will turn out to be a bitter and costly primary challenge. Tea Party radicals are running against unacceptable Republicans in local primaries in order to further extend their influence in Washington. What happens is the moderate Republican incumbent is defeated in the primary by the Tea Party-supported candidate who then is placed on the ballot to contend for a House or Senate seat. But many of these folks they are run are turning out to be “loons and wackos” as one moderate Republican recently said. Many of these candidates are so out of touch with how civil people think that even many rank-and-file Republicans in Red States won’t vote for them. To illustrate this scenario lets examine how the Tea Party deep-sixed a reliable Republican seat in Indiana formerly held by the six-term Senator Dick Lugar.

Senator Lugar was a center-right Republican who learned long ago that to get anything done in Washington you have to work across the aisle and compromise with Democrats. He did not see Democrats or those who disagreed with him as the enemy. The Tea Party targeted Lugar because in their eyes he was too moderate. Their candidate, Indiana State Treasurer Richard Murdock, shocked Lugar by soundly defeating him in the primaries for the right to run against the Democratic challenger. Senator Lugar graciously accepted his crushing defeat, but issued a warning about Far Right Republicans in a statement released the day after his defeat.

Murdock was expected to cruise to a Senate victory on November 6th against a little known Democrat who was underfunded and was not really expected to win.   In short, Murdock went on to be flattened by his Democratic challenger after he made a shocking comment during a debate in which he said that birth as a result of rape was what God intended to happen. That comment sealed Murdock’s fate.  The district that Senator Lugar held in Republican hands for 36 years was handed over to the Democrats for the next six years thanks to the Tea Party extremism of Murdock.

Senate losses by Republicans over the last few election cycles are due in part to Tea Party fanaticism. Let’s see how mainstream members of the Republican Party deal with this bloodthirsty crowd going forward. If they continue to paralyze reasonable Republicans then the party will continue to take a thumping in local and national elections.   The Republicans need people like Joe Scarborough, Michael Steele, Dr. Condoleezza Rice and Megan McCain along with other practical Republicans to put the Tea Party on ice and regain control of the Republican brand.

6) The Republican Party’s obsession around the country with women’s bodies certainly came back to haunt them. GOP Governors in states with majority Republican legislators suddenly decided this year to attack abortion and reproductive rights. But they did not stop there. A few Republicans made national news after making horrifyingly ignorant comments about rape. This angered even rank-and-file Republican women like President George W. Bush’s former aide Karen Hughes who wrote in Politico that, “If another Republican man says anything about rape other than it is a horrific, violent crime, I want to personally cut out his tongue.”

Governor Romney said early in the campaign that he would de-fund Planned Parenthood. Apparently that was a silent platform advanced by the Republican Party. Mainly the men in these Republican-dominated state houses decided the best way to be Pro Life is to stop giving money to Planned Parenthood, as if all that group does is do assembly-line abortions. But Planned Parenthood is the largest provider of health services for women in the U.S. They do cancer screenings, HIV tests, provide contraception, and many other services vital to women. They also serve men by screening for testicular cancer and performing vasectomies. Yet the Republicans think Planned Parenthood is a synonym for abortion. Only about 3% of Planned Parenthood’s services are abortions.  Planned Parenthood is important to women and messing with funding for that organization is good way to have women turn on you at the ballot box.

Republicans also attacked an Affordable Care Act provision that states employer-provided health insurance must provide women with access contraceptives. Many people can get with the ban on abortion rights, but when men (mainly white men) go a step further and want to deny or limit women’s access to contraception it is too much to take.  Even conservative women who abhor abortion know that the best way to stop an abortion is to not have sex or if you do, use contraception. The overwhelming majority of sexually active women regardless of political party use some form of contraception in their lifetime.  Making matters worse was the fact that Republican Congressman Darrell Issa held a Congressional hearing about this portion of the Act because the religious community balked at being forced to provide contraception because it was against their beliefs. Once again the Republicans decided that only men should testify and have an opinion about contraception for women. When a young Georgetown Law School student named Sandra Fluke attempted to testify at the first hearing that was all male, Congressman Issa barred her. She was later granted an audience in Congress but was vilified by one of the Right’s “conservative entertainers” Rush Limbaugh. He called her a slut and a prostitute among other things. This sparked widespread outrage by not only women but by men, especially ones with daughters. Limbaugh managed to do what no other politician could do – he brought the Democrats and Republicans together to denounce his comments. Governor Romney dodged questions about this incident by only saying that he would not have used in that tone. (One of the highlights of this fiasco for me was seeing the feisty Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney talk about the hearing on MSBNC's Politics Nation hosted by Rev. Al Sharpton.)

Women did not forget who was trying to make decisions about their bodies and access contraception. Women across the nation noted the bullying and swung their support behind President Obama and Democrats. I think this swing by women to the Democrats back in February doomed Romney for the Fall. Essentially Governor Romney was never able to close that gender gap. 

In response to the Republican’s “War on Women”, females hit the polls to support President Obama in greater numbers than the men who voted for Governor Romney. In fact, if it were not for the President winning the women’s vote, particularly in swing states, then Governor Romney would have won the Presidency.  Looking deeper at the numbers, its reported that single women voted for the President at a 67% clip. That is 2/3rds of all single women who voted.  Women voters also made a difference in many House and Senate elections. Clearly, the nationwide attack on women’s reproductive rights hurt the Republicans. The issue with Sandra turned out not to be a Fluke after all.

Also, maybe by accident or circumstance, women won more elections than ever this year. There will be 20 female Senators beginning in 2013, the highest in U.S. history.   There will also be a number of new women in Congress. This seems to be the year of the woman, at least in politics.

7) President Obama’s re-election means that The Affordable Care Act, a.k.a., Obamacare, will not be repealed and will become the law of the land. Now that the law is safe from being gutted by the Republicans, the United States is catching up with the rest of the First World in guaranteeing that most of its citizens will have access to healthcare coverage.

It has been reported that American’s desire to repeal Obamacare is now at an all time low, probably due in part to the result of the President’s re-election. Even Florida Governor Rick Scott has shifted his stance on implementing Obamacare. Governor Scott has long been one of the most vocal opponents of the Affordable Care Act. Now since there is virtually no chance of the law being repealed states will now have to shift their focus from fighting the law to how to make it work for its citizens.  Usually once a major social safety net is implemented the American people grow to like it and want to keep it.

8) The best political gift the Republicans gave the Democrats was their renewed efforts at voter suppression. Its no coincidence that states run by Republican Governors with majority Republican legislatures created laws that would effectively   suppress the minority and the youth vote. Their justification for new legislation was that widespread voter fraud is occurring and it must be stopped to protect the integrity of elections. When asked for proof of rampant voter fraud state officials could never offer any.

Alleged voter fraud conspiracies were nothing more than a lie conceived to suppress the very voters who were key to President Obama’s victory in 2008.  If the percentage of minority and youth votes could be slashed by just a few small points then Governor Romney would likely stand a better chance at winning states like Pennsylvania, Florida, and Ohio. The goal was never to crackdown on voter fraud, it was to discourage Obama voters from showing up at the polls on November 6th.  

Some laws like the shamelessly biased Pennsylvania law required voters to have a specific type ID or they would be denied voting privileges.  The Pennsylvania State Supreme court barred its implementation until after the 2012 election to make sure the citizens had time to get the required ID to vote. In Ohio the Secretary of State became known nationwide for his attempt to end early voting in three days running up to the election, probably in an attempt to sabotage the Souls to the Polls tradition in the Black church. Souls to the Polls was created by Black churches to increase voter participation by African Americans. Souls to the Polls traditionally takes place the weekend before Election Day. The state of Ohio suddenly had a problem with early voting occurring the weekend before Election Day, so officials tried to end the practice. Thankfully the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the Secretary of State’s attempt to limit access to early voting. In Florida, the Governor reduced early voting by cutting the number of days available to vote in half. That did not stop Souls to the Polls from happening in Florida; they just did it weeks earlier. Other activities by Florida Republicans include shortening the hours of early voting, changing the laws to control how groups carry out voter registration, and fewer precincts in large voter districts. Thanks in part to the Governor slashing early voting opportunities the state of Florida had another voting debacle that should embarrass every citizen in that state. Voters – Democrats, Republicans and Independents – all suffered hours long waits to vote. Some people were still in line to vote even after the Presidential Election was decided. These shenanigans caused the state of Florida to delay final vote tallies till six days after the election. Despite these diabolical attempts to suppress votes the President won all three states anyway.

Attempts by the Right to limit their right to vote lit a fire under young voters, as well as under African American, Hispanic and Asian voters in a way that President Obama and any of his surrogates probably never could. (See how voter ID laws affect Latinos.)  People of color and young voters recognized that the new obstacles to voting were really schemes designed to discourage their participation in the electorate. The Republicans tried to make sure that the 2012 minority and youth electorate did not mirror the one from 2008.  It worked. The combined percentage of minority and youth voters turned out to be higher than it was in 2008. In Ohio alone African American turnout increased 33% over 2008. That surge proved to be essential in the President winning Ohio. The souls really did go to the polls.

One of my fears, however, is a repeat of 2010. There was a 20% drop-off in voter participation across the board during the mid-term elections. This resulted in Republicans seizing control of the Congress. If the drop-off had been limited to 10-15% the Republicans may not have earned the power of the gavel in Congress.

I don’t doubt that the racist outbursts seen at Tea Party rallies and the brazen disrespect that whites have shown over the years toward President Obama (like shouting at him during the State of the Union address) riled people of color who may have felt personally insulted by their shameless bigotry.  The racism displayed by the Right probably re-doubled minority’s resolve to “punch it” to the polls.  

Thank you, Republicans. What the GOP meant for evil, the voters turned it into good.

9)  Team Obama radically changed  how Presidential campaigns are run. Gone are the days of campaign managers who use expert guesses, “gut feelings” and unproven gimmicks to make decisions about ad buys, and candidate messaging, and get-the-vote-out operations. President Obama, David Axelrod, Jim Messina and David Plouffe assembled a team of statisticians and mathematicians  and behavioral psychologists armed with the latest academic research ready to be put to use in a winning campaign. 

Large pools of data courtesy of the census bureau and various surveys are mined to create voter profiles that are useful in deciding what methods to use to earn their vote. Information such as what issues are important to you, what TV shows you watch, your buying habits, where you surf on the ‘net, how many friends you have on Facebook, and other variables were gathered to craft outreach strategies. ( Watch the Frontline report on how registered voters are profiled in the digital age.)  There are even reports that Team Obama knew which celebrities would appeal to certain voters in different parts of the country. This bit of information was used to solicit funds and to encourage people to vote for the President.  Further, using social media, email, text messaging and Internet marketing to reach voters are tactics that were unheard of ten years ago. As a matter of fact, the Obama campaign assembled some of the best minds who were from Twitter, Google, and Facebook to create the campaign's in-house software. 

The importance of field offices and a well-organized ground game proved to be a game changer for the Obama campaign. Romney supporters ridiculed the Obama campaign’s large number of field offices in each state. But what they didn’t understand is that the offices served as a base of operation for local citizens to connect with folks in their own community. This tactic was intended have a “neighbor” influence another “neighbor” to vote for President Obama and to raise the likelihood that the voter actually goes to the polls. Relationships build trust, trust results in votes.  Part of the reason the Republicans lost the presidential race is because they did not have the same comprehensive campaign operation as Team Obama.

I suspect that President Obama was more amenable to using university academics to consult with their campaign because he was once a college professor himself. University academics tend to rigorously vet empirical data before they publish their findings in academic journals or write books. Conversely, Governor Romney, and generally those on the Right, shun university academics because they tend to be more Left-leaning or liberal than they are. College professors are often viewed with disdain or mistrust by the Right, so they are reluctant to either hire or accept consultation from academics because of their supposed bias. Naturally, people want to go where they are wanted, where their research is valued and where they have the opportunity to transfer their research from the Ivory Tower to the concrete jungle. The Left is benefiting from this desire. The Right is suffering because of it.

10) Tavis Smiley and Dr. Cornel West will now have another four years to cling to their grudges against President Obama. Smiley and West have been fuming for more than four years over perceived slights by President Obama. Smiley has never forgiven then-Senator Obama for not making an appearance at his State of the Black Union Conference in 2008. Instead, the Senator, who was campaigning to secure the Democratic nomination, offered to send his wife Michelle.  Smiley declined her appearance.  He was further irritated by the fact that Senator Hillary Clinton, who was also campaigning for the Democratic nomination, did make an appearance at his conference. He went on to endorse Senator Clinton as his choice for Democratic nominee for President. Since then Tavis Smiley has castigated President Obama, going so far as to publish a book about holding politicians accountable. On the cover of the book is a mosaic of President Barack Obama. He released the book less than 30 days after Obama took the Oath of Office. Its odd that Smiley suddenly decided to publish a book telling Black people to hold politicians accountable when he didn’t write one urging the same thing during the 16 years that Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were in office.

Dr. West is angry because he felt the President snubbed him during the 2008 Inauguration. While busy on the campaign trail Senator Obama stopped returning West’s frequent phone calls. But the straw that broke the camel’s back was when Dr. West went to Washington, DC for the Inauguration. West was livid that the hotel worker who carried his luggage up to West’s room had a ticket to the Inauguration and yet West did not. Since then he has been attacking the President at every turn because he feels betrayed by him. So West’s battle with the President is more personal than ideological. His frequent hyperbole-laced name-calling aimed at the President is thinly veiled by pseudo-intellectual jargon claiming to be policy critiques.  

So Smiley and West have teamed up to subtlety urge black folks and other people of color to abandon the President.  Turnout by African Americans and Latinos on November 6th proved their campaign against the President backfired.  One can expect that if they keep up their attacks they will be further cast into the sea of irrelevancy in African American activist and intellectual circles.

I can’t wind this post up without final observations on David Frum’s criticism of what he calls members of the “conservative entertainment complex” who have extraordinary influence over the Republican Party. Really they are hacks, frauds and snake-oil salespeople who earn their living by ignoring facts and creating their own “alternate realities”.  Even worse is that anyone on the Right who challenges their “alternate reality” or does not follow directions will be castigated on the airways (see former RNC Chair Michael Steele who crossed Rush Limbaugh).

Spinmeisters on FOX News Channel and talk radio have “sold” their audiences a narrative rooted in a culture of lies and deceit that the rank-and–file Republicans swallow as the truth. They’ve built their careers on saying the most outrageously unsubstantiated things that a large chunk of America wants to hear. Things like President Obama is a Muslim; or that he is a goose-stepping socialist; or that he is not a true American; or that Liberals are bent on ruining the country and so on. No wonder they essentially ignored or publicly derided every poll or forecast that said President Obama is likely to win. Facts are inconvenient. Facts get in the way of ratings. Unfortunately, for Governor Mitt Romney, he had to pander to that slice of the Party to get the nomination (and money). By the time the General Election rolled around it was far too late for Romney to stiff-arm that crowd and be himself – a moderate Republican who was handily elected in a liberal state.  Once again, the odds were not in his favor.

Finally, President Obama has a shot at greatness. Often when a President is elected to a second term their greatest achievements are realized mainly because they no longer have to run for re-election everyday of their Presidency. Presidents are free to make the tough choices and set their own agenda without worrying about paying a price at the polls down the road. The President has some big challenges but he also has some big ideas. And he also has some big adversaries.

Clearly President Obama is interested in being one of the great American Presidents. Hosting dinners with at the White House with some of America’s most renowned historians and biographers like Douglas Brinkley, H.W. Brands, and Doris Kearns Goodwin indicates a desire to learn from past Presidential administrations while carving out his own legacy.

I hope that President Obama’s legacy includes working to lift more people out of poverty. I was greatly troubled that both candidates ignored the poor. During this entire election season neither Governor Romney or President Obama mentioned policies that address America’s poor. Unfortunately the poor are an afterthought in America. Strategies to assistance the middle-class were practically all the candidates talked about. Even Senate and Congressional candidates seemed to forget that America still has a poverty problem. All the campaign speeches were about improving the middle-class as if boosting their economic fortunes somehow makes it better for those who are not in the middle-class. In a sense, it is a form of dribble down (as opposed to trickle down) economics. Part of the greatness of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (greatly admired by President Obama) and President Lyndon B. Johnson was their policy initiatives aimed to help the poor. I think President Barack Obama could do well to follow their example over the next four years.

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