7 Big Lessons from Obama's Win
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So, let’s get this straight: A Republican President is re-elected in 2004 with 284 electoral votes and the pundits say he has the “political capital” to push an extreme right-wing mandate. A Democratic President gets re-elected in 2012 with 303 electoral votes, and they’re telling us he needs to “unite a divided country.”
This election was a clear and unequivocal victory for the populist positions the President took on the campaign trail. Don’t believe the hype: This was a great night for progressives, populists, and agents of change. Our political system may be dominated by Big Money, but this was a victory for the 99 Percent.
We’ve been through our Dark Night of the Soul. Now it’s time for inspiration — and for determination to build on these victories in the weeks, months, and years to come. I’m not known for being a “silver lining” kind of guy, but there’s a lot of silver in the sky this morning.
Here are seven lessons from this election that have been under-reported, or overlooked completely, in all the media frenzy. They include Occupy Wall Street’s victory, the “Harold and Kumar” factor, Harry Reid’s big mandate, and the fact that “Socialism” sells.
1. Occupy Wall Street won big.
The Occupy movement may have disappeared from the national media eye, but this election was a big win for its vision and language. As that movement caught the national imagination, the President quickly (and wisely) adopted its populist rhetoric. That may have hurt the tender feelings of America’s CEOs, especially those on Wall Street, but it help cement his decisive victory.
The nature of that victory was underscored by wins for staunch progressives like Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown, even as far-right candidates like Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock went down in defeat.
The President’s populist theme didn’t end with his victory. He spoke last night of a “generous America,” a “compassionate America,” a “tolerant America.”
His deeply victory moving speech mentioned deficit reduction – once – but emphasized the following themes: Our “common bond.” The “weakening” effect of “inequality.” The “destructive power of a warming planet.” “The best schools and teachers.” Ending our two wars. Investment in “technology and discovery and innovation,” with “good jobs” to follow.
The President deserved his victory. But as this election came to a close, it was the dreamers in Zuccotti Park who Occupied the Night.
2. This was a bigger victory than it looks.
John Nichols did an excellent piece in The Nation comparing last night’s victory to that of previous Presidents. Read it and remember: This was the first post- Citizens United election. Billionaires and corporations poured hundreds of millions of dollars into races across the country, as well as the Presidential campaign -
- and they still lost.
When you compare last night’s Democratic victory to previous election results, add a “billionaire factor” to get a more apples-to-apples comparison.
(I should be a better person than this, but I take no small amount of satisfaction in knowing that Sheldon Adelson and the Koch Brothers wasted lots and lots and lots of money this year.)
3. Social issues will help Democrats now.
Voters in Colorado and Washington voted to legalize recreational pot-smoking, while a medical-marijuana initiative won in Massachusetts. This may be the first time in history that getting high actually increased voter turnout. At this rate politicians may soon find themselves courting that all-important “Harold and Kumar” demographic.
For years liberals have watched in frustration as conservatives coasted to victory on social issues, despite the harm that their economic policies caused conservative voters. That’s the phenomenon Thomas Franks discussed in What’s the Matter With Kansas? Anti-gay marriage initiatives were used to increase conservative turnout and wound John Kerry in 2004, for example.