What Propelled Obama to Victory and Sent the Plutocrats and Racists to a Brutal Defeat
On Tuesday night Barack Obama – who had led Mitt Romney in most Electoral College projections every single day of this race – won the election that he was supposed to. But that win represented so much more than a victory for a moderate Democrat. We hear that every election is the most important election of our lives -- it's a cliché. This year, it may well prove to be true.
The diverse, creative, younger coalition that propelled the first black president – a guy whose middle name is Hussein – to the presidency, beat back what may well have been the last stand of Ronald Reagan's coalition of plutocrats, white working-class men and religious conservatives. The Republican party, with its deep-pocketed donors and extensive network of supportive media and think-tanks remains viable for the immediate future – thanks in part to some dramatic gerrymandering in 2010 – but the demographic head winds it faces will soon be too powerful to overcome. The GOP's most reliable supporters remain white, married couples who identify themselves as Christians, a group that continues its sharp decline in numbers.
Women, especially unmarried women, delivered a sharp blow to those “limited government” conservative men who feel entitled to regulate their reproductive choices and are intent on making them miserable – with waiting periods and vaginal probes and the forced consumption of anti-abortion propaganda – if they make a choice that conflicts with the beliefs of the religious right.
A fifth hard-right justice won't be seated on the Supreme Court for the next four years -- a lost opportunity for the Chamber of Commerce and a potential victory for Roe v Wade,the Voting Rights Act and a slew of other key precedents.
Although it's unlikely that the war is over, the politics of playing on white racial anxiety lost a major battle on Tuesday night as well. The Romney campaign, as my colleague Adele Stan wrote, “pushed the boundaries of 'acceptable racism' to extremes.” The dog-whistles from the conservative media went far beyond, yet it wasn't enough to win it for Romney.
Tens of millions of Americans who were priced out of the insurance market won big on Tuesday. Rather than seeing a concerted effort to strangle “Obamacare” in its cradle, the administration's signature achievement will be fully implemented, and hopefully then built upon and improved in the same way Social Security and Medicare were. Millions of poor people will get tax-funded, single-payer healthcare through an expanded Medicaid program and tens of millions more will come to realize that there are no death panels, but there are subsidies for small businesses to provide insurance for their workers, and more subsidies for middle-class families that have been getting squeezed to death by the growing burden of their heal-care costs. Watch the popularity of Obama's health-care reforms rise over the next four years. That will also be a victory over the right's almost religious belief that “the market” can cure all our ills.
Voters and election protection activists scored a very hard-fought win over those who believe that some Americans have a greater right to vote than others. Efforts to suppress the vote among typically Democratic-leaning groups was flagrant and widespread. But Americans waited in the cold on those 6-hour lines, they got the right ID and jumped through whatever hoops they had to. And the lawyers blocked or blunted many of the worst restrictions on our right to vote. Small-d democracy won on Tuesday. Karl Rove, with his plan to use the concocted specter of voter fraud to gain a structural advantage lost.
A unified America was a winner as well. It's likely that most voters didn't grasp just how reactionary the Romney-Ryan agenda really was. They would have turned vast swaths of our already threadbare social safety-net over to the states to administer, making deep cuts in the process. As a result, people living in “blue” and “red” states would have effectively become citizens of different countries. The poor and working class in those red states would have been eligible for far fewer public benefits. The disparities that now exist in funding education, job training and the like would have become far more pronounced. We would have no longer been citizens of the United States who happen to live in Alabama or Vermont; we would become Alabamians and Vermonters, citizens of states with markedly different philosophies of government.
Gays and lesbians emerged victorious on Tuesday. Not only did the first president to come out in support of marriage equality win – one whose administration has worked tirelessly, often below the radar, to advance LGBT rights – but Wisconsin's Tammy Baldwin will also be seated as the first openly gay senator in the history of the United States. As of this writing, marriage equality passed by a popular vote for the first and second times in history – in Maryland and Maine. A third ballot initiative recognizing marriage equality is ahead in Washington State; a proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage is trailing in Minnesota.
After the running the most opaque and mendacious campaign in memory, “post-truth politics” lost on Tuesday. Never again will a candidate think he or she can promise to reveal his or her plans after the election and hope it will fly with the public.
Fat-cat, right-wing donors spent billions for nothing. As Paul Blumenthal notes, Casino Magnate Sheldon Adelson went 0-5 in campaigns in which he invested over $50 million. As much as $6 billion was spent in an election that returned the same Speaker of the House and Senate Majority Leader, and the same man in the Oval Office.
Reality-based analysis, personified by nerdy number-cruncher Nate Silver, landed a devastating blow to a legion of lazy pundits who make their living relaying what their guts are telling them. Who's got “the MoJo” -- who's winning the soccer mom vote or the waitress vote or white working class men – is now an irrelevance, trivia.
The Tea Party lost again. Two years after they pushed Sharron Angle and Christine O'Donnell to victory in Republican primaries, only to see them beaten by mainstream candidates, history repeated itself. Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock went down in flames, giving the Democrats four senate seats that they should not have.
Now, for progressive America, the fight turns. We can savor a victory over those who would take us back to an earlier time, but only briefly. Now we have to organize, and turn our energy to pressuring the Democrats to fight for our ideals. We now have a progressive coalition in the United States that can win against steep odds. That coalition is ultimately the big winner of the 2012 election.