It hasn’t been a long night. Around 10 PM Eastern, someone on one of the channels I had been following said that President Obama’s motorcade was getting ready to take him to his election center, in Chicago. It meant that the Democrats were certain about their presidential win.
I could feel the anguish emanating from our own chat line here, at the JewishPress.com. I was hearing similar cries of woe from a few open Skype lines on my desktop. Towards the end there, I think many of us started believing that a Romney win was a real possibility. A Dick Morris prediction of a Romney landslide win we ran here got close to 30 thousand page views in half a day. Regardless of its very loose connection to reality on this planet, the story expressed the yearnings of so many who flocked to our website in search of a voice to reflect their own.
The Democrats have retained control over the Senate, with 51 seats plus two independents. Not the kind of numbers that can break a filibuster. The Republicans will keep the House, with a net loss in the single digits. This means Obama had no coat tails whatsoever in this election. He barely got over the hedge himself. He has won better than 300 delegates to the Electoral College, but that does not mean that he received a mandate from the people. He won by a squeak.
I believe the Republicans have achieved their most basic goal this time around, namely, that their presidential candidate—who was destined to lose to an incumbent—wouldn’t perform so atrociously that his defeat would coat-tail the Republican House with it down in flames. Remember Governor Perry? Speaker Gingrich? Congresswoman Michele Bachmann? So Romney delivered the bare minimum that was expected of him: Don’t make matters even worse. That was the reason the party leaders, along with the Bush clan and Karl Rove were so adamant about supporting Romney – they and the billion dollar budget they brought in with them.
The fact that Romney almost won the presidency while he was at it was above and beyond their initial expectations. I think Romney spent much of the campaign playing to tie rather than win. It was only when he met the enemy in the first debate and drew blood that he realized he could actually make it. That’s my hunch.
Political Science majors should take note of the miracle performed by Obama Tuesday. Until this year, no incumbent president since FDR in 1940 has won re-election with unemployment over 7.2%. Well, Obama has broken the mold, winning despite unemployment hovering at between 7.6 and 7.9%. This means there were additional circumstances that weighed in his favor. I believe two factors were in play:
1. America is losing its White majority. It is sinking fast, and this year it is 72.4% White. Back in 2000, it was 75.1% white (In 2011, White new births were outnumbered by non-White 50.5% to 49.5%). Since Romney lost by such a small margin (roughly a million votes nationwide), it means that had this election been held in 2004—all other things staying the same—it would have been a Republican victory.
A good friend suggested to me early Tuesday morning that the Republicans were experiencing the broken glass effect, meaning they would crawl over broken glass to vote their choice, that’s how much they hated Obama. But my wife commented that, judging by the images of long lines of African American and Hispanic voters standing in line in Florida, Virginia and Ohio, it appears they, too, would be perfectly willing to take the crunch. That’s how much they feared Romney.
2. The Republican Party has to regain the center for real. Let’s face it, Romney was working hard to appear like a benign centrist, but you can’t be against the Dream Act and against abortion rights in this country and hope to be considered a centrist. I’m afraid that with its zeal to embrace the authentic Tea Party candidates, the Evangelicals, and the NRA crowd, the GOP has edged out the last of its liberal and moderate stars. This works well for the red states and even for local races in many blue states, but if the GOP wants to govern, it has to rediscover its businessmen/women, its bankers and its moderate intellectuals, or it won’t stand a chance to win presidential politics ever again.