Through the Watershed

I imagine you’re as sick of political campaigns as I am, so I want to make a few last points about what happened Tuesday and then I hope we can stop thinking about politics for a few months at least.

Maybe it was exhaustion, but by the time Mitt Romney conceded early Wednesday, I had the impression that the 2012 election was more significant than the 2008, even if it lacked the historical aspect.

To my mind, Tuesday’s election was the watershed when the governance of United States of America passed finally from the hands of white men to the demographically wealthy nation we have been for so long.  Good thing, too.

A commentator, on one of the stations, observed Romney/Ryan will likely be the last national ticket comprised of two straight, white, Christian men.  Henceforth, one of each pair of running mates will be a woman or person of color (most likely Latino, they will still be pandering politicians, after all).

Latinos are ascendant.  Latino turnout in this election was 10 percent of voters, up from eight percent four years ago.  African Americans came out in strong numbers, as did young people; explaining the Republicans’ desperate attempts to suppress the votes of those groups.  Their demographic projections were accurate; it was the way they chose to respond to those projections that was lamentable.

The Republican Party is in a bad place.  You don’t need me to tell you that.  In the last six presidential elections, it has lost the popular vote five times and its one popular vote win was by a microns-thin margin.  The GOP has strapped itself to a base that is old and angry and more out of touch with the American public each passing minute. (Some polls may have obtained overly optimistic results for Romney/Ryan by underpolling cell phone users, who skew younger than the R/R base.)  Same sex marriage and marijuana – which were wedge issues for the Republicans in previous elections – won all over the country Tuesday.  Wisconsin elected the first open lesbian – Tammy Baldwin – to the Senate and her orientation was not an issue.  (It helped that her opponent – former Gov. “Toxic Tommy” Thompson – was an Instagram of everything that’s wrong with the GOP.)  Younger people attracted to the GOP for reasons of tax, fiscal and commerce policy would love to shed the racist, sexist, homophobic and jingoistic tendencies of the party.  They want to get their eyes out of your bedroom and their hands into your retirement account.

The problem is the old boat/dock straddling issue.  How do you ditch one base for another without falling hopelessly between them?   Why should voters suddenly trust Republicans on civil rights and immigration reform, or trust them more than Democrats?

Worse, without social and cultural wedge issues, how can Republicans ever hope to get people to vote against their interests and thus aggregate the numbers needed to put anyone in office?  You can’t build a base on a “no taxes” platform alone.  It’s not for nothing that we refer to the greedy rich as the “one percent.”

Another thing about this year’s election is some people – Nate Silver particularly – proved adept at cutting through the number fog, doing for presidential politics what Bill James did for baseball.  The media (for the page views), Democrats (for the GOTV) and Republicans (to have any hope at all) had incentive to portray the race as “razor close” in its closing weeks, but anyone reading Mr. Silver’s blog (or other decent political blogs, Talking Points Memo for example) or following the graphs at the Iowa Electronic Markets, knew this race was out of Mitt Romney’s reach pretty much all along.

Today’s Washington Post reminded this year’s doofus pundits just how wrong they were.  Even before the voting began, it was clear who was blowing smoke.  (Try not to gloat.)

What’s that mean for the future?  That politicos will no longer be able to tell huge lies?  No, just that we have even less reason now to believe them.

© Mark Floegel, 2012

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