Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Three lessons from yesterday's election
- by New Deal democrat
Regular economic blogging will resume shortly. I can't let the election pass without noting a few Big Picture items:
1. The "Whistling Past Dixie" majority is here.
Obama won when Ohio was called by all the networks at about 11:20 p.m. EST. At that time Obama hadn't won even one state in the Confederacy. As I type this, Florida is still out, and Virginia was just the icing on the cake. Looking at past electoral college results, this is the first time since 1924 - 88 years ago - that Dixie has voted uniformly for one candidate, and that candidate has still lost. This is a major shift in electoral politics, even more dramatic than in 2008, and likely to endure (obviously not in every election) for at least a generation.
2. The "tea party" has cost the GOP the Senate.
The GOP lost at least 4 easy Senate pick-ups between 2010 and 2012. By nominating right wing purists (or nutcases) in Nevada (Sharron Angle) and Delaware (Chris MacDonnell) in 2010, and Todd Akin (Missouri) and Richard Mourdock (Indiana) in 2012, the GOP threw away 4 easy seats. In each case a more "pure" social conservative defeated a traditional GOP conservative in the primary (e.g., Tom Carper in Delaware, Richard Lugar in Indiana), and then lost the general election. As a progressive, I hope the GOP learns no lesson whatsoever from this.
3. The balance of power on the Supreme Court is likely to change.
Two of the five reactionary Supreme Court Justices are in their late 70's. Both Justices Scalia and Kennedy are 76 years old. It's likely that Obama will have the chance to replace at least one of them in the next four years. Obama will appoint a moderate or liberal to replace them. For the first time since 1969, the Court will begin to move to the left.
These are still the beginings of several trends that will take decades to play out. The GOP's "southern strategy" began in 1968 and was wildly successful through 2004. The "Whistling past Dixie" majority is still in its early stages.
P.S.: In the most underreported vote last night, with possibly the biggest long-term impact on the country, Puerto Rico voted in favor of statehood. In a two-step referendum, 54% voted to change the island's status with the US, and then 61% voted to become a US state. The referendum is not binding on the Congress, and I don't see the GOP House honoring it, but this is a Big Effing Deal.
Let me add my two cents (inflation adjusted, of course).
Being a creature of habit and routine, I've had a regular dinner at the same restaurant for the last 10 years (literally). It's in an area of Houston that has a very good school system, so it attracts families. Over that time, I've seen the customer make-up change drastically. The biggest difference is that whites are now a minority. Obama won without a majority of the white vote for the second time. That's a huge change and represents a vast difference in US politics.
To continue, the next states that will become swing states are Arizona and Texas. Both have growing Hispanic populations which will soon outnumber whites. And the Republican party has done nothing but completely antagonize this population for the last 10 years. Several states have passed bills that deal with asking for papers to prove citizenship. This even got on Gabriel Iglesias' nerves -- so much so that he wanted to play a joke on the entire state. When you've gotten Fluffy to become political, you've really crossed a line.
Lindsay Graham said it best:
"The demographics race we're losing badly," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told the Washington Post. "We're not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term."
I've written this before, but I think it bears repeating. This was Romney's election to lose. The economy was weak, and Obama was not in a strong position. Yet Romney did lose. And that should terrify Republicans badly. The question is, why? And the answer is the Republican base pulled all the candidates to the political right of Stalin during the primary season, giving the Obama campaign ample fodder during the election. Think about all the lines the Democrats used against the Republicans that Romney uttered during the primary contests: "Planned Parenthood, we'll get rid of that;" "I object to FEMA;" etc...
In addition, none of the Republican candidates looked reasonable. Instead, they all looked nuts, literally trying to outdo each other with their own brand of crazy. Herman Caine's slogan was the equivalent of a pizza commercial, Michelle Bachman thinks vaccines cause autism, Rick Perry can't get a complete sentence out ... the list goes on. Not one of these people were serious people who a rational person could trust with true power.
I think one of the biggest reasons for this is the anti-science/anti-intellectual bent of the current Republican leadership. Remember Rick Santorum's "the president is a snob because he wants people to go to school" line? From denouncing global warming (ask New York if that's just a theory) to arguing for the teaching of creationism to the banning of studies that disprove a central tenant of your platform, the Republicans have been at war with facts, figures and data for a number of years. And the end result is that stupid is winning. Consider that only 6% of scientists identify as Republicans.
The Republicans have a lot of soul searching to do right now. If they continue on their current path, they will only be able to attract uneducated whites -- a declining population. That's not exactly what you want your base to be.