15 Big Takeaways From The Election Of The Century (Okay, So Far Anyway)
Republicans need to stop, take a deep breath and learn.
~ NEWT GINGRICH
Nearly two weeks after the most
important presidential election since 1932, my big takeaway is that Barack Obama's re-election was even more historic than his
victory in 2008. That is, despite continuing economic ills and a Mitt
Romney-Paul Ryan campaign deft at tailoring its message to what
audiences wanted to hear -- whether fat cats at closed-door fundraisers
or on the stump in the heartland -- the coalition that elected the first
African-American president not only did not fray but it grew, handing
the incumbent an unlikely but well-deserved victory.
* Despite all the high- and low-tech tools,
as well as a mind-boggling $1.2 billion at their disposal, Romney-Ryan ran a Campaign
of Magical Thinking that was a study of what happens when people live and
think in a bubble. It wasn't until about 10 p.m. on election night when
Pennsylvania fell to Obama and Ohio became out of reach, that it
began to dawn on the candidates and their yes-man advisers that it takes
more than fairy dust to persuade a majority of voters -- let alone a
majority of voters in swing states -- to believe you are of
* Romney never could seal the deal primarily because he was unable to articulate an economic message that went beyond lower taxes and the hair-brained notion that he could create 12 million jobs with the snap of a finger. This is because he didn't give a crap about people and was terrible at attempting to show that he did. While voters were disappointed about the slow economic recovery, many understood it was the Bush administration that had caused the recession.
* Despite Citizens United,
national elections still are not for
sale. At least not yet. PACs and Super PACs spent hundreds of millions of dollars on ads
attack Obama. Republican wrestling magnate Linda McMahon spent $100 million of her
own money while her campaign distributed door hangers urging Connecticut votes to support she and Obama. McMahon and most Republicans bankrolled by wealthy donors were rejected, while Romney spent $6.35 per vote and Obama only $1.83.
* The Republican Party will not win another national election until it alters its extremist message. Minorities have accounted for 85 percent of the U.S.'s population
growth over the past decade, with the Democratic Party reaping an overwhelming majority of newly-registered blacks, Latinos and Asian-Americans. Republicans will not be able to turn their party around by merely pandering on immigration, although they certainly will try.
post-racial America seems to be, if anything, further away than it did
after Obama's 2008 victory. The depiction of him as not being American
-- and alternatively Kenyan, Indonesian and Muslim -- and therefore
ineligible to be president, was not just the view of the lunatic fringe
but a sizable minority of Republicans, while the fact remains that
beyond Obama only two other blacks have been elected to the Senate since
Virtually every voter
ID law enacted in states where Republicans held sway was overturned or
held in abeyance until after the election, but efforts to disenfranchise
minority voters through baseless allegations of fraud and corruption
continued through Election Day in some states where poll workers
made it more difficult for minorities to vote. Overall, suppression efforts
were at their greatest since Jim Crow laws were abolished in the late
1950s into the 1960s.
* The president fully leveraged the advantages of incumbency. Like George W. Bush in 2004, his campaign team had the benefit of having run a national campaign and faced no primary challenges. Obama had the most sophisticated GOTV organization in electoral history while Romney had a jalopy of an organization.
* Obama benefited from an October Surprise -- Superstorm Sandy -- that enabled him to be presidential, lip lock with Republican Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey and get New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's endorsement while Romney fumed on the sidelines.
* What happened on the fourth Wednesday of June had repercussions on what happened on the first Tuesday of November.
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts' deciding vote in upholding the
Affordable Care Act did not remove it as a campaign issue, but the high
court's validation of health-care reform left Romney with
little other than repeatedly saying that he would repeal it on his first
day in office.
* Fact checkers came into their own. They found many of Romney's
statements to be demonstrably false as well as a few of Obama's, but
this did not prevent the Republican candidate from lying with relatively
impunity because a cowardly mainstream media more or less looked the other way as he
simultaneously held opposing positions on issues ranging from abortion
to Medicare to education to defense policy.
* Democrats have
surrendered the intellectual high ground over decades of Republican
opposition to government intervention in personal, social and economic
affairs. The result
is that with the exception of the Affordable Care Act, Democrats have
stopped thinking big and Obama has shied away from major initiatives such as
public works projects and immigration reform.
Although that opposition has been no better personified than after the Republican
takeover of the House in 2010, a vast majority of voters -- as many as
80 percent in exit polls -- have had it with hard-nosed politics,
particularly the refusal to compromise, although that lesson remains
unlearned by the Republican leadership post-election because the obstructionist Tea
Party remains the tail that wags the GOP dog.
* Unbelievably, some Republicans are proclaiming that hanging onto the House despite falling further behind in the Senate and failing to retake the White House is nevertheless a mandate to continue pushing its tired agenda. After
all, the popular vote was close.
* Despite a gracious concession speech, Romney continues to gripe that Obama won because he gave "gifts" to minorities and young voters, which is code for his 47 Percenters. This must have entailed quite an effort since Obama got more electoral votes than any winner since George H.W.
Bush defeated Michael Dukakis in 1988.
* At the end of the day -- in this case, Election Day -- Obama made the better argument that he would make voters' lives better. Nothing else mattered as much.