These past couple of years have been an enlightening period to a sociologically inclined person. What we saw in the run up into the 2012 election season was the sociological theory of confluence, meaning multiple political, economic, institutional, and ideological factors coming together to actively shape a previously undetermined future. The outcome of the election on Tuesday, contrary to what many on the right wing believe, was not just because of Superstorm Sandy, Chris Christie and his praise for president Obama, or because Mitt Romney was a flawed candidate. It was because of a confluence of changes in the make-up of the American voting population, their ideology, their vision for America, the successes of Obama's first term despite Republican plotting to bring down his presidency, the successes of a brilliant campaign team that helped re-elect him, and the extreme policy positions and ideological leanings of a very white, very old, very male republican party that eventually elected Barack Obama on Tuesday night.
Patterns in the demography have disfavored republicans for a very long time, but it was not until very recently that democrats could actually turn the coalition of voters into actual political potential. What I mean by "patterns in demography" is this: the coalition the democrats put together this cycle is far and away the most diverse coalition ever seen in the political history of this nation. Since its inception, minorities were marginalized politically, and only white men held power in this country. Slowly, but surely, this basic reality of American politics has changed. The proportion of white voters to minority voters has radically altered since the 1980's. To be sure, the republican party misread this basic fact about the american voting population at their own peril. In short, they were playing for white votes, but in today's political environment, it isn't enough. This was a large part of Mitt Romney's problem. Backed by a cast of conservative characters, Mitt Romney single handedly alienated black people, Hispanics/Latinos, women, GLBT, and young people in his march rightward to secure his waning base during the republican primaries. During the general election, Mr. Romney tried running away from these positions, but the damage was already done. Romney was the "lets make "illegals"/self deportation/abortion/welfare/lazy minorities a big deal" candidate all throughout the republican primaries.
And then there was the issue of Mitt Romney being viewed as the completely out of touch Mormon venture capitalist who would rather fire you than give up just one of his twenty six car elevators. For example, the 47% video, which crystallized not only Mr. Romney's view of the "rabble", but conservatives view of the "rabble" as well. There it was, in proverbial black and white: Mitt Romney articulating the position that half the country were the "takers", the lazy, undeserving poor who have come to be dependent on government to do everything for them. Of course, this did not play well in many places, especially the swing states, that had been hard hit from the recession, and counted on government assistance to get their economy running again. Which brings me to the next blunder of the Romney campaign: let detroit go bankrupt. It was this that ultimately doomed him in Ohio and cost him the election as a whole. With this one statement (disclaimer: Mitt Romney did not actually write "let detroit go bankrupt" that was the NYT reporter who broke the story, but Romney's article was clear: he would have like the auto industry to go bankrupt), Mitt Romney showed the American public who he really was: a vain vulture capitalist who would throw away half the country to make a buck. Not a very tenable position at a time in American history when economic populism has been on the rise since a tough recession.
Then there was the wild card: the absolute repudiation of the Reagan era belief that tax cuts for the rich create jobs, that government can do nothing right, and that the private sector's wishes should be seen to at all costs. For the first time in recent political memory, a candidate actually campaigned on tax and revenue increases successfully. That is a major shift in public opinion since the 1980's, and once again, one that the republican party writ large did not predict. No one, not the democrats or republicans could predict this ideological shift in the American electorate, but there it is, in black and white. Both candidates ran on their vision of the economic future of America: Barack Obama envisioned a society that was a little fairer, that asked the rich to pay more. Mitt Romney, on the other hand, is one of the first conservatives not able to sell the American public on tax cuts, and that worked in Barack Obama's and democrat's favor for sure.
But Mitt Romney's problems as a candidate extended far past the republican party's demography problem, and Mitt's unfortunate personal failings. Their main problem stems directly from the policy positions taken up by the right wing since the election of Barack Obama. Since the 2008 election, the republicans have made it their number one priority to defeat president obama. And, at all costs, at great peril to the country, they tried to achieve that goal. In this unyielding march to delegitimize the sitting US President, the right wing of the republican party became the mainstream. The Tea Party, the by-product of this plan to unseat President Obama, got in the driver's seat of the republican party and steered them further and further right. The group, which ostensibly started as a true grassroots conservative movement, was quickly coopted, and turned into a pro-corporate astroturf movement. All the while, various tea party protests demonstrated the very worst of right wing extremism in American politics -- openly racist, xenophobic, homophobic and classist signs were prominently displayed at protests around the country. Gun toting, tricorn hat wearing, rush limbaugh listening dullards came out across the country to show their disapproval of the new black president. The tea party was gaining support all across the country throughout 08-09 and the republican party saw an opening to make their plan come to fruition.
In the very beginning of the President's first term, the leaders of the republican party wanted a way to bring him down, and in the popularity of the Tea Party the found an opening. As 08-09 came to a close, the euphoria of Barack Obama's first election had long since come to a close, and a new era of extreme right wing conservatism in American politics was about to begin. The Summer of 09 brought the birth of the "Angry town hall meeting" that featured tea party members filling town hall meetings and angrily shouted down any and all democratic legislators that dared support any part of Obama's "socialistic, anti-American agenda". Of course, most of their talking points were disseminated by the now corporate co-opted tea party groups such as the Tea Party Express, which added fuel to the now completely fucking insane fire.
The Summer of 09 pointed to the bitterly partisan period to come. While the tea party was raging, republicans continued to opposed even bills they helped to write and even co-sponsored just to score political points against the president. With the midterm elections of 2010, when the country plunged into a deep sea of red in many states on the local, state and federal level. With the boost in support, especially in the House of Representatives where the democrats got a good thorough drubbing, the republicans felt emboldened to openly push legislation with a particular right wing bent. The republicans had campaigned at all levels on the economy, now, coming out of the state houses and House of Representatives were these bills that continued the old social warfare agenda they had been waging for a very long time, in political terms. The house voted to repeal Obamacare 33 times. They made a stink about the debt limit, something under republican leadership they had never done. They pushed a very extreme anti-abortion agenda that many people felt dangerous to women's rights in this country. It was this rightward drift that brought many republicans out of line with the thinking of the majority of Americans, and lead directly to their downfall. The population wanted jobs, wanted action, wanted results and what they got was the same tired social conservative zealotry they got 16 years before with the 94 republican wave election. They overreached, and the American people rebuked them strongly Tuesday night.
Every effort made by the President in this period of extreme intransigence by the Republican party was hindered. Every objective to help move the country forward was sabotaged at every level. And yet, through it all, the President accomplished so much: from Lily Ledbetter, to PPACA, to killing Osama Bin Laden and decimating AQ and other FP successes, to nuclear disarmament, providing more money for public services, saving the economy and way more that I am forgetting right now. Through it all this man had the intestinal fortitude to stand up to incredible odds and say "I believe." even in the face of doubt even from his own staff. This no doubt had an effect on Tuesday's election. It gave something for the American people to point to and say, concretely, that there have been solid, tangible successes in this Presidency, despite any failures by the President's team to actually explain those successes.
Of course, there is also the brilliant campaign run by the Obama people. At every level, Team Obama trounced Romney: from use of social networks to help set narrative and disseminate information, to the micro-targeting of potential voters to help understand exactly who was voting for him and the issues that mattered to them. Despite one major slip (the First Debate, which now I realize was not some 13-D chess, but a genuine, honest mistake), the democrats at all levels ran almost perfect campaigns. For the first time at least in my political memory, democrats at all levels echoed one message: the economic and social policies of Mitt Romney and the republican party are from an antiquated age when we thought more god and tax cuts would solve all of our problems. Democratic and progressive leaning media outlets also did a fantastic job of fact-checking and countering republican lies, and pushing back at conservatives by asking them specific question about their policies on camera then immediately put it on the internet where it could get eyeballs. Everyone from the politicians themselves, to the top media advisors, to progressive reporters and news outlets, to even rank-and-file OFA and progressive bloggers were all on message this cycle. It was, indeed, a brilliant thing to behold.
The final nail in Mr. Romney's electoral coffin was, in my view, Superstorm Sandy, although it does not get as much weight as other events earlier in the season. The Superstorm right before the election did, however, remind the US that government could work together to solve crises and problems, that when republicans and democrats work together shit gets done. The intransigence of the republican party in the years before, eventually, came to backfire on them as Obama demonstrated right before the eyes of the country that he could work together, reach across the aisle, and look presidential while doing it. This was just icing on the cake, the election, by this point, was by and large over. But it did give the American Public one last chance to look at the President -- not just the President of the 53% or 47% but President of the 100% -- and thank their lucky star that republicans, at that moment, were not in charge.
It was these elements that came together in spectacular fashion on Tuesday night, and the proceeding bombshell rocked the United States, and undoubtedly, the world: the American people rejected the republican party and the politics of the past and moved ahead. We won, handily, on the ground, with our ideas. And no matter how much Rove would like to think otherwise, they lost, with their ideas, not just with an extremely flawed candidate or a freak accident of nature. They lost, truly and amazingly. And then melted down for days afterward, showing this country that they were truly, truly not ready to lead.
Now, its starting to leak out in small drips that the Romney campaign was largely a corporate con game -- that Mr. Romney surrounded himself by yes men that would tell him everything and anything he wanted to hear. And I ask you, fellow kossacks, does this come as a surprise to you? It doesn't to me.
The only surprise is how close Romney came. We must vow that it will never be close again.
Onward, to victory in 2014 and 2016!