Demography hands the White House to Barack Obama

| November 10, 2012

A slow economy and poor labor market was not a critical liability for a US President with favourable demographics on his side. In a divided and polarized USA, it was more crucial to win the battle of demography, than the battle of the economy.

Barack Obama’s election victory on the morning of Wednesday November 7, 2012, was a shock to the Republican body politic. It was also an intensely historic moment. In the midst of an unemployment rate of nearly 8%, and an anemic economy, no President since Francis Delano Roosevelt had won an election victory in such an environment.

For Republicans, Barack, although the First African American to become President of the United States, was simply another Jimmy Carter: a one term President. Barack was considered a big government type; the President was even called a socialist with questionable birth credentials. A significant percentage of Republicans, including the republican base of white Evangelicals were unsure whether the President was even a US Citizen by birth, or a Christian.

The sad truth, as described in the Friday, November 9 Edition of the National Memo, was that, ‘’ an awful lot of white Protestant Evangelicals, across the DEEP SOUTH especially, ‘’ saw Barack Obama as, ‘’ a secular stand in for the ANTI CHRIST: a smooth talking deceiver representing Liberal cosmopolitanism in its most treacherous disguise.’’

For four years, the right wingers in Congress and the Senate refused to play ball with a black President. Instead, they waited for his inevitable exit from the White House. The Republicans were very wrong in thinking they would drive Barack from power that easily.

What went wrong for the Republicans was this: in a USA with a swiftly growing Latina population that no longer trusted or even liked the Republicans; Jews who vote Democrat in much bigger numbers than they vote Republican, women who were a majority of the electorate and that voted Democrat in general; a black minority that was overwhelmingly Democratic; and a liberal white population in the North East and California that was weary of the right wing soundings of Evangelicals from the South, the Democrats had demography on their side.

The simple fact is that race played a significant role in this election. 72% of voters were white. And most of these, especially white males favoured the Republicans. Republicans were very mistaken if they thought they could win with the white vote alone, however.

The white voter’s control of the US political process was ending, and Republicans failed to reach out to Latinas and blacks sufficiently, to prop up their overwhelming advantage among white voters.

And in a new political world, and fast changing electoral landscape, the white voter is going to continue to decrease as a proportion of the overall US voting population as the years pass. If Republicans fail to get some reasonable element of support from minorities, especially Latinas, the Republican Party will be at a permanent disadvantage in US politics.

However, Barack Obama held on to enough of the white vote, 39%, especially white females,  to ensure that his solid support from other key demographics like Jews, Latinas and blacks, took him to the required electoral college math for victory. On the other hand, Romney received over 60% of the white vote, and the white older male voted overwhelmingly Republican. Sadly for him, that wasn’t enough.

And indeed USA economics, with a stubborn unemployment metric, and slow economic growth, add annual trillion dollar deficits and a 16 trillion dollar national debt mountain, was bad for Barack Obama and the Democrats.

However, demographics that put whole subsets of the US population out of play for a mainly white and Evangelical Republican Party was a much worse equation: it was also an albatross.  Romney began the race as a, ‘’ SEVERE CONSEERVATIVE,’’ then the Republican Presidential Nominee moved to the center as the race progressed, becoming a, ‘’ REPUBLICAN MODERATE in the mould of John McCain.

However, moderate voters, women, Latinas, Blacks, and Liberals, simply did not trust him, or better stated, the ‘rabid right wingers’ hiding in the alleys and recesses of the US Capitol Building.

Photo courtesy blog.latinovations.com

The real power behind the contemporary Republican Party is The Tea Party, and Paul Ryan’s right wing cabal in the US Congress, vocalized in the media by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck, Ann Coulter, and Bill O’Reilly.  This has been obvious simply observing how senior Republican figures kowtow to the nuances and demands of this right wing element in the party.

Another underlying dynamic was the issue of wealth inequality.  Globalization has made the gap between rich and middle class much wider in the United States. This is the result of US manufacturing having shifted to low cost countries, especially in the Asian Pacific. But many of these plants and assets overseas are still owned by America’s wealthy, making them even wealthier still. However, manufacturing, moving out of the US, means fewer jobs for American workers. A typical example is APPLE, and similar technology businesses, manufacturing their hugely attractive digital devices in places such as China and Taiwan.

And Mitt Romney, a multi millionaire venture capitalist was easily painted as, RICHIE RICH, who was born with a gold spoon in his mouth. Romney was even termed the Outsourcer in Chief, a parody of his capitalist credentials that probably stayed in the minds of middle class voters. This image of aloof privilege wasn’t helped by derogatory remarks made against the 47% of the US population who Romney described basically as sycophants.

Romney, with his chiseled good looks, was described as a man who never went through the trials and tribulations that a poor Barack Obama experienced at an early age. This was a narrative written by the political wizards in the Democratic Party, led by the brilliant and enigmatic David Axelrod. The drumbeat was that Romney was the rich man’s candidate, who never really cared about struggling auto workers, and a bottom line capitalist that was ready to throw US automobile manufacturing to the dogs during the recession of 2007-2009.

Apart from factors, such as a poor first debate performance by Barack Obama, then an act of God in a hurricane named Sandy that allowed voters a second look at a President in his presidential role of Rescuer in Chief, always an asset for the incumbent, this election was a song to a divided USA.

Whites predominantly voted for Mitt Romney, while Jews, Latinas, and Blacks voted Barack Obama. A simple look at the election rallies showed the makeup of each party’s base.  Behind Romney and Ryan, the faces were predominantly white and Anglo Saxon.  At Democratic rallies however, the audiences were eclectic, with a rainbow coloured mural.

In the swing states, the Latinas, the swiftest growing segment of the US population, who voted overwhelmingly for Obama, meant the Democrats winning states such as New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, Ohio, and probably Florida, a state that was still counting ballots as this story was posted, but appears to be leaning Democrat.

In essence, Romney’s failure to connect with the Latina segment of the US population, ‘cooked his goose.’ It used to be said in the US, that economics won elections. Today and tomorrow it will be demographics.

Now, Barack Obama has the opportunity to protect and shape his legacy.  In the second term the President does not have to worry about re election. He will now be able to fine tune OBAMACARE; a pseudonym for his overhaul of the American health care system towards a more socialized dynamic.

Ominously, for the American right, the US President will now appoint one or two Supreme Court judges. This will give the President the opportunity to paint a new mural in America’s ideological politics. Two liberal judges will mean the liberal agenda both protected and strengthened. This will be bad news indeed for the right wing Evangelical South, with its anti abortion, low taxes, gun loving, and small government stance.

However, the greatest legacy Obama will want to leave is a united country. Bringing together all the various strands of American society, from blacks and whites, to the rich and middle class, and bridging the ideological divide of right and left, will not be easy. A symbolic first step may be to offer Mitt Romney, a very decent family man and a gifted moneymaker, a top post in the Cabinet. Commerce or business Secretary is one option being thrown around.

Yes, building a truly united America is the greatest challenge, social and political, facing the greatest nation on earth.

 

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