Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The People Speak

After thousands of TV ads, months of speeches, and miles of newsprint, the voters have spoken and have resoundingly re-elected Barack Obama to a second term. Governor Romney and the Republican Party are both said to be in a state of shock as they thought they had the election in the bag. The predictions of Karl Rove, Morris and others that Romney could not lose have been exploded. Rove, calling the network tallies incorrect shows how far off the mark he actually was.

Relying on a pollster which over-sampled Republicans was only one of their major errors. It didn't work for younger voters, either.

Funny, somewhere along the way, they forgot to talk to the "other America". You know who I mean, the real Americans who work every day and maybe live paycheck to paycheck who need their home mortgage deduction or their job based health insurance, but who do not see themselves either as freeloaders or victims. The ones who did not believe the lies Romney told about the Jeep business moving out of Ohio, but who did see the workers at the Bain owned plant in the Midwest being required to train their Chinese replacements before the plant work was sent to China. The real Americans who paid a higher percentage of their earnings in taxes than the man who refused to share the details of his tax returns, even though he had required his VP candidates to do so.

  • They forgot to speak to the 47% disparaged so dismissively at the secretly recorded fundraiser remarks in Florida. (Speaking of fundraisers--who knows the ultimate effect of the billions spent on this election?)
  • They disregarded the millions of first generation Americans of color whose parents had immigrated to this country from across the world who now, as citizens, proudly contribute to their communities.
  • The issues of immigration were mentioned only in terms of building fences and self-deporting. President Obama's limited program of allowing those who came here as children to apply for legal identities was also widely put down.
  • They did not speak to the millions of women who visit Planned Parenthood each year for wellness exams, or who know that access to birth control is a financial issue as it allows them to balance their economics, job opportunities and family size.
  • They fanned the flames of racism with "Code-speak" talk of welfare and food stamps, forgetting the fact that the numbers of welfare recipients account for less than 5% of our population (or about 6 million of our over 310 million people) and are almost split in thirds between Whites and African Americans with a lesser number of Hispanics and "others". The 46 million people on food stamps include the young, elderly, the disabled and those below the poverty line and out of work, accounting for less than 15% of our populace.
  • The oft-repeated promises to disband "Obamacare" threatened many who had finally managed to receive health care coverage for their young children with pre-existing conditions and their young adults while they worked in entry level jobs. These are important family issues, seemingly disregarded by those who said they valued families.
  • While Romney competed aggressively in the battleground states, he lost them all. The recently "red States" of the South also saw some slippage as Florida went for Obama, while he barely lost North Carolina and again carried Virginia.
  • Some have said the Republicans are becoming a party of angry white men. While I will not go that far, I conclude that since Romney won a majority of white voters--who are a decreasing majority in this country--that there will be continued diminishing returns if this is the only outreach of the party.
  • The Republicans dismissed the "Occupy Wall Street" movement without taking time to listen to their words of disillusionment with the increasing inequities between the 2% and the other 98%. They know that the trickle down economics of not taxing the rich or so-called job creators have not worked.
  • They forgot that in this media age, one cannot successfully change the message from state to state or month to month and not be called on it. In the end, Romney was seen by many as untruthful and having no message of value.

Conversely, while the Obama campaign--which I volunteered for--kept the same message from the start of the campaign to the end. It meant something that the Obama campaign reached out not only to their usual Democratic urban base, but also fought for voters in Iowa, Florida, Virginia, North Carolina and Colorado. In each area, the campaign worked with community members who shared their issues of jobs, education and healthcare and security for their retirement years. In each state, the Obama message of fixing Medicare, securing Social Security and expanding healthcare and job opportunities really resonated. Reducing the costs for college and expanding Pell grants means a lot to people whose home values had toppled and there was no equity to tap into to pay for college. It meant something that Obama recognized that the rich should pay their fair share and the government should not overly burden the middle class which forms the bedrock of our society.

A coalition of volunteers of every race, every nationality, old and young worked on this campaign for a long time. Call centers were populated by these diverse groups for many months working side-by-side with common goals. When contacts were made in various communities they saw people, such as themselves, engaged in the political process and caring enough to listen to them. A message was also sent when Republicans denied this duly elected President legitimacy, and continued to claim his birth certificate and citizenship were bogus. This disrespect shown by the Republicans in the Congress to the office of the Presidency, let alone to the person of the President, was unprecedented.

Many asked if this would have happened to a white President and saw these attacks as racist. This further fueled resolve amongst communities of color to re-elect this man again. The President won 93% of the Black vote, 73% of the Asian and Hispanic vote and about 45% of the white vote. 55% of women voted for him. Still the President won with over 50% of the vote and received over 60 million votes. Romney got 47% of the vote or about 57 million votes. Although the Electoral College split well for Obama with 332 votes, and 206 for Romney, this election cannot be called a landslide. It is however, in my opinion, a vindication of the Obama message and he can say he does have a mandate to resolve the fiscal issues left over from this Congress' inability to do so.

Finally, the efforts by Republican Governors, legislators and others to suppress the vote in states such as Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, Georgia, Texas and elsewhere, sent a huge message to voters of all races. Whether it was a requirement for voter IDs, decreases in early voting or reductions in polling stations, the message was clear: we are going to make it more difficult for people to vote and even more difficult in Democratic areas. As a result, voters came out and stood in lines for hours and hours, in heat, in the rain and in the dark.

At places in Virginia and Florida, voters were still in line after the networks had announced that President Obama had won. These people wanted to make a statement. They wanted to vote and felt that their vote mattered. The vote tally is still not complete in some states as provisional ballots are still being counted, but it appears that the final turnout numbers might be lower than in 2008. The Supreme Court is going to take up the Voting Rights Act to see if it is still needed. A look at these lines should have provided the answer.

What do you have to say about the election? Let me know.