Most people were surprised by the size of the President’s margin of victory and how quickly the race was called last night. In one sense, it’s remarkable that a black President trying to right one of the worst recessions in generations who had a horrible first debate and was running against the best financed opponent ever in American politics won. It’s remarkable until you look at the bigger picture.
Obama won in large part because Republican policies and values are just anathema to most Americans. But he also won because voters knew Obama understood them and would put them first. The President was not re-elected on issue X or because voters wanted him to enact policy Y. He was elected because voters rejected Republican solutions and values, and voters trusted the President to figure out the best course forward for our country and do what was right for their families. Here are a few key reasons why:
“The 47%” I could almost end with this and feel I’d answered the question. The reason the 47% comment was so damaging to Romney wasn’t because it was a gaffe but because it was real. He didn’t just dismiss half of America but went on to say that those working parents and struggling students and people working multiple jobs to make ends meet would never take personal responsibility for their lives. He scorned them and demonstrated how little he and his fellow Republicans leaders understand average Americans.
Paul Ryan & Ayn Rand. By picking Paul Ryan and doubling down on his Randian budget that even ultra-conservative Catholic Bishops called “immoral,” Romney showed where his heart really was. Whereas Romney insulted the 47%, Paul Ryan went a step father to say a whopping 60% of Americans were “takers.” Rep. Ryan is a devoted acolyte of Ayn Rand and has a post on his Facebook page saying we need more of her morality in America. This election reminded people that while Ayn Rand is a best-selling author, there is a reason her fan club tends to be limited mostly to teenage boys.
“Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a certain poverty of ambition. It asks too little of yourself because it’s only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you realize your true potential.–Barack Obama” In the same way Romney’s “47%” speaks for itself, so does this quote that was the sole statement on the Obama door hangers I found on my door election day. Despite Romney and the Republican efforts to convince voters they should only care about themselves, America’s greatness comes from the fact that we recognize we all do better when we all do better. Voters rejected Republican selfishness in favor of the clear Democratic vision for the Common Good.
You can’t scare or buy American voters. The Obama campaign apparatus deserves huge kudos for their masterful turnout effort. But they were unquestionably helped by the overt and well-documented efforts by Republicans to keep voters–especially minorities and younger voters–from being able to vote. Republican efforts to prevent early voting, voter ID laws, and normal Republican misinformation and intimidation tactics backfired. But perhaps the biggest surprise of all was the backlash against the hundreds of millions spent by shadow Republican groups funded by wealthy ideologues like the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson. Polling and interviews showed voters understood the threat this poses to our democracy and were insulted that these rich tycoons thought they could buy an American election. Rather than suppressing the vote or persuading voters to their side, the backlash against these tactics expanded the vote and gave voters on the fence more of a reason to stick with Obama.
So where do we go from here? Republican values and priorities are out of sync with most of America. But they have also repeatedly shown a willingness to put the good of the country after their desire to score partisan political points. Democrats have to keep building and expanding on our margins and pushing back into the rural and other parts of the country we have won in the past and will need to win again to secure governing majorities in Congress. Tomorrow, I’ll address how Democrats can continue to build on last night and lay the groundwork for a much brighter future.