The President has won a significant victory tonight at a time when the country is divided and was contemplating two visions of its future. What is the impact of this victory, and what might Humanists look forward to in four more years of President Obama?
This victory won’t bring the country together, but it represents a significant repudiation of the Republican’s economic and social vision for the nation. The Republicans will have to significantly rethink their policy platform in the light of this defeat: Obama was extremely vulnerable given the weak economy, and gave Romney ample chance to pull ahead – the first Presidential debate was a disaster for the President. The fact the Republicans were unable to win under such conditions – and were defeated so convincingly - demonstrates several fatal flaws in their platform: it is too old, white, male, anti-gay, anti-woman, and anti-immigrant to succeed in 21st Century America. Look forward to Red-on-Red cannibalism as the party struggles over its soul in the coming months.
Vindication of Obama Ground Game
The Democrats simply out-organized the Republicans on every level of this campaign, as they did four years ago. Political pundits will be analyzing his ground-game for years to come, but it’s no doubt that the Obama campaign’s mastery of social media has had a significant effect. That the Democrats are out-organizing Republicans is an astonishing feat in a country with hardly any organized left-wing. The Obama organizing program – Organizing for America – has been quietly registering voters for the past four years, making up for years of deficiencies in Democratic local organizing.
Great Time for Equal Rights
For the first time in the history of the country a President has been elected promising equal rights to LGBTQ citizens. That’s huge. Every indication is that this stance was a vote-winner for the President and the Democrats, and that marks a sea-change in US politics. I look forward to achieving full federal equality for queer people in the next four years, at the very least on marriage. Also, women decisively voted in favor of Obama over Romney. Again, the rights of women seem to have been vote-winning issues for the President. This represents a shift in American attitudes over both LGBTQ rights and women’s equality – a shift in the right direction which Humanists welcome.
More Partisan Gridlock
Despite an impressive set of performances in the Senate, there is no indication, yet, that the Democrats will take the House. That means more partisan gridlock and more hard work getting stuff done. However, I think Obama has learned a lot from the past four years and will be a much more forceful figure when it comes to pushing his agenda. Whether the continuing challenges promote any real change in how politics is conducted or lead to yet more bitter divisiveness it is difficult to tell.
Tea Party Meltdown
This is a tough prediction, but my feeling is that this win will take the wind out of the Tea Party’s sails. It was partly the ridiculous Republican primary battle which scuppered Romney’s chances of winning. He had to run so far to the right that he simply had too far to go to return to the center in the real election. The procession of ever more absurd right-wing candidates on the Republican side did not make him stronger and may well have lost him the election.
The Return of the Moderate Republican
Now an opening appears for moderate voices on the Republican side: they can convincingly argue that the extreme positions of the party standard-bearers – on gay rights, on taxes, on immigration, on abortion – make them unable to win in an increasingly more progressive electorate. And Republicans like to win.
Good Night for Nate Silver
This result is also a vindication of the poll-tracking techniques of Nate Silver and his colleagues, who have been calling this race for Obama for months. Expect pollsters to take more notice of his statistical techniques.
Clinton and Sandy Bring it Home
President Clinton’s role in Obama’s win was undeniable: his convention speech and subsequent use by the campaign were masterful, and it sets Hillary up well for a 2016 run. Obama’s handling of Sandy played a role in his last-minute hike in favorable ratings. He seemed Presidential and compassionate, while making essential preparations in advance. The contrast with W Bush was instructive, and valuable for the President.
The Reformation of the Electorate
This election will be the pattern for the next few Presidential elections, showing the power of the demographic shifts which are making a huge difference to the composition of the electorate. The increasing percentage of the electorate which is African American and Latino, and the increasing influence of the Millennial Generation – the biggest generation in US history, generally more progressive and less religious than their elders, and who didn’t desert the President as some expected - has begun to reshape the political landscape. And it only gets worse for Republicans.