This is election can be viewed from a number of angles. One of them is that Americans pushed back against GOP overreach.
- Immigration and Latinos. The entire GOP swerved even further to the right after McCain's defeat on immigration. Romney buckled under to Rick Perry's primary challenge and went even more extreme. ("self-deportation"? Really?). The result: (a) over a million more Latinos voted in 2012 (comprising 10% rather than 9% of the electorate) and they gave Obama something like a 71-21 lead. The Latino vote was crucial in helping Obama win Colorado, Nevada, and (presumably) Florida (I-4 corridor)
(continued after the orange artwork of my daughter ;-)
- GOP stubbornness on auto-bailouts. By 2010 the public was sick of hearing about, and turned against, anything that had the word "bailout" in it. They made Obama "own" it (even though Bush started it!). Obama himself didn't seem to embrace it until 2011. What's so silly about this (in a "shoot yourself in the foot" kind of way) is that any president would have embraced it. It had to be done. The economy was cratering, and the auto industry and its ancillaries comprised a million American jobs. That's why Bush started it. (That's not to say anybody would have executed it well -- I think Obama did an exemplary job, by, e.g., getting steep CAFE increases -- but I do think that any president, GOP or Dem would have attempted some sort of bailout to save the industry). Romney and the GOP took a craven view: to oppose it, which was the popular position in the short run. The problem for the GOP, of course, is that the bailout worked. Mr. Romney, the Dem "electors" (those who comprise the electoral vote) from Ohio thank you from the bottom of their hearts.
- GOP overreach in Ohio. I can't say that the auto-bailout single-handedly tipped Ohio to Obama, because their was another factor: the severe anti-unionism of Ohio Gov Kasich. The one-sided basic unfairness of what was known as SB-5 (anti-collective bargaining law) was an outrage, and woke Ohio and its unions up. (Like of like placing a firecracker next to a sleeping bear). The unions got a ballot referendum on SB-5 the following year, and last November, Ohio overturned the law by 61 to 39 percent (!!). After the resounding victory, the unions just kept working straight through yesterday -- they kept all their infrastructure in place, and began working for the Dems and Obama. This combination of union determination and Romney's "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt" is what sealed the deal for Ohio.
- Women's issues. Not much needs to be said here. Kinsley famously defined a "gaffe" as "when a politician reveals the truth (of what he believes) in a way that's politically harmful." Todd Akin ("legitimate rape victims can't get pregnant"), and then a whole slew of other really stupid rape comments by GOP candidates, helped keep the women's vote 55-45 for Obama, as well as playing decisive roles in the sinking of GOP candidacies (McCaskill beating Akin and Donnelly beating Mourdock, are only two of the most visible examples). Romney's "I want to shut down Planned Parenthood" played a significant hand in this, too.
- Voter suppression. Florida's tea party-ish governor Rick Scott, and his GOP legislature, thought they had pulled a fast one -- by, essentially, outlawing early voting on Sundays -- the days when "Souls to the Polls" worked to get massive black churchgoing turnout. The result was not what the GOP intended: black revulsion, leading to backlash, leading to determination more than ever to vote no matter what. Why did folk stay in line last Saturday for seven hours? Why -- when the polls closed at 7pm yesterday -- where there still voters standing in line waiting to vote at 11pm in a full 10% of the precincts in Miami-Dade? In part, because they were determined to see that the GOP suppress the vote program was a miserable failure.
- Wisconsin. The country's other extremist governor named Scott -- Scott Walker of Wisconsin -- similarly overreached. On similar issues. He and his GOP legislature pushed through draconian anti-union labor laws, as well as onerous voter ID laws (some of which were slapped down by the courts, and by public pressure). When Walker won his recall election last June, most thought it portended a Wisconsin swing to the GOP. But the GOP and the pundits read the cards wrong. Many Wisconsinites simply didn't like the idea of a recall -- considering the election to be a sour-grapes "do-over" attempt -- particularly given that Walker's opponent in 2012 was the same opponent Walker defeated in 2010. But, Wisconsinites didn't like the overreach, and, as in Ohio, unions were energized and worked unrelentingly to defeat Romney this fall.
- Tea Party extremist candidates. Consider what the tea party has done: In 2010 Tea Party challengers in Delaware, Colorado and Nevada defeated more moderate GOP candidates, and replaced them with extremists (Christine O'Donnell, Ken Buck, and Sharron Angle), who each went on to lose to a vulnerable Dem Senator (including Harry Reid). This year, the same thing happened with Mourdock (defeating Lugar) in red-Indiana (then losing to Donnelly), Todd Akin defeating Sarah Steelman (and going on to lose to McCaskill).
(Tangent, as this isn't directly about the 2012 election) Ezra Klein notes:
But it’s not just that the Tea Party has been instrumental in helping Senate Democrats hold the majority necessary to protect Obamacare. It was the primary challenge against the late Sen. Arlen Specter that pushed the Pennsylvanian to switch parties, thus providing Democrats with the crucial 60th vote needed to break the Republican filibuster and pass health reform.Alll in all -- voters across American had a moderate and sensible reaction. The GOP overreached and they became extreme, and the small "middle of the road" populace -- those few who still don't see themselves as supporting either party -- saw it for what it was: extremism and unfairness. And they rejected it, and voted for Dems and to re-elect the President.
This is, in the end, likely to be the ironic legacy of the Tea Party and the tactics it chose: It arose in ferocious opposition to Obama’s agenda, but by driving Specter out of the party and pushing pure conservatives over more electable Republican candidates, it gave Senate Democrats the majorities they needed to pass and protect the key accomplishments of Obama’s presidency — and that’s before you get into whether the Tea Party’s influence in the Republican presidential primaries forced Mitt Romney to the right and gave Obama a crucial edge in a close presidential election.
Thank you, America -- and to all those who contributed time or money to the campaigns!