Thursday, November 8, 2012
It is Going to Be a Long Four Years
I am still bummed out from Tuesday night's election results. So much so that my coworkers nicknamed me "suicide watch" on Wednesday at work. Ouch, what a beating. So, what happened to the election?
You can read a lot of election post-mortems on the web. Pick a version: conservative sour grapes or liberal gloating. I personally like Paul Kengor's take on the strategies and Nick Nolte's mea culpa on the polling data.
Please indulge me my simple musings on what happened on this quadrennial first Tuesday in November wrestling match.
First, about the results:
I was wrong, and my frient J. David Van Dyke was completely and utterly right. There, I said it. Dave and I have had a bet on this election for at least a year, with the payoff being admission of rightness of the other plus some version of humiliation at EbertFest 2013. I have paid off half, and hope to pay off the rest in April in Champaign-Urbana. Dave made the case daily that it was a simple case of "the math" of the electoral college votes (EV). He predicted the states that Obama would win, which add to more than 270 and a win, and that's that. The popular vote is interesting, but not determinative - which is of course right.
The kicker here is that "the math" is variable depending on the turnout model used. Democrats (and Dem/media polls) were all in that the turnout would mirror the 2008 election and be D +6 or better. Republicans (and conservative media) were all in that 2008 was a historic anomaly, and that turnout would revert to the 2004 model of D +3 or less, which would yield a Romney win. I believed the latter, and believed that Democrats would not turn out in the same numbers that they did in 2008 - which I think is right - because their Hope candidate now had a record to defend. I also believed that Republican intensity - our shared disgust for the President's agenda - would be high, higher than in 2008, and that the D +3 or less was right. This was wrong. The GOP intensity turnout did not materialize. The result was that the ratio stayed the same as the 2008 model and the D +6 model was right. Exactly as Team Obama and the Mainstream Media (MSM) polls called it. Not at all as Team Romney and the conservative media polls called it. Dang. Dave was completely right.
Note: Looking back, I had to disregard a lot of fundamentals to stick with my prediction. Fundamentals, like the history that says incumbents almost always win. (I was swayed by Michael Medved's case that it wasn't so this time.) Indicators, like the jarring fact that 5 out of 7 of my management-type coworkers were voting for Obama when I thought they would be natural GOP voters. ("Nothing will change, so why make a change?" Wow.) I noted those things, but stayed with my pick and my confidence that the polls were oversampling Dems. At the very end, Michael Barone's call kept me in my position. I was wrong. The polls that I thought were the worst (PPP) were in fact the best. The polls that I thought were the best (Rasmussen) were in fact the worst. Dang. Lesson learned.
As of today, with the votes not all completely counted, the popular vote came out around 50% to 48%, in Obama's favor. A 2% win, much lower than his percentage win over McCain in 2008. Isn't 2% within the margin of error for polling? And Democrats - before you gloat much - shouldn't an incumbent who you regard as the best president ever with a great record win by a bigger margin than 2%? Just asking.
But if you win by 2% or better in 8 out of 9 battleground states, as Team Obama did, you get the landslide 303 EV win that was Tuesday night's result. Decisive, and inarguable. A big win. Congratulations to my Democrat friends. You were right. (Have I said that enough yet? :) )
Second, on a Dozen Factors leading to the result, in my humble opinion, in no particular order:
1. The Gift from John Roberts: I thought back in June that the election was over when Chief Justice John Roberts changed his vote and upheld ObamaCare with his tortured logic that it was a tax, not a mandate. What? Backstabber. This went a long way to take away the GOP argument that it needed to be repealed.
2. GOTV: Team Obama was much more effective in spending their war chest to Get Out the Vote than was Team Romney. They delivered the 2008 model. Kudos to David Axelrod, the evil genius.
3. Culture Change: Andrew Breitbart was right - politics is downstream from culture. We (the right) have lost the culture, and the election as the natural consequence. We've had the culture war, and the 1960's won. Dennis Miller said it for me, resigned to the results on O'Reilly: "This is where America is at. It's not the America I grew up in from 12 to 58, nor will it ever be again." Culture was the number one word that I saw on conservative Twitter on Wednesday. I am now an anomaly in my own country. I accept that.
4. Demographics: In the end, it wasn't about Ohio as everyone said. It was about a demographic shift that was not just an anomaly in 2008. It's the future. Pat Buchanan has been warning about that for a long time, and one day the wolf comes. This election was about the Latino and Asian votes, both of which went 71% or so for Obama. Much will be said now about GOP outreach - or lack thereof - to those two influential voting blocs.
5. Low information voters: I know that the gloating meme is that conservatives are the low information voters trapped in the conservative media bubble. It's not true. I read both. Folks on the left never read Drudge, Breitbart, TownHall etc. I was frustrated daily by Obama voters who watched not one minute of either convention or one second of any debate yet were quite certain that they knew how they went - and that "binders full of women" must be something really awful - because Yahoo News told them so. One friend is "proudly uninformed" and told me "There are more of me than there are informed voters like you." Sadly, true.
6. A bruising primary: Romney raised and spent more money, but had to spend a lot of it in a bruising primary defeating one conservative challenger after another. Obama was able to spend his smaller warchest immediately on the general election. That matters.
7. What conservative?: GOP primaries predictably produce the wrong candidate through a process where the group of conservatives SPLIT THE VOTE! and the one liberal emerges as the nominee. McCain in 2008. Romney - a NorthEast liberal who did ObamaCare before Obama - in 2012. Don't blame me. I voted Santorum in the primary.
Ann Coulter used to say that if you offer a choice between a liberal-lite and a real liberal America will choose the real liberal every time. She was right then. But she went all in for Romney in the primaries this time. Go figure.
8. Media Partners: More so than any election that I've participated in since 1980, the MSM went over the line in activism this time. They didn't just call the race, they shaped the race. They did so by tanking stories unfavorable to Obama (ex: Benghazi) and by overplaying stories unfavorable to Romney (ex: dog on the car roof, statement 9/11). Blatant bias. Influential bias.
9. the Nice Guys: Team Romney made the same crucial mistake that McCain made - at the instruction of their "expert consultants". That would be a decision not to go after Obama personally. They foolishly believed that the bad economy was enough for voters to make a change. They played it safe. They sat on their lead from the first debate. They stuck to a civil / positive message of "Obama is a nice guy, but we're more competent". Maddeningly foolish.
Team Obama - staffed by long-term players in the corrupt hardball Chicago Machine - had no such compunctions about civility. They spent their $400M ad buy savaging Romney in a nasty divisive personal attacks. He's a liar. He's a tax cheat and a felon. He'll put you back in chains and take away your birth control. He killed a guy's wife with cancer. It's all crap, but all cumulatively devastating and effective.
10. Santa Claus: People do not want austerity and cuts. They want stuff from their government. Obama had the checkbook to give it to them. Obamaphones. Auto bailouts. Amnesty and work permits. On and on and on, debt be damned. Rush is right: you can't beat Santa Claus.
11. "Osama bin Laden is dead, and GM is alive." This was brilliant. The most memorable slogan from the campaign. It's true as far as it goes, but misleading. bin Laden is dead, but al-Qaida is alive and well and dangerous in the Arab Winter. Obama didn't save GM, he saved the UAW pension fund. GM will go bankrupt again at a huge taxpayer loss. But, man, that slogan is brilliant.
12. The Courageous choice of Paul Ryan as VP. Marco Rubio would have been the wise crassly-political choice to court the Florida vote and the Hispanic vote. That might have made the difference. Romney made a non-political grown-up choice instead, knowing that the economy was the crucial issue if he was to govern and that Ryan was the capable man on the economy. Rubio is not ready. He will be in 2016 though, so there's that.
Last, on the future of elections: I deserve no predictions on this. I was so wrong this time.
But, if I was to predict the future of elections I would say this: this loss was pivotal and total. The GOP is done. The Tea Party is done. We are now in the zone similar to my state of Illinois. Sure there are some GOP officeholders around. But, they are irrelevant. We are effectively a one-party Democrat state. (Related: the 2nd brokest state in the union.)
Why? Because of ObamaCare. It is the singular achievement - the fundamental transformation - that locks in a permanent Democrat majority going forward. It is now unstoppable - the law of the land. It will make government dependents of many more people, perhaps all of us, and the Party of Government will be the beneficiaries for the foreseeable future. Irreversibly. The American Experiment in liberty is over, and we are Europe. Chosen by the slimmest of majorities in a bitterly divided America, but chosen nonetheless and locked in. It's ever-expanding government from here until the collapse. Depressing, but cold hard reality.
That's my take, anyway. Leave a comment with yours.