The Disappointment of Living in an Electoral Republic
Tuesday's returns seem inexplicable.
(a) Logic Took a Powder
Jeff Dobbs, a regular at Just One Minute, did some work and shows why the election results this week seem inexplicable and unpredictable:
Fun with Exit Polls...
19% of voters who described their view as "abortion should be illegal in all cases" voted for Obama.
13% who described themselves as supporting the Tea Party voted for Obama.
15% of people who think Obamacare should be repealed voted for Obama.
24% who identified with the statement "government is doing too much" voted for Obama
13% who describe the country as on the "wrong track" voted for Obama.
37% of voters who say taxes should not be raised to help cut the deficit voted for Obama
57% of voters trust Obama to handle an international crisis
15% of voters said Obama's response to Sandy was the most important factor in their vote (and 73% of those went for Obama).
64% of all voters said Obama's response to Sandy played a factor in their vote (and 62% of those went for Obama)
This compendium of voter illogic is not complete without acknowledging, as Breitbart has, that voters expressed great concern over federal government corruption and, yet in the face of all the scandals including the trillions wasted in the Stimulus and failed and failing green energy programs, they believed the Republicans less capable of rooting it out.
85% of voters were either very or somewhat concerned about the issue of federal government corruption in Washington, D.C.:
How concerned are you about the issue of federal government corruption in Washington, DC? Would you say you are...
85% Concerned (total) 53% Very concerned 32% Somewhat concerned
Voters felt that the Democratic Party was better able to deal with this corruption than the Republican Party. In responding to the question, "Which political party, the Republican party or the Democratic party do you think will do a better job of cleaning up corruption in Washington, DC?," 37% said Democrat, while only 34% said Republican. [Snip]
Even more surprising was that by a 2 to 1 margin (50% to 25%), young voters aged 18 to 34 had greater confidence in the ability of the Democratic Party, rather than the Republican Party, to clean up corruption.
While I have great respect for the democratic process, it is hard to have much respect for voters who endorse affirmative action to help the disadvantaged and yet elected Elizabeth Warren, who lied to avail herself of that special privilege; or voters who contend that Republicans are guardians of rich oligarchs and then elect yet another Kennedy to Congress, a post for which he has only DNA to point to as his credentials for the position; who claim to be of superior wit and yet re-elected a vice president who doesn't seem to even know where he is most days, and Jesse Jackson Jr. who was on Election Day and for some time before that in Mayo Clinic being treated for mental disease, and who is reportedly in plea negotiations with federal prosecutors for campaign fund misuse.
(b) The Fundamentals Were Trumped by Mechanics
In a long eating-crow article, political analyst Michael Barone noted where he had gone wrong. As he wrote it, millions of ballots around the country were still uncounted but I think that the points he made will not be undone by them -- only perhaps the percentages used to illustrate his point that the race was far closer than you'd imagine from the announced electoral college vote totals:
The Obama campaign strategists -- and congratulations to them, by the way -- argued that they would win by organizing and turning out the vote in the key states that would determine the outcome of the election. They had no illusions that they could expand the president's appeal beyond the 53% of the popular vote of the 365/359 electoral votes they won in 2008; on the contrary, they conceded Indiana's 11 electoral votes and the single electoral vote of the Nebraska 2nd congressional district even before the campaign started. They didn't contest the 15 electoral votes of North Carolina very much after holding the 2012 Democratic National Convention there; they concentrated in their pre-convention negative anti-Romney advertising and in their organizational efforts on a three-state firewall of the next three states in order of Obama 2008 percentage, Florida (29 electoral votes), Ohio (18) and Virginia (13). After Obama's disastrous performance, and Romney's sparkling performance, in the October 3 debate, it looked like the firewall was crumbling. But it seems to have held. The popular vote, as I write relying on 1:30 am Eastern Associated Press numbers, is Obama 50%-49% in Florida, 50%-48% in Ohio and 50%-49% in Virginia. You could cite various polling and other evidence and suggest those states were going for Romney. This would make a big difference in electoral votes: with them Obama holds 332 electoral votes (his likely total), without them he's at 272 (and loses the election if he loses one more state). But he seems to have held them, narrowly.
Which is to say that mechanics and, to a lesser extent demographics, determined the outcome of the election. The fundamentals which I pointed to simply did not operate at all powerfully in the results in the states that were target states from when the electoral cycle started, when the Obama campaign began advertising heavily against Mitt Romney when he clinched the Republican nomination in April. [snip] [F]undamentals if they had been evenly applied in all states would have driven Obama's percentages down by 3% or 4%, enough possibly to deprive him of a majority, and enough to deprive him of pluralities quite possibly in Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Colorado and perhaps enough of the other target states to give Romney an electoral vote majority. The trend apparent in the national polls toward Romney gains over previous elections among affluent voters was real, but it was either suppressed or offset in target states by stickiness to Obama. And so in the target states mechanics-organization, turnout efforts, early voting, etc.-trumped fundamentals and Obama won.
And demographics? The Hispanic turnout is not increasing as rapidly as in some projections. But it wasn't good news for Romney.
Time Magazine has a report detailing how the Obama backroom quants gamed the election.
Some, like Heather MacDonald, think the demographics -- a rising percentage of Hispanics -- requires a Republican shift on immigration. Others think , as Barone seems to, that the problem was not so much ethnic adherence to the Democratic party as much as it was the millions of white voters who simply didn't show up to vote.
Yet others think that number is exaggerated by the fact that millions of votes remain yet uncounted.
(c) All is not lost
The most optimistic of my favorite pundits was Dr. Krauthammer, who basically contended that we'd voted to retain the status quo and that is normally the case in second-term elections.
"I think the real story here is that Obama won, but he's got no mandate," Krauthammer declared. "He won by going very small, very negative, and we are left as a country exactly where we started, but a little bit worse off. The Republicans are in control of the House, probably a little bit stronger. They are not going to budge. There's no way after holding out on Obama for two years they're going to cave in, and Obama doesn't have anywhere really to go. He governed very large in the first two years."
Krauthammer cited Obamacare and the stimulus, but explained when he lost control of the House, those efforts to pursue "large" ideas ceased. But looking forward, there is not much for Obama to do, according to the Washington Post columnist.
"What will he do?" Krauthammer continued. "I think he will go back to who he is. People have said he should be a Clinton and compromise, have a second term. But he is not instinctively a moderate. I think he is a man of the left, and he will try to push his agenda through with what he thinks is a mandate. And I think we are going to be exactly where we were a year ago with the debt ceiling argument next year. And the problem is the country will slide right through a second term because I don't see give on either side, particularly when the president, with a very weak mandate for a second term."
He expressed great optimism for the Republicans deep bench as well:
"...here's of course, Paul Ryan who I think will be a leader in the party. You have a whole rising young generation - Kelly Ayotte, you've got Bobby Jindal, Nikki Haley, Ted Cruz, the new senator from Texas, Marco Rubio, this whole generation who a just a year or two short in their careers from running this time are all going to be in the fray next time. And I think they are the future. And all the soul-searching about what ideology we are going to pursue is going to come from them. And I think it will be a fairly Reaganite and conservative one. I think the future of the party is quite bright."
The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto rejects the notion that the Democrats have now garnered an emerging permanent majority (the claim they make whenever they sometimes win):
Americans just re-elected Barack Obama but also gave Republicans an only minimally diminished House majority, thereby ratifying a status quo that hardly anyone finds satisfactory. The answer is that as almost all of the big swing states -- North Carolina is the lone exception, with Florida still too close to call -- went Democratic in the presidential race, they sent GOP majorities to Congress.
Here's how the new House delegation breaks down for each swing state with 9 or more electoral votes, with Republicans counted first: Colorado 4-3, Florida 17-9 (with 1 yet uncalled), Michigan 9-5, North Carolina 9-3 (1 uncalled), Ohio 12-4, Pennsylvania 13-5, Virginia 8-3, Wisconsin 5-3.
Add it up, assuming Democrats hold their leads in the uncalled races (including for Florida's 29 electoral votes), and Obama beat Romney in these eight states 115-15, while Republican House candidates beat Democratic ones 77-37. That's enough to account for both Obama's margin of victory and, in all likelihood, the Republican margin in the House.
In explaining Obama's victory, liberal pundits are giving the "emerging Democratic majority" thesis a good workout. To take a random example, the Puffington Host's Howard Fineman
His victorious coalition spoke for and about him: a good share of the white vote (about 45 percent in Ohio, for example); 70 percent or so of the Latino vote across the country, according to experts; 96 percent of the African-American vote; and large proportions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
The Republican Party, by contrast, has been reduced to a rump parliament of Caucasian traditionalism: white, married, church-going -- to oversimplify only slightly.
Also often included in the "emerging majority" thesis are young voters and unmarried women. Of course there is considerable overlap among these categories.
One problem with the "emerging majority" idea is that it seems less compelling in 2012 than it did in 2008. Obama's share of the vote declined by about three percentage points, from just under 53% to around 50%. (RealClearPolitics's latest count has it at 50.4%, so it appears he will eke out a majority.)
More pertinently, whereas in 2008 the Democrats expanded their House majority, this year they barely dented the Republicans'. How does one reconcile Obama's emerging Democratic majority with Speaker John Boehner's enduring Republican one?
It's true that, in part because of some bad candidates, the Republicans were unable to increase their number of Senators, but 2014 does not bode well for Senate Democrats. Aaron Blake of the Washington Post's The Fix blog:
Here's the breakdown:
- 20 Democrats will be up for reelection, compared to 13 Republicans.
- 12 of those 20 Democrats come from either red states (six) or swing states (six).
- Only one of the 13 Republicans comes from a state that isn't red, and that's Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), whose seat is basically safe unless she retires.
Top GOP targets are likely to include Democratic Sens. Mark Begich (Alaska), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Max Baucus (Mont.), Tim Johnson (S.D.), Mark Udall (Colo.), Al Franken (Minn.), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.) and Kay Hagan (N.C.). Five of the nine are first-term senators, and Republicans have already got a strong potential candidate against Johnson, with former governor Mike Rounds launching an exploratory committee last week.)
Republicans could also have a chance at winning the seats of Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), particularly if either of them (both are in their 70s) retire. And Virginia could also be a target under the right circumstances, but right now Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) is very popular.
On the Democratic side, besides Collins's seat, about the only apparent target is Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and even he will start as a significant favorite to win reelection.
If the Republicans take back the Senate in 2014, the significant damage Obama can inflict in a second term is substantially diminished.
At the state level Republicans seem generally to be doing rather well. Here are two examples: In Wisconsin though Romney lost along with Tommy Thompson, the GOP retook the state senate and now has full control of the state government
In Tennessee: "Republicans gained six seats each in the state House and Senate Tuesday, giving the party more than the "super majority" they sought in both chambers, according to complete but unofficial election returns. By controlling two-thirds of the seats in both chambers for the first time since the Reconstruction era, Republicans will have a quorum and could continue in session even if all Democrats walk out. The two-thirds 'super majority' also allows united Republicans to suspend normal rules and instantly pass legislation." "Nothing like this has happened since Reconstruction ended," reports Glenn Reynolds.
Ideologically, those of us who are for smaller government can take heart that this sentiment is growing.
Tom Maguire sees quotes Ross Douthat who sees progress on this score:
Could it be that, election results notwithstanding, conservatives are making progress with their small government argument? Deep in the Times reporting of exit polls I find this nugget:
Significantly, the electorate's view of the government's role in the economy has shifted away from Mr. Obama's call for a kind of public-private partnership, and toward Mr. Romney's hands-off, free-market platform.
In November 2008, when the country was floundering in the worst recession since the Depression, Election Day surveys of voters found that 51 percent of them wanted government to do more to intervene while 43 percent said it was doing too many things better left to businesses. Now, after four years of government activism, those numbers have flipped.
Where do we go from here?
My friend Jimmy K offers up "it's sad to contemplate the possibility that the party that wins a close election is the one who is better at rounding up the most homeless, senile, or otherwise completely ignorant people and herd them to the polls and tell them how to vote. We know how that turns out."
Sultan Knish reminds us that this leftist culture we live in was not built in a day:
"Every time people ask me why the left has such a grip on this country, my answer is because they worked for it. It's the answer that most people don't want to hear, but it's true. The left has been planning this for a while. They have been playing the long game, building the infrastructure and indoctrinating generations. And to beat them, we will have to do the same thing."
Roger L. Simon, undoubtedly struck by the same data as jimmyk and as aware of the cultural shift and its development, proposes an ambitious effort to retake the popular culture:
"I think many of us know there are three pillars of our own destruction: the educational system, the media and entertainment (the popular arts).
"Those three areas are so corrupted those who legitimately are on the center-right (or anywhere close to it) will increasingly find themselves swimming upstream against a current so great who knows where it will take them. (Think Hayek, Orwell, etc.) We must address ourselves to these three immediately before it is too late. In many ways, it already is. Culture is the mother of politics and mother is turning into Medea."
I have no grand plan to offer up, but I think we need to hire better quants next election, set up a better ground game and see a means of translating the best of the conservative writers into the various languages of recent immigrants and providing the material to ethnic media who to date seem largely unaware of the Constitution, economics, and the issues of the day. They came here for a better life; do they really want to vote into power governments like the ones they left in exchange for bits of government largesse?
Finally, I'm an optimist who takes heart in Barone's reminder :
"[N]one of us wants to live in a country where one party wins every election even though we tend to wish our party would win every time, and so disappointment is a necessary attribute of living in an electoral republic."