The Obama mandate

His reelection -- maybe more remarkable than his first -- is a win for using government to improve people's lives

Topics: Mitt Romney, Barack Obama, 2012 Elections, Obama reelection, ,

The Obama mandate (Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster/Shutterstock/Salon/Benjamin Wheelock)

President Obama’s reelection represents a victory for the Democratic ideal of activist government and a mandate for more of it. From the stimulus through the auto rescue through Obamacare and, finally, Hurricane Sandy, Americans saw the Democratic president making a difference in their lives, and after a campaign that was stunning in its ugliness, they gave Obama a second term and sent Mitt Romney home, wherever that is.

It’s no accident that Obama’s firewall became Ohio, with an assist from Wisconsin and Iowa. These states swung right in 2010 when economic help didn’t come fast enough. But as the auto rescue kicked in and unemployment declined, those voters returned to the Democratic fold. The president did much better with white working-class voters in those states than he did around the country. Union households went overwhelmingly to the president.

Unbelievably, Obama increased both  the turnout and his share of the vote among African-Americans. He increased his edge with Asians and Latinos as well. According to exit polls, the white share of the electorate ticked down another point to 73 percent, and Obama’s edge with non-whites, as well as Romney’s failure to run up his margin with them, gave the president the race. Obama knitted together enough of the old New Deal coalition as well as the emerging Democratic coalition of non-whites, women and the college-educated to win decisively.

The improving economy made a huge difference in the Obama victory, with the Democrats’ decision to emphasize women’s issues, especially on the heels of idiotic remarks about rape from Republicans, almost as important. Republicans as well as centrist Democrats still haven’t gotten the extent to which women’s issues are also economic issues. The battle over the contraception mandate brought home the pocketbook benefits of Obamacare, which the president mainly hadn’t managed to sell until that controversy. Making sure that being a woman is no longer a preexisting condition, in Nancy Pelosi’s words, is an economic boon to women, not merely a moral or cultural one.

Paul Ryan was a disastrous V.P. pick, not even giving Romney his home state of Wisconsin. (But Romney can’t really complain; he lost both his home states of Michigan and Massachusetts, as well as his vacation home state of New Hampshire.)  Again, he married right-wing anti-women positions on choice and contraception to an equally conservative and unpopular budget plan. It’s hard to sort out the importance of cultural issues vs. economic issues in Ryan’s unpopularity; both mattered a lot.

Big victories for progressives like Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts and Ohio’s Sherrod Brown bode well for progressive populism in the Senate. Trading Joe Lieberman for Chris Murphy in Connecticut changes the ideological balance as well. Still, the sweetest victories Tuesday night may be the losses of the rape caucus, Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, along with sexist lout Rep. Joe Walsh in Illinois. Their cruelty will not be missed.

Republicans are already blaming Hurricane Sandy for “stalling” Mitt Romney’s supposed momentum, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for his traitorous embrace of the president. That’s silly, but Sandy mattered nonetheless. Two-thirds of voters in the New York Times exit poll said Obama’s handling of Hurricane Sandy factored into their vote, and they went 70 percent for the president. The response to Hurricane Sandy was one long Obama commercial, a documentary that could be set to Bruce Springsteen’s “We Take Care of Our Own,” but a sincere version, not a sardonic one.

On Fox Bill O’Reilly went predictably nuts, lashing out at Christie but also at the Obama coalition. “The white establishment is now the minority,” O’Reilly said. “And the voters, many of them, feel that the economic system is stacked against them and they want stuff. You are going to see a tremendous Hispanic vote for President Obama. Overwhelming black vote for President Obama. And women will probably break President Obama’s way. People feel that they are entitled to things and which candidate, between the two, is going to give them things?”

“The demographics are changing,” O’Reilly added. “It’s not a traditional America anymore.” He went on to say that a majority of Americans are people who “want stuff. They want things. And who is going to give them things? President Obama. He knows it, and he ran on it.”

The only reason the election was a squeaker was voter suppression in Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania. The long lines to vote, especially in minority neighborhoods, represent a 21st century poll tax, and should horrify all Americans. If Democrats were as unethical as Republicans, they’d look for ways to suppress the older white vote. Instead, all of us should look for ways to make it easier for everyone to vote. Democrats don’t have to cheat to win.

The reelection of our first black president may be more remarkable than his first win, given the implacable opposition he faced from Republicans and racists (they aren’t the same thing, even if it seems like it sometimes). In the end, Romney’s contempt for half the country, as revealed in his 47 percent remarks, brought many Americans together behind a man who wants to be the president of all of us. When I saw his tears Monday night, I worried that it meant he’d learned bad news, but maybe he knew he was going to win, after four years of demonization. He tweeted his campaign slogan, “We’re all in this together,” to his followers after his win. Let’s hope some Republicans listen this time.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 17
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    John Stanmeyer

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Container City: Shipping containers, indispensable tool of the globalized consumer economy, reflect the skyline in Singapore, one of the world’s busiest ports.

    Lu Guang

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Man Covering His Mouth: A shepherd by the Yellow River cannot stand the smell, Inner Mongolia, China

    Carolyn Cole/LATimes

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Angry Crowd: People jostle for food relief distribution following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti

    Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    “Black Friday” Shoppers: Aggressive bargain hunters push through the front doors of the Boise Towne Square mall as they are opened at 1 a.m. Friday, Nov. 24, 2007, Boise, Idaho, USA

    Google Earth/NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Suburban Sprawl: aerial view of landscape outside Miami, Florida, shows 13 golf courses amongst track homes on the edge of the Everglades.

    Garth Lentz

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Toxic Landscape: Aerial view of the tar sands region, where mining operations and tailings ponds are so vast they can be seen from outer space; Alberta, Canada

    Cotton Coulson/Keenpress

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Ice Waterfall: In both the Arctic and Antarctic regions, ice is retreating. Melting water on icecap, North East Land, Svalbard, Norway

    Yann Arthus-Bertrand

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Satellite Dishes: The rooftops of Aleppo, Syria, one of the world’s oldest cities, are covered with satellite dishes, linking residents to a globalized consumer culture.

    Stephanie Sinclair

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Child Brides: Tahani, 8, is seen with her husband Majed, 27, and her former classmate Ghada, 8, and her husband in Hajjah, Yemen, July 26, 2010.

    Mike Hedge

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Megalopolis: Shanghai, China, a sprawling megacity of 24 Million

    Google Earth/ 2014 Digital Globe

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Big Hole: The Mir Mine in Russia is the world’s largest diamond mine.

    Daniel Dancer

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Clear-cut: Industrial forestry degrading public lands, Willamette National Forest, Oregon

    Peter Essick

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Computer Dump: Massive quantities of waste from obsolete computers and other electronics are typically shipped to the developing world for sorting and/or disposal. Photo from Accra, Ghana.

    Daniel Beltra

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Oil Spill Fire: Aerial view of an oil fire following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, Gulf of Mexico

    Ian Wylie

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Slide 13

    Airplane Contrails: Globalized transportation networks, especially commercial aviation, are a major contributor of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Photo of contrails in the west London sky over the River Thames, London, England.

    R.J. Sangosti/Denver Post

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Fire: More frequent and more intense wildfires (such as this one in Colorado, USA) are another consequence of a warming planet.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>