I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t be happier that the presidential election is finally over. I am happy that President Obama won re-election, but even if Mitt Romney had won, I would still be happy to have nearly two years of rancor, pettiness, abject racism, trolling, willful ignorance and myopia — on both sides — behind us.
Fittingly, though, an election season that had devolved into silliness, with the right attacking everyone who disagreed with their proclamation that the GOP was pre-ordained to win the White House and “restore America,” ended on a high note. Mitt Romney — who was so confident he would win, he didn’t even bother writing a concession speech — finally took the stage long after Obama’s victory was certain, and gave a perfunctory, by-the-numbers address, an unpleasant duty he quickly discharged. Although the concession was mere formality, Romney’s failure to deliver it until well after the outcome was no longer in doubt smacked of sour grapes and gracelessness.
Obama then took the stage at his own victory party, flanked by his beautiful, fashionable family, and gave one of his best speeches. He touched on a wide range of issues to be addressed in his second term and beyond — including climate change, voter suppression, LGBT rights, jobs, education, foreign fuel dependency, deficit reduction, immigration, and women’s rights. Obama challenged Americans to remain involved in the political process: “But that doesn’t mean your work is done. The role of citizen in our democracy does not end with your vote.”
In addition to President Obama, Election Night featured a full slate of winners and losers.
1. Nate Silver and Math: Five Thirty Eight blogger Nate Silver was attacked for daring to buck Republican narratives about “Mittmentum” and “unskewed” polls that promised not only a Romney victory, but annihilation of the Democrats and everything they stood for. Silver was dismissed by Politico as a potential “one-term celebrity” for sticking by his statistical model that predicted an Obama win, flying in the face of national polls that either showed a slight lead for Romney or that the race was a statistical dead heat. In the end, math won, and Silver solidified his reputation as the best political prognosticator in the business.
2. Women: Women won, both literally and symbolically, on Election Night. Women won 19 seats in the Senate, and the women’s vote helped propel Obama to victory. Tellingly, while Romney, in the later stages of the campaign, accused Obama into trying to “scare” voters away from the GOP ticket, it turned out that the GOP did a much more effective job of scaring women away all on their own. Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin, Richard “Pregnancy From Rape Is God’s Will” Mourdock and Paul “Rape is Just Another Means of Conception” Ryan all were rejected by voters (though Ryan did retain his seat in Congress, hedging his bets against a Romney loss).
Overturning draconian anti-contraception and anti-abortion laws will be a long and tough battle. The National Women’s Law Center has launched a campaign called “This Is Personal,” which emphasizes that decisions about birth control/family planning, reproductive and other health issues are all deeply personal decisions for which government intrusion is unwarranted. Women voted for Obama and many of the women who won Senate and Congressional seats in large part to protect women’s rights. Now we need to hold our lawmakers accountable.
3. People of Color: This image from dreaminonempty over at Daily Kos, sums it all up nicely.
This graphic means we are likely to see both parties jockeying to curry favor with voters of color — except black voters, of course. The Democratic Party has traditionally taken black voters for granted. The GOP is unlikely to alienate the virulent racists that form part of its base in order to court black voters. Still, this election should provide a cautionary tale for both parties with respect to the black vote.
For Democrats, this election highlighted the importance of get out the vote (GOTV) efforts among people of color, especially in light of GOP voter suppression tactics that will no doubt continue in future elections. For Republicans, the lesson may well be to curb the racially charged messaging (such as “food stamp President”) which, while it may excite the base, also inspires the opposition to vote against the GOP.
4. Democracy. Despite the passage of laws aimed at making it more difficult for people of color to vote, democracy prevailed. Citizens came out to vote, undeterred by long lines, incorrect information and disorganized polling places. The fight to ensure that Americans are not disenfranchised must extend beyond the 2012 presidential election and should become a Democratic Party priority. As a primer on efforts to suppress the vote, take a look at Brentin Mock’s excellent voting rights series on Colorlines.
Tomorrow, I’ll list the losers from the 2012 election season (Donald Trump, anyone?).