Thursday, November 06, 2008

Reflections on the 2008 Election

The 2008 election was certainly the most momentous of my lifetime, and I include in that estimate the crucial 1968 election that began the era of Republican domination of the presidency. I've been thinking a lot about what happened, and I'd like to share some of those thoughts with you here.

1. Nationally, the Democratic Party is in the Ascendancy

Obama will end up with almost 53% of the vote, according to my calculation, once all of the early and absentee votes on the west coast are accounted for. McCain will end up with about 46%. Obama received a higher share of the vote than any Democrat has since Lyndon Johnson's epic 61% share in 1964. While Obama's popular vote margin falls somewhat short of true landslide status (a margin of 10 is generally considered the threshold), his victory was still decisive. Moreover, for the Democrats there are very heartening trends, and for the Republicans there are very ominous ones.

According to CNN's exit polls, the following picture has emerged:

Voters aged 18-24 went for Obama 68-30
Voters aged 24-29 went for Obama 69-29.
First time voters went for Obama 72-27 (!)

Studies show that people often retain voting habits acquired in their late teens and early to mid 20s. While many people switch their allegiances later, still it must be said that the Democrats look to be in good shape among the cohort of voters who are in their young adulthood now, and this bodes well for the future of the Democratic Party. McCain prevailed in only one age group: voters 65 and older, 54-44.

Moreover, consider the ethnic composition of the United States in 2050. You can get a good sense of it, perhaps, by looking at California now. And the Republicans have to see long-term disaster looming if that is indeed the case. All of the growing categories are going Democratic.

Again, according to CNN:

African American voters went for Obama 96-3.
Latinos went for Obama 67-30.
Asian voters went to Obama 63-34

In religious affiliation, according to MSNBC, Obama won among Catholics (54-45), Jews (78-21), those of other faiths (73-22), and those of no particular faith (75-23). McCain prevailed by 54-45 among Protestants/Other Christians (although I'm unsure how MSNBC is defining this category.) In gender, Obama prevailed heavily among women. In education, Obama won heavily among those who have done post-grad work and narrowly among all those with a college degree. Obama also won city dwellers AND suburbanites. In short, the Democrats are in a strong position to consolidate the gains they made nationally.

Obama flipped the following states won by Bush in 2004: Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, New Mexico, Nevada, and Colorado. (He may yet win Missouri or even Georgia, but the chances are admittedly slim.) His victories in Indiana and Virginia are the first for a Democrat since 1964. Obama ran unusually strongly for a Democrat in the Dakotas and Montana, and he won a respectable 44% in Texas and 45% in South Carolina. Obama crushed McCain in Illinois and California by higher percentages than LBJ won over Goldwater in '64.

In fact, if you look at the numbers carefully, there are 21 states in the U.S. with 10 or more electoral votes, what we might call "big states". Obama carried 16 of them. In fact, thanks to Howard Dean's 50 state strategy, states such as Missouri, Georgia, Mississippi, Arizona, and even Alaska will be competitive next time.

And check this out: The Democratic Party's candidate has now won the popular vote in 4 out of the last 5 national elections.

Finally, the Democratic Party is now led by a man who raised more money from more contributors than anyone in history, and who assembled the greatest get-out-the-vote operation ever seen. In 2010 and 2012 the Democrats will have these vast resources at their service again.

Oh, and in case I forget: In the last two years, the Republicans have now lost about 57 seats in the House; their losses in the Senate, pending recounts, are potentially 15 seats.

2. The Republican Party is Becoming a Regional Party

For all intents and purposes, the Republican Party has ceased to exist in the northeast. Obama swept the region with 61% of the vote. In fact, over the last five elections, the Republicans have carried a state in the region ONCE--New Hampshire in 2000. Democrats have carried states in the region FIFTY-FOUR TIMES. (And I'm not even counting DC, which is an automatic win for the Democrats.) Obama ran 1,800,000 votes ahead of McCain in the region's biggest state, New York. Congressionally, the 2008 election was a virtual wipeout for the Republicans in the northeast. Out of 22 U.S. Representatives in New England, none is a Republican. Out of 29 House seats in New York, only 3 are Republican. In fact, out of 92 House members in the area, the Democrats now hold a 75-17 advantage. (!) In the Senate, come January, only 4 of the region's 22 Senators will be Republicans. And 8 out of 11 governors in the northeast are Democrats. In short, the GOP has been virtually eliminated in one of the major regions of the country.

In fact, the Republicans are now really only the party of the Deep South. Seven of the party's 21 governors are southern. The GOP's Senate and House membership is increasingly southern (almost half their Senators come from the South.) McCain carried 22 states; 11 of them are southern. McCain will probably end up with 173 electoral votes; 118 were from the South. Obama won the electoral votes of the non-southern states 309 to 55! And this map is almost startling. It shows the counties where the Republicans increased their share of the vote from 2004 to 2008:

In short, the Republican Party is increasingly the Southern Party. The Republicans are no longer competitive in the northeast, as we have seen, but they also face bleak prospects for the foreseeable future in Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, New Mexico, Colorado, and the entire West Coast.

The Republicans are increasingly the party of older, less educated, less affluent, somewhat reactionary white Protestants. Considering the direction this country is going in demographically, I wouldn't want to be in their shoes.

3. Fox "News" and Right Wing Hate Radio Have Poisoned the Minds of Millions of People Against Obama

Every hideous lie imaginable was thrown at Obama during the campaign--baby killer, Marxist, Communist, Socialist, anti-Semite, anti-white, you name it. There are actually people today who are terrified of Obama because they think he is going to terrorize and imprison whites! (One of them was telling this to G. Gordon Liddy on the radio yesterday. And he seemed to agree!) Many are convinced Obama is going to confiscate their wealth and establish an anti-Christian state in America, complete with Islamic Law! And where did such insane sickness come from? From the frothing lies of Fox "News" and right wing psychopaths such as Coulter, Hannity, Beck, Liddy, Savage, Michael Reagan, Limbaugh, and all of the other far-right sewer rats. This will be one of Obama's most crucial challenges: how to reassure and conciliate those who are literally frightened to death by him and what they imagine he will do. These people will form the passionate, crazed core of the opposition to him, and they will attack him relentlessly. Some may even attempt to do violence to him. This is the outcome of 40 years of right-wing hatred and slander directed at the Democrats--a segment of the population that is thoroughly mentally unhinged at the thought of a black progressive president. Dealing with these wounded people will not be easy.

4. The selection of Sarah Palin as a candidate for Vice President was one of the most irresponsible acts in American political history.

Only now, after the election, are we hearing the truth about the full extent of Palin's shocking ignorance, dishonesty, and instability. People inside the McCain campaign have come forward to tell us that Palin didn't know Africa was a continent instead of a country, that she lacked a basic understanding of how the U.S. government even works, that she in fact knew virtually nothing about any major issue at all. Naturally, the question arises:

Why in the hell did McCain choose her to be potentially one heartbeat away from the presidency??

Palin's selection was an absolute outrage. Many talented and capable Republicans were passed over in favor of her. How dare the McCain campaign put this nation in that kind of danger!

5. Barack Obama will not be able to fix everything right away--or even in eight years.

Obama's supporters are almost euphoric about his election, and with good reason. The choice of this spectacularly intelligent, thoughtful, competent, and talented man to be our new leader is electrifying. He will be a 180 degree contrast to the miserable failure that preceded him. But we have to be realistic and sober in our expectations. The economic, foreign, and social problems the United States faces are so severe that Obama will be tested more than any other president since FDR. He will make mistakes; he will sometimes anger us; he will sometimes fall short. But given his ability, his team, and a cooperative Congress, I am feeling a hope that I have not had for eight long, dark years. In fact, I feel as if my whole body and soul have unclenched and relaxed. On 20 January 2009, I am once again going to be proud of my president.

6. The struggle is not over.

The whole apparatus of right wing hate propaganda is still in place. The hard right conservatives will try to undermine Obama at every turn, and the liars of the radical right will try to destroy him the way they nearly destroyed Bill Clinton. But they will find out that this isn't the 1990s. A mighty Liberal/Progressive/Democratic Netroots organization has arisen to fight back against the tide of sewage being generated by the Right Wing Noise Machine. The radical right wingers think they're going to push us around again. They're wrong. We in the Progressive Netroots are STRONG. We are UNITED. We are FIERCELY DETERMINED. And whenever our political enemies go after President Obama, we'll be able to say this, loudly and proudly:



zach said...

How bout that rather slim margin of victory in Texas for McCain. Obama got more than any Democrat has in Texas, I'm pretty sure.

* Valerie * said...

Great post! For No. 1, don't forget the statistics that the overwhelming majority of people with post-graduate education voted for Obama. ;o)

When they announced those figures over CNN at the Obama rally, we cheered mightily.

Joseph said...

Zach--Texas is indeed becoming more competitive.

Val--Thanks! BTW, I did mention the post grad thing.

I still envy you for having been there in Chicago.

Ed said...

Joe, there are pockets of Republican strength in odd places and it relates almost exclusively to conservative Christians it seems. Even here in MN we have seen Bachmann returned to the House and we have Pawlenty as Gov. It seems like we have them on a short leash to a degree at least. Until the GOP finds a way to integrate and reconcile with the far right Christians they will struggle for a broad appeal.

Genève said...

Ahh! I'm done with my campaign! I can blog/write/exist on the internet again!

Don't you think, though, that (in response to your "ascendency" point) the Democratic party will have problems picking up new seats in 2010? I think we've topped out after the tandem asskicking of 2008/2008, especially with peoples' hopes so high for the effectiveness of an Obama presidency.

Don't get me wrong, I think Obama can deliver, especially when he surrounds himself with brilliant and ruthless staff like Rahm Emanuel, but I think people are expecting more than they'll see the results of by 2010, and it'll reflect on how much trust they put into new Democratic candidates. Thoughts?

Joseph said...

Geneve, there are too many unknown variables for us to know whether we've topped out in seats yet. When all is said and done we'll have about 259 out of 435 in the House and 59 or 60 in the Senate. (I think Begich and Franken will win; Martin may win a runoff). There are a number of vulnerable GOP Senate seats up in 2010 (e.g., PA, OH, and FL) and if we play our cards right and Obama does well, we might top out at 63 or 64 Senate seats.

Meditator said...

HI, Joe~
I have so enjoyed your (partisan?) blogs this election season. I have a couple of questions: 1. What was the percentage of registered voters who actually voted? Was it much higher than in the past?
2. When are they going to have a funeral/memorial service for Obama's grandmother - and is he going to attend?
BTW~ One of my black neighbors stopped when I went out to look for the paper this morning and said, "Isn't he doing great already?" She didn't even have to identify the he in her question. Woohoo