Thoughts on the Election
Election Days fascinate me: politicians, pundits, and voters spend months imagining, predicting, and trying to shape one single day. Then that day finally comes, the results pour in with a whirl, and that one instant determines the lines and rules for the next round of political boxing for the next two years. The results of this year’s elections are especially interesting. Most of these observations I’m absorbing from other commentators, even if I don’t cite them directly.
- Polls are meaningful. He was excoriated, but Nate Silver was almost exactly right in his projections. Even in such a tight election, the numbers were a reliable predictor of how things were going to shape out. I think pundits like to believe that they have some special insight from their gut that trumps statistics (otherwise, they would have to face the uncomfortable question: what good are they?). While I didn’t find this terribly surprising, I expected more variety than we got–that’s what my gut was telling me, anyways.
- The GOP base doomed Romney. Jacob Weisburg made this argument, and I think he’s mainly right, though not exactly for the reasons Weisburg gives. Though the overall field was weak, Romney was a strong GOP candidate. Few nominees come from either party with the credentials and experience he has. But he had to spend so much time convincing his own party that he was a credible candidate (distancing himself from “Obamney Care,” picking Paul Ryan) that he couldn’t emphasize his greatest strength: he’s a moderate Republican with bipartisan experience who’s an excellent manager. But “bipartisan experience” isn’t a strength when the party wants to repeal Democratic bills like Dodd-Frank or Obamacare wholesale. “No-compromise” politics right now appears to favor the Democrats.
- That GOP base will change. If for nothing else than from necessity. But I think many in the GOP are legitimately concerned that they are not casting their representative net wide enough. You pick your battles in politics, and I think the GOP knows that their economic message still resonates with a lot of Americans. But it’s those other issues–immigration, health care, women’s rights–that makes it difficult for that message to stick. The Most Americans said the economy was their number one priority, but my hunch is that if the other issues don’t line up to, then even a top priority can be trumped. Which leads to…
- The beginning of the end of the today’s cultural wars. OK, that’s putting it a little strong, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that behind the presidential and congressional races, this was a huge election day for social issues. Maine and Maryland (and probably Washington) became the first states to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote. Minnesota refused to ban it. Washington and Colorado legalized marijuana (though I’d consider marijuana laws more of a criminal justice issue). These all passed by healthy margins. Now other marijuana measures failed, and same-sex marriage bans still exist in the majority of states. But challenges are coming more frequently, and opposition groups seem spent. The days of the Moral Majority and the Republican Party walking hand in hand to the polling booth and then into the White House or the Capitol building are likely over. What form the cultural wars will take next has yet to be seen. My money is on how we make end-of-life decisions. But to contradict everything I just said, the other thing we witnessed was…
- The rebirth of the cultural wars. In case you were wondering, yes, it’s true: abortion and rape are very, very sensitive subjects. Richard Murdock and Todd Akin now have a lot of free time to reflect on that.