I decided to wait on making this post mainly because I know what it is to deeply invest one's self in a presidential campaign you believed could win only to see the candidate you supported go down in defeat. For me, that was John Kerry's campaign in 2004. I know it can be a very disheartening experience, so I wanted to wait a little while to give people some time to accept the defeat and move on. But it's time to move on now and look at the implications of this election outcome.
Since most people here are rightists, let me start this off provocatively by pointing out the winner of the popular vote in each American presidential election cycle since the end of the Cold War:
1992: Bill Clinton (Democrat)
1996: Bill Clinton (Democrat)
2000: Al Gore (Democrat)
2004: George W. Bush (Republican)
2008: Barack Obama (Democrat)
2012: Barack Obama (Democrat)
Noticing a general pattern here?
Let me be even more provocative though by highlighting that George Bush Sr. lost his re-election bid in 1992 primarily as a result of the poor economic conditions that prevailed at the time...yet President Obama just won re-election this year under economic conditions that are substantially worse. Are you beginning to sense then that the Republican Party has a real problem here?
The question this raises is that of whether the Republican Party, for its own sake, needs to review the possibility of reforming its politics at this point. Over the last several days, we have seen the standard arguments come out: the Tea Party wing (the libertarians and the social conservatives) complain of Romney's ideological impurity and the adverse down-ballot effect that that may have had on the party in general (in their theory, low base turnout on election day), while the more establishment wing that backed Romney (the classical Reaganites) blames the party's general defeat this year (and yes it was a small but nonetheless general defeat) on the impact of nominating 'crazy people' (Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock, etc.) for important offices and also on the party's increasing failure to connect with minorities and female voters. Let me resolve this dispute for you: the Reaganites are correct. Factually speaking, had Romney gotten the same percentage of the Latino vote this year that George W. Bush got in 2004, he would have won in Nevada, Colorado, Florida, and possibly Virginia. (The math here is that you have to win the presidency to deport all the Latinos and resolve this problem in your favor, but you can't win the presidency anymore if you pledge to do stuff like that because Latinos have a vote and compose an increasing percentage of both the general and voting populations.) Had he been able to narrow the gender gap to half the near-record size it wound up being, he would also have won Ohio and thus the presidency. The question that now arises is that of WHY there is such a mounting disconnect between the GOP and these important social groups. These important social groupings -- minorities and women -- voted in unusually large percentages for Obama and the Democrats this year because they felt threatened precisely by the extreme positions that Republicans are taking on social issues these days. Make no mistake, people principally vote on economic issues. Since minorities and women tend to be poorer than whites and men and therefore more likely in need of state assistance, one won't be surprised to find that they regularly vote for the Democratic Party. But not by these proportions. These proportions can only be explained by something else added on top of the normal reasons these groups would have to vote Democratic. In other words, yeah the Republicans probably wouldn't have been able to win over most Latinos or most women or what have you no matter what, given their anti-government economic platform. But they could have minimized the gaps in voting trends between men and women and between whites and minorities to the extent required to be victorious overall. The next question is: What then explains these especially large gaps in voting trends?
Let's start with women. This article I think helps explain why the gender was especially large this year. Allow me to briefly give you the bottom line: Republicans in general, including Mitt Romney, challenged women's reproductive rights and their right to equal pay in an unprecedented way. Additionally, more than one Republican man running for high-level office made headlines by implicitly trivializing rape. These things can seriously damage your image with women who would otherwise be inclined to vote for you. To give you an idea of how severe women believed the threat to their reproductive rights was this year, one survey of registered voters conducted shortly before the election found that abortion was the number one voting issue for women this year, even beating out jobs and the economy and broader health care. (Though it didn't beat them out collectively.) That's NOT historically the norm, and especially not under economic conditions like these. That's the result of feeling that those rights were genuinely threatened on a basic level. Add that on top of the fact that the economic platforms that Romney and the Republicans were running on would have mostly hurt women (e.g. women compose large majorities of welfare dependents, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security recipients, minimum wage workers, etc.) and you can start to see why women voted to re-elect the president by a wide margin despite the current economic conditions.
Let's move on to minorities. ...No, that's just too obvious! Republicans: You know what your problems with minorities are beyond the obvious economic sphere issues! It's not-so-subtly racist stuff like birtherism and "self-deportation" schemes and so forth. ("Self-deportation" was Mr. Romney's allusion to the idea that the government should deliberately make life so miserable for immigrants that they'll want to leave.) Duh. I don't need to explain this stuff. You're not that stupid.
Anyhow, if Republicans could change those two things qualitatively, they would have more chance of winning the presidency in a modern, post-Cold-War context.
Now onto broader implications of the election...
Lots of Democrats are saying that this election outcome constitutes a mandate for left wing economics. Not really. A mandate means majority support in my book. Exit polls from election day indicated that 49% of voters preferred Romney's overall economic policy ideas, while 48% preferred Obama's. Therefore, nobody has a real mandate for their overall economic positions to prevail. Rightists, however, should duly note that "economics" in the exit polls to which I'm referring was considered separate from health care, education, taxes, and the main three entitlement programs (Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security). That's important to note because Obama DOES have a mandate concerning all those latter areas. For example, at least 70% of the public believes that the main three entitlement programs should not be touched, period. Likewise the majority support the Affordable Care Act. And some 60% of voters indicated believing that taxes on at least the richest 2% of the population should be raised. So there IS a mandate for the Democratic Party positions on all that stuff. It's broader government regulations and the welfare system that the average American thinks could stand to be scaled back. (I happen to disagree with the average American there, but that's what they think.) A pertinent question here though is whether the public will get what it wants on economics. I'm actually fairly worried in view of the 'fiscal cliff' coming up and the corresponding budget debate in Washington that's going on. The president has not yet clearly stated that the three main entitlement programs won't be placed on the chopping block. He has simply committed not to privatize Medicare and Social Security. It's organized labor that's launching a campaign to defend the main entitlements, in addition to raising taxes on the rich. Make no mistake, we do need to reduce our budget deficits, but I'll be damned if I'm going to stand idly by and watch the deficit problem get resolved on the backs of the children, the elderly, the poor, the sick, and the disabled! I have a conscience! No, deficit reduction needs to come via scaling back (or ideally terminating) our ridiculous empire-building abroad and via new state revenues exacted from the people who caused the economic crisis we're enduring (who almost invariably supported Romney and the Republicans by the way).