I was sufficiently busy last few weeks that I never got to comment on Obama’s election victory. While the margin of victory was tight at the national vote level (50.6% to 47.8% according to the beeb), at the electoral college level, Obama romped home (332 to 206), as Romney failed to capture any of the big “swing states necessary to ensure victory.
Romney’s defeat, despite wall to wall propaganda by his right wing attack dogs in the many Murdoch controlled news outlets (Young-turks video on that and here’s a video of Fox News reacting to Obama’s victory), can be blamed on a number of things. Many of these I highlighted in previous posts.
Firstly, dismissing 47% of Americans as dependent on welfare handouts is hardly up there as a strategy for winning friends and influencing people. Naturally many of that 47% (who contrary to Romney actually have jobs and work damn hard to keep them) were probably not terribly impressed by this. Also as Obama pointed out, one is elected president of all Americans, not just the ones who voted for you, or indeed the small elite (whom Romney was giving his speech too) who bankroll you’re campaign.
Indeed if we’re going to talk about “welfare recipients Romney would be well advised to note how many of America’s largest corporations (including Lockheed Martin and Raytheon) are heavily dependant of government contracts with money from Uncle Sam being either their largest source of revenue, or in some cases, their only one!
Similarly many Republican leaning states are heavily dependant on “welfare from the US federal government, taking in much more money from the US treasury than its citizens pay out in taxes (full list of such balances can be found here). republicans may have this vision of themselves as “rugged individualists, but the reality is they are “welfare queens dependant on government hand outs, as for every dollar they spend on taxes, their state gets back much more from Uncle Sam (e.g. $1.84 in the case of Palin’s home state of Alaska…big government stay on our backs!)
Let Detroit Go Bankrupt
The above is the title of an open-ed piece Romney wrote regarding the bailout of GM. While we can debate in another post whether he was right or wrong, again from a political point of view it was electorate suicide. These 4 words almost certainly cost Romney the key swing states of Pennsylvania and Ohio. They also suggested he would opt for the sort of harsh austerity measures that are strangling the European, and increasingly the UK economy.
As I mentioned in a prior post, hurricane Sandy may have succeeded in taking the term “floating voter to a whole new level! Obama, unlike Bush (with Katrina), handled the crisis professionally and came across well, even earning the admiration of an number of Republican governors in the process.
But also perhaps, there is the fact that it brought home the realities of climate change, which will inevitably mean hurricanes like this become more frequent occurrences. But while Obama and the democrats are solidly behind taking action on climate change, the Republicans are like King Canute, literally in the case of North Carolina, believing that if they ignore climate change the problem will just go away. More Republicans believe in demonic possession than climate change. Now while personally I reckon that Romney was always faking it when he claimed he was sceptical of climate change (I think he was saying that more because its what his party base would want to hear him say) the fact is that its hardly very “presidential to be denying a threat to the nation, when flood waters are literally creeping across the White House lawn.
I would point to two crucial swing states in this regard Florida and Colorado. Of all the surprises last week, it was Romney’s failure to capture either of these states that surprised most.
Obama’s margin of victory in 2008 in Florida was marginal and in his first term he did what no previous President has dared do and cut the space budget (Florida being the state worse hit by this decision). Putting aside the rights and wrongs of this cut (another day’s post), most commentators assumed that by doing this he had probably guaranteed that he would loose Florida come election day, especially given how the Republicans went to great lengths to woo the sunshine state, even to the point of holding their convention there (of course, another hurricane screwed up that plan!…is god dropping a hint?)
But in the end I suspect, bitter memories of past hurricane strikes persuaded enough Floridians to vote for the guy who got his science from folks with PhD’s, rather than the guy who got his science from Rush Limbaugh and Lord Monckton.
Colorado, happens to be the base of many leading members of the Tea Party movement and the religious right. It is also home to many large military bases, and Obama’s deficit reduction plans mean cuts in military spending, particularly to inland bases that are surplus to post cold war requirements. Again, the assumption was it would surely go for Romney. But instead the sliver state went for Obama. This may have something to do with the massive drought that afflicted the US mid west this summer . I would note that droughts of this nature in the Mid West are consistent with climate change predictions.
Mind the gap
Also while Republicans might think that “real men don’t use wind turbines they don’t seem to realise that renewable technology is a major employer and a growth industry. While they often scoff at how much of the renewables manufacturing is based out of China (forgetting for a minute how much of everything else, is also made in China….or that the oil comes from the Middle East!). They often forget that prior to G. W. Bush’s reign of error, the US led the world in renewable’s technology, but he conceded America’s lead to Germany and China (whose economies are hardly in poor state of health as a result, contrary to the arguments against renewables you often hear).
In previous times Americans worried about the “bomber gap or “missile gap. In this day and age some worry about an “energy gap where by the Chinese (and many other countries in Europe & Asia) are racing ahead of the US in terms of their ability to manufacture energy systems (nuclear, renewable and fossil fuel based) and the underlying technology to make them work.
Inevitably the failure of Republicans to appropriate these trends cost them votes, likely in many key industrial (or post-industrial) swing states. Even NY mayor (and prominent Republican) Mike Bloomberg took a pop at Romney over climate change.
The Cameron Gambit?
In the wake of this defeat, a number of Republican commentators have lamented the need for the party to emerge a sort of “David Cameron like solution. Brit’s may recall how after becoming leader David Cameron went through that whole phase of hugging huddies, visiting the ice caps and crying at the sight of melting icebergs, or promising that the NHS would be “safe under the Tories. He even put a tree on the Conservative party logo….a tree that little yellow lib dem bird took to nesting in!
Now we’ll suspend discussion as to whether or not Cameron was sincere in those statements till another day (personally, I think he lied through his teeth!). But this is basically the sort of gambit they are talking about for the GOP. That they should elect a leader who will accept that 10,000’s of climate scientists are unlikely to be wrong. A candidate who will accept that while he may have some moral misgivings about abortion or gay marriage, its not the job of uncle Sam to be going into American’s bedrooms and telling them how to behave. A candidate for that matter who accepts that the world is billions of years old and the evolution is real! There are many obvious candidates within the GOP appropriate for this job, ranging from Rudolph Giuliani, John Huntsman or again, Mike Bloomberg.
The Lunatics take over the Asylum
However, I would comment that the problem here is that such candidates stand little chance of being elected by an increasingly lunatic and out of touch Republican party. Two decades of Fox News propaganda hasn’t so much created a lunatic fringe within Republicanism, but a lunatic mainstream (otherwise known as the Tea Party and the Religious Right).
For these fanatics, Romney was a huge compromise in itself. As I pointed out during the primaries, they attacked Romney for being “too left wing and of all things being able to speak French (badly) which made him too much of a dork to ever be a Republican president. Inevitably, the end result is that until the Republicans get their house in order, i.e. kick out the extremists, there is little chance of a more moderate candidate getting elected.
I therefore see two possible futures for Republicanism, one a reformation, in which the party essentially purges itself of the Tea party fanatics, notably the so-called “Paulestinians who are largely in any event, more a fifth column of the Libertarian Party. Given these Tea partiers disregard for Republican party rules (as I previously commented on) and democratic principles, this won’t be difficult to accomplish. However, it would probably have the effect of splitting the conservative movement in two. Although for lefties like me that would have the advantage of all but guaranteeing another democratic president (Hilary Clinton anyone?) in 2016.
The other possibility is that the lunatics storm the barricades and take over the asylum. They win the shouting match in the next four years and elect a true nut job (Palin, Bachmann, Rand Paul, take you’re pick) as presidential candidate. Now the chances of such a candidate ultimately getting elected president are slim (my experience of Americans is that the majority of them aren’t crazy and are sensible enough not to vote for a person who will effectively destroy the country), but the danger for the world is that sooner or later they’ll succeed and the consequences for the rest of the world are not good….as in WWIII!