Thoughts on the election

Obama won!  A few observations on the election:

A lot of people are saying "Look, now this really shows that any child can grow up to be President!"  Well, no.  At the same time as the U.S. elected a black man as President, a bunch of states voted for anti-gay laws.  And plenty of ignorant people were still under the impression that Obama is a Muslim and that that's a bad thing.  And Senator (soon to be former Senator) Dole in North Carolina attacked her challenger Kay Fagan by calling her an atheist - Hagan responded by calling it "slander".  There was no Colin Powell moment in that race where someone asked "why do you care if Fagan is an atheist?"  So yes, a black man won the presidency, showing we've progressed, but you probably still can't win the Presidency if you are openly atheist, openly gay, Muslim or Arab (see a poll from 2007).

A lot of people like Chris Matthews and Pat Buchanan are saying this was a transformational election, that the Democrats are building a new coalition just like Reagan in 1980 and FDR in 1932.  Well, no.  The data shows that, compared to 2004, the Democrats just got a a plus 3% handicap in pretty much every state other than states who had their own officials runing (Arizona, Alaska, Massachusetts, Hawaii), and Appalachia and Southern states (hmm).

Stratfor highlights that, even though Obama won in an electoral landslide, the popular vote was relatively close.  One reason for that is going to be Obama losing a lot of areas in the South and Appalachia by much more than Kerry did 4 years ago as you can see on this map.  The obvious explanation is racist voters voting against a black person in those areas.  However you can see that almost no counties in North Carolina and Virginia swung in McCain's direction compared to 2004, however just across the state lines, counties right next to them voted much more heavily in favor of McCain than in 2004.  And Obama targeted North Carolina and especially Virginia, and didn't really target West Virginia and Tennessee.  So I think beyond racism, there is the lesson that if you target voters even in the sticks in Appalachia, they will vote for you in greater numbers than otherwise (vindicating Howard Dean's 50 state strategy).

Basically, I don't think too much has changed in terms of electoral politics.  This election didn't show that we all united, it just showed that a mere 3% more of us reject Republican rule after one of the worst presidencies in history and instead will vote for a black guy if he promises to cut taxes and seems like a generally likeable fellow.

8 comments:

Pat said...

you cynical bastard. at least wait a couple days and let us enjoy it before bringing all this "reality" stuff back into it.

Pat said...

oh, i'd also note that the election of a non-white guy does prove the general people-get-more-liberal-with-time trend.

liberal as in fair, open-minded, etc, not as in socialist.

Adrian said...

Hey it ain't all bad. The fact that this is NOT a transformational election, and we STILL elected a black dude who was called a socialist means that maybe we never really needed giant political changes in order to elect a liberal.

CurrentConductor said...

Well, I frankly think that talking heads don't have enough of an understanding of anti-racism to understand why Obama's election is so important. I agree with your arguments about who can still not be president. But it's really important to have a symbol like Obama out there, a symbol that black people particularly and minorities in general can have that will counter all the other negative messages that get sent their way about their value and worth and capabilities. I love the story in the middle of this post. And how awesome is it for a black guy to get to yell, "My president is black!"

And I think that the argument that this doesn't prove that the country has changed much is overly pessimistic. A lot of people thought this couldn't happen, so if nothing else, the dialogue has changed, and the national dialogue has a big effect on national outcomes.

Adrian said...

That is a good point about the dialogue. I suppose I am open to possibility that Obama could change electoral politics in the future through the office of the president. I just don't think he's changed anything to date through his campaign (other than I guess the dialogue).

cflanders said...

Pat is right! Too much cynicism. And yes, lets see what happens when we get "barrack" to reality. Ho ho ho.

Alejandro L said...

Great post! I refer to the one by flanders. Also a thoughtful comment on the election and the gay marriage props. It reminds me of a quote I heard on the news here in California, where the gay marriage ban and a proposition for more animal rights both passed:

"California, where chickens have more rights than gay people."

Adrian said...

Flanders' pun was painfully bad. Alejandro your quote is painful for a different reason. But at least if a gay person crosses the road they don't have to be subject to endless interrogations about their motives. (my own painful joke)