Last post on politics – Reassessing the Numbers, and The Future

What follows is 1100 words on what the future holds for Obama voters, what echoes of the past I see in last night’s vote, the problem with statistics, how little some things change, and how my term “Obamagasm” is taking on new meanings. . .

As always, I’m hiding this behind the page break.  Skip over this if you don’t want to talk about politics anymore.  If you’re on an RSS reader, just skip to the next post in the feed now.

I’ll be back to link dumping tomorrow.  Thanks.

Let’s all agree on one thing: a win is a win.  In the end, all that counts is who wins, according to the rules of the game.  And the electoral college is the important thing here.  So Obama, not surprisingly, won last night by a wide electoral vote margin.

There’s something that baffles me, though.  This vote was not the mandate many thought it was going to be.  At least, it isn’t if you look at the situation for a couple of minutes.  For the last few months, coverage of Obama has been something insane like 90% positive.  He started a movement that’s swept the nation and inspired Christ-like metaphors.  He’s the savior of our great land.  All the polls going into the last day showed him winning in a landslide. Voting for McCain was pointless.  Obama would take all the swing states, some of the old guard Republican states, and hold all the traditionally Democratic states.  He was unbeatable.

But can we look at the results for a second?  Roughly 120 million people voted.  Only about seven million more voted for Obama than McCain.  Hardly a landslide of popular support.  And, it would appear, Obama got only one million more votes than John Kerry did four years ago.  Was Kerry more popular than we thought?  Or is The Cult of Personality surrounding Obama just a tad bit overblown?  Did McCain just suck that badly as a candidate?

How did that happen?  How can a man who is a “transcendent” political figure barely outpoll a man who was labeled “George W. Bush’s third term” — the least popular president of all time?  Oprah can discuss the wonder of “The Color Purple States,” but it still looks pretty divided down the middle to me.  And the fact that Obama’s campaign had to be so massive to bring out the numbers to defeat McCain shows you that this really is a Center-Right country.

How is it that Obama didn’t win more electoral votes than Clinton did in 1996?  (He came one shy, though he was 8 higher than Clinton’s 1992 campaign.)  (Update: I didn’t realize that two states have yet to be declared.  Obama could easily beat Clinton by 15 or more electoral college delegates before this is all over.)

How is it that The Great Liberal Hope could take California but not get Prop 8 voted down?  Is there any more popular cause amongst the left — not just in California, but across the country — than the defeat of the anti-gay marriage proposition? It’s a proposition that had bloggers banning ads from their sites, and writing long impassioned pleas about civil rights and equality for all, etc. etc. on blogs that have nothing to do with politics, GLBT issues, or anything related.   But Prop 8 still passed.  So, too, did anti-gay marriage bills in two other states.  And that includes — according to not-necessarily-reliable Exit Polls — a 70% vote FOR Prop 8 by African American voters in California.

But, then, remember Biden’s answer to the question of gay marriage in the vice presidential debate?  There was no difference between he and Palin, in the end.  But, still, that has to tick off those who see the Obama campaign as the faultless white knight.

Does this indicate that Obama’s support crosses party lines enough that his supporters are bound to be disappointed by him as he enacts his vision?  This is the dangerous ground Obama walks right now.   He’s going to tick off a different part of his constituency with just about every move he makes.  That ought to be a tricky minefield to navigate.

How did 19% of Clinton supporters come to vote for McCain?  Not that I trust Exit Polls all that much, but I saw that figure reported on CNN last night.  How did Obama not get 100% of Clinton’s fans?

Here’s the part that amuses me the most.  I’ve followed politics — not just presidential politics, but all the inbetween years, too — for 20 years. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there’s not much new going on out there.  Obama ran Clinton’s 1992 campaign (“hope” and “change” ad infinitum) while McCain ran Dole’s 1996 (he’s due to run, he’s questioned on his age, he runs a bad campaign.)

But the thing I’ve heard in the previous couple of election cycles has always been how THIS election is the one in which the next generation takes control of politics.  The 20-something politically active types are going to be the ones to tilt the election one way or the other. And in 2000 and 2004, we saw those voters crying on camera about how disillusioned they were that their vote doesn’t count, because not nearly enough of them bothered to show up.

It looks to me that the Obama campaign rallied those troops successfully, often using strategies and techniques honed by Karl Rove in previous campaigns. (Oh, irony.)  Congratulations, Next Generation.  You have the power now!  And you’re about to learn what an awful and pragmatic place Washington really is.  You’re about to learn disappointment and disillusionment.  In the next couple of years, you’ll be disappointed by things that you don’t have direct control over.  Heck, it’s started already with Prop 8.

Obama’s next great trick will be in bringing those voters back in four years, and not ticking off the rest of the voters so much that they rise up against his policies in two years, a la 1994.  If Obama pushes his left wing agenda too hard in the first couple of years (and make no mistake, he’s liberal), he’ll run the risk of losing some of that majority he so badly needs in the Congress right now.

We’re about to see the political education of a generation.  Welcome to the roller coaster, Millennials.  You’ll soon be as jaded and as cynical as the rest of us.  Clever catch phrases, nice typography and design, Hollywood bandwagons, feel good plans, and smooth speeches will soon be trumped by the cold hard slap of reality.  Even if Obama turns out to be this wonderfully inclusive cross-platform political wunderkind, the two houses of Congress aren’t so bi-partisan.

The real test now comes in the transition, as Obama begins to name his Cabinet and transition leaders.  Will we see more of the same old Washington left-wing political hacks filling those positions?  Or will we see new and more moderate blood?  Why aren’t those who said Bush needed to put a Democrat on his Cabinet in 2000 AND 2004 demanding a Republican on Obama’s?  Because “bi-partisan” is a word heard in elections and not in actual governance.  It’s the first thing to go in any administration.

Post Script: I thought I was being all witty and clever when I coined the term “Obamagasm” to describe the euphoric reaction the new President-Elect gets from his followers, the media, etc.  Now, there’s a story about “Obama Babies.”  There are those expecting a flood of baby births in nine months.  All of a sudden, “Obamagasm” is more literal than I thought.

Post-Script 2: Has anyone declared their candidacy for 2012 yet?  Or do we wait for February for that?

Post-Script 3: Exit polls this year indicate that the overall voting populace made more money this year than they did four years ago.  Don’t expect to see the mainstream media report that one.

6 thoughts on “Last post on politics – Reassessing the Numbers, and The Future

  1. Feel better now, Augie? I have to say that reads as very bitter and you rarely (never) read that way. Go hug your daughter. Babies always refresh the spirit!

  2. Hey Augie, I totally respect differring opinions on things, but Overworm is right, and you’re coming across with some sour grapes here.

    From http://www.politico.com/blogs/bensmith/1108/Most_votes_ever.html: “There are many ways of looking at Obama’s win: At roughly 53% to 46% It was the biggest margin, percentage-wise, at least since George H. W. Bush’s 1988 victory; it was, on the other hand, shy of Reagan’s realigning 1980 victory and his 1984 blowout.

    One number pointed out me yesterday: With unofficial tallies of the popular vote past 64 million (and still counting, as Georgia and other states tally the paper), Obama won more votes than any president in history.”

    And, as an Obama person since before he even announced (donating and volunteering), it IS kind of insulting to be told that I’m simply following him blindly because he gives a good speech. You don’t usually paint with such a broad brush.

  3. grin I miss debating politics with you!!

    I think the answer to your comment about press coverage and perception versus actual vote counts boils down to the fact that there are loads of people who don’t even know they can vote opposite to their voter registration (seriously – i had to explain this to a democrat about voting for the awesome republican state senator – yes, me, arguing for a republican), people who vote solely on one or two issues, and people who just do their own thing regardless of the media and perception…seriously, all the greatest pro-obama media coverage in the world is not going to make some people, some regions, vote for him, no matter who he is running against, what people say about him, or even if he were the 2nd coming (something I’ve never acted like he even came close to being– I’m as cynical as you, even if our political ideologies are different)

  4. “How did 19% of Clinton supporters come to vote for McCain? [SNIP] How did Obama not get 100% of Clinton’s fans?”

    Hillary did more to hurt the Democratic Party than the republican Part ever could. Hillary’s performance in the Democratic Nominations was shameless to an extreme. She made Obama the ENEMY. I’m surprised that her voters didn’t cast more votes against him.

  5. Virtually everything you say about the 2008 popular vote is wrong. When it comes to total turnout, the votes are still being counted; FiveThirtyEight.com estimates that President-Elect Obama is likely to pick up another 1.8 million and Senator McCain another 1.3 million when all of the counting is finished. The final turnout is likely to be (again according to FiveThirtyEight.com) in the 125-130 million rage, though Michael MacDonald of George Mason University estimates final turnout will be about 136.6 million. Either way, this is the greatest number of people to have voted in a presidential election and the highest turnout rate in either 40 or 100 years, depending on the final tallies.

    As for margins of victory, John Kerry’s popular vote total in 2004 was 59 million to George W. Bush’s 62 million. President-Elect Obama has received 63.7 million and counting (at least 4 million more votes than Kerry, and possibly as high as 5 million), while Senator McCain has received 56.3 million and counting (perhaps 2 million fewer than Kerry and 5 million fewer than Bush). This is likely to end up at a 52.4% – 46.2% win for President-Elect Obama, and is the highest percentage of the popular vote for any winning candidate since 1988.

    Your dire warnings about a repeat of 1994 are misplaced for several reasons. 1994 represented the end of a slow partisan realignment in the South with conservative Republicans finally replacing conservative Democrats who’d held seats for decades. The GOP also had leadership in the form of Newt Gingrich then; now they’re a hapless collection of bumblers with no message, no plan, and no ideas.

    And while you tut-tut at the youth vote, you ignore the stunning 66-32% margin by which this age group broke for Obama, and the 69%-30% margin by which first-time voters broke for Obama. These are utterly unprecedented margins in modern times, and given what we know about patterns of voting and partisanship the young voters who voted for Obama will continue to vote reliably Democratic for decades to come.

    And anyone who can type, with a straight face, that Obama used Rove-style tactics demonstrably understands neither.

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