Joe Gandelman: Conclusions from the 2012 election
The 2012 elections surprised both sides and hit a reset button on the Obama administration — and American politics. Here are 10 conclusions:
1. So much for Citizens United destroying the fabric of America with big bucks automatically meaning victory. Billionaire Sheldon Adelson would have gotten more bang for his buck if he had visited The Chicken Ranch.
2. Republican Party, you did build that: From its wishful-thinking alternate reality; to its exiling and dissing of moderates who then voted for Obama in huge numbers; to its polarizing talk show hosts turning off key demographic groups; to its cherry-picking partisan pollsters and voter suppression efforts that brought indignant targeted voters out to vote — the GOP literally gave this election away. In the end, Clint Eastwood’s empty chair symbolizes the inaccuracy of Republican assumptions about the Presidential race, the degree of national conservative support — and about America.
The National Journal’s Charlie Cook writes about GOP primaries: “It would be easy to just blame (Mitt) Romney, but when he finally got around to being himself, in the first debate, his numbers moved up. ... Instead, Republicans should be asking themselves about their own party and how they took a very smart and rational guy and made him turn into a pretzel to win the nomination—a contortion that left him unable to straighten himself out in time to win in November. The nomination process has been captured by such an exotic breed within the GOP that anyone emerging from it faces significant electability challenges.”
3. The center lives: Losers included many high profile, outspoken, media-hungry Tea Party/Talk Radio Political Culture candidates that moderate voters couldn’t stand.
4. Winning independents doesn’t guarantee success. Romney won independents. Moderates flocked to Obama. The Democrats’ coalition of women, Latinos, young people, and Asian and Jewish voters was as potent as the 2008 Obama coalition or the winning FDR coalitions. Some pollsters didn’t correctly sample cell phone users.
5. Serious analysts not political entertainers are the ones to watch for real predictions. The accuracy of New York Times’ Nate Silver, the University of Virginia’s Larry Sabato, and San Diego political scientist Samuel Popkin again demonstrated why they’re the best in the business. Before the vote, Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan announced that “all the vibrations were right” for a Romney victory. She must have been feeling the vibrations from her TV tuned to “Fox & Friends.”
6. Dick Morris must have something bad on Rupert Murdoch. What else can explain him continuing to be paid to make predictions so breathtakingly wrong that he further damages the Fox News brand?
7. Karl Rove Political Genius, Buh-Bye: Will Congress pass a special law to protect billionaires from Karl Rove? His costly PAC’s efforts flopped, his on-the-air Fox News election night melt-down gave him an enduring image as a hack, and his plan to support more electable candidates in GOP primaries means he’ll be at war with Tea Partiers.
8. Telling post-election signs. Obama teared-up thanking his young campaign workers. Romney’s campaign staffers on election night found their campaign credit cards were turned off when they tried to pay for taxis taken home.
9. Big Labor is back and battling. No longer can you joke that you couldn’t even start a labor union in a maternity ward.
10. Truth matters. Future campaigns will note that Mitt Romney’s stunning discarding of past positions and his campaign’s running of proven, false assertions may have backfired. Fox News has also been damaged by its dishonestly, badly misleading and misinforming viewers.
Joe Gandelman is a veteran journalist who wrote for newspapers overseas and in the United States. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.