November 9, 2012

election and politics

This political season (in the US), my politics thoughts have gone mostly to Facebook or Twitter, not here. But it's been such a big part of 2012 that I have to post something.

Y'all probably already know I lean liberal and identify Democrat despite being a balding white male living in a wealthy suburb and working at a big bank. (Turns out these characteristics do not cause a spectacular explosion like mixing matter and anti-matter.) I am very happy Obama won and very sat Prop 8 has not yet been relegated to the political garbage heap of history. In case you were wondering.

Today I had a chance to listen in on a private analysis of the election by a non-partisan, independent and unbiased party. (Yes, really. It was not on the news. It was not over a beer. It was a real pollster from a real polling organization.) The analysis only scratched the surface, and the phrase "emerging wisdom" was used frequently (i.e. the wisdom from this election has not yet fully emerged despite what many tweeters and some cable TV people seem to think). Here are some of the things I took away from this discussion:

  • Obama's approval rating was 52% running up to the election.
    This is quite high for an incumbent running for reelection. Since Richard Nixon's 56% approval rating 40 years ago, only Reagan and Clinton had higher ratings in their reelection years.
  • This election was the most polarized since this organization started measuring this particular data point. Among Democrats, Obama had a 90% approval rating; among Republicans, only 8% (an 82 point gap). Even W had a higher opposition approval rating at 12%, resulting in an 80 point gap.
  • The electorate is divided starkly along racial lines. Obama won over 75% of the vote of people who identify themselves as non-white. Among those identifying as white, Obama won such categories as people with post-graduate education, nonmarried women, and non-religious people.
  • In general, national polls were correct throughout the campaign, within a 2-3 point margin of error. They all pretty much said it was too close to call, and it was.
  • Historically, Republicans are much more likely to vote. The Obama campaign's Get Out The Vote efforts likely had a big effect on the outcome. (One of those pieces of emerging wisdom.)
  • When asked, "Is it more important to stick to your beliefs or to reach compromises," 40% of conservatives said stick to beliefs even if it means nothing gets done, while 60%+ of moderates said compromise, as did 60%+ of liberals. Which, when you think about the meaning of the word "conservative," makes total sense.
  • A majority of the population thinks government should do less, not more, to solve the country's problems. Also, a majority think that people rely too much on the federal government. (I have no idea what people mean by that in real terms. But it's interesting that Romney had that going for him in a significant way, yet he was unable to capitalize.)
There were quite a number of other interesting observations, but ultimately this call left me with the impression that our country is very starkly divided, with only a very small number of people truly in the middle. This is not a shocking conclusion to anyone who has paid attention over the past 12 years, but what I did not realize is how starkly divided we are along racial lines.

As the country's population darkens (and it is getting less white, which I think is a good thing), Republicans will have to deal with the problems facing those demographics if they want to continue to be elected. Circling the wagons around a right-wing, Christian, morals-based agenda and calling it a "big tent" is unlikely to win over the non-white votes they already don't have. (The linked FOX news article talks about "all slices" of the "big tent" Republican pie on display at this year's convention: fiscal conservatism, Ron Paul supporters, and right-to-life. Yup. HUGE tent there.) At some point, the Republicans will have to put forth candidates that can legitimately speak to and deal with the issues facing the non-whites in this country.

Even so, Obama's 2-point popular vote advantage illustrates how evenly divided this country is. Neither side can ever claim a "mandate" in any kind of a win. The only mandate the elected have is to make progress on solving this nation's problems. Unemployment, an education system in free fall, an aging Boomer population, dependence on foreign oil, the insane costs of health care, etc.

People can disagree on how to solve those problems, but obstructionist politics designed to wall off one side from the other will never solve any of them. Hopefully, all our elected politicians will refocus on progress.

We will see. I am glad Obama was reelected. Not because I want to "tax the rich and feed the poor until there are no rich no more" but because Obama's is a message of inclusion. Ensure every voice is heard and respected. Listen to opposing viewpoints and try to find solutions. The Republicans have hunkered down in the bunker of obstructionism for so long, I wonder if they will be able to participate, or if they will continue to kick and scream while our country falls apart around them.

And there, that's my political post for this presidential election cycle. We now return you to your regular programming.

NaNoWriMo Update
Another 1900 words today, which puts me over 20,000 and on pace for over 65,000 by month end. If I keep up my pace, which seems unlikely. Especially since I've gotten to that point in my story where I don't know exactly what happens next, and usually I have to let things simmer for a week or two before moving on. Not this time. This time, I have to turn up the heat to boil and keep rolling.


Christy Luis - Dostoevsky in Space said...

Thank you for posting all this! I love to hear peoples' political perspectives because I haven't yet fully decided on mine. It's interesting to me that Republicans are so unwilling to compromise. I once heard that the writers of the Constitution all ended up hating the end product because no one got their way completely...but the Constitution has served our country well and still does. Obviously, compromises are necessary in politics.
I hate the idea of abortion, but I would compromise with pro-choicers if we could stop 3rd trimester abortions. That would be going somewhere, at least, rather than clogging up the lines.
Also, good going on your NaNo novel. That IS an impressive word count! I wish you continued success.

PJD said...

Christy, thanks for your comment. I don't know anyone who doesn't hate the idea of abortion, but I know a lot of reasonable and highly educated people with varying degrees of acceptance of it. Personally, I support every woman's right to make up her own mind, and I know a few women who were put in that unenviable position. I am very glad they had the right to choose for themselves and did not have their own moral and ethical decisions legislated for them. And they are glad, too.

Christy Luis - Dostoevsky in Space said...

I'm so sorry to hear about those women! I agree--it's important to have some freedom for abortions. I know a friend who would have died without one. If the mother is going to die, or if she was raped...she shouldn't be forced to carry the baby to term. That’s just too hard. I just hope she would make the decision before the baby can feel pain and such. :(