I am surprised at the degree to which the Right seems genuinely stunned to the core about the results of Tuesday’s election. I figured they would just blame the defeat on Romney for not being conservative enough; various scapegoats (Chris Christie; Hurricane Sandy) and voter fraud. And of course, there is a lot of that out there this morning. But I’m also seeing at least some asking bigger questions. Like, What is the fundamental nature of reality?
The right-wing world view is based on a faith in several unsupported assumptions, one of which is that a solid majority of American citizens share their views, and liberal/progressive beliefs are held only by a shadowy elite fringe of egghead academics and aging hippies (never mind that “elite hippie” is something of an oxymoron) plus angry and demanding nonwhites, various “pervents” like gays and feminists, and foreign infiltrators. In the rightie mind, all of those groups added together make a big enough minority to be of concern in a national election, especially with that voter fraud thing going on. But still, a minority.
I hadn’t actually reckoned on how deeply the Right believed that Americans elected Barack Obama in 2008 just for the novelty of the thing — hey look! We have a black president now! — and not because we agreed with his proposals and thought he was the best candidate to handle the job.
Well, rigties, deal with this: We, the majority of American voters, elected Barack Obama because agreed with his proposals, most of ’em anyway, and thought he was the best candidate to handle the job. That was true in 2008 and also true on Tuesday.
It appears (as some had suggested) that Mitt’s calculations for victory assumed that African Americans would not vote in the same numbers as in 2008.
Multiple Romney sources buzzed about one number in particular: 15 percent. According to exit polls, that’s the share of African-Americans who voted in Ohio this year. In 2008, the black percentage of the electorate was 11 percent. In Virginia and Florida, exit polls showed the same share of African-Americans turned out as four years ago, something that GOP turnout models did not anticipate.
“We didn’t think they’d turn out more of their base vote than they did in 2008, but they smoked us,” said one Romney operative. “It’s unbelievable that that they turned out more from the African-American community than in 2008. Somehow they got ‘em to vote.”
Also, it became apparent that Mitt Romney can’t be trusted farther than Ann Coulter can throw him. Another Republican candidate — although not one that was actually running at any time in the past couple of years — might have won on Tuesday. But the more people looked at Mittens, the more enthusiastic they got about Obama.
The Right’s other big blind spot, of course, is their perception that being a white man is the human default norm. If that’s how one honestly sees the human species, never mind the American electorate, how can one possibly understand what’s going on in the “real world” of the 21st century?
Much of the GOP — think Romney, Mourdock, Akin — cling to a political narrative according to which white male voters are “conservative” and “minority” voters are “liberal,” and where white male voters are self-sufficient and everyone else is dependent. It’s exactly this form of white-on-white racial profiling, a fear of the future, that produced the election’s outrageous comments about unions, the poor, rape, women, minorities and the like.
Why did conservative straight white men self-destruct so spectacularly this election? Perhaps because, in trying to secure the votes of other white men, they failed to notice that these white men have mothers, daughters, gay relatives and/or friends who are racial minorities; and that other white men are suffering economically; and that straight white men can also embody the country’s dramatic change? The cheap, divisive, nativistic, racialized ways that conservative leaders divvy up the electorate has now come to spook them. It’s a vicious loop: What this political narrative does is to fuel a further sense of embattlement and decline among disenfranchised straight white men.
Well, yeah, but it’s also the long-entrenched sense that only the concerns of the default norm — white men — are actually important. Matters that are mostly of concern to those “alt” people are not serious concerns that serious default people need to think about. And that’s how they still think. So when they find themselves in a place in which they have to appeal to “alts” to win an election, the defaults immediately think in terms of putting forward their own tokens — a woman or minority (although one who can be counted on to respect the defaults). Or, they gin up some verbiage that maybe makes it sound as if they care about the well-being of the alts even as the actual concerns of the alts are smugly ignored. For example, the Romneys went around saying that women care more about jobs than about reproductive rights. Hence, this reproductive rights nonsense is just a silly distraction; not something to be taken seriously.
Guess again, Mitt.
The bigger concern for the Republican Party is that their old talking points on just about everything are likely to become increasingly irrelevant over the next four years. The economy is likely to continue to get better (barring a global meltdown), for example. Global warming, alas, is likely to become more real.
In 2016 Obamacare will have been fully in effect for a couple of years, and by then people will have realized the world did not end and, in fact, they kind of like it. Most middle-class people who already had insurance will at least know somebody who finally was able to get insurance because of Obamacare.
The electorate will be more racially diverse, and a larger percentage of voters will be too young to remember the Cold War or even Ronald Reagan. Women are unlikely to decide they no longer need equal pay or reproductive rights.
The Middle East will be a wild card, as will the global economy. Many things could go wrong. But it’s going to be really interesting to see if the Republicans can adjust enough to be viable in 2016. The deny and obstruct thing didn’t work for them. And the “vote for me ’cause I’m the white guy” thing didn’t work for them. Can the old GOP learn new tricks?