President Obama’s re-election yesterday was the Democrats’ fifth popular vote victory in the last six presidential elections. The two percent margin was shallow, but the electoral victory was broad – if, as it appears, the President won Florida, he will win the Electoral College by a vote of 332 to 206. Obama won every toss-up state but one (North Carolina) and he won all but two of the states he won in 2008 (Indiana and North Carolina).
President Obama has won Virginia twice – the first and second Democratic presidential victories there since LBJ’s landslide in 1964.
Mitt Romney convincingly won the white vote, with 59 percent – a couple points better than John McCain did against Obama in 2008. In a sense, that’s the bad news for Republicans. President Obama took 93 percent of the African-American vote, 73 percent of the Asian-American vote, and 71 percent of the Hispanic vote. His margin actually increased from 2008 among Asian-Americans and Hispanics.
In other words, Democrats are improving their standing with those segments of the population that are growing, while Republicans are improving their standing with the segment of the population that is shrinking.
Add to those racial and ethnic numbers the fact that Obama took 60 percent of the young, under-30 vote, and the Republicans are not looking at a happy long-term future. (Obama also won 76 percent of the gay vote, and 55 percent of the female vote.)
As Ross Douthat said this morning, Obama’s first win was just a victory, but his second win makes it a realignment. The Obama coalition of African-Americans, Latinos, Asian-Americans, gays, young voters, and educated white liberals is the long-term future of the Democratic Party.
There are some grown-ups in the Republican room, and they have reckoned the party’s errors in 2012: too hard on immigration, too rigid on fiscal compromise with Democrats, too prone to bizarre statements of their anti-abortion position. But I don’t think those grown-ups will carry the day in the intra-party debate that Republicans are undertaking.
There are other Republican voices that will not entertain self-critical analysis. Many will revisit Ann Coulter’s famous statement, “If we don’t run Chris Christie, Romney will be the nominee and we’ll lose.” They will conclude that Romney was not conservative enough, that his Massachusetts past made him a bad choice – at best a flip-flopper and at worst a (gasp!) moderate. Obama’s relatively modest popular vote margin will delude those Republicans who are eager to be deluded that the fault was with their stars, not with themselves – next time, they need only to select a better messenger for their severely conservative message, and they’ll experience again the thrill of victory.
Already – and all too predictably – House Speaker John Boehner is vowing to continue the resistance to Obama’s presidency: “For two years, our majority in the House has been the primary line of defense for the American people against a government that spends too much, taxes too much, and borrows too much when left unchecked. In the face of a staggering national debt that threatens our children’s future, our majority passed a budget that begins to solve the problem.”
Boehner’s desire to defend the American people against the government might be admirable if the American people hadn’t just re-elected that very government. Not even one day after big Democratic victories can Boehner bring himself to mouth the words of national unity, working together, solving problems – the usual platitudes.
I have commented that Democrats and Republicans both react to losing elections by moving to the right. When Democrats lose, they conclude that they were too liberal and they adjust to the center. When Republicans lose, they conclude that they were not conservative enough and they adjust to the right. Democrats are known for their introspection; in tough times, it can turn into navel-gazing paralysis. As a party, Republicans don’t do introspection. We can expect four more years of obstruction, fillibuster, fiscal cliffs and other manufactured crises, and unrelenting contentiousness.
Meanwhile, Americans will continue to outgrow the Republican Party by becoming more diverse and more tolerant of diversity.