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Obama Wins More Time to Repair, Lead America Forward

11/7/12

Solid Victories for Progressive, Liberal Candidates, Reforms

[ cross-posted at Daily Kos ]

“The task of perfecting our union moves forward”

“I have never been more hopeful about America. . . . I have always believed that hope is that stubborn thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us so long as we have the courage to keep reaching, to keep working, to keep fighting. . . . 

“I believe we can seize this future together because we are not as divided as our politics suggests. . . . We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions, and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are and forever will be the United States of America.”

Barack Obama, Chicago, Nov. 6, 2012

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“[H]ere is the challenge to our democracy: In this nation I see tens of millions of its citizens . . . who at this very moment are denied the greater part of what the very lowest standards of today call the necessities of life. . . . I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished. . . . The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide for those who have too little.

—Franklin D. Roosevelt, Second Inaugural Address (1937)

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This Is Our Idea of “Morning in America”

Last night Barack Obama became only the second Democratic president since FDR (in 1936) to win a second term with more than 50 percent of the vote in both his elections.

In our humble opinion, a win for the Democrats is a win for the American people. Of course not every American person sees it that way, but when illness or disaster strikes, or food needs inspecting, or voting rights need protecting, it’s best to have a government managed by the party that fought for and established Medicare, Social Security, FEMA, the Voting Rights Act, and so on. The party that believes government can and should be a force for the public good. Not the only solution, but indispensable and more reliable than the profit sector.

And it is a good thing for the 47 percent (indeed, the 99 percent) that the man who said “[M]y job is is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives” is not going to be the next president of the United States. We do want to say, however, that Gov. Romney, after waiting nearly an hour and a half before calling the president to concede (Karl Rove live on Fox was not ready to give up on Ohio), gave an admirably gracious and dignified concession speech to his supporters in Boston (see photo below).

From the East Coast to the West, across the Rust Belt and Midwest, and in Virginia, Colorado and New Mexico, President Obama held ground he won in 2008. With a weak economy—nearly drowned in Grover Norquist’s bathtub by Republicans intent on strangling Obama’s every initiative—and under relentless attack from hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of negative ads by “dark money” conservative interests, he lost only two states he’d won in 2008: North Carolina and Indiana. The critical battleground states of Ohio, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Nevada stayed blue. (See maps below). As of this writing the president’s electoral vote margin is about 100 (303 to 206), and his popular vote margin is roughly 3 million: 60.4 million to Romney’s 57.6 million. Florida is still counting.

Professor Warren Goes to Capitol Hill

Besides our elation with the president’s victory, in this year of a “war on women”—or at least appallingly callous attitudes and legislative hostility—we are delighted to welcome new senators Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Tammy Baldwin (Wisc.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.Dak.), and Mazie K. Hirono (Hawaii), and congratulate senators Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) and Claire McCaskill (Mo.) on their reelection. (More about women’s wins here and here.) The Senate races are not all decided, but the Democrats have gained at least one seat, and currently have a 55–45 majority, with Maine’s newly elected independent Angus King likely to caucus with the Dems. With more progressives in his ranks, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is talking again about filibuster reform. Yes, please!

One of the best things about Elizabeth Warren’s election to the Senate is that, being so knowledgeable about financial institutions and law, and so committed to reform on behalf of protecting those who are not investment bankers, she will keep the discussion on a more serious and fact-based plane. It is especially sweet that the incumbent she defeated 54% to 46%, Scott Brown, was the senator most lavishly funded by Wall Street contributors. One of the MSNBC people last night (Chris Matthews?) said that Warren is the most intellectually substantive person elected to the U.S. Senate since the late Patrick Moynihan (D-NY). Not only that, but she’ll put a lot of energy and momentum into Wall Street and consumer protection reform, which has really only begun. Now Jon Stewart will really want to make out with her.

Significant Achievements to Reinforce and Build Upon

“If Barack Obama does get a second term, given the achievements of these past four years, he will likely be enshrined as being one of the most consequential presidents in modern American history. If he does not get a second term, he will be seen as a one-term president whose political failures and not achieving a second term will ultimately overshadow what he got done in terms of policy. . . .

“This is about one of the most consequential presidents ever and how it will be remembered and whether the achievements of that presidency will be held or whether they will be clawed back.”

Rachel Maddow, Nov. 5, 2012 (Election Eve)

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There is so much to be said about the re-election of Barack Obama. We have had our differences with certain policy decisions, but overall we are mightily relieved that this progressive president’s hard-won achievements—with big help from Democrats, and only Democrats, in Congress—will not be dismantled, but reinforced. It is good for our country that the Affordable Care Act will not be repealed. It is good that the next appointments to the Supreme Court will be well qualified and fair-minded, like his first two appointments, who do not put corporate interests first. It is good for our national security that this focused chief executive—and not a man who knows and cares little about foreign affairs—will remain commander in chief.

The list of President Obama and the Democratic Congress’s achievements in his first two years (before the House went to Republican majority in the 2010 midterm elections) is remarkable, and largely forgotten—this is partly his own administration’s fault—but the admirable legacy can be sustained and the public memory refreshed despite the countervailing blowhard winds of Fox News and the machinery of denial and distortion.

In addition to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (the $787 billion stimulus package), the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, President Obama’s first-term achievements include:

The rescue and revival of the American automobile industry • Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act • withdrawal of U.S. combat forces from Iraq • college student loan reform • Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act (2009) • Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act (2009), tripling the size of AmeriCorps • ended Don’t Ask Don’t Tell • Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act (2009) • Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009 • new fuel-efficiency standards that should double gas mileage by 2025 • won Senate approval of a strategic arms deal with Russia to slash warheads and increase transparency of mutual inspections . . .

The list goes on. And in the first two years, Democrats actually reduced the deficit, though you’d never know it to listen to the Noise Machine (or the Dems, except in campaign mode). The U.S. deficit shrank 9% in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2010, the fastest one-year deficit reduction since 1984. The Affordable Care Act, too, was designed to reduce health care costs and the federal deficit over time. (Ezra Klein explains.) With all the right-wing noise about “exploding debt” caused by “tax-and-spend Democrats,” you’d never know that George W. Bush inherited a budget surplus from Bill Clinton.

As Rachel Maddow has pointed out in a blog post elaborating on her comments the night before the election, if Obama had not won a second term, his election and promises of “hope” and “change” might have been dismissed as a fluke, and very likely his achievements would be repealed, Etch A Sketched out of public memory (not her words), incinerated in the memory hole, paved over with concrete. He would be dismissed as a one-term failure—remember Romney’s incessant comparisons with Jimmy Carter? Except for his being remembered as “the first black president” (one is too many, they would say), he would be no more spoken of than the admirable and super-productive president Lyndon Johnson is now (a real shame).

Had Obama come up short, the immediate threats to key public policies would have been significant, but the more sweeping consequence would have been the lasting damage to a progressive vision of governance. 

It’s easy to imagine the recriminations this morning had the election gone the other way. The president’s 2008 victory would come to be seen as a faddish fluke, but more importantly, everything Obama fought for in his first term would be evidence of failure. For the foreseeable future, presidents would be told not to be ambitious, not to use government as a tool to make a material difference in the lives of working families, and not to rely on Keynesian economics to grow the economy through investments . . . or they too will end up as a one-term disappointment.

—Rachel Maddow, “Yes He Did” (11/7/12)

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A Decisive Victory of Wide and Lasting Demographic Scope

More on Obama’s achievement in this election. Besides holding on to all but two of the states he won in 2008, when he trounced John McCain 53% to 46% of the popular vote, and with 365  electoral votes to McCain’s 173, he also won the following support among women and minorities, who together actually constitute a majority of the U.S. population. Granted, the following groups are not white men so they don’t count as much to the Beltway Pundits—and if they live in cities, can they be the “real America”?—but consider what John Cassidy of The New Yorker reports:

For the fifth time in the past six Presidential elections, the Democrats have won the popular vote. For the second time in succession, Americans have elected a black man, the same black man, as President. . . . [The election] was a triumph of moderation over extremism, tolerance over intolerance, and the polyglot future over the monochrome past. 

In the nineteen-to-twenty-nine age group, Obama won sixty per cent of the vote. He got ninety-three per cent of the black vote, seventy per cent of the hispanic vote, and seventy-five per cent of the Asian vote. Fifty-six per cent of women voted for him, as did sixty-three per cent of unmarried people, two-thirds of secular voters, and about four-fifths of gays and lesbians. 

Romney carried fifty-nine per cent of white voters (male and female); a majority of all Americans aged forty-five or over; and fifty-seven per cent of married people. In ideological terms, Obama forged a liberal-moderate course to victory. Despite his post-Convention lurch to the center, Romney couldn’t win over enough self-identified moderates. In that group, Obama took fifty-seven per cent of the vote.

For more demographic details, see New York Times exit poll results here, and Daily Kos’s “The kids will destroy the GOP”:

Obama won the 18–29-year-old vote 60-37. He lost the 65 and older vote 56-44. Guess who will be around longer? And for Republicans hoping that young voters would stay home, the opposite happened—in 2008, the 18-29-year-old vote was 18 percent of the total. It was 19 percent this year. . . .

Asians voted for Obama by a 73-26 margin. Latinos did so by a 71-27 margin. And African Americans did so by a 93-6 margin. Democrats may have only won 39 percent of the White vote, but that’s all we need these days.

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Near the conclusion of his Second Inaugural Address, Franklin D. Roosevelt said: “In our personal ambitions we are individualists. But in our seeking for economic and political progress as a nation, we all go up, or else we all go down, as one people.”

*  The words in bold in the FDR quotation at top are etched in stone on the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, D.C.

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Scenes from Election Day 2012

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