Wednesday, 28 November 2012

America the changeable

The most important lesson learned from the recent elections is that the US is no longer the country many of us assumed it to be.

Was it ever? Probably not, just when the pious Pilgrims thought they had found their “shining city upon a hill” they had to deal with the rambunctious merchant Dutch.

These New Amsterdamers, however, were a heavenly host compared with the hordes of Papist Paddies who swept through the Eastern Seaboard followed by waves of Germans, Jews, Italians, Hispanics and Asians – not to mention resentful Africans in chains.

These United States are in constant flux. All the more amazing then that a political party would choose to actively alienate more recent arrivals along with other entrenched minorities. Indeed, it often appears that the modern GOP is the spiritual heir of the 19th Century Know-Nothing Party.

My own poor observations of the recent election campaign led me to believe that President Obama would win between 300 and 330 electoral votes. The bedrock of that assumption was that Gov. Romney could not win Ohio, or any other Mid-Western industrialized state, after stating that he would not have intervened to save the iconic American automobile industry.

I also felt that by coming out against the Dream Act the governor would lose both Colorado and Florida, states with large Hispanic voting blocks.

Although most polls correctly predicted the president’s re-election, my sense is that African-Americans, Hispanics and youth have traditionally been under-represented - particularly in landline calls – thus leading to a greater Obama margin of victory.

Why then did Gov. Romney schedule a fireworks victory extravaganza over Boston Harbor for election night? Probably because his pollsters were looking at a country they imagined rather than the real one in front of their eyes. They believed their own hype.

As did most of the media, and that’s one of the problems with modern society. The media jumps on an idea, expounds on it endlessly until it seems to become a reality – “seems” being the operative word.

In the recent election the “reality” was the First Debate “knockout.” Actually, I thought the president shaded the debate in substance, if not style. The governor argued very well but said little of any consequence – his mistake through the whole campaign. He ran against the president’s record but was unable to specify or - more importantly – quantify his own plans.

He did get a solid boost in the polls immediately after the first debate but that was likely Republicans and “independents” coming home. Then again, I’ve always felt that that a majority of white independents (are there any others?) naturally lean more Republican than Democrat.

Did the much-vaunted Obama ground team win the election? They definitely helped but only by enfranchising mostly minority voters and bringing them into the system.

In the end, the victory didn’t hinge on unemployment figures or the economy – most voters felt that the president was a decent enough man who had taken on an almost impossible job. They agreed with him that saving the automobile industry and stabilizing an errant financial industry by judicious big government intervention were necessary moves. After all, what were the alternatives?

Four social truths were learned and they tipped the vote decisively in the president’s favor: Young people are open to gay rights and marriage, women resent politicians who call for the abolition of Planned Parenthood, Hispanics don’t care for the notion of self-deportation, and African-Americans sense inherent racism in the more lurid opposition to this black president (voting patterns among whites in the eleven states of the Confederacy would seem to support their suspicions).

I, for one, am an admirer of certain core Republican principles; this is after all the party of Lincoln and Eisenhower; and there is need for a true conservative party – but one that looks to figures rather than fantasies.

In Texas a majority of schoolchildren are now Hispanic – in twelve years the Lone Star will be a swing state. This is an ever-changing country – any party that ignores that fact does so at its peril.

It’s time for a return of common sense to politics. Chickens always come home to roost.

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