A Great Day for Progressives or a repudiation of Romney?

Barack Obama’s victory last night will give progressives in the US some vindication. However, I think the election results could also be viewed as an outright rejection of the Tea Party faction within the Republican Party. The severe mocking of some of their candidates and their ridiculous positions on rape, for example, on social media played a huge role. The Republicans have also not figured out that the US is no longer a huge monolith to which they can appeal. There is an ever-shrinking number of rich, old, white guys and, the women they control, to effectively elect regressive Republicans. Unfortunately for Obama, Democrats did not gain control of the House of Representatives, which means there will be more gridlock in Congress.

The Tea Party has seriously damaged the credibility of the Republican Party. Its presence has blurred the lines of the separation of church and state – a fundamental principle upon which democracies are built. Their ridiculous stands on rape and abortion sufficiently shocked enough women, most of whom who thought the issue had been settled. The spectre of rich, white men being able to tell women what they could do with their bodies scared enough of them so they went out and voted. The Tea Party has moved the Republican Party so far to the right that it was no longer recognizable to many. Mitt Romney is seen as a moderate by Tea Party standards, which I am sure, scared the crap out of informed Americans.

The role of social media cannot be discounted either. Within minutes of a gaffe or ridiculous policy position being uttered the internet buzzed with mocking graphics. Every single day for months some Republican position was being mocked whether it was Big Bird or ‘legitimate’ rape, nothing escaped. These graphics spread like wildfire basically reducing Republican positions to small sound bites for the internet generation. Republicans seemed to ignore this channel to mock Obama. It is not surprising, as the Republicans didn’t appeal to youth in anyway. Their error, however, was not understanding that many people are on social media and would see these graphics. I can remember the very effective graphics of Mitt Romney putting his dog on the roof of his car and the flurry of Big Bird ads after Romney said he would cut funding to PBS.

Even though Obama has been re-elected, it would be wrong to think that things are going to substantially change. American presidents, who head up one of the branches of government,[1] has less power domestically than a Canadian prime minister with a majority government. Our prime ministers control both the executive and the legislative branches of government. This means they have the power to control the legislation that is introduced and enforce the party discipline to ensure it is passed. While the US does have a party system, the idea of party discipline is not used. Instead if a US president wants to pass legislation they must lobby for all their votes.[2] The Republicans still have control of the House of Representatives, which will make Obama’s legislative agenda difficult. As a 2nd term, ‘lame duck’ President, Obama will be able to spend whatever political capital he has as he cannot be reelected. Some presidents in this position decide to become more active in foreign policy as this is mostly within their control.[3] If Obama decides to do this, we can only hope that he uses his power for good.

I think the reelection of Obama is more of a repudiation of Tea Party Republicans.[4] Had Romney had any control over the other candidates running he may have been able put forward a more moderate campaign. Had Romney denounced some of the more wacky ideas[5] he may have had more success. However, Romney’s elitist attitudes[6] probably drove women and minorities into the arms of the Democrats. In trying to appeal to be conservative enough for the Tea Party, Romney did not attract any new voters to the Republican Party.

If the Republicans are ever to be successful as a party they will need to do several things. First, they must divest themselves of the Tea Party. It is clear that this faction within the party cost them many races; virtually all of the rape deniers were defeated. Second, they must develop more centrist policies that appeal to women and minorities. Third, they must figure out social media. The Democrats, and particularly Obama, are much more savvy when it comes to the internet. They understand how it works and they use it to their advantage. Fourth, Republicans need to understand that their traditional base of support is eroding and there are no new heirs apparent on the horizon. Insisting that everyone can become a millionaire and successful if they just pull up their bootstraps is a garbage nightmare and has no place in politics today.

I am relieved that Obama won because the alternative was so completely scary. Romney seemed to lack the intellectual capacity to be president of the United States. I had visions of him invading Iran because he falls for the ‘weapons of mass destruction’[7] line. He was also scary because no one really knew when he would flip-flop or adopt a completely new position. I think many Americans realized that he may say one thing but would quite likely do another if he were elected.


[1] The Executive.

[2] This is how Americans end up with so much ‘pork barrelling’ in their legislation – they end up tacking unrelated things on in order to get the votes.

[3] Bill Clinton did this.

[4] Obama also had the ‘incumbent factor’ working in his favour. Most sitting US presidents who run for a second term are re-elected. Recent exceptions to this were George Bush Sr. and Jimmy Carter.

[5] Women can’t get pregnant from legitimate rape and even if they do it is God’s will come to mind.

[6] “Let the foreclosures run their course” and the whole 47% thing.

[7] Or nuclear weapons.

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Dispatches from The Swamp – the ‘I hope’ edition

  • The most important thing for which I am hopeful today is that Barack Obama is re-elected tomorrow. This US election has been even more insane than normal. The attacks on women’s reproductive rights have been outrageous from blatantly false and crazy assertions that women’s bodies have supernatural powers and insistence that women carry babies they don’t want. I wonder how men would feel if women made decisions that forced them to undergo unwanted vasectomies. A Romney presidency would be a catastrophe of epic proportions for the United States and the world. We could expect an invasion of Iran,[1] further roll backs to the already patchy US safety net, and more economic disaster for the poor. At least Obama has the ‘incumbent’ factor, which generally favours the re-election of a sitting president.
  • I am hoping I can take next week off. I have had not had any significant time off in months that did not involve my mother. I do still have to go to Calgary weekend after next but if I can get a rest first that would be good.
  • Listening to Christy Clark announce the new Destination BC,[2] I am hoping she loses her voice. I am so tired of listening to her feign excitement when, really, she has nothing to be excited about and she sounds fake.

[1] Not that Obama’s foreign policy has been all that great either.

[2] Ya, we used to have Tourism BC.

Published in: on November 5, 2012 at 3:43 pm  Comments (2)  
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